Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Are you and your company dabbling in paid search, but feel that you're far from maximizing the assets you have? Or you're thinking about investing, but don't know how to get fully up to speed in the shortest time possible? Or maybe you were into it five or six years ago but need a serious refresher course, or are an SEO, developer, or another related professional looking to diversify your skill set.
Well, you can browse the forums or sample the short presentations at the conferences, but to get as much as possible in the shortest possible space of time, nothing beats a full day of paid search training, with detail-by-detail examinations of fundamentals, new ideas, live workshop sessions, and more.
Led by me and Mona Elesseily, the Page Zero paid search training course takes place in conjunction with SES New York on March 22, 2010. What's even better - you can take 20% off the already low price if you use coupon code SESPPC20 when you sign up.
Check out the agenda, and sign up early to avoid disappointment.
Labels: paid search
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
It's becoming a truism that search engine marketing as practiced by busy in-house marketing managers, and others in similar positions who may drift in and out of direct responsibility for those initiatives, need serious "brushing up" every year or so. That used to be described as "changes in the search ranking algorithms you need to keep up with." Now the issue is broader, with changes in the paid search algorithms, new search products, blended search, and more.
Much like going to the dentist, it's polite to claim that you go in for a refresh every six months, and it's polite to tell the dental people that you really do floss every day. But if it's been one, two, or three years since you took a close look, well (cough cough), we'll look the other way and point out that it's what you do next that matters most -- not how many months or years you've been away.
How silly are some of the outdated paid search theories of the past? Well, I couldn't quite believe it when I came across this old piece by myself, pre-Quality-Score, in 2004. (As an added bonus, it was published on a site by my friend Mike Grehan (then being called Mike "Merlot" Grehan) and with associate editor Christine Churchill, another great in the biz.) The piece talked about a narrow tactical debate about high CTR's and whether racking up a strong account history based on overbidding might actually get you discount prices to stay in high spots later on. The CTR history would create a "seal," insulating you from competitors for a long time, unless they bid ridiculously high.
In reality, it was a flukey and inconsistent strategy at the time, as Google already made it clear that CTR (important in the PPC ranking algorithm) was "normalized for ad position". In other words, just because CTR's are naturally higher in 1st ad position than they are in 5th won't make it impossible for you to rise up through the ranks if you spend some initial time testing the waters in 5th. You don't get undue "credit" for hanging out in 1st spot, either.
That's evolved even further, in a couple of ways. Quality-Based Bidding is now 4.5 years old and the algorithm is more opaque and more complex than Bid X CTR. A separate quality check, of your landing page and website, has been working in the system for 4 years, ever-evolving. Well, about 18 months ago, a bunch of folks over on the SEO side discovered all of this and promptly started handing out bad advice that paid search quality scores somehow depended on tweaking landing pages for keyword relevance. Not a terrible idea, but terribly misleading advice.
The second change, related to the first, is that account strategy today needs to be more comprehensive. The auction is mature, most every company that is going to show up in some industries has already showed up, and so you have to get all the moving parts right. Back in the old days, you could listen to someone at Google give you best practices like "don't use a call to action," "you must use a call to action," "capitalize the first letter of every word in your ad," and other warmed-over, highly inadequate snippets of advice.
In reality, paid search isn't a game of gimmicks. High bids, low bids -- neither are magical. Landing page testing is for conversion improvement -- not to magically improve your quality score.
How do you cut through the sea of bad advice if you're new or just returning to the space? Short of reading a 400-page book, I hope that this 40-page ebook, Google AdWords - A Brave New World - I released a few months ago is still helpful to folks getting their feet wet, not wanting recycled advice from 2004, or tips from SEO's trying to sell SEO tactics to people who really need marketing strategy. (There's no charge for this ebook, just opt-in email signup.)
To stay really up to date, though, people do need to pop into the SES conferences for a refresher. Upcoming we have SES London, SES New York, and SES Toronto, to name a few.
For those seeking full immersion in a one-day workshop environment, I'm pleased to announce that Page Zero will launch a paid search training day in conjunction with SES New York, on Monday, March 22, 2010. The full day session will be led by Mona Elesseily and myself. It's aimed at intermediate level (not advanced) digital marketers who want to dig deep and get the fundamentals bang on, and then stretch out and get introduced to a range of intermediate level ways to improve performance.
I really look forward to seeing you at one of these events, whether you're a returning visitor or newer to the game.
Labels: paid search
Friday, November 06, 2009
It may seem like a small point, but "pay-per-click" was the nickname given to paid search advertising back when it started out, but it only describes a pricing method, not the nature of the media or what we seek from it. (In the proto-days of that same technology, "paid keywords" or "buying keywords" was another way of describing it.)
I was reminded of this whole mental muddle today reading the headline from an email solicitation, something about "getting more PPC without using Google".
