25 01, 2018

Top 5 Worst Paid Search Assumptions

By | 2018-01-25T10:31:29+00:00 January 25th, 2018|Adwords, PPC, SEM|Comments Off on Top 5 Worst Paid Search Assumptions

“It is wiser to find out than to suppose.” – Mark Twain.

As with most endeavours, paid search advertising presents opportunities to assume many things, from data quality to data measurement. These assumptions are easy to make, but can be disastrous to both your company’s and your own bottom lines.

Top 5 Worst Paid Search Assumptions:

  1. Legacy data is bulletproof

    Almost every new paid search effort follows upon the heels of someone else’s effort, which applies to both consultants as well as full-time-employees who are new to the position. An easy assumption to make in these cases is that legacy data is accurate, complete, and can be used as a baseline to measure future improvements against. In reality, there is usually a good reason why the newly responsible party is taking over the effort from someone else, perhaps due to underperformance of the paid search effort. In my experience, underperformance is more often due to inaccurate data quality or measurement rather than a lack of skill or efficiency of the predecessor.

  2. Changes you’ve requested from IT are performed correctly

    Even if you’ve been told that your changes to the website and/or landing pages are complete, always double-check by verifying that you can see the corrections yourself in multiple browsers. A common issue arises from setting GA user defined variables, where the javascript code to do so breaks generally accepted coding conventions.

  3. All pages are properly tagged for Google Analytics

    In the old days (i.e. 6 years ago), you had to tag each website page individually with your Google Analytics tracking code. Then, you would have to tag individual conversion pages with separate GA conversion code. If your marketing efforts were more advanced, you would then need to create more code to fire events and virtual page views.As you can imagine, this is a lot to keep track of, and on growing websites, can lead to gaps in tracking or inconsistent tracking if new pages are not properly tagged. Google Tag manager ensures that all pages are tagged properly and can be used to create new event triggers or virtual pageviews without having to touch a single line of website code (read: no need to involve IT). Most CMS system themes ensure that the Google Tag Manager is placed on all current and new pages. The Google Tag Manager code itself can usually be added in a single place in the theme settings.

  4. Paid Search traffic is tagged properly

    Companies like Google and Microsoft make a lot of revenue and profit from paid search and it is in their best interest that the traffic generated from paying advertisers is properly tracked. However, even companies generating billions of dollars of advertising revenue have employees who are as fallible as anyone else who generates code [if debugging is the art of removing bugs from software, then programming must be the art of creating bugs]. A recent client’s Adwords account was improperly tagging about 20% of Adwords traffic as “Organic.” This particular issue was quickly resolved by the Adwords Support team, which involved a fix within the Adwords system itself.

  5. What worked yesterday works today

    The only constant in life is change. Whether it be the landing pages, the paid search keyword set, the ads, or the placements, never assume that what worked yesterday works today. Be sure to monitor your paid search campaigns on a daily basis to ensure that the ads are serving properly (i.e. the credit card associated with the account was able to be charged properly yesterday) and that the success metrics (Return of Ad Spend, Cost per Lead, etc.) are stable or continuing to improve. Also keep an eye on any content / ad / placement experiments that you have running to make sure that they’re still running as expected.

12 01, 2018

Unbounce vs Instapage – Part One

By | 2018-01-12T16:40:36+00:00 January 12th, 2018|Landing Page|Comments Off on Unbounce vs Instapage – Part One

Search for Unbounce vs Instapage and you’ll find pages and pages of affiliate link laden articles listing the pros and cons of each offering without really recommending one or the other. Since the goal is to get you to click on the affiliate link of one service or the other, you are left with little actionable information to make an informed decision.

In contrast, this series of Unbounce vs Instapage articles will focus on the real advantages and challenges that define each service. In part one, I will analyze the underlying technology underlying each service and how that technology affects each services Google Page Speed score.

Google Page Speeds for Unbounce vs Instapage

A quick Google search for “page speed conversion rate” will reveal example after example of how page speed affects online revenue and lead form conversion rates – the slower the page loads, the lower the conversion rate.

In order to properly evaluate these two landing page services, I replicated one of my SaaS clients’ paid media landing page on both Unbounce and Instapage. This landing page is fairly typical for a SaaS company and contains an embedded Vimeo video, pricing boxes, feature boxes, etc. Then, I ran the Google Page Speed Tool for both pages, which are hosted by Unbounce and Instapage.

Page Speed Results for Unbounce and Instapage

Unbounce Instapage
Desktop Rating: 71 (Medium)

Mobile Rating: 52 (Low)

Optimization Suggestions

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

Leverage browser caching

Optimize images

Minify JavaScript

Minify CSS

Reduce Server Response Time

Enable Compression

Desktop Rating: 88 (Good)

Mobile Rating: 67 (Medium)

Optimization Suggestions

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content

Leverage browser caching

Optimize images

Minify HTML


The recommended suggestions for Unbounce that negatively affected the score and were not present for Instapage were Minify Javascript, Minify CSS, Reduce Server Response Time, and Enable Compression. The minify suggestions and enabling compression are trivial fixes, but the server response time is probably a harder issue for Unbounce to fix.

