I’ve heard some silly things over the past year about pay per click advertising’s ability to boost a brand and it’s time to clarify some of this nonsense whilst propping up the truth about how to use PPC to build your brand.
Category Archives: PPC
A pay per click text ad may look unimpressive, but as a seasoned PPC professional, I can tell you that no other group of 140 characters can be so confounding to perfect, nor have as much of an impact on your online marketing efforts as your pay per click text ad.
Why is it so tough? Read On
Every holiday season, unsuspecting small business owners using pay per click advertising are wooed by a tempting but villainous influence. Her tempting song is difficult to resist: “Your product would make a great gift! You should bid on ‘gift idea’ keywords! Surely sales will come to you in droves and make you rich beyond your wildest dreams!”
The siren song of “gift” keywords has lured thousands of businesses large and small to their PPC demise as each realizes, too late, that their precious marketing budget has been squandered.
To combat the Gift Idea Siren, you must understand a few fundamental factors found in successful pay per click campaigns:
- A high degree of relevance between the keywords and products offered
- Avoiding unnecessary competition
As we’ll see, bidding on the general “gift ideas for ________” or “unique Christmas gift ideas” doesn’t satisfy either of those criteria:
High relevance between the keywords and products offered
In any PPC campaign, the most profitable keywords are the ones that relate directly to your product or service. There exists a hierarchy of keyword relevance, indicating the likelihood of someone to buy from you. There are lots of ways to categorize keywords in this way. Here’s a basic breakdown:
- Brand keywords – variations of your brand name and the name of your products. These searches are the most likely to lead to a sale.
- Product Category keywords – used in comparison shopping or bargain hunting. The customer knows most of the alternatives and has a pretty good idea of what features they want, they just need to find a product that meets the criteria. These searches often lead to sales, but generally at a higher cost than brand terms. Customers aren’t as ready to pull the trigger on a purchase and competition is usually higher for these keywords.
- Informational keywords – lots of “problem” and “solution” keywords (“broken xbox 360”, for example). The customer knows what she needs to get solved, but is looking for options and needs to get educated. Purchases can come from these keywords, but considerable testing of bids, ad copy and landing pages is required to target these keywords profitably.
So where does “Christmas gift ideas” fall in these three categories? Firmly in #3. In fact, so many advertisers are desperate to capture the seasonal holiday traffic from these keywords that competition can be much higher than normal informational keywords. That ties directly into the next factor…
Avoid unnecessary competition
Reaping sales from your brand keywords is easy because your competition has all but lost the battle by the time a customer searches for your name specifically. Clicks on your trademarked terms should be very inexpensive for you, but more expensive for your competitors, further increasing your advantage in this group.
It is important that you have a strong presence for product type/category keywords, as these often lead to follow-up searches on your brand name in addition to the sales that can come directly from these searches. You will generally be competing only with your direct industry competitors, so you have a fair chance to win sales here.
Informational keywords are open to competition from a much wider pool of advertisers and can often be too expensive to be a profitable component of a pay per click campaign. In the case of “broken xbox 360”, consider all of the potential motives for that search:
- Find free instructions on how to fix a broken Xbox 360
- Buy a guide on how to fix an Xbox 360
- Find a place to repair the Xbox
- Find warranty information
- Buy a new Xbox 360
- Buy a broken Xbox 360 to fix up
Even with a fairly specific search like “broken xbox 360” we managed to find ads for six different potential motives.
I’m not saying that you should never include information-centered keywords of any kind in your campaign, but you have to at least do your homework on them. Find out what other companies are bidding on these terms and check the Google Keyword Tool to get a rough idea of how much you should expect to bid before committing your precious marketing dollars to them.
Opting to bid on a keyword like “Christmas gift ideas” is tantamount to flying straight into a maelstrom of reckless competition. A search of that keyword displays ads for jewelery, pajamas, gift guides from various distributors, gift baskets, credit card offers, steaks, computers, and department stores.
A quick check of the Google Keyword Tool reveals that you should expect to pay between $1-3 for each click on that and other similar keywords. For most small businesses that’s a hefty click price for someone in the early stages of choosing a gift. Do yourself a favor and steer clear!
The Holidays are upon us and the opportunity to inundate our Pay-Per-Click campaigns with cheer has arrived with them. Adjusting AdCopy should be on your list of to-dos, right next to hang the lights & shovel the walk.