But that whole line is kind of old hat. It's the come-on that opportunistic, non-search-based ad platform companies used to sell their crummy, remnant, and sometimes fraudulent contextual text ad inventory. Sometimes it couldn't have even been described that neatly. It was traffic, and you paid for the clicks, and potentially you used keywords to guide the system towards certain publishers, but that was about it. You might as well have paid the effective CPM rate, as bid on clicks. Didn't matter.
That's why I always advocated paid search as the term of choice for people who really wanted to go after clicks from ordered results placed near search engine results, but it scarcely matters what I advocate! -- people will use all kinds of terms.
SEM is another term that arose. Agenda-setters in the business tried to remind everyone that paid search (or "PPC") is one sub-type of SEM (search engine marketing), and SEO (on the "organic side") is another sub-type. But the fight to make SEM exclusively the global term, and not to be used as synonymous with PPC or paid search, was lost. SEM is often used interchangeably with PPC or paid search.
No matter. With all of these nomenclature battles being unwinnable, we should turn our attention to the whole reason "PPC" was so attractive as a pricing mechanism. It's because it represented a happy medium between CPM (paying only for impressions -- "cost per thousand impressions") and CPA ("cost per acquisition" -- paying for lead conversions or even revenue-generating sales conversions).
You can draw up equivalents across these mechanisms, and measure or express them all for your keyword (paid search) campaigns. So the click isn't anything special. It can be expressed in its CPM equivalent and you can and should also be measuring ROI, ROAS, or CPA.
Indeed, according to some scholars [see "Greedy Bidding Strategies for Keyword Auctions"], the most rational strategy for bidding in a digital media auction would take you straight to CPA or revenue if that was possible. If you could bid directly on the customer acquisition or revenue, you would. (And in fact, that's what some forms of bid management automation attempt to do, at one or two removes. And it's what manual campaign management also attempts to do, painstakingly.)
But step back further. Are search, keywords, or clicks inherently special? Why the drive to distinguish them from other forms of media? Is it for what they are, or what they represent?
It has to be the latter. They represent potentially the most extreme (and measurable) form of granular targeting and flexible bidding, of a certain type. This is reflected in the sky-high effective CPM rates for some keywords.
But that means that all of this distinguishing one type or another is done mostly for economic or practical reasons.
Search and keywords (and clicks) fall into the general category of auction-based digital media. Whether we're bidding on clicks, acquisitions, impressions, or other, the universe of digital media is amenable to similar tests. From a rational bidder's standpoint, there should be no inherently good or bad media, nothing inherently "creepy" or "wrong," nothing inherently above reproach either.
That's mostly true. It's not entirely true. (Dropping ad-laden anvils on prospects' vehicles is interruption media, and some companies would pay for it, but it's stupid and illegal.) But isn't it a good starting point for analysis?
"PPC" doesn't matter per se. So pitches like "now you can get 'PPC' from other channels than Google" shouldn't have any special weight. You shouldn't be looking too hard for that inventory if your economic criteria show it's not going to pay off for you. Nor should you have been ignoring it all along just because you thought that "PPC" or "Google" were special for some inherent reason.
Labels: contextual ads, digital media, display ads, google adwords, paid search, ppc
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Today Yahoo is sending out details of a settlement in a Class Action lawsuit about its negligent and sloppy provision of partner traffic to advertisers, dating back through the Overture days and all the way back to GoTo.com, before Yahoo even owned a PPC engine. The story is presented as a minor hiccup by a couple of news outlets as of this writing. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land points to the $20 refund component, though by my reading that's only reserved for any company that is now "out of business."
In the letter, Yahoo makes the usual noises about a settlement not being evidence of any admission of guilt.
But the description of what advertisers give up if they opt into the class reads like a detailed overview of every nefarious practice in pay-per-click advertising sales since the beginning of recorded time. (After the jump, the cut-and-paste.)
More important than the small refund is Yahoo's agreeing (1) to give advertisers a tool to fully control partner placement; (2) to better disclose online on the "Traffic Quality" portion of their website where traffic may come from; and (3) to enhance something called the "Click Investigation Request Tool" advertisers use to request information on specific traffic partners.
This non-admission-of-guilt will seem to many advertisers like a full recap of the often slippery relationship Yahoo has maintained with reality, especially in the realm of partner traffic. It comes as an albeit hollow victory for the many advertisers who were treated as an ATM by click arbitrageurs, rogue publishers, and Yahoo themselves.
