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November 30, 2006

Paid Search - The Margin Perspective

By Account Deleted

Search Engine Marketing finally has arrived and is putting a major dent into the online marketing budgets of many businesses both large and small. In fact, a study done by SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) in December 2005, states that in North America“SEM was a $5.75 billion industry in 2005, and will grow to $11.1 billion in 2010.

Now, after we digest these astounding numbers, we then need to consider, that with all of the best practices and techniques out there that are being applied to SEM campaigns, are we focusing enough attention on: (1) How much are we willing to spend to get a customer? (2) How much money are we willing to spend to sell a specific product/service? Let’s expand this a little further.
 
Paid Search Marketing has evolved into a multi-faceted business channel where complexity, relevancy and structure is considered a best practice. During its infancy stage, we were measuring success based simply on clicks/increased traffic and CTR%. Then as the paid search engines matured, they started to supply its users with the all kinds of nifty “bells & whistles” that allowed us to try and get the most out of our budgets. But with all of the tastes and scents that the engines have been throwing at us, isn’t it time to take it even deeper to find that “right mix” that really makes sense from a business perspective.
 
Once we have a good understanding of what the businesses’ achievable profitable ROI% is, we can then turn our attention to Analytics programs such as Omniture’s Search Center, where we track the ROI% performance not only by search engine, but at the campaign and even keyword levels of each engine. However, quite possibly, a super-optimized campaign filled with high CTR% & ROI% could in retrospect, be affecting your businesses profitability if there is not a predetermined and defined (CPA) Cost-per-acquisition and Cost/Margin for each and every product or service.

In many instances, online businesses have been so consumed with real-time performance based analytics and metrics, that we tend to get “blind-sided” by identifying acceptable acquisition costs to decide whether the product or service is “worthy” of Paid Search. A real solution to all of this, is to know your goals, understand your CPA for each product/service, set a modest daily budget, closely monitor ROI% at keyword or campaign level, and begin to understand the ever-changing mechanics of your SEM campaign as well as the behaviors of your potential customers.
 

Here are some common perceptions: One would think that driving high volumes of online traffic makes up a successful SEM Strategy. Another would classify success by not only driving a high volume of qualified traffic, but also achieving high CTR% and tracking ROI % performance at the campaign and keyword levels for each engine. But even then, it is enough?
 
Well, it’s not a matter of performance as much as it is online marketers getting into the habit of thinking and looking at Cost/Margins and CPA for each and every specific product or service. Based on these factors and these factors alone, we can then decide whether it even deserves to spend money on driving qualified traffic, regardless of the traditional success factors such as CTR% and ROI%.
In the scheme of things, as paid search budgets and competition continues to increase year after year, the idea of looking at the fundamental “offline” business practices definitely deserves deep consideration, especially as other search marketing tactics such as SEO become more difficult to win.

A Proposal of Super Proportions

By Li Evans

Superproposal By now you've probably all read about Joe Morin's involvement with MySuperProposal.com, well Search Marketing Gurus is working on something to help J.P. out and hopefully help to raise the awareness of this project a little more.  I can't tell you what or how just yet, as we're still working out all the details, but look for details from either myself or Chris soon.

In the mean time, I'm going to follow a suggestions by Danny I heard him say on the Daily Search Cast yesterday and link "Will You" to JP's site.

slight edit - my spelling errors get the best of me - updated the post title

Yahoo! Looking for Google Answer Researchers

By Li Evans

Yahooanswerslogo Were you a Google Answers Researcher (GAR)?  Are you now out of a "side job"?  Not to fear, Yahoo! might have a place for you.  That's right Yahoo! has set up a Yahoo! Group for former GARs, and they'd like a former "Googler" (so to speak) to moderate the group.

Unlike Google Answers, Yahoo! Answers is thriving and growing (and is free!) - one area where Yahoo! is succeeding over Google by a mile.  This post on Yahoo's blog was very interesting to see, since its rare when you see this type "call out" on the competitor's "bad news".  Of course maybe Ask changed the rules last month with their little bit of a snarky reply to Google's "Don't Google anywhere else but Google" post.  I wonder if Ask will jump in with Yahoo! this time too?

AskAnswerDiscover  

November 29, 2006

Carolyn Kepcher Joins Microsoft

By Li Evans

Kepchercarolyn Donald Trump may have said "You're Fired", but a much more wealthy tycoon has said "You're Hired" to ex-Apprentice star, Carolyn Kepcher.  That tycoon would be Bill Gates or maybe Steve Ballmer, but you get the picture.

I am a fan of Carolyn Kepcher, I've read her book and really liked it.  The whole reason I kept watching The Apprentice was for Carolyn and I was disappointed when Trump fired her.  This upcoming season Ivanka Trump replaces Carolyn.  Ivanka's witty and pretty, but she's no Carolyn. 

As for Carolyn and Microsoft, I find this a really interesting combination.  Carolyn's going to be helping Microsoft Corp. find the best small-business idea in AmericaMsideawinsThis is a contest that Microsoft is running - minus the fake TV Set board room.  Caroyln, along with two others are going to narrow the applicants down to a remaining 4 finalist.  Out of those 4 a winner will be chosen by a combination of votes from the public and judging from the three person panel.

The winner of the "Ultimate Challenge" contest will get $100,000 in seed money, a storefront or other space in Manhattan for a year rent-free, and software to help get their business started.

November 28, 2006

Google Promotes Use of Audio CAPTCHA

By Li Evans

Captchaexample Google has a great post out on its official blog from T.V. Raman.  I've heard about T.V. Raman from a fellow SEO/Usability friend of mine, Matt Bailey.  Matt was to meet with T.V. Raman at the Google Dance this past year, and he told me a little bit about this man, that little bit had me amazed. 

