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Eight-Point Winter Overture Advertising Tune-Up

By Andrew Goodman and Ed Kohler, 11/21/2002

With the holiday
season upon us, it's time for pay-per-click advertisers to set aside time for a
fall/winter tune-up. So cancel your meetings, grab a Coke, and start plugging
away at the tips below to turn your Overture ad campaigns up a few notches.


As many of you know,
Overture has been through many changes since they first started up as GoTo.com.
Going public gave GoTo/Overture the capital it needed to expand and to negotiate
big revenue-sharing deals with major partners. They've built an impressive list
of major syndication partners (MSN, Yahoo, Lycos; and AOL, which was
subsequently lost to Google). They've expanded into the UK, Germany, and Japan.
That gives Overture fantastic reach. Few online advertisers can afford to ignore
Overture.


Through all of this,
Overture has become solidly profitable and one of the few dot-com success
stories around. Advertising dollars have been stampeding out of traditional
banner ads and into targeted keyword advertising near search engine results.
Business 2.0's Ned Desmond even wrote a recent feature on the pay-per-click
space, though the focus was on Google.


Even oft-maligned
LookSmart is seeing its stock price rise now that investors have figured out
that the pay-per-click, keyword advertising model really does work, as we’ve
felt all along it would (see Paid Search is Here to Stay – March 27, 2000 - http://www.traffick.com/story.asp?StoryID=65.)
The leaders in this space - Overture, FindWhat, and Google, are all profitable,
with LookSmart likely to turn a profit next quarter. This is no accident; in the
midst of a skeptical marketplace, something about pay-per-click must be working.


Bid prices in the
space have risen as more advertisers enter the fray. At one time, GoTo was
claiming an average cost per click of 14 cents. Today it’s in the
mid-thirty-cent range. Minimum bids are set at five cents, but those bargains
are few and far between. The days of sneaking in with one-cent bids are, of
course, long gone (except for grandfathered accounts). Some of Overture's
competitors, such as FindWhat,
do allow you to try your luck with penny bids. Business.com,
by contrast, claims a more targeted B2B demographic, and charges advertisers an
average of 62 cents per click for the privilege.

LookSmart is charging a
flat fee of 15 cents per click, perhaps apologetic that it changed its business
model in mid-stream, and began charging for clicks that used to be free.


As prices rise,
advertisers need to buckle down in order to continue doing well in this ad
venue.



One often-overlooked
side effect of the improving fortunes of the pay-per-click providers has been
upgrades to their reporting and campaign management interfaces. Let's focus on
how to use the revamped Overture interface to improve your campaign.


8-Point Overture
Tune-Up Checklist



1. Auto-bidding. Are you taking
advantage of this? Like Google,
Overture now has a “bid gap
discounter” that ensures you never overpay to maintain your ad position. In
the past, if a bidder dropped out at 90 cents and the next lowest was 60 cents,
and you were bidding 91cents, you’d still pay 91 cents no matter what the next
bid was. Now, assuming the 90-cent advertiser drops out of the bidding, you pay
61 cents, not 91. But this discounting doesn’t happen unless you change all
your Overture bids to “auto.” Are you wasting time trying to outbid your
competitors by one cent? If you value your own time, you may be better off
simply setting autobids for the highest justifiable cost per click.


2. Tracking
URL's
. Do you track your sales? It is not particularly complicated to put a
tracking code on your URL’s that can be tracked with inexpensive software or
some in-house code, so that you can tell which sources your sales are actually
coming from. Overture is absolutely right in that you should use a tracking URL
like http://www.mysite.com?source=overture.
These won’t do anything unless you’ve got a tracking solution in place, of
course. Shop around. Most will want to track purchases or other desired actions
right down to the specific search keywords they came from, or at least groups of
keywords (see “categories” below).


By tracking bids to
the search term level you can make informed decisions about why terms deliver
for you and which you should dump. If you have to upsell your web marketing
budget to the suits, you’ll win big with some documented proof that your ad
spending is delivering for your company.


3. Take
advantage of improved interface usability.
When reviewing your account,
clicking on the link for a specific phrase you’re bidding on gives you a handy
overview of a range of data related to that phrase, including competing bids.
Are your competitors out-marketing you with their search listings? Make sure
you’re making a compelling case for someone to click.


4. Categories.
Use “categories” wisely. You can
group families of similar keywords into categories for easier campaign
management. This might help you further narrow down your sales conversion data,
too, if you use codes for these categories in your tracking URL in conjunction
with your tracking software. Some category suggestions include grouping ads by
product type, industry related terms, and job recruiting terms. Some advertisers
may wish to group a number of low-ball bids into a category. Others may wish to
put super-expensive terms in their own category. It all comes down to what will
make it easier to manage the campaign, and easier to track later. A
well-organized campaign forces you to think logically about your business, and
ultimately saves you time and money.


5. Delete
the junk
. Chances are you’ve got some ad copy and keywords that were
selected in the old days when you just wanted to bring traffic to your site. Is
the pitch still accurate or relevant? Are the keywords helping you attract
customers, or just tire-kickers? If it’s yesterday’s news, remove it and
stop paying for useless clicks. However, some of those underperforming terms may
be slacking due to marginally written titles and descriptions. If they’re not
jiving with your search phrases, you’re passing up targeted traffic.


6. Rethink
your bidding strategy.
You might not be bidding high enough. An
overly-restricted calculation of ROI might ignore the lifetime value of a
customer. Preferably your online marketing campaign is designed to build a
customer list that will have some long-term loyalty to your business.


7. Are you
invisible on Yahoo and MSN?
The first three Overture ad positions give you
premium placement on most Overture partner sites, and the first six get you on
the first page of Yahoo results. It can be expensive to compete for the premium
positions, but if you can’t succeed with high bids, you’ll have to settle
for a lot less traffic. We’ve noticed that the most common search phrases
often have some of the highest bids within an industry, but more specific terms
will generate higher conversion rates at a lower cost per click, so consider
giving up the fight for the highest search volume phrase and focus on some of
the overlooked gems.


8. Cast a larger
web of terms.
If you can’t remember the last time you added additional
search terms to your account, it’s time to get creative with keywords to
garner more top 3 positions on less competitive, but still popular, phrases.
Over time, more search terms have met Overture’s minimum search volume
requirements. Be the first company in your industry to grab those terms for some
cheap additional traffic. Are you offering additional any new products or
services? Challenge yourself to increase your terms by 10 percent or more or
hire someone to take a fresh look at your campaign.


So, have you set
aside some time to get to work, or is this on the third page of your to-do list?
It’s certainly a busy time of year, but what better time than the present to
capture more customers through search engines?


Andrew Goodman is Editor-at-Large of Traffick.com and the author of "Winning Results with Google Adwords". 

 

Speaking Engagement

I am speaking at SMX West

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