Niraj Shah – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 24 Nov 2009 17:24:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.2 Busted: Three Boneheaded Paid Search Myths /busted-three-boneheaded-paid-search-myths-30404 /busted-three-boneheaded-paid-search-myths-30404#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2009 17:24:39 +0000 http:/?p=30404 Paid search marketing is complicated enough, and several long-held industry myths aren’t helping make your job any easier. Debunk these SEM tall tales once and for all, and your campaigns will be well on their way to higher ROI.

The post Busted: Three Boneheaded Paid Search Myths appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
Paid search marketing, with its complex bid management techniques and daily campaign management challenges, is difficult enough. And it doesn’t help that the industry’s thousands of vendors and consultants each think they have the inside secrets on how to optimize campaigns—and aren’t afraid to share their “advice” with you at every turn. This constant barrage of input combined with the need to test everything, understand a dizzying amount of data and build a workable strategy for bid management can make many search marketers nervous they’re not maximizing ROI from their paid search programs.
There are three myths that seem to still be circulating in the industry about the complexity and difficulty of paid search optimization. It’s time these myths got busted so you can focus on the real optimization techniques that matter.

Myth #1: Google will pick the best creative for you

Most marketers think if they develop a campaign on Google, the search engine will automatically determine and serve the best-performing ad copy from the available set. Many marketers believe this means they should continually add creative, since the engine will take care of testing for you. But all that testing may not be helping as much as you think. Google determines which ad copy to serve based on which version has the highest click-through rate, but your highest CTR ads aren’t necessarily your best-performing ones. To get around this problem, you need to do two things: set the creative rotation in Google to “show evenly” to perform an accurate test, and then do your own tracking and measuring of ad copy to see which ones are performing the best.

Start by determining what you want to test, and defining a start and end date for your test. Once you implement the ad copy, ensure you are tracking conversion at the creative level using the dynamic insertion parameters provided by the engines. Also, be sure to choose a relevant metric like conversions-per-impression, instead of just click-through rate. Compare each creative in an ad group vs. the average of the ad group without that creative. By doing this, you find out which creatives are driving the most conversions, and once you know this, you can jettison poor-performing creatives and manually rotate higher-performing ones into rotation.

The bottom line: Pause creatives that come in below the average; continue to monitor those that are near average for any changes; and keep running creatives that are out-performing the others using a metric such as conversions-per-impression rather than the relatively meaningless click-through rate metric.

mythsgraphic

Myth #2: You have to look at all prior clicks for accurate bidding

Most marketers bend over backwards trying to attribute conversions back to every click in the visitors’ path to come up with accurate bid prices. It’s understandable you’d want to accurately attribute conversion to each keyword by looking at past clicks, but multi-click attribution can be difficult to track and even more difficult to understand and make actionable. Many marketers avoid tackling the attribution problem head on by simply over-investing in early-consideration terms, even if the ROI isn’t there, because they believe these terms influence purchases down the line.

The truth is, you’ll get a reasonably accurate picture of conversion and ROI for campaigns by attributing value only to the last click, because the majority of people do not click on multiple search terms before making a purchase. In fact, research into a leading client of ours spanning hundreds of brand-name and product-name keywords found that only 26% of paid search conversions had more than one prior click on a paid search term. That means three-quarters of all paid search conversions happened after just one click—so if you measure back just one click, you’ll get a pretty accurate measure of ROI. What’s more, we found that almost half of these multiple-click conversions had the same term for all prior clicks—making last click attribution accurate in more than 85% of all cases.

The bottom line: Evaluating and implementing a complex scheme for attributing conversion across multiple clicks can be valuable, but the impact from a measurement standpoint is likely small. Instead, you may be able to get a lot more value from focusing on other low hanging fruit for optimization such as keyword expansion, adding negatives or creative testing.

Myth #3: “Portfolio management” is really, really hard

Many marketers get stuck believing that optimizing their keyword portfolio to increase profit is inordinately complex. As a result, they turn to outside help, and in many cases will simply hand over bidding to a third party. The truth is, at a basic level, portfolio optimization doesn’t have to be hard, and in many cases, it’s downright easy.

