Infographic: Peering into the mind of a searcher

What do you get when you marry search statistics with really cool graphics? THIS:

Here’s a summary of what I find most interesting:

  • 46% of searchers fall into the “give me exactly what I asked for category” – this speaks volumes for ensuring that your content is supremely relevant to the keywords you’re bidding on. I also found it very interesting that one of the top categories for this is Entertainment. Does this mean people are looking for information about TV, music and other media? I really expected retail to be included here.
  • A much larger percentage of the “give me exactly what I asked for” folks are higher income earners. What does this mean? They are all bossy and impatient?
  • 86% of respondents like when brands stop overtly selling and instead try to teach something instead. Again, what does this mean specifically? Don’t be so OBVIOUS! I’m talking to YOU 37 retail sites that have sent me nonstop holiday emails since October.
  • Infographics that look cool can sometimes be confusing.

Thanks to Certified Knowledge for providing this very cool Infographic to lonely bloggers like me. I totally took the bait.

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Your Campaign is Doomed from the Start If…

Words of advice. Words of experience. Heed them, or you will strangle your lovely PPC flower before it ever has a chance to bloom.

Your campaign is doomed from the start if…

  1. Your daily budget is carved up into too many $8/day or $10/day campaigns. For the love of all that is holy, allocate more funds to fewer campaigns
  2. You’ve loaded your geographically and budget-constrained campaign with hundreds of broad match negatives.
  3. Your daily budget is too low relative to your daily bids. Are you in a competitive space where minimum bids are as high as $4, $5 or $6 even for your high quality terms? Then $25/day budgets are not high enough. Bid up, raise your budgets and prepare to spend more – or get out of the game because you’re going nowhere.
  4. You turn away from display targeting because “it hasn’t worked in the past.” It’s true that display doesn’t work for ALL advertisers, but it works for most. This isn’t 2008 anymore – there is no “content” network – it’s called DISPLAY these days. That means you can use banners and everything! Welcome to 2012.
  5. You limit your geographic targeting to the extent that you are invisible to 99.9% of the people that exist in any given country. You know who you are. Live a little and widen your reach.
  6. You have one landing page that looks like everyone else’s in your space, and doesn’t clearly compete with any of those people in any intelligible way. Spend time differentiating yourself. Stop using stock photos. Humanize your landing page and make it look like actual PEOPLE exist behind the curtain or your conversion rate will suck. It isn’t Google’s fault that you’ve bored, confused or otherwise not inspired people, it’s yours. Fix it.
  7. You avoid mobile because it frightens you. Get over it. Mobile is here to stay. Create a mobile-friendly landing page experience. Embrace phone numbers and call tracking. Separate your campaigns into cell phone and tablet only campaigns. There’s so much you can do to at least TRY to make it work. Ignoring it, however, will ensure it doesn’t.
  8. You think there’s a magic formula that all of us experts are keeping to ourselves. I have news for you – YOU are the expert in YOUR industry. I am the expert in mine. If you don’t try the things I recommend, then don’t be surprised if search fails you. Take ownership, it’s not hard.
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Learn with Google – Recap Part Deux

Okay, people, LET’S TALK TACTICS. Learn With Google happened nearly two weeks ago (and I’m still loving my Android tablet), and it’s high time I recapped some of the great thing things I learned for the benefit of my ones of readers.

Ah Ha Moment #1: Test Conversion Optimizer On Display

Briefly, in case you don’t know, Google’s Conversion Optimizer is a setting that can be applied at the campaign level for any campaign that is eligible (any campaign that has hit 15 conversions within the last 30 days is eligible). Conversion optimizer switches off automatic or manual bidding and instead prompts to you to specify a maximum CPA for the campaign. AdWords will then automatically optimize the way Google shows your ads so that you are more likely to get conversions. So this Ah Ha moment is pretty simple – if you’re not testing conversion optimizer on your display ad campaigns then you should be.

Oh, and if you haven’t separated display from search, well then you need to do that first. We’ll call that Ah Ha moment #1a.

Moving on…lots to discuss…

Ah-Ha Moment #2: Video is Hot

Google waxed poetic about video. We even got a few hot stats (source: Google):

  • More Video is Uploaded to YouTube every 60 days than the top three broadcasters have produced in 60 years
  • 85% of the US Online population has watched a YouTube video.
  • 65% watch one video per week
  • Online video ads received 18.3% more viewer attention than TV commercials (source: IPG Media Lab)

At one point the presenter actually said, “we’re constantly blown away by the power of images.” And I thought to myself, well, that’s kind of an ironic statement because the rest of the world has known about the power of images since, I don’t know, THE INVENTION OF CINEMA. However, as a search marketer (and writer of lots of words), I’m the first to admit that sometimes I forget there is an entire WORLD of advertising that extends beyond 90 character text ads. So what if you could marry Google’s keyword targeting capabilities with kick-ass pictures that move? Turns out you can, it’s called YouTube.