T.V. Raman does a great job at giving a great definition about CAPTCHAs and how the visually impaired can use the audio CAPTCHA Google now provides.  He also points out that it's not just for the blind, but great for use when you can't quite make out those funky graphic letters/numbers or when you are on a browser that is strictly text based with no graphics.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Matt Cutts - and More!

By Li Evans

Mattcuttsasinigo I stumbled across this neat little entry when I was checking out who was linking into Search Marketing Gurus.  Chris Winfield of 10e20 - Search, Design & Social blog has put together all the facts you'd ever want to know about Google's Super Crime Spam Fighter (who also moonlights as an MC and a Zombie!).

Check out Chris' post, he's even got pictures of "Cuttletts". 

Search Trivia - How Well Do You Know The Stars

By Li Evans

Suit I got a great tip on a little trivia game.  Join the fun by guessing who the Search Industry Professionals are in the pictures at  David Wallace's Search Rank Blog and have a little fun :)

The Sky Is Falling - SEO Is Near Dead!

By Li Evans

Diditfrog I remember Chris Boggs, Barry Schwartz and Ben Pfeiffer discussing Dave Pasternak's article "Troubled Times for SEO Firms" on the Search Pulse a few weeks ago(I think it was the Halloween episode).  All I could think is that this person whom I never heard of until now, must not do a lot of SEO for a living.  Turns out he's the CEO of Did-It, that company with the frogs that say "didit" instead of "ribbit", whom as far as I can gather only does paid search.

Well Carsten Cumbrowski over at Search Engine Journal pointed me to the fact that Mr. Pasternack is back with another article about the same thing, this time to the tune of "Answering His Critics."  When I read this, I was reminded of the poster for the movie "Chicken Little", the bottom of it says "This Time The Sky Really is Falling."  Then I thought 'OK, has Did-It heard of the new "Quality Score" piece of paid advertising that Google has just deployed and Yahoo is about too, or did this slip the man's mind?'

Chickenlittleposter Quality score, at the heart of it is Search Engine Optimization. Ensuring your keywords are relative to the ad and the page you are directing them too.  No longer is it about buying a slew of keywords at a time and managing all those keywords to an ROI, you have another key factor to figure in now.  To a degree this quality score piece is likely also to be troubling for some automated bid systems, because its another added piece to the puzzle.

I agree with the fact that SEO isn't rocket science, otherwise we'd all need PhD's to be professionals.  But SEO is a skill, its a balance of marketing and technology - not being able to "whip out the credit card and pay for an ad." 

To be honest, I really have seen the opposite happening in this industry of how Mr. Pasternack makes it seem as if it is "near death."   Perhaps, SEO firms are loosing revenue, I'm not a researcher so I can't say one way or the other, but what I do know is that a lot of bigger companies that are serious about their Internet Marketing are now ditching the firms and bringing the SEO/PPC marketing In-House.  Heck, SEMPO is even recognizing this growing area by having a mixer in Chicago at the SES Conference just for these professionals.

I know, this gentleman probably is doing these articles for some serious linkbait, however, I just don't agree with 98% of what he's writing, in fact I'd have to say he's treading a dangerous tightrope.  A lot of people are going to start thinking this guy just "doesn't get it," if they haven't already.

Carsten is encouraging people to reply to Mr. Pasternack's recent post (his last one only had three comments), I'd like to encourage the Search Marketing Gurus audience to do the same.  I'll be commenting later today, just have to craft the reply without the "wow is this guy for real" thoughts affecting my writing, of course the trackbacks could serve as my comment too.

November 27, 2006

Digg - Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

By Li Evans

Diggman These days I can't go through any news aggregating sites without seeing at least 1 or 2 stories about Digg.  The social news site has been stirring up a lot of controversy lately, check out this list:

And that's just a small bit, some other influential bloggers have been questioning where digg's going an the quality of stories being put out there.  The entire "mob rule" is being placed into question, especially in light of how John Chow's blog has been banned from digg submissions.  Take a gander at these recent blog posts from more well known blogger's in the industry:

I really see digg's audience changing from the technology and geek readers and branching out and attracting mainstream readership.  I read and hear a lot about professionals in our industry having their stories "dugg" but then the discussions that happen on the threads show the total lack of knowledge of the area the article speaks to.  It is not saying that the "diggerz" are dumb or stupid, they really are just lacking the in-depth day in and day out knowledge the technology and search industry professionals have.

As new "diggerz" come into the fold the more it annoys and drives away the early adopters.  Not necessarily those who "digg" lots of stories, but more the folks who read the stories.  Both Rob Hof and Scoble point out they are opting out of the feeds from digg, as the stories being submitted are no longer of much value to them.  This is just how services who have been in the "geek realm" change when they reach the mainstream, an evolution, it changes and morphs once the mainstream populace gets a hold of it.

Newscorplogo As digg courts investors or potential buyers (such as News Corp.), this "mainstream" reach helps to up the value of digg, so who can blame Kevin Rose for leading digg in a new direction?  Don't worry though, I'm sure Venture Beat or Tech Crunch will find us another internet darling that us geeks can become early adopters of.

Google Recommendation: Use Meta Description Tags

By Li Evans

Googlewebmastercentral_1 Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Roundtable has a great find via Google Groups.  Vanessa Fox of Google's Webmaster Central is recommending the use of meta description tags.  The questioner within the groups must have had some issues with how they were appearing in Google's search results, and must not have been utilizing the meta description tag.

Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim already commented and I'm in agreement with his thought, that although they are recommending the use of the meta description tag, it's not for ranking purposes.  I wrote a about the using this tag along with the page title tag back in June of this year (Smart Search Marketing:  Titles & Meta Descriptions). Barry has more over at SE Roundtable about Vanessa's recommendation.

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