On Hiatus

Just a quick update this week. I’ve decided to put this blog on a temporary hiatus. I’ve had a good run, but I’m finding that work obligations are keeping me from devoting the proper amount of time to quality posts. I may still update periodically, but I’m officially off the weekly schedule. Subscribe to my RSS feed, or follow me on Twitter for future updates.

Thanks for everyone who read and supported my blog throughout these years. Stay tuned.

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Adventures In PPC Geotargeting

I’m two weeks in to a new job, and due to the nature of our business I’m having to dust off my geotargeting skills. At my last gig we were a national e-commerce retailer, so geotargeting didn’t matter so much. But now, I have to adjust my strategy based on individual metro areas. You might have a business that has the same problem. If so, it helps to have a basic understanding of how PPC geotargeting works.

First, the basics. PPC geotargeting in AdWords and Bing works one of two ways:

1. By reading the IP address of the searcher and determining their location that way.
2. By analyzing the content of their search query and determining if they are using geographic terms.

You can alter your campaign settings to include or exclude user location and/or user geographic intent to tailor your geotargeting experience to your specific needs. But, you should understand that either option leaves room for subtlety (and mistakes).

Just because your IP address is located in a specific city doesn’t mean that you are. Perhaps a user lives in a remote area and has to rely on an ISP several miles away. You might not get the targeting experience you were hoping for as a result. Even as an urban sophisticate living in Austin, Texas, I can occasionally see evidence that Google thinks I’m located in a nearby suburb due to my IP address. This could really throw off any local advertisers that are trying to reach me.

User intent is another hurdle to overcome in wonky geotargeting. If someone is searching for “Austin dry cleaners,” they might be located in either Texas or Minnesota. Sure, the search engines are probably looking at IP addresses as a fallback, but you never know.

So is geotargeting a worthwhile strategy despite its flaws? Absolutely. But, you should still take into consideration its limitations before you invest serious time and money into using it. You should also think about which locations you want to exclude as well as include. Cutting out unprofitable traffic can sometimes be more effective than maximizing the profit on existing traffic. Additionally, you should be sure that you’re reaching out to a large enough geographic area to get adequate traffic for statistical significance. It may seem like a good idea at first to do some hyper-local targeting by city or zip code. But you might find that after months of running your account, you have only a handful of clicks to analyze for data. In cases like this, it’s often better to lump together large geographic areas just for the sake of getting traffic. You’re going to lose some potential performance because you’re not creating the perfect user experience for each individual user, but having a larger reach will help you identify trends to capitalize on. These visible trends will probably give you better insight for optimization that should offset any losses you made by not hyper-targeting certain users.

And lastly, don’t forget about your keywords and ads. These can also be tailored to the local experience. Make sure your campaign/ad group content agrees with your geotargeting settings, and you’ll be on the right track for geographic success.

Posted in Bing, Google AdWords, PPC Basics, Search Engines | Comments Off

Setting Goals For PPC

Whether you’ve worked in-house or at an agency, you’ve been there. You have been tasked with creating a new PPC account or campaign, and you’ve been given some lofty goals by the main stakeholders of the project. And many times, those goals are a little too optimistic for what can reasonably be achieved within budget, time, or traffic constraints. So it’s up to you as the PPC expert to help set more realistic goals for what can be accomplished. Fortunately for you, I’ve been through this process more times than I’d care to admit. Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

First, I like to start with a traffic estimation. You can get some decent numbers from the Google Keyword Tool, but I wouldn’t rely on it for total accuracy. To do your estimation, choose 10-15 of the most relevant keywords you can think of for your new category and run them in the tool. Remember to use local exact match numbers to get the best estimation. Using global numbers isn’t relevant if you’re only targeting one country, and broad and phrase match estimates include too much irrelevant traffic to be really useful for an accurate estimation. When you get a new list of keywords from the tool, choose the top 10-15 most relevant keywords with the highest traffic volume (which may or may not be the same list of keywords you started with). These keywords will be a representative index of how much traffic you can expect. If your boss wants to reach a million unique users per month with the new campaign, but your total index traffic volume is only 10,000 impressions per month, you can use this data to convince your boss to revise his expectations. A lot of ambitious plans get derailed at this stage. If there’s not enough search volume for your keywords, you simply cannot get enough clicks and visitors to make enough money to meet your ambitious goals.

But let’s say that your traffic numbers work out. Next, you’ll have to figure out what your costs will be. On your Google Keyword Tool report, make sure you have the “Approximate CPC” column selected. Using this and your search volume, you can create an estimate of how much your traffic will cost.

First, you’ll need to estimate your total monthly clicks. This will vary by your average CTR, which in turn will be affected by your ads and industry. I like to use 2% CTR as a ballpark estimate for most new accounts. So you start with your total monthly search volume for a keyword (assuming you capture 100% of that search volume), take 2% of that, then multiply that number by the average CPC to get your estimated monthly keyword cost. Here’s an example for a keyword with 1000 monthly searches and a $2.00 average CPC:

1000 monthly searches x 2% = 20 clicks
20 clicks x $2.00 = $40 PPC cost/month

You may find that your vertical is far too competitive to work within your budget constraints. This is another stage where plans get derailed.