While almost any industry can benefit from changing their Pay-Per-Click tone to one a tad more chipper during the holidays, there are a few industries that will miss out on a lot of holiday-hungry shoppers if they don’t make the change.
Some of these industries include:
- Toys (of course)
- Sporting goods
- Perfumes & Colognes
- Jewelry (Don’t forget the man jewelry, like watches, money clips, etc.)
Curious as to whether or not your industry is ripe for the picking during the holidays? Read On
MarketingSherpa did a case study on a business that sees online leads pour in – after they started PPC and SEO to market their web site. I half expected to see our name on the article since what they talked about is OrangeSoda‘s specialty! Note: MarketingSherpa articles are free for a limited time and then you need a subscription to access them.
The case study is about a company called Basement Systems who went from using one channel – the Yellow Pages – to marketing their web site. It’s been wildly successful – the number of leads skyrocketed 3,477% from the year before. Granted they weren’t doing much the year before – but think of the potential leads they missed out on.
At first the company didn’t think they needed to focus on the web site because people only call them after their basements flood. They didn’t think they would get online leads.
This is a common misunderstanding about how people use the internet. People use it to research purchases along the buying cycle. I’m not convinced that there is any business that can’t benefit from PPC and SEO. But I often hear people claim their business model won’t fit. Usually it’s more that their web site isn’t maximized for the way their customers search and buy online.
Why should businesses do both PPC and SEO? Here’s a quote that illustrates one of the differences – PPC advertising is much more targeted and usually converts better because it gets people as they are ready to purchase. The drawback – once you stop paying your ads disapear. SEO is a long-term strategy to drive more traffic to your site with permanent links.
“Natural search drove most of the traffic to the site, But it didn’t convert quite as much traffic as PPC ads because SEO is not as targeted.”
Here are some other things Basement Systems did for their SEO and PPC campaigns:
- Assessed title tags and metatags and eliminated duplicate or incorrect tags and titles.
- They ran locally-based PPC ads and directed the ads to local dealer’s web sites. In other words, they increased relevancy of their ads. Plus it often costs less to run targeted PPC campaigns rather than compete with national brands. They used dynamic keyword insertion which means the ads change depending on what terms people type into a search engine. This can increase clicks but sometimes quality of leads goes down. So you need to test and bid less on lower converting keywords.
- Tested everything and invest in trying new things. “We test every text line, dynamic content switching on Yahoo! and, of course, placement positions based on bids.” Surprise finding – putting their 1-800 number in the ad didn’t lift conversions, so they took it out.
- Submitted their web site to directories like: Yahoo! Directory, Business.com, DMOZ.org, YellowPages.com, niche and regional directories.
- Added testimonials, awards won, patents, and other trust-building elements to their website.
OrangeSoda Tip for Basement Systems – start blogging! And not just blogging but use targeted keywords to help boost your SEO. Our clients are seeing huge jump in traffic after starting a blog or implementing our suggestions.
Here are Harrison’s tips on what NOT to do on an PPC campaign – a follow-up post to his tips on how to optimize a PPC campaign.
- Don’t content and search ads in the same campaigns. On search CTR (click through rate) is important, but not on content. On the content network you’re interrupting people, on search ads people are actively looking. The ads must be written differently depending on who you’re targeting.
- Don’t set up campaigns with only one ad group, a ton of unrelated terms, and one generic ad.
- Don’t use Dynamic Keyword Insertion with too much abandon. Be sure your ads still make sense. He also says: “You can dynamically insert the ad, search/content, and a couple other tracking variables in your destination url.”
- Don’t limit your negative keyword lists – come up with a whole list of synonyms and be creative to avoid paying for ads that have nothing to do with what you’re selling. He uses the example of online dating – you think romance – searchers may be thinking science (as in “carbon dating”). Exclude the content network sites that don’t convert.
- Don’t wait until your campaign is perfect before launching. Launch first, then use the data to continually improve.
OrangeSoda runs PPC campaigns for small businesses – we have a very low entry point and serve this part of the market that most companies won’t touch. We also manage PPC campaigns for larger accounts that involve a lot of customization. However, if you want run your own campaigns, be sure to avoid the common mistakes listed above (or if you can’t avoid them, at least learn from them!).
Sometimes businesses or marketers dream of a “secret sauce” to doing SEO or PPC. Most of the time there is no “secret sauce.” There are tools and software, and they give an advantage, but usually it’s knowledge and work that really count. It’s not a cakewalk and it’s best learned when you’re passionate about what you do – (hat’s where we at OrangeSoda comes in).
