Five Things You Should Do Before Launching a Paid Search Campaign

Paid search is a do-it-yourself medium. It takes literally five minutes to set up an Adwords account, fund it, create your first campaign and launch. Google, in particular, has been aggressively targeting small businesses by providing $100 coupons and vouchers through hosting companies and ISPs, as well as reaching out directly to small businesses.

For all of the above reasons, as well as the continued pressure to find new leads and generate new business, many of my small business clients are confused about how to move forward. They feel a sense of urgency to launch an Adwords campaign (everybody’s doing it!) but they aren’t sure how to approach it. Add to this that it’s so easy to get started with Adwords – just register, plug in your credit card and GO! – that the temptation to launch before you develop a thoughtful strategy can be overwhelming.

Don’t worry! I’ve put together a short list of five things you need to consider before launching a paid search campaign. These really extend to launching any paid media initiative where you plan to significantly leverage your web site. Without further ado..

  1. Set Your Expectations: Put some thought into why you’re launching your search campaign, and what you expect to get out of it. Are your expectations realistic? Do you have a sense of how much you’re willing to pay for a lead or a sale? Are you vastly over or under estimating the traffic volume from paid search (hint: Google’s Traffic Estimator can help you answer this)? Does the majority of your audience find you via search engines? Do you know if you want to focus on a regional, national or global target? Figure out where you think your campaign should take you before you launch it so you can establish some benchmarks.
  2. Web Site Due Diligence: Make sure your Web site is ready to receive visitors BEFORE you launch your search campaign. Paid search is paid media and even if it’s just a small fraction of your overall budget, do you really want to send people to a Web site that isn’t prepared to receive them? Your landing page should provide clear direction to all your visitors, but paid visitors cost you money so you need to pay extra special attention to guiding these people. Don’t send people to a product specifications page (for example) with lots of charts and a long list of specs, but no clear actions or next steps. Rather, provide a page with one or two clear paths to the next step and a brief overview of the product or service you are selling. Also, make sure your landing page contains your contact information and a visible privacy link. It doesn’t hurt to review what other people in your industry are doing, which brings me to the next item on my list.
  3. Competitive Intelligence: Most advertisers have to deal with some competition in the paid search results. Many advertisers have to deal with a RIDICULOUS amount of competition. It’s very easy for prospective customers to click back and forth from various ads and compare products and services against each other. It’s therefore critical to ensure your landing page rises above the clutter, just like you need to ensure that your ad copy rises above the clutter. Take some time to perform competitive research for both of these variables so you can refine your ad copy and landing pages and make them stand out.
  4. Keyword Strategy: The language on the site should reflect the keywords you’re bidding on, but also the language of your customers. Don’t get hung up on corporate-speak or industry jargon when bidding on keywords. You may think of yourself as a “housecleaning expert” but I may be looking for “maid service” – be sure to bid on both terms. Performing some preliminary keyword research by looking at competitors and using tools such as KeywordSpy and Google’s Keyword Tool, will help you compile a preliminary list of keywords. But don’t stop with the list – do some actual searches on these keywords to see who is bidding on them, what their ads look like, and what their landing pages look like. Visiting competitors’ web sites is also a great way to come up with new keywords.
  5. Tracking: Figure out what you’re tracking and how you’re going to track it. This may include all or some of the following: sales, leads, specific actions (e.g., coupon downloads, newsletter subscriptions), user engagement, phone calls, subscribers, etc. Many of my clients use Google Analytics to track goals and user engagement. You can also track straightforward conversions (like sales and sign ups) directly in Adwords and Adcenter. Make sure that tracking is set up BEFORE you launch. Get your programmer involved – it’s really not that time consuming and it will give you critical information for campaign optimization.
  6. Reporting: Okay, I’m throwing this one in as a bonus. There’s a lot of up front work in creating and launching a search campaign, but the work doesn’t stop when the campaign is live. Even though you can log into Google or Adcenter and look at your results anytime, it’s extremely helpful to create a dashboard-type report which pulls your performance metrics in from all sources (e.g., Google, Adcenter & Analytics) and ties them back to your original goals. Monthly reports should be kept as simple as possible and while you may find the act of compiling the data tedious, you’ll soon learn that it’s the best way to keep tabs on your campaign and plan your next steps for the coming month.
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PPC Reporting and the joy of data visualization

data visualization

All data tells a story. One of the biggest challenges with search marketing data is that there’s just so darn much of it, so it’s often overwhelming trying to figure out how to extract meaningful information. I’ve just finished a series of year-end reports for several of my clients and in an effort to streamline how I present my conclusions, I’ve come up with a few charts and graphs to help me QUICKLY get to the points I want to make. These I shall now share with you.