There are a few different ways you can promote yourself on YouTube. YouTube’s Promoted Videos page explains how it works.

In a nutshell, you create an ad for YouTube which features a thumbnail of your video and tie that ad to keywords or categories, much like you do with regular search ads for Google.com. You then set your bid price and only pay when someone clicks to view the video. Google recommends creating a YouTube branded channel where you can drive visitors (or you can drive them directly to a specific video with or without a channel). Of course, you’re going to need at least one video on YouTube, so if you don’t have any video, get cracking!

Ah-Ha Moment #3: Mobile is Hotter

Google was really, REALLY excited about mobile. We got some more stats on this channel, as follows:

  • 77% of smartphone users call or visit a business after looking for local info on their phones
  • 71% of smartphone users search because they saw an ad
  • 33% of smartphone users use their phone while watching TV (ahem: GUILTY)
  • 53% of smartphone users on average made a purchase as a result of a mobile search
  • 70% of smartphone users, use their phone while shopping in-store

So, what does Google recommend in order to capitalize on the explosive growth in mobile usage? A few things, as follows…

  • Break out mobile into separate campaigns and this includes separating tablet targeting from mobile phone targeting. This could give you an advantage over ad visibility and CPC, since not a lot of people are doing that at the moment (I think it was something like 5% of all AdWords advertisers). This gives you more flexibility with writing ad copy as well as where you send people.
  • Use call extensions in your ads, particularly if you are a local business that gets a lot of leads over the phone. Call extensions enable you to add your business phone and address to your ads, and Google will include the info based on the device a searcher is using. Here’s more info from Google on how to set up call extensions including the ability to utilize a Google Voice number for call tracking.Lightening Round
    And here, in no particular order, are some more things to try and/or consider.

    • Since mobile usage is growing so much, it’s important to check out your web site on various mobile devices. Look at it on your phone, your tablet, your child’s ipod touch…whatever. Are you providing mobile users a good experience? If not, it may be time to invest in a mobile site.
    • While mobile is on your mind, take a look at your web analytics to see what percentage of traffic is coming from mobile devices. This could be particularly eye opening if a mobile strategy isn’t on the radar.
    • Take some time to look around and see what other people are doing via Google’s ThinkInsights tool. Get some coffee first.
    • Build a mobile landing page for your local business via Google Sites.
    • Add the Google +1 button to your landing page

    And there you have it. I guess it doesn’t seem like a lot of stuff, unless you consider you now need to run off and build yourself a mobile site, a YouTube Brand Channel and film a bunch of videos.

    Key takeaway: search marketing is more than just text ads!

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Learn With Google Recap

Yesterday I attended a “Learn with Google” event in Miami and boy howdy did I come away with a lot of ideas to implement and test. I also learned how the other half lives. You know, the half with dedicated reps who love them and pay attention to them.

ASIDE: I’m beginning to feel a bit like a Google stalker here. PAY ATTENTION TO ME. Love Me. LOVE MEEEE!

So, as it happens, one of my clients was (mysteriously) assigned a Google team on his account which is actually what prompted my rant about all clients needing better customer service. When you have a dedicated Google team (this goes beyond just a rep – it’s an actual TEAM of Googlers who shower attention and love onto your account), you get invited to events like Learn with Google in Miami – which was essentially a four hour training seminar followed by dedicated 20 minute sessions with Google optimizers. It was extremely informative and I can honestly say that I came away with a TON of really good advice from a lot of really smart Google employees. Oh, and did I mention that I won a brand new Android Tablet? Well, I did and awesome doesn’t begin to describe how awesome it is. NEW TOY, NEW TOY, I GOT A NEW TOY!!

But I digress, now onto the good stuff…

Payton Dobbs, the Manager of Online Sales at Google opened the sessions with a reminder to focus on five key components of marketing, all starting with the letter C. Competitors, Consumers, Company, Collaborators, Context. I got the order all mixed up here because I was taking notes using very outdated technology – namely, a pen and a notebook. What that means, in a nutshell, is that it’s important to look at the entire ecosystem of your online presence when building and/or optimizing your PPC campaign and not just the campaign itself. I think this is a really important point. We often get really focused on managing quality score and keywords and bids or we obsess about certain metrics like CTR or impression share or ad position. Yes, all of these things are important, but if you’re trying to move the needle on conversions (and, really, that should be your key focus) then you HAVE to know what’s going on around you, and figure out how you fit into the picture yourself.