Shoemoney posted a great article about optimizing your PPC campaigns by 16 year old super affilite Harrison Gevitrtz. He’s an affiliate marketer – so he makes money selling other people’s things for a commission. It also means no results, no paycheck. So I generally trust affiliates.
I call Harrison an affiliate baby – one of those kids who makes more than their parents (Harrison nets 6 figures). I’ve heard stories how parents call up Commission Junction asking why they’re sending their kid a check for thousands of dollars every month. It happens. It’s fun to see the play that Harrison brings to his work.
First, a great quote: “You’ll perhaps be amazed that there are no “secrets”. It’s not because I’m not telling you— rather, it’s a ton of hard work and a little bit of luck. It’s amazing how “lucky” you get when you work hard. Don’t believe the “get rich quick” scams that would have you believe a single piece of magic software or a single technique to find the right keywords is all you really need.”
I’m going to summarize the best points.
KEYWORDS – Quality over Quantity
- Don’t load up your account with a large list of keywords. You’ll get penalized for having low quality keywords in your ad groups.
- DO pick a few high quality terms per ad group. Group them by subject. Make sure they are relevant to the ads that will show for that group.
PPC ACCOUNT MONITORING AND OPTIMIZATION – Use your anayltics program and check bounce rate
- Test your keywords. Run your campaign for a day or two (less if there’s lots of volume) and then look at which terms are driving the most volume. Do this by sorting keywords by click volume – in descending order, using AdWords Editor.
- Find out what keywords are driving the most clicks and the best quality conversions. Look at your ad groups and see what is performing best. Use that to create variations of the successful campaigns. Try other match types. Increase bids, etc.
- Remove keywords that aren’t getting impressions or clicks. Also, cut ads that aren’t working.
- When testing campaigns, choose the campaign setting to have ads rotate equally– don’t let Google choose. “Your profit is how many clicks you get times how much you net per click– it’s an inverse relationship, unless you are bidding on tail terms or perhaps certain branded traffic.”
- Use your analytics data to get the bounce rate for your landing pages. If it’s over 60% cut it or optimize it.
- Look at your own web site to see what organic terms people are coming in on. Add them to your PPC campaign. Conversely, create pages for your best quality PPC terms on your web site.
He doesn’t use the Google AdWords API or Google Analytics. Here’s what he has to say about that:
“I rarely even use the Google Adwords API– but do in cases where there is enough volume to make it worth putting automated bid management in place. You do get dinged on using the API, for those who don’t know, so AdWords Editor is a more effective prototyping tool. Once you have something stable, then you can consider scaling it to the moon and using the API.”
I’ve heard conflicting feedback from another super affiliate who does use Google Analytics. Also, he is pushing offers for other companies as an affiliate. Thin margins. I’m not savvy to if there is a drawback to using Google AdWords API. This is something to explore – there are probably tradeoffs to each way. If you’re an individual running your own accounts, this may be a luxury.
He recommends Tim Armstrong’s book on landing page optimization (does he mean Tim Ash??) and promoting related products on your landing pages. And, after a lengthy post, he jokes that he should write a book. I think that’s a great idea – but hire a good editor!
Since this is already long, I’ll summarize what Harrison says NOT to do on your PPC campaign in the next post. Thanks Harrison for sharing your knowledge!
Like SEO, web analytics is not as clearcut as many would like. Unfortunately, there is no standard that all web analytic companies follow. And here’s the even worse news: without a “standard” there can never be reconciliation of web analytic data.
Because every program defines a visitor, a bounce, and a click, differently. So when it comes to web analytics this holds true: “The trend is king when analyzing web analytics data.”
There are general guidelines that may help make sure you’re comparing data from two different site tracking information. Here are some important questions to ask.
- Are both analytics tracking codes implemented correctly on every page of the sites?
- Are the reporting date ranges the same?
- Is the same page of the website being reported?
- Is the bounce rate an isolated metric? Are there also massive differences in the number of visitors to the site, or other statistics?
And the final kicker…
How does the web analytics program define a bounce?
What is the difference in the definition of a bounce for each program? One program might define a bounce as someone leaving after 5 seconds, another 10 seconds, etc. This could result in a big difference. And there are many other variables that can create large discrepancies, in fact, some programs allow the web developer to define their own parameters of a “bounce.” Because of these reasons and the fact that this information is usually propriety, it is not possible to reconcile data from different analytic programs.