The correlation between quality score and CPC.

quality score and cpc
The above graph is based on a year’s worth of data. I pulled a keyword report from Adwords, inserted a column of 1’s so that I could get a count of each quality score and pivoted the data so I could see the count. Then I created this relatively simple scatter chart with the quality score values listed on the bottom. This chart clearly shows that the higher the quality score, the lower the CPC – a fact I’m constantly repeating to my clients. I think this is a really effective way of illustrating it though.

And speaking of quality score – an effective (if not delicious) pie.

quality score pie
Using the same data from my pivoted quality score chart, above, I created a pie chart which broke down quality scores by percentage (after filtering out the paused keywords). This is always an eye opening exercise, particularly if the bulk of the quality scores in the account are at or below 5.

Showing monthly cost versus clicks data by widening the gap.

cost versus clicks
This is a standard Column graph with the cost and click data plotted on two different axis’s. I widened the click data (green bars) so you can easily see that the campaign got better efficiency later in the year. I included CPC, CTR and click totals in the slide which showed that the CPC had come down, the CTR had gone up and the total clicks had increased quite a bit in Q4 even though monthly budget remained the same. Efficiency is a key reason that people work with me – so this is an important metric to illustrate. By the way, this graph works great when comparing lots of different metrics. Here’s the same graph which shows landing page conversion rate compared with impressions and clicks (I put the conversion rate in manually in PPT).

landing page performance
In this graph, it’s extremely obvious that page 5 has the best conversion rate. You can say 2.6% is a lot better than .06% (page 4) as much as you want, but the impact of visually comparing great performance against poor performance is very effective. This chart fueled the decision to update all the landing pages in the campaign, regardless of the topic, to the most effective layout (remember – this is taken from an entire year’s worth of data).

Word cloud using

Werdle word cloud
I used an excellent (free) web-based tool called
Wordle to create word clouds of the top performing keywords, ad groups and even placements based on frequency. The tool is designed to show a word cloud of word frequency by scanning a web page and spitting back a word cloud –but if you go to the Advanced page you can manually create a word cloud based on term + the number of queries. This was a great way to demonstrate the dominance of some terms compared with others in a very visually compelling way.

Even though these charts and graphs are specific to PPC data, you can use them for whatever you want. I made all of them in Excel (except for that last one), so easy breezy, right?

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Adwords Meets YouTube


Last October, Google announced the introduction of TrueView Video ads on its agency blog. This is a format that shows ads in-stream in a YouTube video. The ads are skippable and advertisers pay on a cost per view basis.

FUN STAT: “TrueView in-stream now delivers more than 18 years of video each day for advertisers” So it’s kind of like an Orwellian nightmare, but in a good way!

Why am I blogging about this now, a good five months later? Well, because the fanfare around TrueView video advertising wasn’t really rolled out with a bang. In fact, it seemed to be just the first step in the YouTube/Adwords migration because on December 1, 2011 YouTube’s “Promoted Videos” were renamed as “TrueView in-search” and
“TrueView in-display” ads.

And here’s the thing…that is BIG news! It’s really exciting, amazing stuff because it takes the power of the Adwords platform and puts it in the hot little hands of do-it-yourself search marketers like me! But there’s MORE! We get to use actual VIDEO as our creative now. Do you know what that means to someone who has been peddling 90 character text ads for the last ten years? Finally, I’m in the IT crowd of media vehicles…VIDEO!

So why isn’t anyone else excited about this? Maybe it’s because Google seems to be all over the place with this new functionality. I found at least three separate pages introducing advertisers to this functionality.

The Google Video Ads – Introduction page appears to be the official announcement/introduction page for this new feature. It explains the significance in a very succinct way – “This new feature enables advertisers to use a dynamic, auction-based system to easily place and manage video ads on YouTube and the Google Display Network, helping extend your campaign’s reach. ”

YouTube covers the news on this page although it still refers to the TrueView ads as “Promoted Vidoes.”

Here’s the official TrueView page on YouTube which basically says the same thing as the above page and covers the available TrueView ads (e.g., InSlate vs. InStream – I’ll break those down now.