Why both services have some overlapping recommended suggestions is puzzling:

  • Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content: This includes files primarily found in the HTML head section of the page. The fix would be to move the javascript form the head section to just above the closing body tag.
  • Leverage browser caching: This includes marking certain static files as cacheable in the HTML headers. Fixing this issue seems to be trivial by simply updating the HTML headers, but perhaps there is an issue with how the html pages are served from the CDN network.
  • Optimize images: This involves compressing images into smaller file sizes. Since all on-page images were uploaded to each respective service, they each have the opportunity to offer the ability to compress the images automatically.

Unbounce vs Instapage Bottom Line

Given that the purpose of landing pages is to convert visitors into paying customers, it is wise to use the service that gives you the best chance out of the gate – Instapage.

In Part Two, I’ll compare the user-interfaces of Unbounce and Instapage, including usability, functionality, and time savings.

5 01, 2018

Top 10 Google AdWords Management Best Practices

By | 2018-01-25T10:32:05+00:00 January 5th, 2018|Adwords, PPC, SEM|Comments Off on Top 10 Google AdWords Management Best Practices

Best practices are a set of guidelines that represent the most efficient or prudent courses of action and they serve as a general framework for the most efficient way to complete a task.

In Google AdWords management, following best practices could be the difference between generating positive return on investment versus negative, between doing a great job versus a good job, or between growing the business or burning advertising dollars.

Top 10 AdWords Management Best Practices

  1. Be Active

    Open your account every day, look at the metrics and make a change – it doesn’t have to be a big change, it can be as simple as adding a couple of negative keywords, adding a couple of long-tail keywords, or pausing an under-performing keyword. The important thing is to make a habit of being proactive when it comes to managing the account to minimize any surprises down the road.

  2. Be Structured

    The optimal AdWords account structure is roughly 5 tightly related keywords per ad group and only closely related ad groups within campaigns, all of which are created to support the overall marketing objectives of the account. Each ad group should contain at least 3 different ad variations so that you’re constantly testing the effectiveness of your ad content.

  3. Be Negative

    If adding keyword phrases that you want to advertise for is step 1 in creating an effective advertising campaign, step 1b is adding the negative keyword phrases that you DON’T want to advertise for. For example, if you’re advertising on the keyword phrase +blue +shoes, some negative phrases you may want to use are “toy” (to prevent matching for “toy blue shoes”), “boots” (to prevent matching for “blue boots” or just “boots”), or “brown” (to prevent matching for “brown shoes”).

  4. Be Relevant

    When looking at your Google Analytics data with demographics and interest reports enabled, you will have access to your users’ Affinity Categories and In-Market segments. These categories and segments can then be used in your AdWords display campaigns to restrict your ads to only those users who are in categories and segments that show above average conversion rates, whether that be e-commerce conversion rates or lead generation conversion rates.

  5. Be Profitable

    On desktop computers there are either 3 or 4 ad positions at the top of the search results page, and on mobile devices there are usually 2 ad positions at the top of the page. In general, the higher the ad position the higher the click-thru-rate and cost-per-click. Given a constant after-click conversion rate, the more expensive the click and the lower the return on investment. As a result, it’s not always more profitable to be in the first position and you will have to test which position is most profitable given your product/service, industry, and keyword set.

  6. Be Analytic

    Measurement and subsequent modification to the advertising strategy is key to constantly improving your return on investment. If you’re not comfortable looking at raw Google Analytics reports, take the time to view a few YouTube tutorial videos until you can easily navigate to and use the reports that will show you which keywords / ad groups / campaigns are generating acceptable return on investment and which are not.

  7. Be Specific

    There are three categories of keyword phrases, from least specific to most specific – head, shoulder, and long-tail. In general, the more specific and more verbose the keyword phrase is, the higher the potential conversion rate of the phrase. For example, someone who searches for “heavy duty truck” is higher in the conversion funnel and will convert at a lower rate than someone who searches for “Silverado 2500.”

  8. Be Automatic

    Google AdWords provides mechanisms for automating account maintenance so that you can create programs to add negative display network placements, modify keyword bid amounts, or pause / enable keywords among other tasks. Creating programs is a more advanced technique and can be risky if you don’t have someone who has programming experience, so make sure that you’re comfortable with the risk and test on smaller campaigns before you turn your automation on for your entire account.

  9. Be Accountable

    You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Be sure that you have a plan to measure your entire conversion funnel in place along with having the associated Google Analytics goals, funnels, events, and / or virtual pageviews BEFORE you begin advertising. While you could wait until after advertising begins to get these measurement tools in place, doing so means that you’ll be advertising without knowing if your new ad campaigns are contributing to increased revenue / leads or not.

  10. Be Flexible

    The only constant in life is change. Seasonality, changes in industry competition, product evolution, bad weather, natural disasters, as well as a host of other non-trivial events will all affect the effectiveness of your advertising campaigns over time. The only way to keep ahead of the competition is to be flexible enough to change budgets, keywords, strategies or any other aspect of your advertising campaign as the need arises.

4 01, 2018

What is an Adwords Specialist?

By | 2018-01-04T16:50:52+00:00 January 4th, 2018|Adwords, PPC, SEM|Comments Off on What is an Adwords Specialist?