Luckily Google provides a whole host of (free) tools to help with that. Some of them I knew about and already use, but some were new to me and I can’t wait to start playing with them:

Insights for Search Is a great tool for identifying keyword trends and tracking search behavior. It enables you to track volume trends on keywords you input over various regions and time periods. You can also compare keywords against each other. It’s very handy for predicting how to allocate your budget if your business is event-driven or has volume shifts based on the season (e.g., holiday shopping, vacation planning). You may be surprised at what you learn.

Google’s Ad Planner is in the category of tools that I haven’t really spent any time with, but really, really want to. The tool used to be owned by Doubleclick and helps to identify web sites where your target audience is most likely to visit. It’s a great way to uncover sites that you can then test ads on within Google’s display network, but I imagine it could also give you lots of good keyword ideas when building out your keyword targeting strategy since it shows what kind of content your target audience is interested in reading.

The Keyword Tool is my favorite toy to play with during the keyword discovery phase of planning. If you’ve never tried it, then you really should. It gives you estimated keyword volumes for the terms you input, as the level of competition (this is pretty nonspecific, e.g., low, medium or high). The best thing about this tool is that it lists all the long-tail or “stemmed” terms that people actually search on which are related to your term. There really is no substitute for this tool when it comes to keyword discovery and expansion. You can also enter a URL to find out keywords related to the content on your site – but I’ve found this can be inaccurate and generally unhelpful.

YouTube Insights – If you run video campaigns or have videos that get some decent traffic on YouTube, you can take a deep dive into the behavior of your viewers with data that includes where they came from, what parts of the video are most interesting to them and even demographic info. These stats are available for all videos – just log into your YouTube account and select the “Insight” drop down beside your video. Since I don’t have any clients who are doing video promotion right now, I’m not ready for this tool – although experimenting more with video is on my list of “we’ve really got to test this tactic now” recommendations thanks to yesterday’s seminar.

The YouTube Trends Dashboard is completely new to me. It shows video trends based on demographics you input into the tool. So, for example, if I’m interested in seeing what women aged 25-34 in Dallas are watching on YouTube, well, I can do that. This could be kind of interesting, but I wonder if the promoted videos end up being the most popular not because they ARE the most popular, but because they are promoted.

Wow, so this is way longer than I intended it to be and I haven’t even gotten to the sessions yet – this was just the intro portion of the day. I’ll try to summarize the key learnings from yesterday’s seminar in a more concise post on Monday. Until then, I’m off to play with my new Android tablet. Ta!

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You don’t need me anymore, or do you?

This post by Larry Kim of Certified Knowledge got me thinking about the disparity between PPC budgets, and how much time people spend obsessing over their PPC campaigns and what it all means for me, a third party PPC consultant.

I mean, it’s all about me, isn’t it?

Or is it?

To sum up: Larry states that not all AdWords campaigns are created equal (budget-wise). As such, you can’t expect that PPC best practices for a huge six figure/month campaign will automatically apply to a four figure/month campaign. Larry makes an excellent point about the diminishing returns of spending obsessive amounts of time on your 3K/month PPC campaign.

I often work with clients that have miniscule PPC budgets. They come to me because they want to maximize the ROI they get from paid search and they usually suspect they can be doing something better. If you are spending less than about 3K/month on paid search, then you probably can’t afford (and don’t really need) to hire a dedicated PPC staff member or consultant. On the other hand, you will probably benefit from some training which also includes a healthy understanding of what you can expect from your campaign.

Let’s start with setting expectations. Here are some uncomfortable truths about small advertisers and Google (these same truths are becoming a reality on Adcenter as well):

  1. If you’re spending less than $30,000/month on Google, you’re considered a small advertiser until Google says otherwise. That means you don’t get a dedicated rep, or a t-shirt, or a mini-fridge emblazoned with Google’s logo (as one of my agency buddies once got…for free). In short, you’re on your own.
  2. If your budget is between 3-6K/month and you are in a highly competitive keyword space (think finance, beauty, health, exercise and certain retail categories) then you will have to be a WHOLE LOT more creative with your PPC strategy than Victoria’s Secret, Target or Best Buy all of whom have bottomless vats of money. This is where working (briefly) with a PPC expert will likely help you.
  3. Paid search is not what it was five years ago. Or even three years ago. Or even 1.5 years ago. It’s growing and the cup runneth over with advertisers. Forbes recently quoted a Forrester study which states that paid search currently represents 47% of the web ad market and that AdWords grew about 20% last year alone. This means small advertisers have even more competition to contend with. The space is cluttered which boils down to one thing – higher CPCs. So what am I getting at here, you ask? A couple of things – the first is that paid search might not actually work for you if your budget is really small so you should start thinking about alternatives (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.). The second is that this is where it may become too time consuming to be worthwhile. If a space is too cluttered and your budget is too small, it’s just very hard to get noticed in the search results. This is where having a good organic SEO strategy can really help – you have to ask yourself if your time is better spent building online reputation, good solid web site content and relevant reciprocal links – or constantly obsessing over the 1000 clicks/month you get from AdWords.
  4. With paid search, your traffic volume is not only limited by your budget, but by the volume of keyword searches in your given category. If this is a small, niche B2B category in, say, a growing but under represented market – then (and I do not say this lightly), search may not be the best place for you to spend your ad dollars (and it shouldn’t be the only place).