If your goals check out on both the traffic and cost side, the final thing to consider is your time. If a new campaign is going to take you 40 hours a week to build out and manage (while you still have other things to do), then it just might not be feasible even if the traffic and cost numbers work out. You should also consider the revenue upside vs. time investment. It might seem like a good idea to branch out into third party PPC offerings, but if it’s going to take you 5 hours a week to manage and your search volume calculations indicate there’s only about $50/mo in revenue at stake, then you’re probably better off using that time elsewhere. Don’t forget to consider time when planning a new campaign, or you might find yourself committed to something that’s just not worth it.

Posted in Google AdWords, Keywords, PPC Basics | Comments Off

Using Personas To Make PPC Ads

Creating a great PPC ad is hard work. You have to write an appealing, effective value proposition while explaining what your company is (and why you’re better than every other company in your space), all within a few limited characters. It can be tough to even know where to start. Fortunately, there’s an effective mental shortcut you can use to narrow down what you want to say in your PPC ads. Just use a persona.

For the uninitiated, a persona is a technique (usually used in user experience tasks) where you define a target user. Personas usually involve creating a name, photo, and short background of a fictional person who represents an ideal customer or user.

An example persona might look something like this:

Sally Strong

Persona of a business woman

Sally is a 60 year old entrepreneur. She owns and runs her own small business, an antiques store in Fredericksburg, Texas. She has recently created a website for her business, and wants to make it more visible online so that tourists will visit her store. She does not consider herself “tech savvy,” but respects those who are. She is willing to pay a fair price for a qualified individual, but is skeptical of many vendors online after seeing other entrepreneurs get ripped off by inexperienced or incompetent webmasters.

Let’s say that you run an online marketing firm specializing in small businesses, and you acquire customers through PPC. Sally sounds like a pretty ideal customer, right? Let’s think about her persona and use it to write a text ad that would appeal to Sally. Here’s what we know:

– she likely needs SEO/PPC services, but might not know what those acronyms mean
– she values experience and competence over a rock-bottom price
– she’s scared of getting ripped off by someone who is inexperienced

If you created a text ad for your firm targeted to a general audience, you might have already used some techniques that would not appeal to Sally. Things like acronyms in the ads, and favoring a price-focused value proposition instead of an experience-based one. Let’s create an ad just for Sally:

Get Your Website Found
Our experienced team of web
experts can help. Call today.

See what I did there? No mention of SEO or PPC. I just addressed Sally’s problem directly (her website can’t be found) in terms that she would understand. I also focused the ad on an experienced team, something that would reassure Sally that her website was in good hands. I also included a call-to-action of “call today” since she’s likely to not want to communicate online due to her non-tech nature.

This is just a really basic example. Each company will have a different target persona, and you often have multiple personas that could fit your target audience. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it’s a method of thinking that helps you focus your text ad writing efforts.

As in all things text ad, remember to test. Use personas to create targeted ads, then test them against each other. You may find that your first pass at an ad is not very good, or that your assumptions were wrong when you created the persona. By testing, you can reveal truths about your audience that you didn’t know about. Personas and ads are a two-way street. Use your personas to influence your ad creation, and use your ad data to inform your persona creation.

Posted in Image Ads, Text Ads | Comments Off

PPC Without Pity’s Best of 2012

Well, it has certainly been a great year for me, and by extension, PPC Without Pity. The beginning of last year marked a major jump for me in my career as I moved into a management role at BuildASign.com, and the year finished with another big move for me, as I just accepted a position as the Director of Online Marketing for Calfinder. It’s another big move up for me, and a testament to the crazy amount of growth that our industry is experiencing right now. In between these two milestones, I got the opportunity to speak at Hero Conf, SMX East, and Pubcon, and got to meet a lot of experts in the PPC game that I previously only knew from blogs. 2012 has been a great year for me personally, and this blog has really helped open some doors for me. So thanks to all of you readers out there that make doing this worthwhile.

In celebration of the end of this fantastic year, I’ve collected my top 5 posts of 2012 by traffic volume. Check them out if you missed them the first time, or if you’d just like to get a refresher.

1. PPC Software Review: Raven Internet Marketing Tools

When I wrote this post back in January, Raven had a full suite of awesome PPC and SEO tools. Unfortunately, in December they’ve had to pull back on some of their SEO offerings due to Google API issues. Their PPC tools are still top-notch, though, and I’m interested to see what they put together in 2013.

2. Omniture SiteCatalyst Versus Google Analytics

PPC tool reviews seem to be pretty popular posts around here. In this post, I go over my experiences with both analytic platforms and explain the pros and cons of each.

3. Is PPC Certification Worth It?

Short answer: yes. PPC certification helped me land early jobs that were critical in growing my career. I’ve certainly encouraged a lot of people to pursue their certifications this year, both on the blog and in my offline life.

4. Finding Profitable Keywords From SEO Data

As the online marketing manager for BuildASign, I had to tackle a lot of problems that involved looking at the interaction between PPC and SEO. In this post, I share some of my thoughts on how to discover profitable PPC keyword targets using your organic search keyword data.

5. Facebook Ads Vs. Sponsored Stories Vs. Promoted Posts

This year, I finally got a chance to take a deep dive into Facebook advertising. And with all of the intense scrutiny on the effectiveness of Facebook ads following their IPO, I think this post sharing my experiences was well received.

That’s all for 2012, folks. Thanks for sticking around with me for another year, and here’s to an outstanding 2013!

Posted in Analytics, Facebook, Google AdWords, PPC Software Reviews, Search Engines, SEO | Comments Off