An Adwords Specialist is perhaps one of the least defined specialties in advertising and is often used to describe anyone from a first-job-out-of-college person to a jack-of-all-online-advertising-trades person to someone who uses Adwords as a tool to grow revenues and profit.

So what makes a good Adwords specialist?

A good AdWords Specialist is someone who:

  1. Keeps up to date with the latest developments

    Google is constantly adding new features and functionality to the AdWords system, while competing advertising networks like Bing, Amazon, and others are constantly working hard to chip away at Google’s market leading position. By keeping up with the latest developments across the online advertising market, a good AdWords specialist has more knowledge and is more likely to maximize your return on investment.

  2. Is Knowledgeable enough to tell you why you should or shouldn’t use the latest AdWords features

    Keeping in mind that Google is a for-profit company, a good AdWords specialist can objectively develop a test plan to determine whether a new AdWords feature is a beneficial or detrimental to your bottom line. As always, it’s better to test than to assume.

  3. Embraces more than just bread-and-butter search campaigns

    There are so many different ways to advertise on the Google AdWords platform outside of the standard Google Search ads, including Gmail ads, highly targeted display advertising, and call-only ads, video ads, etc. If your account is solely focused on standard search, you’re likely missing out on highly profitable advertising opportunities.

  4. Can help you avoid unnecessary mistakes

    In a system as complicated as AdWords, it is easy for an inexperienced AdWords Specialist to make mistakes that could cause you to burn advertising dollars with no hope of a return on investment. If you’re interested, here are the Top 10 Google AdWords Management Pitfalls.

  5.  Uses software as a tool rather than a crutch

    There are any number of AdWords focused advertising software packages that are available to agencies and companies alike, and a good AdWords specialist will use the software that either enhances the overall advertising return on investment or maximizes the utility and ability for the AdWords Specialist to manage and maintain the account. In fact, Google publishes desktop software called “Google AdWords Editor” that is an excellent tool for building, expanding and maintaining your AdWords account and it’s absolutely free.

  6. Has business experience outside of paid search

    An AdWords specialist with experience or education outside of paid search will be able to see the bigger picture, which gives them the ability to ask the right questions prior to developing new advertising campaigns. By understanding the company’s overall marketing strategy, the AdWords campaigns can be designed to support and supplement other marketing initiatives, such as offline or online promotions or other product placements.

  7. Reports on Return On Investment rather than impressions and clicks

    Impressions and clicks are certainly important, but the goal is to get the right impressions and clicks — those that will generate online revenue, sales leads, webinar registrations, etc. By focusing on the goals and constantly improving the advertising plan, an AdWords specialist can certainly add value above and beyond their expense.

  8. Focuses on long-term success rather than short-term promises

    The old saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day” holds true in the arena of online advertising, especially when building out a new advertising account for a startup company or a company that is diving into AdWords advertising for the first time. A good AdWords specialist will take a few months to hone a new advertising account by testing various ad types, ad texts, display ads, and landing pages. A great AdWords Specialist will tell you that it will take months to accomplish this task up front, properly setting expectations of everyone involved.

3 01, 2018

Top 10 Google AdWords Management Pitfalls

By | 2018-01-04T16:56:27+00:00 January 3rd, 2018|Adwords, PPC, SEM|Comments Off on Top 10 Google AdWords Management Pitfalls

“Good things do not come easy. The road is lined with pitfalls.” – Desi Arnaz

In AdWords, pitfalls can often derail the best laid advertising strategy. Spend some time going through the following list to make sure that you’re not burning hard-earned advertising dollars.

Top 10 AdWords Management Pitfalls

  1. No Negative Keywords

    Negative keywords are the difference between a profitable ad strategy and one that literally burns advertising dollars. The rule of thumb that I’ve read over and over is that you should have at least 10x as many negative keywords as you have positive keywords. The reality is that the product / market / location that you’re advertising has more to do with how many negative keywords that you need, so don’t worry if you don’t have 10x negative keywords, just make sure that you are constantly adding to your negative keyword list during your regular AdWords maintenance.

  2. Using Broad Match Keywords

    Using broad match keywords is the second best way to burn advertising dollars. Broad match keywords are a type of regressive profitability mechanism, like lottery tickets are state’s regressive tax system. If you’re using broad match keywords, you’re telling Google that you’re ok with matching synonyms of a single word in your keyword phrase. For example, if you advertised on the broad match phrase — red baseball hats — you could match for the following search phrases: red toys, sombreros, baseball gloves, collectible baseballs, construction helmets, etc. Put a small part of your advertising budget into modified broad match keywords instead so that you can build out your long-tail keyword phrases over time.

  3. Not watching the budget

    Google’s advertising terms allow them to “flex” your daily advertising budget by up to 180%. Coupled with the fact that almost every advertising campaign will be affected by seasonality (demand varies month-to-month), severe weather events (could negative OR positively affect), or AdWords system changes, your daily spend can vary greatly throughout the month. If you’re in steady-state, you should be checking your spend at least weekly, and daily if you’re starting new campaigns.