Here are the various formats available (Source: Google):

  • TrueView In Stream Ads: Ads play as a pre-, mid- or post-roll on YouTube partner videos of all lengths. After an ad plays for 5 seconds, viewers get the choice to skip it or watch the rest. Pay only when viewers watch 30 seconds of the ad or to completion if the ad is less than 30 seconds.
  • TrueView in-search ads: Ads are triggered by user search terms on YouTube. Ads rise to the top of Promoted Video search results and suggestions. Viewers see certain ads promoted (placed above others or suggested) and click to watch if interested. Pay only when viewers choose to watch your ad.
  • TrueView in-slate ads: Ads play before long-form YouTube partner videos over 10 minutes. Before a video plays, viewers choose to either watch an ad from 1 of 3 different advertisers, or to watch regular commercial breaks during the video. Pay only when viewers choose to watch your ad.
  • TrueView in-display ads: Ads are promoted against related content across the Google Display Network. Viewers click to play the ad if they are interested. Pay only when viewers choose to watch your ad. Display ad formats will vary by publisher. On YouTube, the ad appears as a highlighted suggested video.

ALL of the above formats can be managed in Adwords. Just log into your Adwords account and either create a new campaign (highly recommended) or create a new ad in an existing campaign. Then select “Display ad builder.” (I know this is completely not intuitive and makes no sense, but currently that’s how it’s set up).


Next, select “Video” under “Media and Channels.


Next, select the video ad format you want (I selected the YouTube Promoted videos)


Next, you will be prompted to select your video or channel from YouTube and create accompanying ad text. You also have the option of creating a call-to-action overlay. What’s that, you ask? It’s a bit of text that you can incorporate into your video which enables users to click through the video to your site (because these videos are being shown on YouTube, remember).


I love the call-to-action overlay and think it deserves one more sentence, per Google: “The overlay will appear as soon as the video begins to play and can be closed by the user. You can use the overlay to share more information about the content of your video or to raise interest in your channel, other videos, or additional websites.” The best part? THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE IF SOMEONE CLICKS ON YOUR OVERLAY! THAT IS RIGHT. YOU HEARD ME CORRECTLY. TURNING OFF THE CAPS LOCK NOW. Here’s an example of the overlay, courtesy of

And there you have it – insta-video-advertising! Assuming you have, you know, a video to advertise.

Here’s one last fun link for you – a keyword tool just for YouTube, so you can gauge the volume of keyword searches JUST on YouTube.

YouTube Keyword Suggestion Tool


Pin It

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What I’ll be Searching for in 2012 (and where)

The Internet has changed a lot over the last ten years and, as a search marketer, I’d have to be blind not to notice how that has influenced searcher behavior. But what does that mean, exactly?

Well.. I’m a searcher, aren’t I? So I got to thinking about my own search behavior and what direction I plan on taking my two eyeballs in 2012. Thus, the inspiration for my 2012 checklist.

Top 10 Things I Plan on searching for in 2012 (and where)