Here’s the thing. You ABSOLUTELY can spend too much time on your PPC campaign. If you find yourself checking your total clicks at midnight, freaking out when your ad appears at #3 instead of #2 and obsessively trying to deconstruct your competitor’s keyword strategy, you probably need to detox. This is particularly true for small advertisers. I’m not saying that it’s not important to optimize your campaign, test ad copy, revise your landing pages and monitor/improve your account and keyword quality, but if you’re spending more than a couple of hours a week managing the account, then you have to wonder what else you’re neglecting.

One example is your web site. You can only do so much with keywords and ad copy, particularly in the search space. We’re talking about 95 characters of text which competes with 10-12 identical-looking ads, and that’s not including the organic search listings. You also can’t anticipate every single search query, so please stop trying to do that. That’s what match types are for!

I often advise my smallest clients to monitor their campaigns regularly (but in a systematic way) and work with a consultant (me) occasionally to ensure they’re getting the most out of AdWords. It’s never a good idea to leave a campaign running on its own for months at a time, but at some point you need to realize that you may not achieve perfection (or all your aquisition goals) from your paid search campaign. PPC works best when it’s part of a mixed strategy that involves your web site, other marketing initiatives (even offline initiatives!) and really good sales people. It can augment your success as a business, but is not necessarily the only path to that success. And what it really boils down to for most small advertisers is..do you want to give one tactic ALL that power?

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PPC Confessional: What Sex Toys Taught Me about Paid Search

Did I get your attention? No? How about now:

Photobucket

That is the logo of the best client I’ve ever worked with, and I’m not just saying that for brownie points because, alas, my time with them is finally coming to an end (as of October).

First a short background. Babeland sells sex toys at four brick and mortar locations (three in New York and one in Seattle) and via their Web site Babeland.com. The latter is where I come in. I started working with Babeland on their PPC campaigns on Google and Yahoo back in 2007. At this time there was some kind of devastating Google update in the natural results which occurred right before the critical holiday season. It hit the sex toy and porn industry hard (pun entirely intended).

I’d never worked with an adult industry client before Babeland, and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about the whole thing. But their VP of marketing made me laugh within the first ten minutes of talking to her, and the issue they were dealing with (plummeting sales due to the latest Google Dance) intrigued me. What was going on was definitely the underbelly of search marketing.

Google seemed to have a problem with the very nature of Babeland’s business. Sex toys. Sex. Adult Products. Adults + Sex. Well, you get the picture. Babeland was lumped in with an entire history of ugly black hat spammers that fell into several untouchable categories including porn, gambling, drugs, online pharmacies, and content arbiters who gamed the system to make ad revenue (often polluting Google search results in the process).

Was this fair? No. As it turns out, Babeland is a women-friendly sex toy shop which was opened nearly 20 years ago in Seattle (I love Seattle). The store’s founders are also authors, and advocates of sex education. Their products are tested and safe (phthalate free) and they are passionate about customer service (check out their Honors page to see the list of awards they’ve won).

So, what’s an honest sex toy store to do when Google slaps them with a huge penalty? What everyone else does. They turned to PPC to augment their flailing traffic and I worked with them to make their campaign profitable, while also giving them some much needed visibility in the search results.

I hope they learned a lot about paid search from me, because I learned a lot of stuff about e-commerce, competition, prudish editorial policies and patience from them (not to mention sex toys).

Here are some things Babeland taught me:

  • Your brand is your best asset, particularly when it comes to keywords. Bidding on your brand should not be your only strategy, but it’s helpful in all sorts of ways (not the least of which is boosting quality score for your account). Babeland has a great reputation and people actively search for them. Babeland’s competitors figured that out and continue to bid on their brand terms even now. However, Babeland never, ever bids on competitors’ names (at least not since I’ve been working with them.) Why? Because it’s bad form to hijack someone else’s trademark. Hooray for having morals, along with dildos and 49 different kinds of vibes.
  • You can have a stellar ROI even if you can’t compete on price. It’s called having a good reputation. And amazing customer service. And a thorough idea of what the hell is going on around you in your own industry. Babeland taught me to look at every single data point (though not obsessively) and figure out how that played into the search campaign. They were also willing to test a lot of things I suggested (coupon code, anyone?) Being willing to test new ideas, scrap ones that failed, rinse and repeat were winning approaches for Babeland and, quite frankly, made them a wonderful client to work with.
  • Persistence. Babeland’s budget was not big enough for Google to warrant a dedicated rep, which is quite common for anyone spending under about 30K/month. So when bad stuff happened – like the time our ads wouldn’t show up for the term “babeland coupon” but three of our competitors’ ads did – we learned that constant phone calls, emails and follow-ups to Google would get our ads back up and running. This happened at least three times in the past four years, by the way. So, lesson learned – even if Google sticks their fingers in their ears and says “nyah! nyah! nyah! I can’t HEAR you…” keep calling and complaining. There’s just no good reason your brand terms should be triggering someone else’s ads but not yours. Google apparently agreed (although not in writing) because we were always able to get our keywords re-activated

