Posts Tagged ‘SEM’
With all of the hype surrounding inbound and content marketing, it’s easy to underrate the continued importance of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, a.k.a. search engine marketing. But as Rebecca Lieb recently noted, “Search, email, blogging, digital PR, and even (brace yourself) advertising have, and will continue to have a place at the table as content marketing grows in importance.”
As vital as natural optimization is, paid search offers three key advantages that make it complementary to organic search:
- • It’s instant. Organic search experiments can take weeks to show results. SEM changes take effect in a matter of minutes.
- • It’s flexible. You decide which keywords, and how many, you’d like to show up on page one for, including popular phrases for which it may be very difficult to rank organically. You can add and drop keywords on the fly.
- • It’s controllable. You decide exactly which landing page to send traffic to for each keyword–without worrying that a minor edit to the page, or Google’s next algorithm update, will annihilate your ranking. You choose exactly when and where your ads are seen.
Given that PPC advertising is likely to play an important role in your online marketing mix, how can you most effectively target your ads? Maximize the productivity of your ad spending? Design landing pages that most effectively convert? Properly test different creative components?
Find the answers to those questions and more, plus a rant from a PPC skeptic, here in (almost) a dozen of the best PPC guides of the past year.
ABC’s of PPC – A Guide for the Basics! by PPC Hero
Kayla Kurtz presents a creative alphabetical guide to PPC basics, from A for Ad Goups (“Your ad groups should always start out tightly themed, with keywords included that are similar to one another) through Z for Zero Impressions (“How long has that account element been active while seeing no action? Do some due diligence and try your hardest to make it work, but if you have a portion of your account with no impressions…cut bait and move on).
The 8 Questions That Create Perfect Landing Page Copy by KISSmetrics
Michael Lykke Aagaard offers “8 simple questions will kick start your writing and guide you through the process of crafting high impact landing page copy that converts,” starting with understanding the purpose of your landing page and creating a specific call to action and progressing through creating a design that supports the copy.
Display Advertising: Targeting Options 101 by RKG Blog
Michelle Ulizio explains the structure of display advertising, breaking down the options first into user targeting vs. site targeting; then defining three options for each targeting type (for example, Site Retargeting: “By placing special tracking tags on your website, you are able to show display ads across the web to users who visited your site, regardless of what site they are currently browsing”); and finally showing how the two high-level targeting methods can be used together.
How to Handle the AdWords Ad Rotation Changes by Search Engine Watch
Greg Habermann reports on Google’s decision to change AdWords ad rotation settings from “indefinite” to just 30 days, explains how this will screw up head-to-head ad testing (particularly for smaller advertisers with low impression volume and agencies managing multiple accounts), and then suggests some alternatives and workarounds to try until Google comes “to its senses and change this back.”
Sam Owen presents five tips for getting the most out of Google’s Auction Insights tool, from competitive research (“You can also start to try and learn a little about the strategy of your competitors. Perhaps someone is always showing in position 1, but only for 50% of the time—did you just discover a competitor who is day-parting?”) to avoiding underbidding by analyzing lost impression share at the keyword level.
Joe Castro suggests ten ideas for improving the productivity of PPC campaigns, among them filtering to “Pause off active ad groups and keywords with high cost-per- conversion rates or high costs and no conversions,” excluding geographic regions based on conversion rates, and segmenting ads by device type.
10 Quick Adwords Optimizations Tips for All PPC-ers by LunaMetrics
Noting that managing multiple paid search accounts involves substantial effort, but “if you tackle each optimization effort in stages, the work load won’t seem as daunting,” Sarah Peduzzi supplies 10 helpful tips including checking the Search Query Report weekly, continually testing ad copy, and using automated rules for bid adjustments.
5 Quick Ways to Increase Conversions in AdWords by Fathom Blog
Joe Castro (again) tosses out a handful of quick ways to bump up clicks and conversions, including loosening keyword match types, using sitelinks, and bidding on brand terms (“it’s really a no-brainer that your company should be bidding on its name and different variations. Branded keywords are by far your top converting, and you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not bidding on them”).
The Importance of A/B Testing: 24 Marketing Experts on Their Most Surprising A/B Test by The WordStream Blog
Elisa Gabbert shares the answers from 24 marketing experts to the question: “What is the most surprising or exciting result you’ve ever achieved in a multivariate A/B test?” Respondents included Aaron Levy, Brad Geddes, Brad Shorr, Megan Leap, Oli Gardner, and Todd Minz (“We decided to A B test using brand names in the headline [as variables in place of generic product names]…Overnight, this campaign generated so many conversions that I thought something broke in AdWords. It went from nearly zero to the highest performing campaign in the account by about 4-5x”).