  1. Stuff. I’m going to need stuff in 2012. I mean, I ALWAYS need stuff – shoes, clothes, new curtains for the living room because the ones I own are totally shot. Where will I start this search? Not Google! I’ll start at where they have a nice selection of curtains and I can even customize my search results by length (I prefer 63″ curtains because they look better on low windows than the more common 84″ ones).
  2. Stuff for my kids. I’m going to be honest here. I am an Amazon Prime member and I always start toy, video game and electronic related searches on Amazon. I don’t always end there because hot toys (of the variety that make parents beat up other parents at Christmas time) tend to be triple the price on Amazon as, say, Toys R Us or Target – but the free 2-day shipping for Prime members is always a huge motivator for me to start there.
  3. Music. And..speaking of Amazon – whenever I hear a song I like, or my kids beg me for a song they like – I start (and usually end) my search there. Why? Because I’m a dedicated Android head and LOVE the cloud player, plus I refuse to let my kids buy music on iTunes (they have ipods) because Apple’s stranglehold on digital media annoys me.
  4. News, and lots of it. Okay, here’s where Google comes in. I’ve become addicted to popping by Google’s News page a few times a day, browsing the headlines and occasionally even reading an article. But Google isn’t where my news addiction stops. When I want highly sensationalized, sound-byte type stories, I have to say it’s Yahoo News all the way! Oops, did I just admit that? Yes, yes I did. I’ve also been using an App called Pulse which is basically a very pretty news aggregator that works on all my (many) Android devices.
  5. Crisis Information. That is, information on some sort of outage/crisis/real-time event that is effecting me. An example of this is the Earthquake that hit New York in August. About five minutes after my house stopped shaking I was on Facebook and Twitter searching for news about the earthquake. First, I wanted to see if anyone else experienced it (was it an explosion?) then, I wanted to find news about it. Facebook was a HUGE help here. The same goes for Hurricane Irene which devestated my area of New York – I turned to Facebook for information about what areas were getting power back, who needed the most help and where I could go for things like dry ice and batteries.
  6. Work. At some point in 2012, I expect I’ll be reaching out to my network and putting feelers out to see who needs me. I’m a freelancer, after all, I don’t get paid unless I have active projects. Where will I go to find work? LinkedIn, and industry sites like and MediaPost. Where won’t I look for work? Google.
  7. Video. I don’t subscribe to cable anymore. I have become such an uber geek that I get all my video content (I don’t call it “TV” anymore) from Netflix (both streaming and DVDs), Hulu and YouTube. When I’m searching for something to watch, I generally start with Netflix and follow it up with Hulu. I have a Roku box and can watch anything from either of these sites on my TV. I can also rent movies from Amazon and watch it on TV using my Roku. When I want to watch short clips or I’m looking for something viral, then I generally start my video search on YouTube. [NOTE: I am fascinated with YouTube and have begun some test video campaigns which are getting really great results. YouTube gets 800 million visits per month! Per MONTH! And Google recently integrated YouTube video advertising with the Adwords interface so it’s super easy to get up and running. I plan to do a separate post about this very soon.]
  8. Directions. I have no sense of direction. I mean, zero. If it weren’t for Google Maps and, to a lesser extent, Bing – I’d probably be a migrant cyclist living somewhere in Canada at the moment, weeping and trying to find my way home. But I digress. If you are running a local campaign, think about this – 97% of consumers search for local businesses online [juicy stat courtesy of Google.] And they’re not just searching on their desktops – they’re relying heavily on smartphones and tablets. Adwords offers several extensions that enhance your ads in the search results Maps sections – if you’re not using them to help you stand out, you should be.
  9. Phone numbers. I never look inside a phone book anymore. I search for phone numbers almost exclusively online or on my smartphone. A study by Harris Interactive, conducted in 2010, reported that nearly 70% of U.S. adults “rarely or never” use the phone book. Instead, the majority of them (60%) use the Internet to find contact information. More and more people are using their cell phones and computers to look up phone numbers too – think about this the next time a big honking Yellow Pages directory arrives at your door, only to be immediately thrown out.
  10. Apps. I love apps. My kids love apps. I won an Android Tablet last year (thanks Google!) and it’s become the go-to entertainment device for my family – we watch video on it, play lots of games and I occasionally even do some work. Thus, I am always searching for new apps. I also have an Android phone, so I do a lot of app searches directly in the Android market. My kids each have iPod touches, so they are forever searching for apps in the App Store. I think app development can be a great way to extend your reach beyond Google’s search results page. Here’s a great example – a couple of years ago I wanted an app to help me track calories eaten and burned, so I typed in “calorie counting” in the Android App store and found the perfect app called “Calorie Counter.” I downloaded it and the app kept pushing me to a site called FatSecret which I had never heard of. I eventually checked out the site and registered so I could log my calories on both site and through my phone via the app. FatSecret had successfully used the App to promote their web site.
  11. Information and Images. Here’s where Google still rules. I still start my searches at Google when I’m hunting for information – whether it’s to research a product I want to buy, or help my 10-year-old learn five facts about Ancient Egypt, I start with Google, then migrate onto Yahoo or Bing. I also use Google image search a lot – probably too much. I’m hoping that Google rolls out some sort of “promoted image” ad format soon because I suspect I’m not the only one doing lots of image searches here.

I have to run – lots to search for! Oh and Happy New Year!

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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 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!!

Happy Teddy Gets an Android Tablet

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!

Posted in Google | Comments Off on Learn With Google Recap

A little help here

Dear Adwords Customer Support,

You don’t know me so, first, let me introduce myself. I am an advertiser that has spent anywhere from $14,000 to $70,000 on Adwords over the past 90 days. To put it another way, I’ll spend between $56,000 and $280,000 on Adwords over the next twelve months.

I adore Adwords. So much so that I pour anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of my advertising budget into the magic of keyword search. Sometimes I hire people full time to manage my campaign and make your quality score happy. Sometimes I work with consultants or agencies. The point is that you’re important enough for me to INVEST in your happiness because when you perform for me, I reap the rewards. I re-allocate money from other media sources into your coffers. I test new tactics and make myself an expert on your inner workings. I do this because with a lot of care and feeding, you work out really well for me.

I am your champion, your advocate, the wind beneath your free lunches and robust health insurance package.