All good things must come to an end. After over four years of working with Babeland on their campaign, we’re wrapping things up. It’s kind of weird for me, as a consultant, to be so bummed about losing this account. I’ve been thinking about this very topic lately – that is, when is it productive to end a client relationship. How long is too long for the same person (or agency) to manage an account? My personal feeling is that clients benefit from multiple eyes and multiple approaches and it’s probably time to give this one up.

I’ll admit I’m bummed though. The best time I’ve ever had writing ad copy was when I brainstormed copy for a bunch of stocking stuffer, sex toy ads. I’ll let you use your imagination for that one.

A colleague of mine – the very same person who referred me to Babeland – once said that he didn’t want to work with any client if he wasn’t comfortable putting their logo on his web site. I guess it makes sense that a sex toy retailer would fall into that category – or at least it made sense to me back then. I’ll admit I suppressed my affiliation with Babeland out of those same concerns, but now I am proud to feature their logo all over my site.

That’s right. My name is Jackie. I sold sex toys. And I’d do it again! I just hope that Google and Microsoft figure out that it’s okay to let companies like Babeland run ads for their products in a less restricted way (particularly Microsoft!) I mean, if someone’s looking for a dildo from a reputable, discrete store, then dammit they should be able to find it.

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A quick, easy way to monitor quality score and minimum bid changes

So, am I the only one who thinks that Google needs to provide advertisers with a way to easily compare quality score and minimum bid changes via a convenient report within AdWords? I can’t be the ONLY one! I finally decided to do this myself and I’m so excited with the results, that I want to share them with you, my ones of fans.

This requires a bit more than just basic Excel skills, so I’ll wait why you get get the data geek in the room.

Okay, so here’s what I did.

    • Pulled February’s keyword report which includes quality score and minimum bid amounts and then pulled March’s keyword report
    • I then added columns into the March report so I could include February’s quality score and minimum bid amount. I went even further and added columns to show the difference of the quality score and minimum bid amounts.

BUT THERE’S MORE!

  • I subtracted February from March’s minimum bid so I could see the difference in the new “difference” column I added.
  • If the minimum bid went up, I applied a rule to turn the cell red. If the bid went down, I applied a rule to turn the cell green. I did the same thing for Quality Score. This way I could easily see where I’m losing quality score and also where I have the opportunity to lower my bid.

Allow me to provide a visual representation of the above example.


quality score tracking
The above table tells me (at a glance) that I’ve lost quality on four of my keywords. The next things I’d look at are CTR, ad position and, in this case, conversion metrics. This will help me decide if I should raise the bids, kill the terms, or try to squeeze better quality out of the terms (particularly if they’re good converters) by breaking them into a new ad group and changing the ad copy, match types and negatives (in addition to raising bids, of course).

The table also tells me where I’ve gained quality compared with the previous month. In fact, two of my keywords jumped from a QS of 7 to a QS of 10 – one of these terms is a generic term and I’m bidding .60 for the term which now has a minimum bid of .02. YOU HEARD RIGHT – .02! This is why it’s so important to optimize your account for quality score. I just learned I can lower my bid to .02 and likely still remain in a decent position, but I’m not going to go that low. This term has a conversion rate of 14% and is fairly low volume. I’m going to lower it to about .30 and see where we stand next month.

The table ALSO shows some keywords where quality hasn’t changed, but bids are going down. I’m pretty sure this means the quality of the term is increasing, but for whatever reason (e.g., the quality is already at 10), this is not yet reflected in the actualy quality score number. The opposite is likely true – when the minimum bid goes up but the quality score doesn’t change, it likely means that I’ve lost quality for a given term but that loss has not yet been reflected in the actual quality score number.

And this concludes your quality score fun time for today!

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A search marketer’s view on Facebook ads

This post by Glenn Engler on DigiDay Daily titled, Facebook Fans are Worthless motivated me to update my neglected blog with my own two cents. I agree with the post on many levels except, perhaps, the title.