And now for the ugly stuff:
"The Settlement will release Class members' Released Claims against Yahoo!. The complete definition of "Released Claims" is set out in the Settlement Agreement, which is available atwww.inreyahoosettlement.com or from the Claims Administrator. In summary, and without limiting the definition of "Released Claims" set forth in the Settlement Agreement, Released Claims include any and all claims, causes of action, demands, rights, liens, obligations, suits, appeals, sums of money, accounts, covenants, contracts, controversies, attorneys' fees and costs, expenses, losses, damages, judgments, orders, promises whatsoever, known or unknown, matured or unmatured, suspected or unsuspected, concealed or hidden, whether sounding in law, equity, bankruptcy, or in any other forum, from January 1, 2000 through and including September 22, 2009, that have been or could have been asserted in the Action. This release includes without limitation any and all claims concerning domain parking sites and pages; typosquatting sites and pages; bulk-registered domain name sites and pages; software applications; downloadable applications; pop-ups; pop-unders; "sliders"; "sidebars"; "injected ads"; adware; spyware; malware; malicious software; error implementations and pages; email campaigns; clicks that result from self-targeting; untargeted or random placements within the Distribution Network; ads displayed on sites or pages that lack any bona fide content, or any content at all; or ads shown to Internet users who have not conducted a search or viewed bona fide content related to a Yahoo! pay-per-click text advertisement."
Labels: paid search, yahoo, yahoo search marketing, yhoo
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
It's worth coming back to this subject.
Cited by John Battelle, comScore analyst Gian Fulgoni points out that the slowing growth in paid search clicks can largely be attributed to a decline in search coverage (proportion of searches monetized), and that's largely attributable to deliberate search quality and user satisfaction initiatives taken by all three major search engines. 100% right!
Fulgoni then points to a trend chart that might also contain an explanation: a rather slight increase in the average number of words used in a query, from just over 2.8, to just over 3.0.
From this, Battelle interprets very loosely, speculating that people are using search engines more like "natural language" tools and that Google is having trouble "matching advertiser demand to increasingly complex queries."
That's a bit rich. At the very least, it's an overly high-level, general explanation for users' increasing reliance on the new query-sensitive talents of Google and other engines. People's queries didn't get that much more complex in two years. Insofar as they're evolving, Google and other engines do a better job of tailoring the whole page to user needs. That may mean, for now, a slight shift towards the organic results being more compelling to users on informational queries. But that's exactly what Google wants. They want people to embrace, not ignore, the ads when they do appear. In part, they do that by keeping ads out of people's faces when they're inappropriate to user intent.
One reason you and I might type in a longer query is a higher expectation of getting an excellent local search result from Google, and then carrying on to look at restaurant reviews, maps, movie listings, etc. So to be sure, as confidence levels rise in the versatility of search technology, we're actually typing in more functional queries about movie times, the location of the local Home Depot, or even just our city name followed by "roofing contractors." Some of those merit ad coverage and lead to users clicking on ads; others merit query-sensitive local information results, not so easily monetizable.
Again, this is deliberate on Google's part. They're serious about search intent and the use of the engine as "functional software" -- at least when people use the engines in that way. For example, if I use the Google Search calculator function or the currency and measures conversion tool in my Firefox toolbar to type something like "2000 GBP in CAD," I get (today) the result "2000 British pounds = 3,582.69061 Canadian dollars." There is little point in showing an ad here. Usually you'll see zero ads, or maybe a single ad, on such queries.
That sort of behavior is of course growing. So the number of unmonetized queries is growing faster than the number of monetized queries.
The reality is, there are multiple things happening. Fulgoni's principal analysis is accurate. The search engine results pages are turning to enticing universal & blended search formats, highlighting video and local content. Even when they show no images, the organic SERP's often point to video content. Funny: long term, Google will be monetizing video and local just as well as they monetize search, so it's likely a net wash for them.
Longer term, our propensity for real-time search, conversations, and peer trust networks may indeed put a cap on how much advertising is appropriate in our "sacred areas" digitally. But that's always been the case, even when advertisers tried to invade/spam it. For some thoughts on where search is headed generally and how it might affect paid search advertising, check out Mona Elesseily's recent column on Search Engine Land: Important Questions You Should Ask About Where Search Is Headed.
Related note: I think it's too early in its life cycle for Wolfram Alpha to be showcasing sponsorships. They may soon find that it's tougher to monetize search than it looks... especially with a small number of users. The appearance of ads might also be a public relations distraction for a young product.
Labels: paid search
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Too much interesting stuff happening late week and this weekend, including Wolfram Alpha going live, data about paid search, and Google's trademark policy change. And a long weekend here in Canada to boot!
Anyway, I think I agree with Michael Arrington. Recent reports suggesting that declines in overall paid click volume (or, the proportion of referrals that came through a paid search click) year over year cannot be explained away by consumers typing longer searches that are less monetizable. The change in search behavior (towards longer queries) has not been that abrupt, and all advertisers didn't suddenly start using more negative keywords and exact match options all at once.
