March 26, 2007

Is Google Positioning itself to the Television Model?

By Account Deleted

Googletv If there is one thing that Google has taught us online marketers, it is to play the SEM game by their rules. They educate us and push us all to follow their own best practices and we have reacted as if it's gospel. If you don't follow the rules, they will penalize you in terms of increased cost per clicks and  higher budgets. But they do it in such a way where it appears to be benefiting everyone.

Over the years, Google has preached its Quality Score which is based on relevancy at the keyword, Ad/Creative and Landing page levels. So, we are all at the mercy of Google for when they make a change to an algorithm or change their quality score. However, I have to raise the question: Why is Google doing this?

It's easy to conclude that Google has already changed the online marketing world and everyone wants a piece of it. But there's comes a point where important decisions have to be made to sustain growth. Market Over Saturation is becoming an increasing problem and Google needs to find a way to handle both their investor's wallets where they need to constantly increase their adwords revenue as well as provide a product that continues to drive qualified leads and sales to businesses that will not drive up their online budgets.

My Prediction: I honestly believe there will be a major shift the Google Quality score in the next year where we will see an major increase in CPC (cost per click) for all search terms, (no matter what keyword match) and everyone will be re-focusing on Quality Score as the answer to helping their ROAS %. This would be welcome news to SEM agencies and SEM Blog sites where they have the most knowledge and insider tactics to improve Quality score.

I see that the change in New Quality Score will be based on Keyword Saturation, Competition, Negative keywords and Day parting. We have to believe there is a big percentage of customers users who are not taking advantage of Google's Quality Score tactics and raising the CPCs is Google's way of forcing everyone to play their game. Why? As more and more people bid in this marketplace, the saturation increases. I also believe that Day parting (choosing specific times of the day to advertise your business) will be more prominent as Search Engine Marketing matures itself towards the Television Advertising model.

What will happen is that in order to keep costs down, advertisers will spend more of their money at certain points in the day. For example: There is a business selling widgets and using Analytics, they discover that 75% of all sales occur during the the evening and early morning hours from 8pm-4am .EST rather than during the day. So, utilizing the Day-parting option, will allow for more qualified purchasers, rather than browsers, hence increasing their CPA, ROAS%, or whatever is their KPI metrics. This tactic keeps them profitable in SEM because the CPC's are lower and competition has tailed off because most would be running out of their daily spend.

In conclusion: These are actually very exciting times in Search Engine Marketing as we are starting to see trends of how to get the most out of the Internet channel. There are high saturation levels emerging and online marketers and strategists are starting to look at tactics from other media outlets such as TV to combat this very natural change in the Industry. Let's just hope everyone can grasp to all of the changes and make ourselves and our clients more profitable.

March 22, 2007

Can Google Change the Entire PPC & Affiliate Market Space?

By Li Evans

Scoble Robert Scoble's got a scoop, and it's a good one.  In fact it's one that everyone in online marketing should be paying attention too.  It's also one that's going to affect many online marketing budgets in a huge way, if it comes to fruition.  This is one bit of news, that if it's true can change the whole landscape of both PPC and Affiliate Marketing as we know it, and if anyone has the clout to do it, it's Google.

So, my question now is, if Google does move into this territory, what happens to all those other advertisers that use to be in positions 4 on out to 100 (or however high they go)?  Scoble gives the example of San Francisco Sushi.  Lets look at "coffee online", there's a lot more advertisers here.  So what happens if Google does implement this idea further?  See how this could change PPC?

Coffeadvertisers Keywords are going to go through the roof, especially in very competitive areas, and both Google's Pay Per Action program and personalization efforts are going to take a much more prominent place.  This type of change, if it is actually going to happen, would be huge.  Advertisers would need to really keep a handle on their budgets and justify advertising on the keywords they are, to an deeper degree.

Now, tie this little tidbit into the fact that Google's launching Pay Per Action.  If Google does start going the way of limiting the advertisers in Adwords, and it does become expensive to bid on these key words what's a company to do?  Enter two things:  1) Google's Pay Per Action program and 2) Personalization.

