Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals
Blog Categories (aka Tags) Archive of Traffick Articles Our Internet Marketing Consulting Services Contact the Traffickers Traffick RSS Feed

HOME » TRAFFICK ARTICLES » ARTICLE

Online Advertisers Say "Good Riddance" to August from Hell

By Andrew Goodman, 9/2/2003

If correspondence from Traffick readers, clients, and colleagues is any
indication, paid search advertisers are happy to see the end of August.


For me, it's been a strange month any way you measure it. The economic impact
of the now-ended SARS scare lingered throughout the summer here in Toronto.
Here, as in a huge swath of the eastern part of the continent from Ohio to New
York, we had an unscheduled day-and-a-half off due to the power blackout, not
counting the time it took to refill the fridge with edible food.


Combine that with the usual seasonal August slowdown for vacations,
conference travel, and people finding ways of not working (try getting mobile
phone reception in remote mountains and lakes, for example), and add to that
weak overall economic demand, and you're inevitably going to see widespread
sales slumps. In short, in spite of the wonders of Internet technology, people
don't tend to make a lot of purchases when they're "driving aimlessly up
the coast," or standing outside watching an air show (the non-lethal kind). They also don't buy as much when they're looking for work. And businesses don't spend as much when they're contracting as opposed to expanding.


Doug Updike's correspondence is typical of what we've heard over the past four weeks. His Priority
Medical sells used ultrasound equipment
, a niche business that has seen its
paid keyword traffic increase while sales dropped significantly. "Clickthroughs
have more than doubled," reports Updike, "and this all seems to
coincide with Google's and Overture's content-related ads."


Adds Updike: "It's not only my business. Friends with niche businesses
are seeing the same problem."


The overall economic malaise doesn't seem to be adequate justification for
the fact that sales have slumped for many advertisers recently even where the
number of advertising impressions (and clicks) has remained constant or even
increased. Such patterns tend to shake advertisers' confidence in the veracity
of reporting or at least in the quality of the traffic being generated by
keyword ads. Using a third-party tool such as ConversionRuler
to verify the results provided by your pay-per-click service is a must; then
again, such tools won't necessarily prove anything in cases where the clicks are
real but the buying doesn't take place (for whatever reason).


It might be necessary for advertisers to begin taking a deeper look at
different forms of paid traffic and the types of patterns the users show after
they've clicked (path analysis or analysis of on-site navigation patterns, not
simply counting conversions). ClickTracks,
for example, allows users to gain insight into the quality of traffic from
Google Search as opposed to the quality of clicks from network partners. One of
our clients uses HumanClick to connect
live with site visitors. Built into this service is path analysis that also
helps the site owner follow users as they navigate the site. A bit invasive,
perhaps, but an effective way to determine if a visitor is real, and to draw
conclusions about how targeted the traffic is from different sources.


Pay-per-click advertisers, then, have had even more to contend with than the
average business of late. For one thing, the search advertising space continues
to welcome eager newcomers who are causing bidding wars in categories that were
once bargains. Another development this summer was the aggressive expansion of
partner networks by the major PPC services, Google and Overture. Particular
attention has been paid to the rapid expansion of "contextual" or
content-targeted advertising. Google's AdSense program has taken this to the
next logical step, expanding the network to smaller, niche sites. (Overture,
FindWhat, and numerous others have always worked with some small partners, but
Google's AdSense has been spreading like wildfire due to the ease of adoption
and the general interest amongst webmasters in whatever Google is up to.)
Another surprise was Overture releasing phrase matching options similar to what
Google offers, allowing advertisers to use broad matches on Overture for the
first time. Some might not be prepared for what happens.


Anecdotal evidence (and some hard data) were showing large spikes of traffic
(or in some cases, simply steady increases) in August with sharp slowdowns in
conversions. Not all of the poor performance can be traced to content targeting,
unfortunately. Some have performed poorly this month with content targeting shut
off.


Naturally, advertisers, consultants, and Google alike have been trying to
explore multiple possible explanations for strange spikes in traffic in the
midst of an aggressive ramp-up of the Adwords program, interface redesign,
ongoing editorial and customer service hiring efforts, and a rapidly changing
competitive landscape. There are arguably too many variables to keep track of at
the moment, which may explain the careful, terse responses provided by Google
when advertisers initially inquire about inexplicable spikes in impressions and
clicks.


Advertisers face tough choices when their campaigns stop working. The natural
tendency is to look for a single culprit, hopefully not one related to general
business conditions, the competition, or one's own offer or website. The current
reality doesn't favor the timid: every time an advertiser shuts down a campaign because it stops working, another advertiser is only too happy to see them leave the competitive keyword auction, and two new ones are waiting in the wings getting ready to launch a new campaign. Consistency has always been the key to success in advertising. Short of outright, demonstrable fraud, the best policy is usually to stay the course, even if it means bidding less or pausing the worst-performing ad groups.


Most online advertisers have so little to go on about past seasonal patterns
that it's really been tough to say whether the August slump is normal for their
business. And those who are doing little post-click tracking are on
shaky ground when they guess about apparent drop-offs in conversion
rates from various sources. Boring as it may sound, e-commerce is increasingly
data-driven, and even small companies have no excuse for flying blind.


Those who don't have sophisticated tracking in place may simply decide to do
what Doug Updike did. "For now," reports Updike, I'm shutting off
traffic from content targeting, and am being very careful about the broad phrase
matches on Overture."


We can only hope that September will offer more predictable patterns for
online advertisers.

Andrew Goodman is Editor-at-Large of Traffick.com and Principal of Page Zero Media, a consultancy specializing in paid search marketing. 

 

Speaking Engagement

I am speaking at SMX West

Need Solid Advice?        

Google AdWords book


Andrew's book, Winning Results With Google AdWords, (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed.), is still helping tens of thousands of advertisers cut through the noise and set a solid course for campaign ROI.

And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.


Posts from 2002 to 2010


07/2002
08/2002
09/2002
10/2002
11/2002
12/2002
01/2003
02/2003
03/2003
04/2003
05/2003
06/2003
07/2003
08/2003
09/2003
10/2003
11/2003
12/2003
01/2004
02/2004
03/2004
04/2004
05/2004
06/2004
07/2004
08/2004
09/2004
10/2004
11/2004
12/2004
01/2005
02/2005
03/2005
04/2005
05/2005
06/2005
07/2005
08/2005
09/2005
10/2005
11/2005
12/2005
01/2006
02/2006
03/2006
04/2006
05/2006
06/2006
07/2006
08/2006
09/2006
10/2006
11/2006
12/2006
01/2007
02/2007
03/2007
04/2007
05/2007
06/2007
07/2007
08/2007
09/2007
10/2007
11/2007
12/2007
01/2008
02/2008
03/2008
04/2008
05/2008
06/2008
07/2008
08/2008
09/2008
10/2008
11/2008
12/2008
01/2009
02/2009
03/2009
04/2009
05/2009
06/2009
07/2009
08/2009
09/2009
10/2009
11/2009
12/2009
01/2010
02/2010
03/2010
04/2010

 


Traffick - The Business of Search Engines & Web Portals

 


Home | Categories | Archive | About Us | Internet Marketing Consulting | Contact Us
© 1999 - 2013 Traffick.com. All Rights Reserved