That said, bad economy aside, the explanation for the paid search data is a little more subtle than "bankrupt advertisers." I'll have to get back on here in between bouts of barbecue cleaning and hootin'-and-hollerin' for the Blue Jays, to offer a more comprehensive explanation and to catch up on the pressing news items that came out late week.
Labels: paid search
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Aaron Wall, well-known SEO guy, has a lengthy interview with PPC guy (me).
Labels: aaron wall, andrew goodman, paid search, seo
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Hey, just a reminder that you'll get a better price if you book your seat for our upcoming marketing seminar, "Winning the Paid Search Game," by end of day Jan. 15. After that, early bird pricing ($299 in Canadian bucks) expires.
There are many good reasons to attend: whether you're in a related marketing discipline and need to gain some perspective on the fast-growing world of Google advertising; want to pump up your campaign performance and stop making costly errors; or get personalized answers to difficult strategy questions... it's all happening on Feb. 3 at the MaRs Collaboration Centre. (Bonus: yes, of course you get a signed copy of Winning Results with Google AdWords, 2nd ed., if you attend!)
Breakfast is provided, and networking opportunities continue as we'll walk to lunch (optional!) after the learning.
Labels: paid search, sem education
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Back by popular demand, Page Zero (speakers: myself and Mona Elesseily, with workshop facilitation help from colleagues) will be delivering an intensive, half-day seminar on the latest paid search marketing tactics. Expect plenty of personalized attention and fresh material along with the core fundamentals. This should be suitable for intermediate-level digital marketers.
Last May's event was sold out, so take advantage of our early-bird pricing and book early.
When: Feb. 3, 2009. 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Where: MaRS Centre at University Ave. & College St., Toronto
Labels: page zero, paid search
Monday, August 25, 2008
On today's PPC Rockstars segment with David Szetela, I'm on with Kevin Ryan and Mary O'Brien to ask why the heck all the industry banter is still about SEO. Not that we're whining or anything! Have a listen here at Webmaster Radio.
Labels: andrew goodman, david szetela, kevin ryan, mary o'brien, paid search
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Browsing through Sphinn, the forums, and other places where online marketers hang out, it's hard not to notice the disproportionate focus on anything but paid search. To put it another way, the disproportionate focus on SEO, especially SEO 1.0 details, intimate details of SEO's as individuals, who said or did what, and various meta-minutiae contributions like the one you're reading now.
I've always been comfortable with being an avid part of what the old SEO world still seems to see as a "niche," but then I read a little newsletter from Perry Marshall this morning, and a voice said to me: "Andrew, dammit, these people are taking money from your pocket. They're stealing!"
I was surprised at Imaginary Perry's vociferousness on the subject, but hey - he's probably noticed what a vociferous advocate of paid search I've been since inception. He's probably also done the math. All of the headlines over the past couple of weeks, all of the Wall Street interest in Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft: it's all because of auction-based targeted clicks, half of which come directly from a user search, triggering a payment to Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft. It's a $15 billion a year business. It's one of the most proven (legitimate) ways to make money online if you're a small business. It's a hugely successful and growing direct marketing channel (and data goldmine) for large businesses. Unlike SEO, you control the levers. Unlike SEO, paid search also forces you to consider conversion issues and information scent in an immediate way - or you get your head handed to you financially. There's no free ride that leads to mushy thinking.
It's one of the reasons Page Zero regularly welcomes a new client, without having to resort to fads. Oftentimes these are clients with realistic expectations, strong businesses, and ad budgets. Albeit with a long-term view of testing and iterating, these clients have a real expectation that they'll be tightly testing and improving in the first month, and holding their own feet to the competitive fire.
Example: Page Zero welcomes new client, Tripharbour.ca / Tripharbor.com. For the next few months, I'm guessing Tripharbor's clicks will primarily come from AdWords - less so, organic search, and even less so, from social media gimmicks. Probably because the founder understands the guts of direct response (he was with Expedia). You have to get the fundamentals of your marketing sundae right before you start throwing the fun sprinkles on top.
I really love stories about Matt Cutts' haircut and linkbaiting tactics from folks with no public relations training, I really do. But let's not confuse it for marketing.
So I can only say again: wake up world! Paid search is here to stay. For real.
Labels: paid search
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Because there have always been more professional SEO advocates and amateur SEO junkies than paid search practitioners and advocates, many have come to assume that organic search somehow "performs better" than paid search.
In one ugly distortion of reality, an analytics vendor we like continues to give truncated examples showing that bounce rates (or very short visits) on paid search are higher in many cases than they are for organic search. This "might mean you should stop wasting money on paid search and begin focusing more on organic optimization." It might, but it probably doesn't. The premise doesn't lead to the conclusion. Obviously this man isn't a marketer.
I just had a conversation with a client - one with a big site and lots of both kinds of traffic - that noted their revenue per paid visit is more than double what it is per organic visit. Why the disparity? Doesn't everyone know that organic is better and we should be doing better with those visitors?