Moneyweb Pay per action (a.k.a. Google's version of an affiliate marketing), offers the alternative to the advertiser if Google goes to this "limiting route." It maintains that they're only going to pay for whatever action is completed.  It would no longer be about branding and being there.  On the flip side, affiliate marketers, would only be wanting top converting sites.  Google would turn itself into the premiere place to be for both advertisers and affiliates, and could conceivably shrink both CJ's and Linkshare's control on the market space.

Personalization would help if you are only targeting certain segments of the public where competitors might not be thinking about.  It could help lower the costs for the keyword bids, but again, if it's a hugely competitive market, I really doubt personalization is going to help out.

Now I go back to my post the other day about Linkshare and CJ having something to worry about?  When you tie this information that Scoble's presenting into the entire overall picture - Linkshare and CJ might have some big trouble on their hands.  This is no longer a case of another competitor entering the market space.... this is the entire market space starting to change.

We in for another changing/morphing of our industry, hang on, I think it's going to be a bumpy ride!

March 09, 2007

Google Keyword Tools - Trending Information Showing

By Li Evans

First thing I did when I got into the office here, was show Greg what I posted about the Google Keyword Screen Shots.  We went right into the tool this morning and what did Greg point me too -->  Trending Views (Historical Keyword Data) that in my last post, I said would make the tool much more valuable.  It's also showing the keyword's strongest month, now that's information advertisers can use! Take a look at the screen cap below:

Screenkeywordtool

As you can see here, now we're seeing historical data that's of a lot more value.  So, I can now eat "crow", this tool is actually of some value (they've had this since March 2006). Google, kudos for adding this information!  See what I get for having my mind buried in natural search and social media all the darn time!

New Google Keyword Tool Really that Valuable?

By Li Evans

Google_keyword_tool Both Barry and Adam Parikh (who originally posted the story) have info on a possible new Google Keyword Tool through AdwordsAdam's got a screen cap of what he encountered that he's posted it on adamap, but not more elaboration.

Barry didn't see the numbers, but did see a version of this as little green bars representing the searches and competitiveness, when he logged into his account.  I'm going to have to see if Greg can fill me in on if he's seen this in the last few days, since I'm buried in my SEO work/research.

Although this is a good sign that Google's wanting to supply more tools to advertisers, I question the value.  From my point of view it is no more valuable than the Yahoo!/Overture tool, which only gives you the  last month's data.  In a way it can "fool" you into believing either a word is popular or not popular, because it doesn't give you the historical aspect of the keyword. 

Just because Yahoo! only gives the last month's data, doesn't mean that Google should do the same.  One of them should step up to the plate and give advertisers a true tool, with a full year's worth of data. Google actually does provide the data.   However, Trellian's Keyword Discovery, is probably the best tool out there for grasping the true opportunities you could have with a keyword across all of the search engines.

March 08, 2007

Revenge of the Adwords Editor!

By Account Deleted

Revengegoogle_1 Back in the late 90's, web designers had to battle in the Browser Wars to accomodate IE and Netscape. Now,there's another battle brewing between Google Adwords Editor and the Yahoo 3rd party import tool. Ironically, and as usual, the only people who are suffering are the SEM gurus and the online marketers that are trying to get a handle on the new Yahoo Panama platform.

Historically, the Panama transition has not been easy and as a prelude to my recent post a couple weeks ago which discussed the Things Yahoo doesn't want you to know where everyone was having major issues trying to import their Google campaigns into Yahoo using their 3rd party import tool, I have uncovered a few more issues that are dragging this battle farther than it needs to go.

Here's what happening. Google recently updated their Adwords Editor software and in that update, a change was made to the Export function where you can export the campaign or account into an excel .csv file. Some of the changes that we've been noticing are the additions of column headers that are technically irrelevant such as "website" and some others. Now, after speaking with a Yahoo Rep earlier in the day, they informed me that they are having a hell of a time trying to keep up the these new Google excel files which are tripping the system.

So far to date, here are some of the issues that either have been recently fixed by Yahoo and/or are being worked on as we speak.

