PPC Without Pity http://ppcwithoutpity.com Search Engine Marketing Strategy and Advice From a Merciless Perspective en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 On Hiatus http://ppcwithoutpity.com/on-hiatus/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/on-hiatus/#comments Tue, 29 Jan 2013 04:38:00 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1047 Continue reading ]]> 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 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/adventures-in-ppc-geotargeting/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/adventures-in-ppc-geotargeting/#comments Mon, 21 Jan 2013 16:08:57 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1043 Continue reading ]]> 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.

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Setting Goals For PPC http://ppcwithoutpity.com/setting-goals-for-ppc/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/setting-goals-for-ppc/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 14:24:42 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1040 Continue reading ]]> 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.

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Using Personas To Make PPC Ads http://ppcwithoutpity.com/using-personas-to-make-ppc-ads/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/using-personas-to-make-ppc-ads/#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2013 13:39:16 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1034 Continue reading ]]> 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.
www.YourSEMCompany.com

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.

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PPC Without Pity’s Best of 2012 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/ppc-without-pitys-best-of-2012/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/ppc-without-pitys-best-of-2012/#comments Mon, 31 Dec 2012 16:40:32 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1030 Continue reading ]]> 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!

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Happy Holidays From PPC Without Pity http://ppcwithoutpity.com/happy-holidays-from-ppc-without-pity/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/happy-holidays-from-ppc-without-pity/#comments Mon, 24 Dec 2012 17:31:55 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1028 Continue reading ]]> Howdy there, loyal readers. No new post today since I’m taking the next few days off for Christmas. But, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday. No matter which one you choose to celebrate, I hope it’s a great one.

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Looking Back On PPC Versus SEO In 2012 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/looking-back-on-ppc-versus-seo-in-2012/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/looking-back-on-ppc-versus-seo-in-2012/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2012 14:08:25 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1024 Continue reading ]]> The PPC vs. SEO debate is something that has been raging since you could start paying for placement on search results. And with search engine algorithms and paid search platforms each becoming more complex with each passing year, it’s no surprise that we’re still talking about this problem. In this post, I won’t get in to which one is superior, but I do want to talk about where I see these two marketing methods evolving in the near future.

On a personal level, I’ve had more exposure to the interrelationship between PPC and SEO in this year of my career than in any other. For most of my career I’ve been solely focused on PPC, but as the online marketing manager for BuildASign.com, I’m responsible for both sides of the search equation. And this year, it seems like there has been more turbulence in the space than ever.

Over the past two years, it’s obvious that the search engines (and Google in particular) have been pushing SEO to the wayside. They won’t go so far as to ban SEO outright – that would be ridiculous and stupid. But it’s clear that Google wants SEOs to play by their strict rules. First, it was the Panda update, which neutralized poor content. Then, they removed organic search query data from users who were signed in. Then Penguin update rounded out the trifecta of whammies that Google let out to eliminate gimmicky SEO.

Of these three changes, I think Panda and Penguin were reasonable responses to overly manipulative SEO. But I’m still kind of mad about the organic search query data. They claim that they rolled out this change to protect user privacy. But if you pay for traffic via AdWords, guess what – you get all the same data for free! Google is apparently not so protective of its users if someone else is paying for the data. Search query data is essential on both sides of organic and paid search. This data allows webmasters and advertisers to craft a better experience for their visitors by understanding exactly what it is they are looking for. Removing this data from the organic side indicates that Google is showing a strong preference for paid search over organic. Understandably so, since they make money on every click.

This year, there was another cash grab by Google that made their preference for paid even more apparent. When Google Shopping ended their years-long policy of free traffic in favor of a PPC format, I knew something was up. This shift to paid traffic priced out a lot of small retailers from the platform, as well as some much larger ones like Apple and Amazon. If you’re a small-time retailer who can’t afford the traffic, it sucks to be you. But if you can pay, then you’re still allowed to play Google’s game.

I don’t want to come down too hard on Google. They’re a business after all, and they’re in this to make money, not drive free, profitable traffic to every website out there. But these changes clearly signal a shift in the economics of search. I once thought that PPC and SEO would live comfortably side-by-side forever. But now I’m not so sure. I expect that in 2013 we’ll see further shifts in favor of paid search, and SEO will continue to be marginalized. I don’t think it will die outright, but I’m sure that the days of free, unlimited traffic are over. If you heavily rely on SEO for your site traffic, I would strongly encourage you to work on your PPC proficiency. You might need those skills sooner than you think.