Organic search referral revenue per click: 8.5 cents
Paid search referral revenue per click: 19 cents
(Varies wildly by page and keyword - but these are the averages.)
Not at all. Let's look at some numbers.
How many landing pages do Google and marketers collectively need to keep track of on the paid side? Back of the envelope, assume 600,000 AdWords accounts of any size or active significance.
Assume, generously, an average of 100 landing pages being used for each. No - let's assume very active ad testing that includes somebody varying destination URL's as part of the test. 150 landing pages per advertiser, on average. That's 90,000,000 landing pages in the whole Google paid search universe. That's probably a bit high, but let it go for now.
On top of that, Google knows that the majority of those pages are of a certain caliber and can check them more carefully. They aren't indexing them per se, but most of these things "make it into the index." There isn't a whole other job of kicking spam pages out of the index (though there is something analogous going on... it's just a lot harder to create AdWords accounts than to spam the organic index).
Google's whole organic index (not counting the pages they don't index) has, perhaps, above 20 billion. That's more than 200X larger than the paid search index, with less ability to "know" about the intent behind the pages. In terms of where to rank pages on which queries, hey, the organic algo is trying, but it's bound to be less accurate.
On the other hand, paid search advertisers are telling the sorting system which keywords they think they'll profit from. They're shaping messages to ensure that only high-intent buyers come to their chosen landing pages. If they send them to the "wrong" page, they don't make as much money, so they learn to send users to right pages. The organic search engine might be fond of sending people to "wrong" pages, from a business model standpoint for the site owner, anyway.
The subject probably needs deeper treatment than I'm able to give it here, and my math might be out a bit, but the principle is clear: it's a no-brainer that revenue from organic searches will be lower than that from paid searches, in part because high-ranking pages may be "wrong" pages from the site owner's business standpoint.
If that's such a no-brainer, how come all those SEO's keep telling you different?
Labels: organic search, paid search
Thursday, January 24, 2008
At 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. today, I'll be giving a teleseminar with host Michael Stelzner of White Paper Source. The recommended audience is probably somewhat new to the field of paid search (beginner to intermediate) while being savvy in other areas of marketing or business. Mike's focus is on B2B so some of our discussion will tilt in that direction. If you have time, have a listen - it's only $39. Reminder: not recommended for advanced PPC folks, but rather, beginner to intermediate paid search advertisers, with a focus on the B2B and lead generation side of things.
Labels: b2b, lead generation, paid search, teleseminar, webinar, white papers
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Perhaps more so than ever since there was a leaked screen shot of a search result screen showing internal "GG Scores" that assess the value of an organic result, observers/punters have speculated (for reasons I can't fully fathom) about the negative impact on your organic rankings that might come from advertising on paid search.
So does a heavy paid search campaign increase, decrease, or have no impact on organic standing, everything else being equal?
It increases it, indirectly.
Clearly, you don't get an *equal* number of new customers or readers from "organic only" presence vs. "organic plus paid." The paid media spend, quite simply, increases activity. It increases the number of people who buy from you, talk about you, bookmark your site, and so on.
Google can measure a surprising number of these signals... for organic ranking purposes.
Your paid media search spend is not wasted. And it doesn't subject you to some ridiculous process by which Google downgrades your organic rankings.
All my 2c.
Labels: organic search, paid search
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
How did I miss this post by Steve Rubel? Tired of doomsaying in the Web 2.0 bubble realm, he recently predicted an impending recession for poor old Google, based on several factors. I'd like to address these as best as I can. While I don't disagree that any market can peak, I find it pretty funny to note how rapidly Google's revenues grew in the era *after* everyone started closely measuring their performance and *after* they began more carefully filtering click fraud and weak content partners. That rapid growth in 2004-7 came after many thought they saw click prices "leveling off."
The psychological reasons for these predictions are relatively simple: many people wish paid search would just go away. It's troubling to observers who don't like new things and want to turn the conversations back to older ad models. It's also troubling to people who, since the free lunch of organic search referrals and the odd viral success began, do not think marketers should pay for anything. (In this regard, see Godin's post of yesterday, Who Pays the Messenger?, which is a sensible reminder that bargains on marketing costs are for the rare few. The rest have to pony up.)
Rubel's recession factors are as follows, with my responses:
Clutter. Does Rubel understand search beyond his own reaction to a single SERP? Google monetizes less than 60% of all queries, and has a consistent place they slot ads: in the top premium spot and right-hand margin. By and large, users have been trained to see the sponsored results as commercially-oriented, and organic listings as, well, something else. The consistency of this method is such that users have been seeing fairly similar screen layouts for more than five years. Why call clutter on Google now? If it's a relevant listing, tailored to a potential searcher's needs, it isn't clutter.