  • Removal of negative keywords (both broad and phrase)
  • Removing inactive status
  • Max CPC of at least 0.10
  • Remove any blank fields/cells
  • Remove column headers such as "website, website status, suggested changes, etc.."
  • and I am sure some others not mentioned here

Well, were just gonna have to wait and see how long it will take for all of the Search Engine Giants to just get over it and stop putting Jedi mind tricks on all of us!

March 06, 2007

Is It Paid Ad Position or the Paid Ad Copy That Matters?

By Li Evans

Icecom A year or two ago I wouldn't have argued in anyway with the statement "For Pay Per Click (PPC) Its The Position The Matters Most."  But after this holiday season and reading reports like that of Ice.com, looking at some of our own clients results, and with the news that Google's been testing new colors behind ads, I'm really questioning the practice of bidding on the highest position for a clients online paid ad campaign.

As search engines users become more savvy, are they becoming blind to the paid advertising that appears at the top and on the right of the results?  Companies spending the same amount of money but not seeing the conversions they saw in 2005 are probably questioning the same thing as they reanalyze their campaigns.

Payperclick_1 If everyone else that's bidding on your keyword has similar copy in their ads, what is going to set you apart from them?  If results 1 to 3 all say "Buy Purple Widgets Cheap," what do you think the searcher will do?  Either they are going to look to the right or they pay a heck of a lot more attention to the natural results.  This is why it's important to do research even in paid campaigns for clients.

Paid advertising on Google, Yahoo and MSN has become easy for just about anyone to set up a campaign.  With Google & now Yahoo's quality score, it forces the advertisers to utilize the keywords and make the copy relevant in order to have a good quality score and not pay a fortune for that click.  But, knowing that, its inevitable that a lot more ads are going to sound/read very much alike.  That's where coming up with creative titles and copy needs to come into play.

That's the "art" part of PPC, writing creative and intriguing copy that says "hey I'm different click here" in a very subtle way is a talent that few agencies have these days.  Managing thousand upon thousands of keywords to an ROI leaves them little time to be creative, or with systems set in place, they have a standard way of writing ads, and if the keywords aren't performing, they shut them down.  There's not a lot of discussion that goes into the creative piece here, and that for the client, is a big loss.

So, if you have a PPC campaign perhaps stop and rethink how your campaigns are running.  Take some time and look how your ads differ from your competition.  Ask the questions:

  • Dartboard Does my message differ from my competition?
  • Would I click on my ad?
  • Would my mom or neighbor click on my ad?
  • What makes me different, and am I relating that in my ad?
  • What's "the hook"?
  • Is my landing page relevant to my ad?

These types of questions just might help you revive that PPC campaign, or ad grouping that you think is just not performing.

February 12, 2007

The SEM Landing Page Dilemma

By Account Deleted

I sometimes feel that landing pages are often overlooked within the scope of search engine marketing. Personally, I often view it like this. When my wife and I go to the store, we have completely different behaviors.

Me: I prefer to walk quickly through the store, find the aisle where the product is located and when I find it, I go right to the checkout so I can get the hell out of there before someone runs over my foot with a cart.

My wife: She can spend hours browsing for things that she never intended to buy, and then I am forced to either wait outside the changing room or wonder around in the electronics department looking for another HD TV. (ok, too much information) However, I find this shopping behavior very similar to the on line consumers when they are searching on the search engines.

In the SEM mindset, it is very easy to be utterly consumed by KPIs such as CPC, AVG position and CTR% when trying to measure success. However, in terms of actual conversion and revenue, which is the driving force in keeping the client happy and giving them a reason to continue to spend more money with you, the big enchilada that is going to bring in the dough (or tortillas) is initially the landing pages and then followed by the shopping cart process.