  4. Using a single budget

    Simple is not always in your best interest — if you use a single budget across all of your campaigns, you’re allowing Google to allocate your advertising spend as the AdWords algorithm sees fit. Keeping in mind that Google is a for-profit company, they have devised their algorithm to maximize their profit, which is driven by high CPC keywords. As an example, most companies’ branded keywords are the cheapest CPCs across the entire account, but are absolutely essential in helping the prospective customer find exactly what they’re looking for via ad extensions (physical address, product category, support pages, etc.). A single budget across all campaigns could easily starve your branded keywords and negatively affect top-line revenue and bottom-line profit.

  5. Using a single campaign for multiple retail locations

    This situation is similar to using a single budget across multiple campaigns — you definitely don’t want to have your advertising dollars all spent on the more expensive markets and starve the least expensive markets (which, let’s face it, can’t afford to lose any advertising since those locations are usually under the most scrutiny from C-level execs).

  6. Using vanilla display campaigns

    If your display campaign bounce rate is hovering between 90% and 95%, you’re probably using vanilla display campaigns. Vanilla in this case are display campaigns that do not use affinity categories nor in-market segments to restrict the campaigns to only those potential customers who are likely to convert at better than your overall website average conversion rate. This strategy works for B-to-C, B-to-B, online retail and lead generation campaigns.

  7. Not using ad extensions

    A standard ad is 3 lines long. Using ad extensions such as reviews, location, sitelinks, callouts, price, structured snippet, call, promotion, etc, your ad can expand to up to 10 lines. A much larger ad that costs you exactly the same amount as the standard 3-line ad is far more effective in attracting clicks over your competition, which could ultimately raise your quality scores, lower your CPCs and increase your Return on Ad Spend.

  8. Not using Google Reviews

    In today’s retail environment, the presence of reviews absolutely affects the conversion rate of your product pages. This situation extends to your advertising as well — if you have the Google Review ad extension showing on your ad and your competitors do not, which ad do you think will be clicked on more often? The presence of the Google Review extension also adds legitimacy to your company and product, ultimately raising your purchase conversion rate after the click as well.

  9. Not linking AdWords and Analytics

    Advertising dollars are the result of the business reinvesting profit or of the business spending investment capital. In either scenario, you want to maximize your Return on Ad Spend in order to either grow the business or to keep it viable. If you’re spending advertising dollars and not measuring what happens after the click, you have no idea if the ads / keywords / placements that you’re using are effective or not. Effective analytics are key to answering the inevitable questions from executives wanting to know if they’re spending their advertising dollars on the channel / platform that will grow the business in the shortest amount of time.

  10. Not using goals

    Have you ever seen a Summer or Winter Olympics event that didn’t have a goal? Whether it’s skiing, running track, or swimming, every athlete knows exactly what the goal is and what they have to do to achieve that goal. The same applies to advertising — if you don’t know the goal, then you have no way of knowing how to achieve that goal. In advertising, there are often multiple goals that align with the marketing funnel, from the initial click (top-of-funnel) to lead form submission to product trial period to product purchase (bottom-of-funnel). If you don’t have these goals in Google Analytics, you’re not measuring how your prospective customers are interacting with your website and how the advertising is driving them into and through that funnel, from long-tail prospecting campaigns to branded, close-the-sale campaigns.

2 01, 2018

Top 10 Google AdWords Management Tips

By | 2018-01-04T16:55:09+00:00 January 2nd, 2018|Adwords, PPC, SEM|Comments Off on Top 10 Google AdWords Management Tips

What are the most important things to keep in mind when considering AdWords Management?

There have been many books written about how to maximize your profit potential when advertising on Google AdWords, but the biggest levers are easy to pull and will give you the most return for your advertising dollars.

Top 10 AdWords Management Tips:

  1. Google is a for-profit company

    Keeping in mind that Google is a for-profit company, you must assume that changes to the AdWords system, whether big or small, are a result of Google’s effort to maximize their profit in order to add shareholder value. You should also keep this in mind when structuring the account in terms of the size of campaigns, budget allocation across campaigns, and keyword mix.

  2. Day Parting

    Day parting is the act of ramping bids up or down each hour of the day and each day of the week in order to account for changes in search demand. For example, most people are not awake between the hours of 12pm and 6am, but if you keep your campaigns running during these hours, your average click-thru-rate will suffer, dragging down your quality score, increasing your cost-per-click, and lowering your return on ad spend. So ask yourself — is it really necessary to get those bot clicks that bounce at 100% in the middle of the night?

  3. Separate campaigns for separate physical locations

    Separating your campaigns by physical location makes sense for a variety of reasons, including: ensuring that all locations get equal share of advertising dollars, ensuring that your day-parting makes sense (for locations in different time zones), ensuring that location specific keywords are in their own campaigns, and ensuring that you can have different spend levels across different physical locations (i.e. high value location vs. low value location).

  4. Use landing page services

    Using landing page services gives you the flexibility to perform testing (A/B and multivariate) without having to endure the never-ending IT roadmap treadmill. Services such as Unbounce, Instapage, and LeadPages are good choices, with each service having their own advantages and disadvantages.