The Traffic Has to Convert. Again, for more than five years, my firm and firms like mine have actively worked with clients to measure paid search performance, shaping the "cost per click" priced medium into a de facto cost per action medium. Part of that effort involves working with clients so that they "work backwards" - in fact in my "what's new with paid search" presentation, recently I've put that slide first on the deck. You don't have to "convert everything over" to cost per action. I'll argue that this will *never* happen en masse because it would shut down all big media players and eliminate their leverage and reasons for being in business, in essence making them pay-for-performance affiliates of increasingly lazy marketers. The onus has to be partly on the advertiser to shape and refine their use of targeted media so that they can acquire customers via direct marketing, at rates below their cost per action thresholds (if this is how they measure). The minority of advertisers are sending traffic to nonconverting pages. None of this has any impact on click prices because the majority are measuring and paying for clicks with eyes wide open.
Rising Costs. Rubel cites a Forrester study that shows CPC's rising 33% year-over-year from '06 to '07. That sounds like it might be in the ballpark. There's no disputing that many advertisers aren't getting any bargains, and in some industries, some players are priced out. So? It's an extremely granular situation, with the markets for certain keyword searches still finding their level. Yes, eventually the ceiling is reached. But how many advertisers have I talked to who are still getting a 10X ROAS? Cut that in half, and half again (in other words, double CPC's, and double them again), and they still wouldn't quit the auction. Growth will slow eventually. That's inevitable and pretty much a truism.
Marketers are Trying Other Things. People are discovering the online world beyond search. As they should. Whether this means money flees search (when the ROAS is locked in and screams "profit" to decisionmakers -- they're making money, not "spending" it) is an extremely dubious proposition. Likely this would be more than made up for by the declines in wasteful television, print, and other traditional, sometimes overpriced media.
Search Ads Are Untrustworthy? Trust and credibility. Indeed, that's Job 1. If you've had a front-row seat, though, you've probably noticed the incredible efforts Google's poured into challenging low-trust advertisers with poor quality scores and prohibitively high bids. Affiliate ads, false claims, arbitrage, hype, cheesy business models, etc. are all finding it harder and harder to advertise on Google. The standards bar is being raised month over month by a proactive, large scale initiative at Google that Yahoo and Microsoft are no doubt studying closely. That's a trend that isn't going away.
Search advertising is not a fad. It's hard-wired to results and amenable to intense scrutiny and analysis. That's why it thrived out of the gate in 2001-2004, while advertisers shunned the rest of the online advertising that had burned them so badly by not performing in the first bubble.
Labels: paid search
Monday, October 08, 2007
Unfortunately for folks looking for loopholes to trick AdsBot, yep, it's the same thing on the paid side. They can only pay a few hundred Googlers to sit around thinking about your "intent," not a few thousand, so when it comes to assessing landing page quality, much of this has to be done by automated means. But despite limited resources, there is no guarantee AdsBot or an editor won't catch your intent. An editor can look at your account, its history, how it was set up, and who knows what else. They can look around at your site, your business history... and the cut of your jib. The ad program is a smaller universe. Google staff actually have time to pay attention to all that stuff, across that known universe.
Sometimes I'll look at the combination of an AdWords ad and the offer page or landing page, and think to myself: if I *didn't* work for this client or company, I'd think it looked pretty spammy, and the intrusiveness of the ad formats on the landing page (or some other factor) just *might* be getting us flagged by AdsBot.
It is much, much easier for Google to "watch" its advertisers than it is on the unpaid side. So again, while there is a huge need for automation and Google couldn't do its job without it, the real reason behind low quality scores that derive from poor site quality or landing page quality... is largely editorial.
Gray areas abound. Sleeping dogs sometimes lie. Sometimes you wake them, and they bark. Stay tuned.
Labels: paid search
Sunday, May 20, 2007
In the type of corkscrew-like irony we've come to expect reporting on media who report on other media...
I was looking forward to seeing the finished version of Ilana DeBare's SF Chronicle article after she called to ask about how local businesses can use paid search to best effect. In effect, "paid local search" options compete directly with mainstream newspapers' ad models. Remember, we heard recently that the SF Chronicle itself is struggling, and laying off considerable numbers.
I liked some of what I saw in the article, but other tips seem to talk down to small businesses a bit. Do we expect too little of the "local" business? Some of the "local" businesses I frequent do tens of millions in business; others are at least in the low millions. That's more than many broad-based, but not very viable, online entrepreneurs are able to achieve. We're not talking about a hot dog stand all the time.
It's a bit of a myth that local businesses who don't do "online" business are ill-advised to pursue paid search. And if they don't, is there any business with a website that would find it particularly onerous to build in at least one decent measurement of buyer intent, such as a lead form, appointment form, etc.? Sure, many will just phone the hair salon. But Pure MedSpa takes online information requests and appointment booking requests, and so should many of their competitors, even if they only have a single location.