To optimize SEM campaigns/adgroups, our traditional way of thinking is to turn up bids and lower bids to align ROAS opportunities and constantly delete and Rewrite Ad/Creatives to improve CTR%. We could spend hours upon hours turning the Google campaign into a well oiled machine. But in reality, the only thing you are doing is improving traffic volume and increasing your client's spend, while  ROAS% is dropping because consumers are not buying and revenue remains flat. This is NOT the news that  a CEO or VP of marketing wants to hear. What a client DOES want is to see their business grow steadily with a healthy ROAS and this is where the Landing Page takes center stage and we need to take a deep look into why customers are not buying.

Docbrown_1 We could decide whether to "Hard Sell" and force the consumer to buy or do we follow a more "humanistic" approach such as the Persuasion Architects from FutureNow have demonstrated in their book "Waiting for your cat to bark" where we provide the consumer with comparison shopping, testimonials, customer reviews, and other options which allow them to leave the landing page and wonder off on their own in the hopes that they will make the purchase. We need to decide which angle works best and frankly, unless you are Dr. Emmit Brown from Back to the Future with a flex capacitor in your pocket, and have this plan to go back in time and see which tactics worked best, there is no true way to know. But there are a few things that you can do before spending the entire budget.

Before we dive into A/B tests, we need to be more generalized in our thinking. Your gonna have customer's who react entirely different from each other.

  1. Some consumers will just want to quickly make the purchase and leave the site.
  2. Other consumers may just want to browse, take their time and be more methodical in their decision making.
  3. Or it's the product or service that is defining the consumer's behavior.

All of these scenarios are leading to a common conclusion yet the answer is complex and on multiple levels. As I have learned with on line marketing, it's an affordable and efficient means to analyze your potential customer base by testing different (CTA) call to action messages, various navigation schemes, and tweaking the shopping cart and ordering process. What we are doing in on line marketing today is really an old strategy that the brick and mortar retailers have done for decades.

In my next post, I will make the correlation.

February 05, 2007

Yahoo! Should Explain a Few Things Before It Flips the Switch

By Li Evans

The impending "flip of the switch today" of Yahoo's Panama, has me (as an online marketer)  a little concerned for my clients' accounts.  Greg Meyers wrote about the two main reasons why I'm concerned, and if they are still working out the bugs and their support staff still can't catch up - what's going to happen today?!  In a perfect online advertising world, they'd have answered some of the questions we've pointed out here, but we all know - nothing is perfect.

YahoosupportIf you missed the articles that Greg posted, you should check them out (links below). One could really save you a ton of headaches if you are using the import tool!

I know they desperately want to catch Google, and Panama sure looks like its going to help them to do it. However, for the sake of keeping a positive spin on things, and causing us online marketers less headaches, could you please,  communicate a little more with us marketers about some of these issues?

February 03, 2007

Things Yahoo Doesn't Want You To Know

By Account Deleted

Yahoo Panama

SEM-ers, have you been having problems with converting to Yahoo Panama? Well, I found out something that Yahoo doesn't want you to know. Let's discuss.

Some of you may have heard through the cyber-grapevine that the transition to the new Yahoo Panama platform hasn't been the most pleasant for a lot of us. In fact, the customer support during this transition period has been strikingly poor. I was told by one of the many Yahoo Reps. "Yes, In theory these Import Tools are supposed to work".

Now, when we all anticipated the new roll-out, we got little clues, screen shots and personal reviews which gave us all the impression that Yahoo really got it right this time.  However, as in life, don't always assume because as a fellow colleague told me back in the day, that "if you Assume something, it only means that you are making an ASS out of YOU and ME.

So getting back to the story. As soon as Yahoo started migrating customers over to the New Panama Platform, an amazing thing happened. The customer support phone lines started to fill up, the wait time got longer and the responses to emails kept getting longer. It appears, I was not the only customer/agency that was having problems. In fact, I was told by a Yahoo Rep. that there is a "Backlog" of calls and emails with Google and Yahoo excel file attachments and their staff has been working around the clock trying to convert these files correctly into the new system.

So what is happening over there?

Well, what was happening was that after the transition the old Category name format to the new  "Google-ized" Campaigns and Adgroups, customers started to see randomly generated campaigns and adgroups that were not their own, keywords were scattered and campaign settings such as Content networks were turning back on, etc... I think you get the picture.