  5. Utilize Google Search Console for keyword ideas

    Google Search Console gives you the keyword phrases that searchers used to find your website, including data for number of search impressions, average position, number of clicks and click-thru-rate. These keyword phrases represent what the Google algorithm associates with your website — if these phrases make sense, you can advertise on them to get your website on the first page of search results quickly. If you find search phrases that don’t make sense, be sure to figure out where they appear on your website and replace them with better phrases.

  6. Use Keyword Planning Tool

    The AdWords keyword planning tool is essential in the search for your initial advertising keyword set. The tool will allow you to search with only a few search phrases and expand those phrases into the long-tail and even show you synonyms that you may not have thought of otherwise. Other important information in this tool is the first-page bid amount and a seasonality curve for your selected keyword set so that you can determine the high and low demand months for your business. Seasonality curves are great for setting expectations of executives and clients who may not understand that demand ebbs and flows throughout the year.

  7. Use Bing Search Query Data

    Bing Search Query data is also essential since Bing still maintains 20% of the overall internet search volume. Similar to Google Search Console, you can see which keyword phrases that Bing’s algorithm associates with your website to help build your set of advertising keywords and to manage what phrases appear on your website.

  8. Use Google Search Suggestions to find keywords

    Open the standard Google search page and begin typing one of your primary advertising search phrases to trigger Google’s search suggestion phrases which appear in a drop-down box below the search box. These phrases are Google’s suggestions based on other users’ searches of similar terms to your primary search phrase. Next, hit enter to bring up the first page of search results and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the related search phrases to your primary advertising search phrase. Add the phrases you found in the search suggestions and related search phrases to the search box one at a time to find even more search phrases.

  9. Use competitors’ on-page SEO for keywords

    Well SEO optimized competitors’ websites show up high on the first page of Google’s natural search results. Simply use a SEO keyword tool to crawl their websites to find the keyword phrases that they’re optimizing for to find highly valuable advertising search terms. There are several online tools available for this work, just pick one that fits your budget and start mining your competitors’ websites for advertising search phrases.

  10. Use social media search for keywords

    Type your primary search phrases into the leading social media websites to find well optimized social media pages in the first page of search results. Analyze these social media pages to see which keyword phrases show up in the page title, high in the body copy or multiple times within the body copy. Then use those phrases in the tools above to find even more advertising keyword phrases.

28 08, 2013

Paid Search: Should you Insource or Outsource?

By | 2017-08-29T13:57:21+00:00 August 28th, 2013|Adwords, Paid Search Agency, PPC, SEM|0 Comments

The decision whether to insource or outsource paid search can be daunting, regardless of whether you’re thinking about starting to advertise on paid search or have been advertising on paid search for years.

For small businesses without large marketing budgets, this decision becomes even more complicated. Small business often suffer from a lack of marketing budget to hire an outsourced paid search agency or, as a result of being burned by outsourcing in the past, lean towards insourcing their paid search marketing going forward.

For everyone else, the following article assumes that the budget exists to either properly insource or properly outsource your paid search efforts.

Insourcing Paid Search

If your company is going to insource, you absolutely need to hire someone who lives and breathes paid search marketing. And I don’t mean that you should hire someone who worked for a paid search agency for a couple years and only learned how to use a single, specific third-party paid search software.

You need someone who tirelessly reads and consumes industry paid search blogs, white papers, and research, and then gives back to the paid search community with guest articles, guest blog posts, and participates in SEM conference discussion panels.

This person needs to have the mentality that everything they read is a hypothesis — meaning that they should be willing and able to test every assumption to determine if that assumption holds for your specific business.

When this person hears someone within their business organization say something like “Obtaining a quality score of 10 is impossible for non-branded keywords” they internally cringe and then set out to disprove that theory, either by showing existing data refuting the claim or by designing experiments to confirm the validity of that claim.

This person should also view themselves as a scientist, someone who uses the scientific method to test inputs (campaign hierarchy, ad text, keyword mix, etc.) to the Google Paid Search Algorithm (a.k.a. Black Box) and determine the how those inputs affect the outputs (Quality Score, Ad Rank, CPC, ROAS, ROI, etc.)

Are you getting the impression that this person will not be cheap? That’s right, this kind of paid search experience and capability will certainly warrant a premium in the marketplace and only those corporations with the commitment to excel in their efforts to maximize their Paid Search ROI will have the determination and marketing budget to hire someone of this caliber.

Now, assuming that you’ve found your paid search champion, here are the advantages to insourcing paid search:

Insourcing Paid Search Advantages

  • Total control of the process — You know your business better than anyone else and can skip the process of having to explain how your business works to a paid search vendor.
  • More change agility — Outsourced paid search vendors service anywhere from a handful to a few hundred clients with each “paid search manager.” By insourcing, you do not have to wait for your vendor to implement your changes.
  • Internal education — Your paid search champion can conduct conference calls or webinars for internal consumption to educate the business stakeholders as to the capability and limitations of paid search as an advertising medium.
  • Internal mediation — siloed business units within a large corporation will often “compete” for the same keywords, driving costs up and ROI down. Your paid search champion can objectively evaluate the situations and determine the course of action that will maximize profit for the corporation, rather than for a specific business unit.