Obviously, if you're watching every penny, you don't want to burn money needlessly. But from what I've observed, in the chaotic world of the local and partially virtual business, a bit of mad money probably can't hurt in goosing your online presence. Take Shelly Purdy, a local jewelry designer in Toronto. These are medium-priced items, but by no means small-ticket. Now that e-commerce is enabled on the site, you might think - great, it would have been silly to buy paid search before, but now it's a good idea. But what if Shelly has a competitor who really doesn't emphasize online jewelry sales? What if that competitor is doing $2mm a year in sales, and spends a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on various promotional methods, including craft shows? Would it be so wrong to set aside $10,000 for paid search keywords, targeted tightly to a small geographic area, aimed at driving visitors to the showroom, a special event, or special promotion? But it's unmeasurable!! Gaahhh!! $10,000 out the window!! Hmm, $10,000 isn't all that much considering all the other unmeasurable marketing they already do.
So in my opinion, it's high time we raised the bar for "local" businesses and expected them to study the online targeting options in more depth. Saying "paid search isn't for you if you don't have a clear online outcome" is giving lazy people an out. Perhaps some of those online outcomes need to be built or pursued.
Similarly, I'm not too impressed with the notion that a business-to-business advertiser might not want to bother with online because the old-school network of "business cards" and "rolodexes" is the ticket. Face-to-face is cool, but this is 2007, and people search. Want to rake in more business than the other junior commercial real estate brokers who are relying on the old traditional methods? Get visible online. Take the time and trouble, and reap the reward.
So in the spirit of high expectations, here are some of my favorite current resources that should help small businesses or local businesses study ways of improving their online presence:
In my opinion, here are at least four things out of the long potential to-do lists that ought to have been recommended to local businesses:
A longer discussion is at what size of business is it viable to have a quality website designed for you - and what type of website? What functionality is required? Should you blog? Twitter? Listen to your inner voice here as you study what you can. There are tens of thousands of restaurant listings in my metro area. Do any of the owners blog? Twitter? I really don't know. Will they in the future? Don't know either. Is it vitally important for them to do so? Well, no, but culturally, personally I'd take some guerrilla vlogging from a head chef over a canned flash video treatment any day. But culture is culture. Most of these businesses should be mastering the basics rather than worrying about the bleeding edge stuff.
- Google Local Business Center is free. People increasinly use Google Local Search, and maps, so you want to show up here. Get a listing. Upgrade it if you know how. And wait, did you see that Google actually facilitates the process of creating a coupon so you can see if your local paid search ads are working? So much for excuses about "unmeasurability"!
- Make sure you're covered on key local vertical sites. If Toledo.com is important to your local audience, get visible there. Just make sure you understand what you're paying for.
- Be aware that your reputation is going to be affected by how you appear on the latest generation of local business search and consumer review sites: Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch, Judysbook... you get the idea. Figure out whether free "claimed" listings will enhance your image. Consider upgrading your listing for added visibility.
- Do conventional, but localized, online and offline public relations (in a savvy way). This is especially great if you have a website and you can get folks to point to it. For this, maybe find a local boutique PR firm. Again, perhaps not for the very small or very boring, but if you're very small and very boring, why am I even writing about you?
Having your own cyber-business opinions helps. Why abdicate your online personality solely to some disinterested web design firm who is expected to give you an "online presence"? The concept of an online presence sounds pretty static to me. Nope, you've gotta take ownership of this stuff and work with that firm - if you can find a good one. So that leads to a broader question: can you cost-effectively outsource a good portion of your marketing efforts if you're a small local business? Yes, but I think you'll need to get lucky. There are probably 1,000 people on the planet qualified to help you without doing counterproductive stuff. It's tough to find them.
Labels: local search, paid search, small business
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
The Rimm-Kaufman Group posts the latest share of spend across their client base in paid search. Big retail campaigns are spending 73% of their budgets with Google, 22% with Yahoo, and 5% with Microsoft. Plus or minus 3% and factoring in the aggravation factor of dealing with the editorial quirks of the third-place player, this roughly equates to search market share, so it comes as no surprise. Google also likely gets an extra 2-3% bump based on its better-developed contextual program (managed to strict ROI objectives).
Labels: paid search
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
It's an inconvenient truth: Canada's online ad market is 10-15% of the US market, give or take. Inside that market, Microsoft has around 10% share of search referrals, on a good day. Also, Canadian marketers are more reluctant to spend and experiment online. So the amount of attention that a marketer with a pan-North-American focus might pay to Google AdWords in the U.S. as compared with MSN adCenter in Canada would, if we're going by associated dollar spend... if you have the math right, it should be a ratio of about 50:1. Throw in a little ADD, and you're talking 100:1.