I don’t like making blanket statements about one specific tactic, I just don’t. Online trends come and go, but the following statements will never be true:

  • Email marketing is dead
  • Search marketing offers the best return on investment for your media dollars
  • No one watches TV anymore
  • Millennials are the only ones who “get it”
  • No one uses coupons anymore
  • Coupons are the only way to motivate people to shop
  • I could go on…

Absolute conclusions about anything are NEVER true (ha! see how I did that?) I think this is particularly true of absolute conclusions we draw about new media, particularly new online media. Facebook advertising is still in its infancy, after all. Let’s give it some time to grow before we make broad, sweeping statements about its value.

So what’s going on with Facebook advertising? Well, let’s review Glenn’s article point by point:

Glenn: The value of Facebook fans is unclear.
I think this is true of all paid media – even…dare I say…search clicks…

Glenn: Facebook fans want two things – discounts and free stuff.
They probably want more than two things, but the bottom line is they want SOMETHING from you. If you don’t have something to offer – whether that’s a coupon, a kick-ass contest, a free t-shirt or some juicy gossip/news/info, then don’t pay for their love.

Glenn: The value of a Facebook fan is zero.
Very, very, very true. The value of an email subscriber to your in-house list is also zero….until that person buys something. Same with a search click, or a banner view, etc. etc. ad nauseum. I mean, you know, when you look at it on PAPER (or in Google Analytics) these fans can seem worthless. But what about when you factor in stuff like brand recognition, online presence, share of voice, and all the things that contribute to people eventually spending money with you? At this point do we really know what it means when someone bothers to click the “like” button on your page or in your ad? Can every single fan be worthless? I find that hard to believe.

Glenn: The Facebook “like” counter is too distracting for a lot of brands.
This is actually (in my opinion) the strongest part of Glenn’s argument. In short, he argues against putting Facebook at the core of your marketing strategy, but instead incorporating it into a larger strategy that may include lots of other stuff (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, online communities, blogs, etc.) which will support your brand. I once wrote an article titled, “Google is a tactic, not a strategy” – the same thing goes for Facebook and any other venue/tactic/vendor…the short, short version of this advice? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, particularly not if you sell sex toys.

Glenn: Facebook fans are not worth anything if you bought them. And they’re certainly not worth anything if you don’t do something with them.
I disagree with this actually – I think you can buy Facebook fans and that these fans can be worth something, but this is mostly true if the fans in question already know/like/love your brand. So, for example, if I’m doing a campaign for Starbucks, then I can target my ads to people who have indicated that they’re fans of Starbucks on Facebook – yes, I know this is sorta cheating but it also highlights the importance of what Glenn’s saying and that brings me to my favorite bit of wisdom in Glenn’s article which actually came from someone who commented…”

Isaac M. Wright (commentator): “The brands with a successful fan base had that base before Facebook — FB just offered a place to say so.”

So true, Isaac, so true!!

Now, to expand my thoughts on the value of a Facebook fan being zero. As I said, above, you can apply that point of view to a number of different scenarios. I mean, if you have 3000 newsletter subscribers and you’re not sending out newsletters, then what’s their value? If you send out two newsletters per week, but ultimately don’t make money from any of those subscribers, then what’s their value? If you spend $175/month paying for Constant Contact and are also not making money from your newsletter subscribers, then they’re actually COSTING you money – and this is where Facebook may actually offer you more value because sending out updates to people who’ve liked your page is, well, it’s free.

Does Facebook replace newsletters? No, I strongly don’t think so and my own personal preference is to receive newsletters from all my favorite stores so that I’m on top of all the sales, coupons and special deals they’re offering. In fact, I rarely Like their pages on Facebook unless there’s some sort of contest involved (Glenn, you were SO right about that!)

As a search marketer, I can say it’s not so different when paying for search clicks. I mean, we’ve always had the issue of SEO vs. PPC in this industry. Should I pay for clicks when I can get listed in Google for free? Of course the answer is often yes because it’s just impossible to get listed in Google organically for every keyword that’s meaningful to you (for most companies – let’s not talk in absolutes here!) Plus, SEO isn’t actually free (but that’s a whole nother post).

One thing I always tell clients when they’re first starting out with paid search is to take a look at their overall online strategy. Is their web site set up in a way that helps to easily convert visitors? Are the keywords they’re bidding on truly relevant to what’s on the site? If not, what do they have to do to make those keywords relevant? Also, what are they going to do with those paid visitors once they get there? These questions aren’t so different from what advertisers need to ask themselves before jumping into a paid Facebook campaign.