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When To Pause A Keyword http://ppcwithoutpity.com/when-to-pause-a-keyword/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/when-to-pause-a-keyword/#comments Mon, 10 Dec 2012 14:46:02 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1020 Continue reading ]]> PPC keywords – they can’t all be zingers. Every seasoned PPC pro has had the experience of entering in hundreds (or thousands) of keywords that they thought were relevant, sure-to-convert winners, only to find that some of those keywords turn out to be money-hemorrhaging duds. Some times it’s pretty clear that a keyword wasn’t as relevant as you thought it was, and deserves a pause. But sometimes you see some keywords with performance just on the line between profit and loss. How can you decide whether to cut your losses on these keywords, or try to fix the situation?

Before you make the call to pause a keyword, you need to make sure you have enough data. You can base this either on time or on traffic. If you base your analysis on time, consider how long the keyword has been consistently running. New keywords, ad groups, and campaigns need to go through an approval process behind the scenes. Sometimes it can take up to a week for a new campaign element to start getting all the impression share it is eligible for. Before you judge brand new keywords, it’s best to have 2-4 weeks of stats to look at before you make the call. Also, if your keyword is related to a highly seasonal product (i.e. Christmas gifts or flowers), then you probably shouldn’t base a keyword’s performance solely on off-season stats. For example, if you are trying to judge the all-time profitability of your Valentine’s Day keywords, you probably shouldn’t be looking at August’s stats. To eliminate seasonality bias in your analysis, look at a 12-month window of keyword performance. If a keyword is driving a lot of traffic but hasn’t converted once all year, that’s a pretty good indicator that it should be paused.

But, sometimes you don’t have the luxury of doing a long-term analysis. Sometimes you gotta go on traffic. When I look at keyword viability based on traffic, I think about what my absolute rock-bottom break-even conversion rate is. One percent is a pretty good rule of thumb. If you’re converting at 1%, you’re still doing pretty crappy but you might be able to do better eventually. If your goal is a 1% conversion rate, you would need to get at least 100 clicks to know if you would be able to meet that goal. If your goal is 2% conversion, you would need at least 50 clicks, and so on and so forth. If you pause a keyword before it meets that traffic threshold, you might be pausing a keyword that will be successful in the future, but just got a bad break from the outset.

You also need to consider if the keyword’s position is a factor in poor performance. If you start a keyword with a low bid and it shows at the bottom of or off the first page of search engine results, it’s probably going to do poorly due to lack of visibility. As an experiment, you should boost the keyword’s bid to a higher position (say, position 3-4), to see if it starts converting. If you boost the bid and the keyword still sucks, it’s probably a good indicator that the keyword deserves to be paused.

With some proper keyword pruning, you can make an unprofitable account into a moneymaker in just a matter of minutes. But, if you get too aggressive with your pauses, you could hurt your future performance. Use these tips when pausing your keywords, and you’ll be sure to eliminate the losers while preserving the winners.

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Building Long-Tail PPC Ad Groups http://ppcwithoutpity.com/building-long-tail-ppc-ad-groups/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/building-long-tail-ppc-ad-groups/#comments Mon, 03 Dec 2012 13:32:09 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1016 Continue reading ]]> You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about traffic on the “long tail.” For the uninitiated, this is merely a description of the traffic that occurs on a wide variety of uncommonly used keywords. Think of obscure queries like “find a ppc freelancer in austin texas.” These kinds of queries are likely to only be used by someone once or twice a year (and perhaps never again). But taken in the aggregate, queries like this compose the bulk of web search traffic.

The long tail can be a valuable thing for PPC practitioners to target, but building out lists of thousands of obscure keywords isn’t exactly an easy task. For this reason, many folks just don’t bother with targeting the long tail. Fortunately, there is a simple trick that can really speed up the creation of long-tail ad groups.

That simple trick is the magic of concatenation. Concatenation takes elements from different keyword “buckets,” and combines them in different orders to create a longer search query. For example, if you concatenate the phrases “freelance,” “ppc” and “austin,” you could generate the phrases “freelance ppc austin,” “austin freelance ppc,” and “ppc freelance austin.”