So I suppose that's why a really big (and quite fun) Microsoft launch event today seemed strangely out of sync with reality.
While MSN aDcEnTer Canada (heretofore to be called microsoft adcentre, eh) had its Kevin Lee, it didn't have its Barry Schwartz. Please tell me I'm not the first to blog about this? I know some folks at the 400-attendees-strong Canada launch of MSN adCenter today were snapping the usual photos, but I don't see much live-blogging-chatter out there yet.
Maybe this is because it just isn't a big deal, in the sense that "you're getting to discover it much as we did several months ago in the States," as one speaker put it. Yawn?
However, it felt like it was supposed to be a big deal. Tony Robbins jumping up and down big. Steve Jobs dwarfed by a giant phone image big. Or maybe just, "thanks for acknowledging our country" big. Fair enuff.
We were wooed by a mysterious email and a fancy flash invite at a URL called thesearchisover.ca, followed by a collection of cookie-tin type boxes in the mail, containing a USB flash card, redundantly inviting people again but arriving after the RSVP deadline. Somehow, we managed to decipher it and show up, even without Ms. Dewey's help.
Entering the facility (Muzik nightclub at Exhibition Place) after dispatching the valet parking formalities, we encountered much signage, eventually making our way through the cavernous club towards the large hall. The light and sound show was louder than, say, Yahoo's recent Canada launch. It felt positively Ballmeresque -- though we were really just getting glorified Powerpoint.
Oddly, a business professor from UWO Ivey acted as the MC for the event. Some Microsoft folks spoke onstage about how excited they were. Quite a contingent from the Redmond and New York MSN offices were on hand too. And Did-It's Kevin Lee gave the most detailed presentation extolling the virtues of the adCenter platform.
Nothing new to see, but a reminder that yes, the platform does allow for some cool experimentation, segmentation, and learning.
Practically speaking, combining Microsoft's third-place status in search referrals with Canada's lower overall search volume (10-20% of the US market depending on the vertical), it's actually a pretty tough sell. Low volume search in a low volume place. To make it as clear as I can, if we were focusing just on Canada, we'd generally be looking at some pretty low-volume campaigns. Not only that, but as Martin Byrne over at YSM Canada reminds us, "search isn't sexy." (Even when you have Sam Roberts playing at the event.)
There will be writeups in the media, of course. I hope observers understand the importance of the paid search part of the market in general, but I also hope they get the market share numbers right. I believe at least a couple of the reporters out there are savvy enough to look at their own media companies' in-house search referral stats. That should put the story in perspective. Microsoft is in third place, no matter how hard you try to Sympatico up the story.
A glossy, impressive third place - well ahead of the also-rans - and definitely diverse and part of a very large company. But - still behind Yahoo, and those other guys.
A deeper explanation and visuals around, say, geotargeting, would have been time and cash better spent than the Star Trek intro imagery. Or maybe dull old Al Gore up there with a graph or two. Boring works nowadays. See: Oscar Night, 2007.
Speaking of local search in Canada, there is a steady stream of news on that front. There are several developments brewing, including the imminent launch of RedToronto's new brand (and new product and totally new approach to local search). I think I can tell you it's an offshoot of their merger with Zip411 and that it will be called Zip Something-or-Other. Some interesting ideas percolating there!
Also, Hyperlocal Media - which has launched with a couple of successful pilot sites including one in Brooklyn, is launching a Toronto site, Until Monday Toronto.
Whoops -- wasn't I supposed to be talking about Microsoft?
Points for trying - very hard. You have to hand it to whoever thought of offering blue drinks dubbed the "Microsoft Conversion." Talk about a double entendre. It wasn't a religious experience for me personally, as I opted for a Heineken. But I do in fact accept the premise that Microsoft paid traffic converts very well. The data never lie.
Labels: canada, microsoft adcenter, msn adcenter, paid search
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
At least one panelist (David Szetela) on the Ad Program Strategies: Compare and Contrast panel here at SES London, argued that while he liked the control of Google's Site Targeted flavour of content targeting, he wasn't so fussy about the CPM-based pricing model.
Coincidentally, today Google is announcing that they're beta testing a CPC-based version of Site Targeting, so advertisers who like the idea of paying by the click (that's pretty much anyone who is used to PPC as it's implemented in the rest of your account, and on YSM and MSN adCenter too) can do so.
Seems like advertisers just don't like switching to CPM-based thinking inside of a CPC-oriented platform.
Related Traffick posts:
Note, even if we go entirely over CPC's, it's always a snap to track the associated cost in CPM, if you're into apples to apples comparisons. In previous posts I had argued that even in traditional CPC-based content targeting, some of my favorite campaigns were successful precisely because of the price - which was effectively about $0.25 CPM.
Labels: content targeting, contextual ads, cpm, google adwords, paid search
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