Outsourcing Paid Search

If your company is going to outsource, you need to make sure that the company that you hire has a paid search champion on their staff at a minimum, or ideally, working directly on your account.

How do you determine if potential paid search agencies have that paid search champion? Ask to meet with the person who will be directly managing your account in person prior to signing on the dotted line. In this meeting, ask that person the following questions:

Outsourcing Paid Search Questions

  • “Given that it’s impossible to obtain a Quality Score of 10 for non-branded keywords, what quality score can we expect to see for non-branded keywords?”— If they say anything other than refute your underlying assumption, your ROI will not be maximized by working with this firm.
  • “We don’t want to advertise on branded keywords since they are a waste of advertising dollars, so how do you plan on capturing clicks of users who use our brand name as part of their search phrase?”— The proper response to this one should be that you should first test whether branded keywords are indeed a waste of advertising dollars. This test has an added benefit of generating the data for the “long-tail” phrases that contain your branded terms for later use in branded phrase or exact match ad groups.
  • “We’ve heard that remarketing is an effective tool for paid search. What are your thoughts on remarketing?”— This is more of an open-ended question that a) checks to make sure they understand what remarketing is and b) allows you to evaluate their communication skills. Ideally, they should be able to explain in several sentences what remarketing is and why you should use it. You definitely don’t want to get a single word or single sentence answer on this one.
  • “We typically achieve variable ROIs using other marketing channels such as w% for television ads, x% for radio ads, y% for email list rentals, z% for 3rd party newsletter features, etc. What ROI can we expect to achieve with your paid search services?”— The answer here should not be a set percentage, nor should it be based on any of the percentages that you gave in your question since the specific ROI for a paid search account varies from business to business based on a number of factors, including landing page conversion effectiveness, website speed performance, paid search budget, conversion goal (i.e. online purchase vs. online lead generation), etc.
  • “Given that it’s impossible to target demographics for Google Search and Search Partners, how do you propose to limit our ads to only those potential customers that we want to click on our ads?”— A good answer here is that the ad copy can be written in such a way as to encourage your target demographic to click on your ad while discouraging others from clicking on your ad. A better answer is that it is not impossible to target Google Search and Search Partners based on certain demographics such as annual household income, number of children per household, or maximum education level — subscribe to my newsletter to be notified about a future article on how to do this.

Outsourcing Paid Search Advantages

  • Less risk — It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to hire a paid search champion. If you’re not sure whether paid search will be a long-term marketing channel, outsourcing is a good way to test the waters until you’re sure that you want to commit long-term and bring the process in-house.
  • Lower cost — Most paid search agencies charge a fixed percentage of your paid search spend, with some minimum monthly charge to account for very small accounts.
  • Less exposure to “meeting paralysis” — Let’s face it, some internal corporate meetings are simply a waste of resources where an email would have sufficed. Just make sure you don’t eat up your agency’s time by requesting too many “status update meetings” which simply detract from the time they will spend working on your account.

Should you Insource or Outsource your Paid Search?

The answer is that it depends on your budget and commitment to paid search.

Insourcing requires more budget and commitment to find the right talent to maximize your ROAS and ROI.

Outsourcing is a lower risk, lower cost alternative, but can be ineffective if you hire the wrong agency.

That’s my opinion, what’s yours?

13 08, 2013

Long Tail Conversions: Why don’t I see them?

By | 2017-08-30T13:26:24+00:00 August 13th, 2013|Adwords, Brand, Long-Tail, PPC, SEM|0 Comments

Q: Have you ever wondered: “I spend a lot of effort on long tail keywords, but why don’t I see more long tail conversions?

The long tail keywords primarily assist your branded conversions.
Long tail keywords are the cheapest and most cost efficient way advertise — cheapest due to reduced competition and most cost efficient if used in conjunction with landing pages tailored for the specificity of the keywords.
A mature, properly managed ppc account has many negative and long tail keywords. The “head” and “shoulder” terms typically comprise 20% of the overall number of keywords and the long tail the remaining 80%. However, from a clicks and conversions standpoint, those numbers are often flipped, with the long tail keywords generating a much smaller number of conversions proportionately than you may expect.
To understand this situation, you must first understand how paid search relates to the customer purchase cycle.

PPC Advertising Customer Purchase Cycle

PPC Purchase CycleOne of the great aspects of paid search advertising is it’s ability to influence the three stages of the customer purchase cycle, from Awareness to Purchase, via the use of display ads, search network, branded, and non-branded keywords.

Non-branded keywords, especially those terms that are generic or only tangentially related to the product or service offered, tend to be the first interaction in the chain of interactions that lead to a purchase. Example: “fun things to do”

Conversely, branded keywords tend to be the last interaction just prior to purchase, after the potential customer has researched the product, compared alternatives, and has become comfortable with the brand. Example: “samsung”

If every customer could be perfectly tracked from first interaction to last, you would see that long tail keywords provide “assisted conversions” while branded keywords tend to get the majority of the final interaction “conversions.” This situation would allow us to exactly quantify the affect the long tail keywords have on revenue and leads. Unfortunately, it is difficult to properly track the customer from first click to last given today’s multi-device, multi-location world.