Now, for us SEM-ers anticipated all of these little quirks and expected it would be a quick-n-easy fix for the smaller campaigns and for those larger clients, we could work our magic in excel and just re-upload the campaigns and adgroups structures using their "New & Dandy" Import Tool which converts Google & MSN, as well as downloading the new Yahoo setup and fixing it up in excel.

Well, from one of my favorite movies Grumpy Old Men, Pop Gustafsson, played by Burgess Meredith said "You can wish in one hand, and crap in the other. See which one fills up first." It was so very true in this case. The 3rd party import tool was rejecting the Google .csv files, and when we tried to fixed the new Yahoo campaigns using excel we got similar errors. But even with all of the little the headaches, the big migraine came from Yahoo's customer service or their lack of.

  • I was told they would me call back - that never happened
  • I was given estimated import dates from (1 day)  to (2 weeks), huh?
  • All of the Google excel files I sent them, were not being imported.
  • When asked as to why these files were rejected - (were trying to find out).

As soon as I saw this abnormal behavior from Yahoo, I knew something was happening and those Reps. were fixing more than just a handful of customers. It turns out that a lot of people were having the same problems and if they would of only told us what was causing these errors with  the Google & Yahoo Excel .csv files, it would of made our lives easier and would of "freed" up their phone lines and reduced their mail server file size limits. However, their is always a silver lining...

I found a terrific Yahoo Rep. who totally earned my respect. I will keep his name anonymous, but he was extremely helpful and he leaked some interesting things that all of the other 8+ Yahoo Reps. either intentionally or unintentionally did not tell me. Furthermore, he told me what was causing all of these system errors and how to fix them. And now I am now eager to share them with you.

The 2 common system errors that break the Import Tools are the following:

  1. REMOVE all campaign Negatives. Yahoo's tool does not understand them yet.
  2. After a successful Third Party Import, the new Yahoo version (.csv) that asks you to download, sometimes has data/code embedded at the last line in the excel file. If you see this code, REMOVE IT. Once you do this, the file should upload successfully.

The intention of this blog post is not to throw Yahoo under the Bus, but rather give them a Free "wake up call" to get them to start listening to their customers' problems and force their engineers to get these bugs fixed ASAP. The platform has great promise and their import tools (if works correctly) are great features. Let's just hope they can just tell us the things that we need to know.

January 26, 2007

Yahoo’s Attempt at Quality Score

By Account Deleted

Yahooadveritising It appears that Yahoo's introduction of Ad Quality, which is being officially released on February 5th, is becoming the buzz in the SEM Industry. But is it really going to be an "eye-popping" event or just another scheme to keep us testing and spending our hard earned advertising dollars? Usually, the first thing that comes to mind if your an SEM geek, like myself, is assuming this is Yahoo’s attempt of mimicking Google's ever-popular Quality score. Google’s quality score, which “in theory” consists of relevancy from the keyword level, Ad/creative level and landing page where relevancy and SEO techniques are starting to play a significant role in the rewarding of CPC and AVG Position.

However, Yahoo’s attempt at quality score appears to be only a ¾ of the way there. In fact, according to the recent Yahoo's Press Release, their Ad quality is exactly what it sounds like, the quality of the Ad/Creative and the impact that is has on it’s users.  Yahoo is basing their new Ad Quality on a few common factors: (1) Historical performance (2) CTR% related to competitors & Ad position (3) Yahoo's coined phrase “Expected Performance". Now, all of a sudden Yahoo has their own ranking algorithm for determining the winners and losers.

Score So the million dollar question is... How do you crack the code? What is surprising to me is that nowhere in the press release do you find any mention of word “landing page”. So in theory, Yahoo is simplifying the Google quality score algorithm, and just concerning itself with Ads and the selection of keywords of where the ads are being served. Could it be that these other “various relevance factors” could include landing pages, relevant keyword groupings and url naming structures. I guess this is their way of keeping their customers guessing on how to save a buck for the long term, while in the short term, forcing us to continue to spend money on testing to see what is really working and what is not.

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