Amanda West-Bookwalt busts a common myth about quality scores, writing that “CTR plays a part, but so does ad relevance and landing page experience…(aligning with) the campaign and account quality scores as well as any quality score limitations set on your industry, all of which also influence a particular keyword’s quality score.” She adds several ideas for boosting keyword quality scores.
Why Paid Search for B2B Companies is Dead (or Dying) by Search Engine Watch
As Mark Twain wrote that “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” so pronouncements of the the death of PPC should be met with skepticism. Talk about a myth that needs busting; though Uri Bar-Joseph quotes an impressive array of statistics in his morbid predictions for the future of PPC, the channel is likely to remain a key component of b2b web presence optimization frameworks for some time to come. Unlike SEO, PPC results (as noted above) are immediate, controllable, and highly flexible. Firms willing to commit investment, testing and experimentation are likely to find PPC campaigns a productive, supportive and cost-effective component of their overall online marketing mix.
How To Leverage PPC To Discover High-Converting Keywords For SEO by Conductor Blog
As an example of how PPC can support other online marketing efforts, Nathan Safran notes that “Finding out a keyword converts poorly after spending the effort to work your way up the organic search rankings can be a time consuming and frustrating process, but there is a way to shortcut the process and discover high converting keywords: Paid Search (PPC) data,” then explains how to use PPC data to help focus on the most productive keywords in SEO strategies.
Optimization projects normally start with keyword research to identify the most promising “head” search terms (short, frequently used keyword phrases), and over time, a site’s rank for these terms is closely watched (and often much fretted about).
Nothing wrong with that—head terms are critical to optimization efforts. But it’s also important to note that when it comes to on-site conversions, the leads often come from multi-word, infrequently searched “tail” terms.
Looking at multiple b2b websites, in the U.S. and Canada, with a combined 150,000+ visits during the first half of this year, it’s clear that head terms drive traffic, but tail terms drive leads:
Okay, that’s a bit of an oversimplification; obviously, head terms are vital to lead generation as well. But the point is, across site after site reviewed, the common pattern was that a relatively small number of keyword phrases (typically 50-60 out of several thousand) drove well over half of all traffic. At the same time, a larger group of head terms drove a smaller share of leads.
This makes sense. Searchers often use broad head terms early in their buying research process and longer, more specific terms as they get closer to a decision. So what are the implications?
1. Use AdWords (and SEM in general). First, head keywords matter, but some terms are so competitive that it’s nearly impossible for a small to midsize company to rank for them. Second, rankings vary between individuals based on factors like personalization and location, and they also vary (sometimes considerably) over time as the search engines continually tweak their algorithms. Finally, some head terms are great for driving traffic but less so for producing leads.
Search engine marketing programs like AdWords enable marketers to identify which keywords actually drive conversions most effectively, and to always have their site appear on the first page of search results for those terms, regardless of variations in organic rank.
2. Use SEO best practices. Specific tactics change over time as algorithms change, but certain basics remain vital: create quality content, utilize all aspects of on-page website optimization, and build quality links (including social links). This won’t guarantee your site a consistent #1 ranking for any specific phrase, but it will optimize your results over time across both expected head and unpredictable long-tail terms.
3. Continually produce new content. Even the best keyword research is, by its nature, point-in-time and backward-looking. Publishing a steady stream of optimized new content, driven by customer and social intelligence, will position your site best to take advantage of new, trending and previously unanticipated head and long tail phrases.
In short, optimizing a b2b website for conversions isn’t simple enough to do in your head (terms only).
As Google’s standard search results page has evolved from displaying ten organic links on the left and eight ads on the right to a more varied page (see example below), featuring more or fewer ads and different media types depending on the nature of the search, the old pattern of organic results receiving 70%-85% of all clicks has also gone by the wayside.
In fact, recent WordStream research highlighted on eStrategy Trends reveals that, for keyword phrases with “high commercial intent,” almost two-thirds of all clicks are now on paid ads. For these types of queries, on average, 41% of clicks go to the top three (ad) spots while just 9% are captured by the top organic search result.