It’s a multi-device, multi-location world out there…

Google Infographic Its a multi-device world out thereGoogle recently published a study titled “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior.” This study highlights that 90% of consumers use multiple devices (screens) to perform tasks, both simultaneously and sequentially.

The practical application of these findings as related to paid search are:

  • Work + Home — Consumers may start the search for a product on one device at work (i.e. long tail, generic keyword like “smartphone for business people”), then finish at home using a different device (using a branded term like “samsung smartphone”). In this scenario, the generic keyword “smartphone for business people” will show a click, but no conversion, while the branded keyword “samsung smartphone” will show both a click and conversion. Note: the generic long tail keyword “smartphone for business people” won’t even show an assisted conversion since multiple devices were used.
  • Paid + Organic, Multi-device — Consumers may begin their search via a paid search click for “board games” on a mobile phone, but may finish later on their tablet via a organic search click via the keyword “monopoly”. In this scenario, the paid search keyword “board games” gets a click, but no conversion while the organic term “monopoly” will show both a click and a conversion. Note: Again, there is no assisted conversion for the paid search term since multiple devices were used.

Google’s Adwords Team is working on it

Google’s recent privacy policy consolidation across all of their product platforms seems to be a first step in their attempt to solve this issue (among others).

If users are logged into their Google account at work and at home, Google *should* be able to consolidate data points acquired across multiple devices and networks into a single transaction stream.

Even if Google is able to pull off this data consolidation, there is no guarantee that your customers will be logged into their Google account on their work computer, home computer, cell, and tablet at all times.

Where are all the long tail conversions?

The long tail keywords primarily assist your branded conversions.

If prospective customers don’t find your website in the early part of their purchase decision process, your product/service will not be in their final consideration set. Put another way, if not for the long tail keywords, the branded keywords may not have captured the conversion at all.

8 08, 2013

PPC Pillars: Keyword Optimization, Ad Copy, Landing Page

By | 2017-08-29T13:56:41+00:00 August 8th, 2013|Ad Copy, Adwords, Keyword Optimization, Landing Page, PPC, SEM|0 Comments

Would you try mounting an expensive digital SLR camera on a tripod with only two legs extended?

Like an expensive, but broken camera, your paid search advertising dollars can be equally useless if not supported by the three PPC Pillars: Keyword Optimization, Ad Copy, and Landing Page.

Keyword Optimization

Keyword optimization involves selecting the right keywords and budget to generate the highest Return on Ad Spend ( ROAS ) and, ultimately, Return on Investment ( ROI ).

For example: Imagine that you have two potential investments, one with a guaranteed return of 50% and the other with a guaranteed return of 100%, but you only have enough money to invest in one or the other — Which investment would you choose?

What seems like a no-brainer investment decision often goes overlooked when it comes to paid search keyword optimization.

Given that most companies’ paid search accounts are budget constrained (i.e. there is more potential impressions/clicks than you have allocated to your paid search marketing budget), careful consideration should be given to exactly which keywords should be allocated to “unconstrained” campaigns and which keywords should be allocated to campaigns that always hit their daily budget limit.

When making these budget allocation decisions, be aware that all keywords are not created equal:

  • Branded keywords tend to show a disproportionately high number of clicks and conversions, while generic long-tail keywords tend to show a disproportionately low number of clicks and conversions. (Why? See

[Link to other article] ).

  • Some keywords may be generating traffic to high-margin products while others may be generating traffic to lower margin products.
  • Consider the difference between, “Awareness”, “Consideration” and “Purchase” customer purchase cycle keywords and budget accordingly.
  • Ad Copy

    “First impressions are the most lasting.”

    You have only 140 characters to make your first impression on your potential customer — will your company be presented as professional, high-value, and expensive (Luxury Brand) or utilitarian, low-value, inexpensive (Commodity Brand)?

    Your Ad Copy presents a unique opportunity to both entice and discourage prospective “clickers.”

    Entice prospects that resemble your company’s target demographic by clearly conveying:

    • Value proposition — “Reduces cost by x%”, or “Increases revenue by x%”
    • Competitive differentiation — “Outsells competition 2 to 1”, or “Market leader”
    • Time-limited promotions — “Limited time offer”, or “Sale ends July 31st”
    • Social proof — “Voted best software in 2013”, or “50,000+ likes”

    Pre-qualify others who are unlikely to buy your product/service (i.e. waste your advertising dollars) by including:

    • Product price range — “Starting at $5,000” for high-priced products, or “As Low As $10” for low-priced products
    • Age limits — “Must be 21 to enter”, or “Must be 65 to qualify”
    • Purchasing power — “Credit approval required”, or “Requires annual purchase agreement”

    Other techniques both entice and discourage at the same time:

    • Frame the target demographic — “Great for new moms”, “Best selling teen product”, or “Enterprise Software”
    • Purchase requirements — “Offer only valid for new customers”

    Landing Page

    If paid search traffic is the fuel, then the landing page is the revenue engine itself.

    Funding a paid search campaign without first spending adequate time crafting the messaging and optimizing the conversion potential of the landing page is like paying for a local TV commercial advertising the opening of a new restaurant six months before the building construction is complete.