When thinking about portfolio management, it’s crucial to calculate a “headroom” metric—or the bid price minus the cost-per-click. For example, if you bid $2 on a keyword and your CPC ends up being $1.40 after the auction is complete, you have what is known as “60 cents of headroom.” You could pay 60 cents more for this keyword and still meet your pre-defined ROI targets.

Using this metric, you can look at all of your keywords in your portfolio that have substantial headroom. If these keywords are in position #1 in the auction, don’t change anything, as your bid is already working to place you at the top of the heap. These keywords are maximizing your profit, and generating excess returns for you. However, if you have keywords with headroom where you are in a competitive position in the auction—maybe 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place—it might pay to raise your bid on these keywords to move up in the rankings. You’re already getting several top position keywords for lower than you’re willing to pay, so it’s OK to pay a bit more for some other terms.

The bottom line: By increasing your bids on competitive keywords with headroom, you can wring more margin out your overall portfolio while still meeting your ROI goals.

The post Busted: Three Boneheaded Paid Search Myths appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
/busted-three-boneheaded-paid-search-myths-30404/feed 2
Get Rid Of Unwanted Clicks With Keyword Management /get-rid-of-unwanted-clicks-with-keyword-management-28249 /get-rid-of-unwanted-clicks-with-keyword-management-28249#comments Mon, 26 Oct 2009 10:00:18 +0000 http:/?p=28249 Every search marketer shares one important goal: get more of the traffic you want and less of the traffic you don’t. One of the best ways to get manage your traffic quality is by focusing on keyword selection. By selecting the right keywords you can reduce the number of untargeted clicks you get, reducing your […]

The post Get Rid Of Unwanted Clicks With Keyword Management appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
Every search marketer shares one important goal: get more of the traffic you want and less of the traffic you don’t. One of the best ways to get manage your traffic quality is by focusing on keyword selection. By selecting the right keywords you can reduce the number of untargeted clicks you get, reducing your costs. But it doesn’t stop there. Eliminating unwanted clicks increases the click-through rates for your ad groups, leading to higher quality scores, lower CPCs, and increased conversions.

Better keyword management isn’t just a nice to have; it’s increasingly becoming critical to your bottom line. According to Jupiter Research’s US Paid Search Forecast, 2008 to 2013, average keyword prices are set to rise more than 25% over the next five years. With keyword costs rising quickly, it’s critical that every keyword in your portfolio deliver maximum value. You can save thousands of dollars per month, and re-allocate that budget to better uses by following a few best practices around keyword targeting. These inside tips, detailed below, include pruning underperforming keywords, using match type refinement and negative keywords and evaluating raw search queries. The goal is to ensure your ads show on every possible search that provides a good ROI, but don’t appear at all for keywords that don’t.

Prune your under-performing keywords. The first step in keyword management is to search for high-traffic keywords that get no conversions. See if you can eliminate some or all of these terms. By removing keywords that drive untargeted traffic you can free up dollars to spend on existing terms that perform well or buy traffic on completely new terms.

Add new terms using keyword research. Adding new terms that are not included in your campaigns today can be a great source of new, profitable traffic. One of the best sources for new keyword ideas is raw query logs and reports. These logs/reports show which terms users are actually searching and converting on, and in many cases will provide you with insight into terms you should be buying but are not today.

Refine broad match terms with phrase and exact match. Once you’ve done your basic pruning and expansion, the next step is to view your raw search query logs again. Focus on the high-traffic keywords on broad match that actually convert, and try to determine the user queries that are driving the conversions. Replace these broad match terms with the raw search terms using the phrase or exact match options provided by the publisher. This will help refine the traffic associated with your keywords, increasing conversion rates and quality scores.

Use negative keywords to eliminate irrelevant and non-converting terms. Once again, check your raw search queries, but this time look for queries that are irrelevant to your brand or not converting. Add these terms to your negative keyword list to remove your ads from irrelevant searches.