If we look at the trend then the differences don’t have to be a problem, but can be complementary. However, those that like to deal with absolutes, this is a hard pill to swallow. It certainly doesn’t make our clients happy and some threaten to cancel unless we can reconcile web stats. It’s not something we’re going to take on but we can guide our clients through to try to make sense of the information.
The bottom line?
SEO and PPC is an art form that are always chasing a moving target.
This post was written by Clint Eagar who previously worked for web analytics company Omniture. I asked him to write it after some complaints about numbers on our tracking not matching the client’s tracking system.
I interviewed one of our PPC account managers, Ryan, about what makes a paid search campaign successful. Here are his answers.
What are the most common misconceptions new PPC clients have?
If a business has never done PPC before, than they may have ROI expectations that are not line for their competitive landscape. It’s important to work with a new client to set realistic goals and timelines for a PPC new campaign.
How long do you need to run a PPC campaign to optimize it effectively?
To optimize a campaign, you need enough conversion data to see trends. Usually, the size of a monthly budget will determine how fast we can gather enough data for optimization purposes. A $20,000 budget generates many more clicks in one month vs. a $500 monthly budget.
What are the main factors that affect the success of a new PPC campaign?
The main factor is clear communication and expectations between client and agency. If both parties are aware of the challenges and work involved to obtain results, than a solid workflow is created that generates results quickly. The remaining factors include linking existing accounts (if available), creating compelling ads, and implementing tracking codes on the website.
What advantages does the OrangeSoda PPC team have over managing a campaign yourself? How about compared to other companies?
Our years of experience. Our core management group has been working with PPC campaigns since 1999, which is a long time with regards to the internet. Also, the OrangeSoda technology enables us to manage both large and small advertisers, and give both groups competitive results.
Describe your ideal PPC client.
I aim for all my clients to be ideal. The most important piece of work I do is making sure they are clear on what results they want to achieve with their advertising. I then give them realistic expectations as to the work involved to reach these results.
How does a larger spend account differ from a smaller spend account?
A larger spend account requires more attention vs. a smaller spend. The amount a client spends, can affect results. This is especially true for competitive verticals like Travel and Retail.
This is a common question – how do you reconcile the differences in web stats. It seems like every analytics program comes up with a different number, which can be frustrating for businesses of all sizes. It’s also a problem with paid search because the numbers you see from your PPC analytics may not match up with the numbers in Google.
OrangeSoda recently hired Clint Eagar who worked for web analytics firm Omniture. I asked him to write a post to try to demystify the discrepancies that are common between different web analytics tools.
I get a lot of questions about why there is a variance between how different web analytics packages report traffic results.
It’s All About Cookies
This has to do with how an analytics vendor uniquely identifies a visitor. Most analytics providers uniquely identify a visitor by a persistent browser cookie. When a visitor comes to a website the analytics code checks to see if the cookie exists. If the cookie does not exist it attempts to place it.
If it cannot place the cookie many analytics providers will ignore the entire visit. A large portion of the discrepancy between analytics providers comes into play when a web site cannot place this cookie. Some vendors will build a unique visitor cookie by combining user-agent and IP address. Some analytics vendors use third party cookies to uniquely identify visitors while others set a first party cookie and some visitors have their browsers configured to not accept third party cookies.
Establish Analytic Metric Definitions
The next thing you need to understand is how each analytics vendor defines a page views, visits and other metrics. One vendor may define a visit as a user session that lasts for at least one minute. Others will count an additional visit if the visitor views a page and then leaves the page idle for more than thirty minutes.
So, for example, say you’re reading a news story at CNN.com and get about half way through the article then you head out to lunch for thirty minutes and then come back to your open browser, finish the article and then click to read a new article. This will count as two visits – not one. Some analytics vendors will count this as only one visit. How does your provider track a visit?
How is a unique visitor defined? Is it a daily unique visitor (a visitor that is unique to the site today)? Is it weekly (a visitor that is unique to the site this week)? Is it monthly, etc? I think you get my point.
Tracking Code Execution
Web Analytics Is About Trends
Trend is king when analyzing web analytics data. More important than squabbling over a ten percent difference in how Google Analytics or Omniture reports a visitor you should instead be questioning: How many visits to do I have this week compared to last? How are different referring domains driving conversions over time?
Ultimately the differences between analytics vendors is just noise and you should never (did I say never?) attempt reconciliation.