(thanks, Glenn, for a great article – this topic has clearly been on my mind for a while)

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10 (Paid) Search Marketing Predictions for 2011

  1. Google will get rid of live employees entirely. AdWords customer service will be provided by heavily interlinked, redundant help files which give only vague, cursory explanations and ultimately link back to old Webmasterworld.com forum posts (thus resolving any and all issues).
  2. Microsoft Adcenter will collapse under the continued strain of absorbing all of Yahoo’s keyword advertisers. After several weeks of complete confusion and chaos, ad serving will resume via the old Overture platform and everyone will be a lot happier.
  3. Quality Score algorithms will become so convoluted and complex, they will cease to make any sense whatsoever. Frustrated advertisers will continue to bid on whatever the hell they want to bid on regardless of the cost, making Google even MORE successful.
  4. Someone, somewhere will realize that Facebook advertising is not, actually, search marketing. Those same people will struggle to accept this fact, but ultimately come to terms with it.
  5. Google will revise its “do no evil” philosophy to incorporate a little bit of evil, starting with the outlook that monopolies aren’t really all THAT bad.
  6. The search engines will make several arbitrary changes to their ad copy guidelines which will require hours of work to comply with, all of which will amount to absolutely no discernible changes in ad performance or advertiser benefits. These changes will begin as early as Jaunary 2011…
  7. There will be a dozen search marketing conferences which all contain “mobile” and “social media” tracks, but don’t actually discuss how either mobile OR social media can benefit and/or be integrated with search. Guy Kawasaki will speak at 85% of these sessions, however, no one will learn anything because we’ll all be too busy tweeting his sound bytes.
  8. A catastrophic weather event will prevent SMX Advanced from taking place in Seattle. As a result, we’ll all log into GoToMeeting to watch Danny Sullivan discuss the latest cool search apps for iPad and Android, while sparring with Matt Cutts about why paying for links is BAD.
  9. September will bring with it at least 20 different “Are you prepared for the holidays?” free Webinars, which are meant to motivate advertisers into ramping up their campaigns before the Christmas rush, but don’t really provide any (new) information. I will register for six of these webinars and attend not one of them.
  10. Someone will declare that “search is dead” in favor of social and/or mobile marketing. I will roll my eyes at this person and possibly hit them over the head with my browser-enabled smartphone.
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Is the Web really dead?

I was listening to American Public Radio’s On the Media yesterday, which is how I heard about a recent Wired story titled, The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet.

The Web…dead? Why wasn’t I notified??

Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff make two key points in their article. The first one (which I initially violently opposed) is the differentiation of the “web” versus the “internet.” The former is defined in the article as sort of an online destination which you arrive at via a Web browser. The latter is the hardwired (or wireless) network that you use to get to that destination. But what if…(cue threatening music here)…the destination changes? What if suddenly people use the Internet to get to very different, non-web destinations?

That brings me to the second point Mr. Anderson and Mr. Wolff hammer away at and what spurred the title of the article. That is, the notion that the web is “in decline” because of the proliferation of devices and entry points that are not accessible via browsers (e.g., web-based applications, password protected communities and non-html content, among other things).

One could argue that most password-protected content is accessible via browser, just not via a crawling spider. One could also argue that there’s a symbiotic relationship between services like Google, which searches for, indexes and links to content, and services like the New York Times (or Wired) which create content. But I guess that doesn’t address the issue of huge collections of pages that cannot be indexed (like Facebook) because they are “gated.”

But let’s all see if we can agree on what exactly the WEB is before we start digging its grave. I’ll defer to Wikipedia, my go to source for everything (which is how I KNOW that Henry VIII was obese by the time he married Anne of Cleves in spite of what Showtime would have me believe). Take it away, Wikipedia:

“The World Wide Web, abbreviated as WWW and commonly known as the Web, is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. With a web browser, one can view web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigate between them by using hyperlinks.” Source: Wikipedia

Okay, so maybe I was wrong about defining the Web as the infrastructure itself. It does appear that the Web is a bunch of HTML pages which we navigate to via a web browser. But something is bothering me here. The article’s premise that the web is in decline is based on the fact that people are moving away from the browser and the ‘open web” in favor of devices like the iPad and smartphones. But aren’t these devices essentially portable computers? Don’t they all come equipped with browsers? Why would these new devices have browsers if no one is navigating the open web anymore?

Ha! see how I did that? Gotcha Wired!

I don’t think we’ll ever completely move away from hypertext pages. I do think we’re (rapidly) expanding beyond HTML. I also think the barrier of entry isn’t as high as the Wired article implies. Back in 1998 I would’ve killed for an application like Drupal (for example) which enables me to build and update my web site with very (very) little programming knowledge.

But let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about the Internet:

“The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope that are linked by a broad array of electronic and optical networking technologies.” Source: Wikipedia

Gentemen, so far you’re right and my violent opposition is based on the wrong assumption that the Internet and the Web are one and the same.

Still, is the Web really dead?