Let’s look at an example of how keyword management can deliver impressive results. PowPow Guitar Store bought the keyphrase “steel guitar” on broad match below. They bid $2.00 on the term, which provided a good return on average across the conversions that resulted from search clicks on their ad.

Looking at their raw search query logs, however, PowPow Guitar Store found that people were clicking on this ad and purchasing more than just steel guitars. In some cases they were buying low margin items such as steel guitar Strings, which didn’t justify a $2.00 bid. Even more concerning, they were paying for traffic on queries related to products and services they don’t even sell such as “guitar repair” and “guitar lessons.”

serachquery_before

Based on this analysis PowPow Guitar Store decides to change how it manages keywords. By shifting “steel guitar” from the broad to the exact match type they are able to reduce the number of unwanted clicks coming through on this term. Based on the raw search query data, they also add new keywords related to steel guitars such as “used steel guitar” and “steel guitar strings” and bid these terms appropriately to reflect the margin of the products associated with each keyword. Finally, by using negative keywords they are able to eliminate clicks on keywords associated with products they don’t sell, such as “songs”, “repair” and “lessons.”

searchquery_after

The net effect is more traffic on relevant terms, and less traffic from visitors looking for products PowPow doesn’t sell. More importantly, because PowPow’s keywords now match user queries more closely, the company will see a boost in quality score, which further reduces CPC and boosts traffic. Through simple changes like this, marketers can make a big impact on sales and ROI without having to increase spend.

The post Get Rid Of Unwanted Clicks With Keyword Management appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
/get-rid-of-unwanted-clicks-with-keyword-management-28249/feed 1
Five Search Marketing Tips For The Holidays /five-search-marketing-tips-for-the-holidays-26463 /five-search-marketing-tips-for-the-holidays-26463#respond Mon, 28 Sep 2009 11:00:50 +0000 http:/?p=26463 Ah, the holidays—the most wonderful time of the year for retailers. Even though the uncertain economy has retailers only cautiously projecting an uptick in sales this holiday season compared to last year’s dismal downturn, the truth still holds that most will make 25-40% of their yearly sales in November and December. What is unique for […]

The post Five Search Marketing Tips For The Holidays appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
Ah, the holidays—the most wonderful time of the year for retailers. Even though the uncertain economy has retailers only cautiously projecting an uptick in sales this holiday season compared to last year’s dismal downturn, the truth still holds that most will make 25-40% of their yearly sales in November and December.

What is unique for holiday season 2009 are the specific strategies online retailers must take this year to reap the most sales possible. With lessons learned from last year’s bloated inventories and fire-sale prices, many retailers this year are restricting inventories and fine-tuning merchandising in an attempt to lure shoppers to purchase earlier and at higher prices. And, of course, the best way to get potential shoppers to your site is via search engine marketing. 82% of holiday shoppers polled by Google said they find search engines “extremely or very useful” in making their purchases.

In the run-up to the holidays, there are several concrete SEM strategies you can implement right now to make maximize your revenue from Black Friday and beyond. The trick is to anticipate the way consumers will behave during the holidays, and leverage those predictions to improve the performance of your search marketing campaigns to increase sales and ROI.

Here are five common holiday-driven consumer behaviors to keep in mind, with concrete SEM tips to turn these behaviors into valuable revenues:

Consumers research early and purchase late

Studies show that over half of people begin researching Christmas gifts before Thanksgiving, but the majority of purchases occur in mid-December. Google’s holiday survey suggests that 57% of consumers begin researching holiday purchases before Thanksgiving, but 77% of purchases happen after Thanksgiving.

Tip: Make sure to set your tracking cookies to 30 days or more, so you can fully value all of your keywords and adjust bids accordingly. In November, you may see increasing costs for some of your keywords without an increase in conversion; don’t bid them down just yet, however, because a few weeks later those same keywords may turn out to be your top performers.

Research begins online, but many end up purchasing in the store

Shoppers frequently research online, but continue on to purchase offline either in the store or over the phone, especially for high-value products such as electronics. Google’s research shows that 54% of shoppers research online but complete their purchases in-store, and that number could be even higher, as it’s a tricky metric to track.