But lately, and I don’t mean to complain, I kind of feel like you mean more to me than I mean to you. I could be paranoid, but here are a few things that have been bothering me (my therapist says it’s good to list these things out even if they don’t reflect the truth about how I’m actually being treated because, you know, it’s real to ME):

  1. You keep directing me to a generic toll-free number whenever I need to speak with you or, even worse, this massive and labyrinthine online help center.
  2. When I do manage to speak with a human being, they insist on referring me back to the aforementioned help center and I don’t really feel like my problem is ever heard or resolved.
  3. Whenever I ask about getting a dedicated rep for my account, you sort of evade the question or tell me you’ll get back to me. When you do get back to me, it’s generally to tell me I can’t have a dedicated rep at which point you refer me back to the aforementioned help center.
  4. When I do speak to someone at your toll-free number, they don’t seem to understand Adwords as well as I do. (word of advice: I suggest you take the Adwords Certification exams.) Note: this is not the case when I manage to score a dedicated rep. These are generally very helpful, knowledgeable and lovely people who in almost all cases know more than me and make my campaign better. Give. Me. More. Of. Them.
  5. On the rare occasion when you do assign me a dedicated rep, it’s generally temporary and somewhat anonymous. You never give out the rep’s phone number or last name (unless they are part of a more robust team, in which case I feel really special until the team, inexplicably, goes away). The whole set up kind of makes me feel like you’re embarrassed to be associated with me or something. I know I’m not an A-list advertiser, but I resent getting stuck at the table with your weird uncle and that guy you shared a room with in college

Here’s the thing. I’ve known you for over ten years and I have to say that you’ve never quite gotten it right. I understand the power of automation. It saves time. It makes things more efficient. I get that it’s easier to send me to a web page with a list of instructions, then actually speak to me on the phone (and it likely resolves some problems without the hassle of human contact). However, I also know that there are a lot of us out here in the trenches, contributing tiny slices of money to your billion dollar revenue pie. And, the thing is, $50,000 or $200,000 or $500,000 is a lot of money to ME. So…it still sort of bugs me that I have to beg for your attention.

I know, I know – half of your reps were probably in high school ten years ago but sometimes we can learn from history and since I’m apparently the only grown up in the room, I’m going tell you what customer service, TRUE customer service means to me (and ultimately, what it can mean for you). P.S., I like lists, don’t you?

Good customer service means:

  • Every client gets a dedicated rep, no matter HOW small. We get to know their last name and a phone number too – none of this “Brian C.” bullshit with no phone number in the signature. What are you anyway, a collection agency?
  • Once I do get a rep, they are expected to get on the phone and talk to me, as much as needed, until the issue is resolved.
  • Since the first bullet, above, is likely not possible, providing advertisers with a comprehensive list of criteria for getting assigned a dedicated rep would be helpful. This should be something that’s written down and doesn’t change with every new rep I speak with (which is currently the case). Let me just state, for the record, that it is OKAY if I need to meet a certain spend threshold. Really, it’s okay. This is just business, after all. Let me know what the hell the rules are to this game so I can, you know, communicate that to my boss who wants to know why I can’t get an actual human being on the phone over at Google.

That’s it. Really. THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO DO TO PROVIDE GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE. Be responsive, give me the same person every time, let me know that the $50,000 or $200,000 or $500,000 I spend with your company every year is something you’re, you know, grateful for. Because the thing is…Facebook is looking pretty sweet right now, as is LinkedIn, as is StumbledUpon as are a number of other competitors that didn’t exist in this space a few years ago.

My online budget only goes so far and if I can’t get somebody to help me…

  • Forecast a budget for Q1
  • Get me involved in an appropriate beta that will help my campaign performance
  • Work with me to figure out why my quality score may be failing
  • Help me build out keywords quickly, if need be, or set up an account in the most effective way possible
  • Provide me with the right data, case studies and information for that C-level executive who thinks the Internet is just a trend and insists on spending our company’s 4 million dollar ad budget on Pennysaver inserts.
  • Immediately respond to campaign train wrecks such as declined credit cards, account suspension, hijacked ads and any number of other issues that cause acid reflux and sleeplessness, then…

I may need to take my miniscule online marketing budget and find someone who appreciates me more.

Okay, that last bit sounded hurtful and passive aggressive. I’m sorry. I just feel like we’re growing apart and needed to lash out for a second. I’m in a better place now. A more hopeful place.

Yours fondly,
The 99%

Posted in Adwords, Google | Tagged | Comments Off on A little help here

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 you want to give one tactic ALL that power?

Posted in Search Marketing | Tagged | Comments Off on You don’t need me anymore, or do you?