It seems like an oversight to say that apps (wireless or otherwise) are taking over from the browser-based “wide open” web. To my point above, what is a browser, if not an app?

I open my browser, I point to Google, I do a search – and I get a list of results. It works, I’m happy, I don’t care if the site I go to is programmed in HTML or if it was somehow cobbled together with fairy dust and magical beans (my programming language of choice). I’ll say this once, but I’ll try to be clear – only those of us immersed in the world of media, online media, and the “Web” give a crap about what content Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs own.

The wireless apps and subscription-based services that people are spending so much time on (e.g,. Facebook), are probably taking market share away from web sites like Google, but Google is also beginning to gnaw at its own confinement. Why, just the other day I saw it on my Android phone!

BUT let me continue down the road of walled online communities stealing online markets before something shiny distracts me. In the old days, we used to call online market share “eyeballs.” No one cared that the web sites themselves were sort of crap, they just cared that people were spending time on them so they could serve up ads (in the form of really ugly banners). Have you ever studied a Facebook page? I mean, really looked at it compared with a well-thought out web page like Amazon’s or Zappo’s home page (for example). Zappos, you know I love you.

Well, if you have spent any time looking at a Facebook page, then you’ll pretty much agree with me that it looks like someone threw up all the contents of their hard drive onto that page. Do advertisers care that Facebook pages are a veritable testament to bad design and ADD? No, they do not. They care that people’s eyeballs are on the page. There’s not just an inordinate amount of useless content posted by Facebook’s growing base of 500 million users, there’s also lots to do on the site.

According to Facebook, “There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages) ”

Okay, awesome – 900 million is a very large number. Google can’t claim to have 900 million pages, can it? Oh hang on…if a search results page is considered an actual page, then Google gets 3 BILLION (with a “B”) searches per day.

Should we debate the merit of a search results page with the merit of a Facebook “object” in terms of the value each one offers? If we’re an advertiser, then probably not because all we care about is that people are there and we need someplace to display our ads.

If we’re talking about the death of the Web then we should because, bottom line, neither “destination” provides any real information. Rather, they are both conduits to more in-depth content. So, just like you wouldn’t want Google to index your web site until it was complete and had some actual meat within its pages, you really don’t want to put up a Facebook page unless you have some kind of content strategy to in mind with which to leverage that page. Does Google need to index that Facebook page? Not really – not if it’s linking to a public web page that has the actual content on it. Which brings us back to the open web…

So what does this mean for users? And what of all this talk of apps, and walled networks replacing the open web and Mr. Wolff’s hero-worshiping of Steve Jobs and Apple?

Here’s what I think – there’s enough room for all of this stuff, and people aren’t going to abandon Google in favor of Facebook or their favorite iPad app that allows them to do one thing (e.g., navigate somewhere, find a local pizza joint, track their cardio workout, etc.) People are still going to search for things on the “open web” and we are going to continue to embrace the wireless web in a way that we couldn’t ten years ago because technology is changing.

I actually think what’s happening now is more the convergence of traditional media via the Internet rather a supplanting of open content (e.g, HTML pages) by traditional media. So what do I have to say about that? Welcome, Hulu and iTunes and Netflix and Pandora. Thanks for joining us! Please stop hogging my bandwidth because my daughter needs to spend some time researching the origins of chocolate on Google this evening.

I’m just saying…

I also think the idea of a closed environment – of going back to the old days of media moguls and big Hollywood studios who control everything, will come back to shoot Steve Jobs and Apple in the foot. Because not all of us like to be forced into closed applications like iTunes – this is precisely why I invested in an Android phone (which required me to switch my wireless provider which was a big P.I.A). And let me just state, for the record, that I adored my ipod touch and miss it terribly.

The scenario of waking up in the morning and going from app to app to app without interacting with the “open web” is a false one. At least for me, and just about everyone I now.

Yes, I may wake up and check my email on my Droid phone, listen to Pandora as I wash the dishes, listen to my Rachel Maddow podcast as I drive to work, chat on Skype before digging into my pile of Monday a.m. tasks, etc. etc. But I also spend a few minutes each morning browsing Google News to see what’s going on in the world, searching actively for things I’m interested in (e.g., a new netbook for my 9-year-old) and, yes, browsing the open web to see what the hell Snooki is up to lately.

Applications existed before the ipad and they will exist after it – we’ll just be accessing them via a chip implanted in our heads which will make the ipad look like a stone tablet. We’ll all laugh about how we used to carry devices OUTSIDE of our bodies! But to claim that the web is dead and that (the horror!) we all WANT it to die because it’s just so much easier letting our ipads, ipods and iphones do all the work is underestimating the resolve of a lot of people out there who love to produce and consume real content.

The open web has spoken. Over and out.

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