    Each landing page should have a single, clearly defined goal which will vary according to the specificity of the keyword used to land the potential customer on that page:

    • To generate a sale — online or phone order
    • To generate a lead — online form or phone call
    • To capture an email address — newsletter
    • To encourage a click — affiliate link

    Try to avoid the temptation to identify your landing page goal as “branding”, which is typically the catch-all for “I’m not sure what the goal of this page should be.”

    Regardless of the goal of the landing page, some key landing page components are:

    • Compelling imagery
    • Value proposition
    • Pricing
    • Availability
    • Social Proof

    And of course, the landing page messaging must match closely with the ad copy itself — wasting advertising dollars on product specific keywords that land the prospect on with a product category page or the homepage is never a good idea.

    Where to go from here

    As with all online marketing initiatives, the key to successful PPC is to test — test keyword budget mix, test different ad copy, and test landing page changes.

    6 08, 2013

    6 Step PPC Branded Keyword Test

    By | 2017-08-29T13:57:53+00:00 August 6th, 2013|Adwords, Brand, PPC, SEM|0 Comments

    You may have read that eBay has declared an end to branded keyword advertising, which has contributed to the newly coined phrase “Google Tax.”
    While you may or may not have blindly believed other panic inducing terms, such as “Y2K” and “12/21/12”, it is wise to test whether your branded keywords are profitable before you turn them off.
    The goal of this test is to determine the quantity and value of lost branded keyword clicks, conversions, and revenue when branded paid search ads are not presented to prospective customers.

    Paid Search Branded Keyword A/B Test steps

    1. Determine equivalent test populations

    The first step is to segment your branded paid search audience into two reasonably equivalent populations in terms of absolute number of conversions over time. There are several ways to accomplish this segmentation:

    • Geolocation — Within a specific country, are there two equivalent sets of states, metro areas, or cities that produce equivalent conversions?
      NOTE: When dealing with accounts that are limited to a single metro area, you may be tempted to split between “city name” and “zip codes within that city.” This method tends to skew the data since Google location specificity is inconsistent and probably tied to how the user connects to the internet (i.e. via a static IP at work, a dynamic IP at home, a mobile network, etc.) It is still possible to segment this way, it just takes more test phases to eliminate location/connection type bias.
    • Dayparting — Are there two equivalent sets of hours that produce equivalent conversions?

    2. Create two new Adwords Campaigns

    Next, create two new Adwords campaigns which will cater to each of your equivalent test populations and name them “Brand Test A” and “Brand Test B”. This step is critical to ensure that existing campaign historical data does not artificially skew the results.

    Each campaign should be identical in terms of ad groups, keywords, ads, ad scheduling, etc. — the only difference is the population served.

    When setting these test populations, make sure that you also add the negatives to each campaign as well. For example, if “Brand Test A” advertises to cities 1, 2, and 3, you will need to add negative locations of cities 4, 5, and 6 to this campaign as well to prevent possible cross-contamination of the data.

    3. Establish “Baseline” metrics for the branded keyword test

    Upon completion of setup, pause your original branded keyword campaign and run both new campaigns until you have at least 100 conversions for each campaign. This step ensures that the new campaigns are “up to speed” in terms of ad approval and impression share.

    4. Run Phase 1 of the branded keyword test

    Pause all keywords for “Brand Test A” (not the campaign itself). Run this phase of the test until you have at least 100 conversions for “Brand Test B”.

    5. Run Phase 2 of the branded keyword test

    Now enable all keywords for “Brand Test A” and pause all keywords for “Brand Test B” (not the campaign itself). Run this phase of the test until you have at least 100 conversions for “Brand Test A”.

    6. Analyze the branded keyword test results

    The Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for this branded keyword test are:

    • Overall Website Revenue
    • Natural Search Revenue
    • Paid Search Revenue

    Since we created two new Adwords campaigns for our test, it is easy to view the results in Google Analytics by creating the following custom segments:

    Now, using the “Ecommerce Overview” report in Google Analytics:

    • Plot the two test campaign segments, “Brand Test A” and “Brand Test B” for the entire testing period
    • Plot the “Brand Test A & B”, “Google Organic”, “Google Paid Search”, and “All Visits” for the entire testing period

    Every business situation is different, and the analysis of the test results will vary from industry to industry and company to company. The most important question to answer is:

    Is it profitable to advertise on branded keywords?

    To answer this most important question, the following questions must be answered first:

    • How much revenue was lost during test phases 2 and 3 compared to the baseline phase for Paid Search, Natural Search, and Overall Website visitors?
    • How many advertising dollars did you save by not advertising on branded keywords in test phases 2 and 3?
    • Given your business’ profit margin ( NI / Gross Revenue ), what profit would your business have made from that lost revenue ( lost profit = lost revenue * profit margin )?
    • If your company’s advertising dollars saved is greater than the lost profit, does the lifetime customer value of the lost customers outweigh the difference?

    What are the results of your branded keywords test?

    If you found this article helpful, please comment below with your results (keeping your company name confidential of course).

    Helpful information to include would be industry, pretest branded keyword spend per month, revenue lost during test, and ultimately, whether your company decided to continue advertising on branded keywords or not.