Clearly, Google has been successful at shifting more traffic to paid results (which is where Google earns 97% of its revenue). That makes AdWords a critical component for any company seeking to dominate the first page of search results. Yet I often hear from prospective or new clients that they have used Google AdWords in the past and stopped because it “didn’t work” for their business.
Digging a bit deeper, it usually turns out it wasn’t the tactic that was ineffective, but rather the execution of the AdWords or other search engine marketing (SEM) program. SEM can be a productive channel for selling virtually anything more expensive than a candy bar and less costly than a commercial jet. Here then are seven common mistakes to avoid when setting up and optimizing an AdWords campaign. Steering clear of these potholes and using SEM best practices greatly increases the odds of success with AdWords.
1. Using both search and Google’s content network right away. Content network ads perform very differently from search ads and need to be managed separately, with their own budget and unique ad copy. It’s best to use search on its own for a while to determine which keywords, calls to action (CTAs) and ad messages are most effective before expanding advertising to the content network.
2. Not testing. Too often, campaigns are set up with an initial list of keyword phrases, a single static bid for all keywords, a single ad, and a single landing page. Then, if that particular combination of elements doesn’t produce great results, AdWords is deemed a failure. But it’s extremely rare for a campaign to produce optimal results right out of the gate, and therefore critical to test every element of the campaign on an ongoing basis to continually improve results. Of course, sometimes advertisers do test and still fail to meet objectives because of the next mistake to avoid, which is…
3. Not understanding the analytics. Marketers too often get hung up on the wrong objectives, like maximizing click-through rate (CTR) or minimizing the average cost per click (CPC). True, all other things being equal, a higher CTR and lower CPC are good things, as they mean more clicks for fewer dollars, but they should not be the primary focus. The single most important metric in a paid search campaign is cost per lead (CPL) (sometimes alternatively referred to as cost per acquisition or CPA).
A keyword with a low CTR and a $10.00 CPC may be much more valuable than another with a high CTR and $1.00 CPC if the former converts at a significantly higher rate than the latter, thereby producing conversions (generally leads or sales) at a lower CPL.
4. Using the wrong keywords. No matter how extensive the upfront keyword research is, the initial list compiled for an AdWords campaign will very rarely be optimal. And even if the list turns out to be very solid, it is likely to change over time as market and search trends change, so ongoing monitoring and optimization remains imperative. Keywords with a high conversion rate should be bid up into one of the top ad spots. Keywords with a lower, but still respectable, CPA should be bid with a target of making a low ad spot on page one of search results. Keywords with a very low CTR or quality score should be re-examined. And “campaign killer” keywords—those that produce lots of clicks and therefore lots of cost, but few if any conversions—should be identified and deleted as quickly as possible.
5. Writing poor ad ad copy. Even when using best practices for writing search ad copy, it’s impossible to know exactly what combination of words within the scant 95-characters permitted by AdWords will resonate most effectively with your audience. That makes it essential to test multiple ads, and to continue replacing the poorest-performing ads with new variants in order to optimize results over time.
6. Not dayparting. Dayparting is simply the practice of scheduling ads to run during certain hours of the day and not during other hours. It’s surprising how often this is overlooked, and ads are simply set to run 24/7. Running ads at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday may make sense for open-all-night restaurant, but is highly unlikely to produce productive clicks for an enterprise software vendor.
7. Poor CTA or landing page design. If a landing page is attracting clicks from relevant keywords but few of those are converting into sales or leads, the problem could be that either the call to action itself isn’t appealing (for example, a white paper download may be more appealing to prospects than a free trial), or that the landing page design isn’t effective (e.g., too much or too little copy, too many form fields, or unnecessarily complex layout). There’s no way to know which is the culprit without testing multiple CTAs and tweaking landing page design to optimize conversions.
Google AdWords and other SEM programs may not be ideal for every company. But with search results page display changes being made by Google and other search engines to emphasize paid results over organic, at least for “commercial” searches, it’s important for any business that relies on online lead generation or sales to evaluate.
Only by avoiding common AdWords mistakes, following established best practices and testing, testing, testing can businesses be sure whether shortcomings in AdWords results are a problem with the medium itself—or with the execution of those programs.
Sales leads generated through inbound marketing–the combination of content marketing, blogging, social media, website chat and SEM–cost 61% less than those produced through traditional demand generation techniques (e.g., online or print advertising, trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail) according to research from HubSpot.