Tip: Find a proxy for measuring your offline conversions such as tracking when users click on the “store locator” or the “contact us” links on your website. By counting these actions as a conversion and assigning them a value, you can create a more accurate picture of how your keywords are performing. If you want to get really fancy, upload in-store conversion metrics from your data warehouse into your search management application, which gives a more precise measure of which keywords drive offline purchases. By fully valuing the impact of keywords across channels, you will be able to increase your bids and position in the auction to drive more sales.

Holiday consumers are more likely to be searching for gifts

What people buy for themselves during the year has little to do with what they buy during the holidays. Shoppers increasingly focus on gifts, and will be on the lookout for advertisements targeting holiday gifts, sales, and shipping promotions. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many online retailers don’t fully modify their SEM campaigns to take advantage of this shift.

Tip: Adjust your keyword mix to include more holiday terms, not just the keywords people associate with your products and brands during the rest of the year. Secondly, don’t forget gift cards. Some 69% of shoppers plan to purchase gift cards this year, according to Google, so if you aren’t managing a separate gift cards campaign you’re losing out on a lot of potential sales. Finally, consider testing holiday-specific creative with your campaigns to increase relevance and clickthrus. For example:

HolidayByline

Consumers are more likely to purchase over the holidays

Consumers are much more likely to make purchases, and to make higher-value purchases during the holiday season. This results in an increase in conversion rates and average revenue per click for search marketers, making some keywords worth more during the holidays than they are during other times of the year.

Tip: To stay one step ahead of the competition, you should anticipate increased conversion rates, and boost your bidding strategy for competitive, high-traffic terms. View your data from last year to see how conversion rates changed week-over-week during the holidays and make adjustments accordingly throughout the holidays. By having a game plan set before the holidays, you can focus on measuring the results and adjusting the plan to meet actual changes in conversion rates as you go.

Consumers love post-holiday sales

Everyone knows they can find great deals starting December 26th, which is why research shows that 63% of shoppers will make purchases during post-holiday sales. Your job as a retailer is to maximize the number of purchases before December 25th, while at the same time planning ahead to optimize your campaigns for post-holiday sales.

Tip: Don’t assume the holiday season ends on December 25th. Create sale-specific campaigns, keywords and creative ahead of time and schedule the campaigns to launch automatically on December 26th at midnight. That way you won’t be in the office tinkering with keywords and can enjoy the holidays too! Once you’re back at work in the new year, make sure to watch for stock outages and changes in inventory so you can pause or delete ad groups accordingly. This will not only save you money, but will help avoid issues with customer satisfaction.

While no one’s sure how the 2009 holiday season will fare for retail sales, it’s clear that if you take a few simple steps, you can increase conversion and boost sales even during these challenging times.

The post Five Search Marketing Tips For The Holidays appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
/five-search-marketing-tips-for-the-holidays-26463/feed 0
Boost Quality Scores With These Simple Tips /boost-quality-scores-with-these-simple-tips-23538 /boost-quality-scores-with-these-simple-tips-23538#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2009 12:00:41 +0000 http:/?p=23538 Read the search marketing press today and you’ll find abundant information on the importance of bid management strategies, as well as tools to maximize campaign ROI. However, as anybody who’s managed a search campaign recently knows, bid levels are only part of the equation. Effective search marketers know that search engines are looking to maximize […]

The post Boost Quality Scores With These Simple Tips appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
Read the search marketing press today and you’ll find abundant information on the importance of bid management strategies, as well as tools to maximize campaign ROI. However, as anybody who’s managed a search campaign recently knows, bid levels are only part of the equation.

Effective search marketers know that search engines are looking to maximize their yield from advertising&mdashjust as you are—so efforts to align your interests with those of your search partners can reap rich rewards. Search engines (primarily Google) have effectively shifted the onus of finding this balance to the advertiser through the introduction of quality score.