But as compelling as those cost savings are, the arguably larger financial impact is that social and content strategies change much of what marketing does from an expense (an expenditure tied to immediate consumption) to an investment (an allocation with a long-term payback). Buying a bag of apples at the grocery store is an expense; planting an apple tree is an investment.
While some aspects of inbound marketing (SEM, email marketing, webinars) clearly remain in the expense column, three of its key components clearly should be classified as investments, as long-term appreciating assets.
Blogging: for any new business blog, traffic typically starts out modest but grows over time. One reason is that reader subscriptions (when via email or RSS feed) tend to grow over time as the blog establishes its voice and readership. But the larger factor is SEO: the longer a blog is actively contributed to, the more content there will be for search engines to index, the more links it will attract, and hence the more search-driven traffic it will enjoy.
The major search engines also seem to give blogs more respect over time. Newly-launched blogs typically generate a very small share of total traffic from organic search, but the proportion builds over time. It’s not unusual to see clear upward inflection points in search traffic after the first six and 12 months a blog is active.
Social Networking: whether on an individual or corporate account basis, a social network grows over time as credibility is established. It’s difficult to build a large social following on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ or any other such site right out of the gate. But if the user is consistent, helpful, and engaging, it’s virtually inevitable that the following will grow over time. Like a blog, each social media account is an appreciating asset.
Content Marketing: while some content is designed for short-term needs, much of it has long-term value. Blog posts, videos posted to YouTube or Vimeo, presentations on SlideShare–all can continue to attract new viewers years after they are first created. Well-written white papers can also serve as effective long-term lead-generation assets.
Inbound marketing therefore not only makes marketing more efficient, but also more strategically valuable to the organization. It’s no longer just about spending money to generate leads this month or this quarter, but about developing content and connections that increase in value and continue to pay off over the long term.
Done properly, search engine marketing (a.k.a. SEM, paid search, PPC) is a powerful complement to SEO and an effective tactic on its own. SEM enables enterprises to rank for specific search terms immediately (including terms for which it would difficult to rank organically), target traffic to specific landing pages, test everything (keywords, bid levels, ad copy, landing page design), and precisely quantify ROI based on sales or leads generated. Of course, done improperly, it can also be a tremendous waste of money.
How can you improve quality scores to get a higher ad position at a lower cost? How can test to increase conversion rates while reducing the cost per conversion? How can create dynamic landing pages, and are they worth the effort? Discover the answers to these questions and others here in seven noteworthy search engine marketing guides from the past year.
Three strategies for improving quality score, which results in high ad positions with low cost per click (CPC), such as creating small, tightly focused ad groups (“breaking down your campaigns and ad groups into smaller ad groups…allows you to write more relevant ads for a select number of keywords in your ad group. Google and Yahoo both say that by including your keywords in your ad title and descriptions will greatly help increase your quality scores”).
How to quadruple a conversion rate by Google Website Optimizer Blog
Trevor Claiborne shares lessons learned from the Voices.com search engine marketing campaign on optimizing conversion rates, among them: knowing your customers (“time and again, the greatest conversion rate increases I’ve seen have come from a better understanding of the customer”) and testing everything.
Andrew Goodman discusses the importance of testing ad copy and important considerations to keep in mind when doing so, like measuring both click-through rate (CTR) and cost per acquisition (CPA) when evaluating ad copy, and running tests long enough to generate valid data for decision making.
Dynamic Landing Pages by PPC Hero
Amy Hoffman explains why dynamic landing pages are helpful (“The more specific a landing page is, the more likely it is that the visitor will convert”), how to create one using either dynamic keyword insertion or IP targeting, and best practices to follow when using dynamic pages.
How to Double Your Conversion Rate in the Next 5 Minutes by KISSmetrics
Cameron Chapman offers a half-dozen tips for increasing your conversion rate by making your sign-up form more friendly, such as by removing unnecessary fields, making as many fields as practical optional to complete, and explaining why you’re collecting the information requested.
Lessons Learned from 21 Case Studies in Conversion Rate Optimization by The Daily SEO Blog
Paras Chopra uses several case studies to illustrate the role of design, headlines, copy, and calls-to-action in landing page and conversion rate optimization.
A half-dozen tips for “PPC housekeeping” to get you account shaped up for the coming year, including reviewing your negative keywords, segmenting your analytics by device (to determine, for example, if you get enough traffic from mobile devices to make it worthwhile to set up separate mobile campaigns) and replacing under-performing ads with new copy.