Quality score helps alleviate the opportunity cost search engines incur with every paid ad that goes unclicked. By incentivizing marketers to optimize the relevance of their ads to specific keywords and to improve creative effectiveness, search engines boost paid click rates and yield—completely independently of your bid.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the formulas search engines use to determine the price an advertiser pays per click factor in both bid and quality score. Google’s formula is as follows.

qualityscoreformula

Clearly, there’s a dependence on other advertisers—namely, their bid and quality score. But, those are not in your control. So what’s left? Quality score of your ads!  And while this makes the campaign management process more complicated, it also creates lucrative opportunities for savvy search marketers.

So what tools and tactics can search marketers adopt to hone relevance and copy effectiveness in a large-scale search campaign? Here are a few of the most effective tactics that will deliver a clear competitive advantage.

Cut poorly targeted impressions. Regularly review “raw search queries” that drive traffic to your site. These are the actual queries visitors type into the search bar before clicking on your ads. Are you attracting clicks from visitors looking for something you don’t offer? To get a trickle of site visits on these keywords, your ad may be showing thousands of times. If so, the low clickthrough rate is dragging down your quality score. To fix this common problem, add negative keywords to cut out these unwanted clicks. Shrewd use of campaign and group-level negatives can dramatically improve clickthrough rate, boost your quality score and save money. Also, remember to ask yourself if your service does not apply, or your product is not available, in some states or countries. Then, use geotargeting to prevent your ad from being presented to people unlikely to respond.

Expand use of PHRASE & EXACT matching. Does most of your traffic come from broad match terms? Again, reviewing raw search queries can determine whether this is so.  Instead of using these queries for negative ideas, use them for positive ones. Using broad or expanded match keywords is an easy way to grow volume quickly, but high quality scores come from tight alignment between keyword, ad group and creative. Improve this alignment by adding new keywords you discover and setting them to phrase match. For example, let’s say the broad matched keyword “dry fit clothing” generates a click from the search “dry fit running shirt.”  Assuming you sell running shirts, add “dry fit running shirt” as a new keyword using phrase match.  By closely matching what visitors are looking for, this new keyword has a better chance of garnering a higher quality score and making better use of your marketing dollars.

Speak to the user’s intent. As you expand your keyword list using phrase and exact match, make sure to consider copy alignment. How closely aligned are your keywords and creative? For each keyword in your campaign, make sure your ad copy speaks directly to the user’s intent as much as possible. This is especially important for accounts that have had multiple managers in the past, as they tend to build up underperforming copy iterations over time. Check your ad groups accounting for your top 20% of spend—is the ad copy in these ad groups relevant to the keywords? When adding keywords, make sure to determine whether they should be added to existing ad groups or put into new groups with custom ad copy.  Finally, ask yourself if your existing ad groups could be split more finely into thematic groups that get their own creative. A quick way to check this across your entire keyword set is to look at the overlap of tokens (words) in keywords and in creative. A low overlap could be a signal that it’s time to write some new creative.

Test. Learn. Apply. Repeat. Don’t ever be satisfied with your copy performance. Continually tune your message and test the results. Always have at least two creative versions battling it out in every ad group, and make sure to kill the underperforming creative as soon as you’ve collected enough data to show that it’s not working. When evaluating ad copy performance, be sure to consider conversion and revenue data. While the search engines profit when your brilliant ad copy sends clickthrough rates soaring, you only profit if that traffic coverts.

Clearly, boosting relevance and clickthrough rates throughout your campaign can dramatically improve performance. How far can you go? Google goes so far as to assign a quality score to every keyword you’re bidding on. So applying these techniques to all keywords in your account (or even just top referrers) can be a gargantuan task. As with bidding, automation can scale these efforts far beyond what a team of search marketers could do manually.

A search engine marketing tool that offers automation can analyze your raw search queries, suggest new negatives, measure relevance, and test creative versions for you. This can give marketers a strategic advantage over their competition, tightly aligning the components of  campaigns to deliver maximum ROI. Combining automated techniques to boost quality score with effective bid management is a potent combination with the potential to deliver results that will make you—and your search partners—smile.

The post Boost Quality Scores With These Simple Tips appeared first on Search Engine Land.

]]>
/boost-quality-scores-with-these-simple-tips-23538/feed 3