You can do concatenation in Excel via the Concatenate function. Just enter the keywords you want to combine in different cells, then create a =CONCATENATE formula in a new cell to combine the keywords. With a little creativity, you can create a spreadsheet that will generate all sorts of combinations.

Alternately, you could use this handy PPC concatenation tool put together by the good folks at Found. They’ve already done all the hard formula-making for you, so all you have to do is add in the elements of the long-tail keyword phrases you want to target, select which permutations you want to make, then cut and paste the output into a new ad group in your PPC bulk editor of choice. I just used this tool last week to create a couple dozen long tail ad groups for our t-shirt site Dress United, and I was really pleased with how well it worked.

Once you have the keywords built out, don’t forget about your ads. You’ll want to have a headline or description line that specifically mentions your long-tail target in order to really get that searcher’s attention. As long as you’re using phrase or exact match, you can do dynamic keyword insertion ads. Try a headline that dynamically inserts the user’s long-tail keyword (if it will fit) and you won’t have to worry about manually choosing a relevant keyword. You can find out more about dynamic keyword insertion in AdWords here, and on Bing Ads here.

The beauty of long-tail ad group creation is that you don’t need to look up individual keyword search volume or competition before you create the ad groups. You’re going to have lots of hits and misses, so it’s best to just cover all the possible permutations of a relevant keyword phrase to make sure that you’re covering every possible search query for that subject. The great thing about long-tail keywords is that even though they individually don’t get much traffic, they are very likely to convert due to the specificity of the query. If someone types in “buy custom marching band tee shirts” and you have an ad pop up saying that sell custom marching band tee shirts, you’re much more likely to close that sale instead of someone who is relying on broader queries and more generic ad text. Sure, you’ll probably only get one click a year, but if that click costs you pennies due to the lack of competition on that specific keyword, and it leads to one conversion (100% conversion rate!), that’s going to do some really nice things to your cost per conversion.

But, long-tail only works if you do a lot of it. “A lot” as in “thousands of keywords.” Use concatenation tools to speed up the creation process, and you’ll be one step ahead of your lazy competition.

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Bidding Strategies For The Holiday Season http://ppcwithoutpity.com/bidding-strategies-for-the-holiday-season/ http://ppcwithoutpity.com/bidding-strategies-for-the-holiday-season/#comments Mon, 26 Nov 2012 13:28:59 +0000 http://ppcwithoutpity.com/?p=1013 Continue reading ]]> Well folks, it’s that time of the year again. Time for those of us in B2C industries to focus on the influx of holiday consumer spending, and time for those of us in less consumer-focused industries to ride the seasonal slowdown. This post is for the B2C holiday rush folks. Let’s talk about what’s going on with your keyword bids right now.

For most of the year, you probably have a set keyword bidding strategy. Maybe you’re going toward a profitable CPA. Maybe it’s lifetime value you’re after. Or perhaps you’re just trying to dominate the traffic in your space. All those are just fine for about 11 months out of the year. But if you sell any kind of product that gets a lot of sales around the holidays, the usual bid rules go out the window.

Since consumers are more likely to make a purchase this time of year, your conversion rate is probably going to go up. This means that your conversion rate might increase – doubling or tripling the normal rate is not unheard of. Most of us take this boost for granted, and just ride the seasonal wave. But what if I told you that you could do some simple changes to increase your holiday results even more?

That’s right, friends. Even greater holiday growth is within your grasp. You see, if your conversion rate is going up and your traffic cost is remaining constant, that means that your CPA will go down. You can either take that lowered CPA and the modest growth it offers, or pump those profits back into your PPC spend. With a better conversion rate, you can afford some more expensive traffic and still keep those CPAs where they were all year.

But, you can’t just pump up those bids without any strategy. Take a look at your value per click (revenue divided by # of clicks) each bid adjustment period, and only increase bids on profitable keywords. Look at the spread between the value delivered per click and what you actually paid per click. If you’re making a healthy profit, you can afford a higher bid and additional traffic. There will be a certain point where a CPC bid is not viable, but you might be surprised by a few keywords that don’t make much of a profit during the rest of the year, but that become big winners in the holiday season.

An added bonus to this strategy is that not only will you (hopefully) increase your revenue over the holiday, but that additional traffic due to higher bids will result in a larger number of individual customers. You can then re-market to those new customers via your email marketing or social media campaigns. Revenue doesn’t end with PPC! Cultivate the relationship you have with your customers and they will continue to give you money after that first transaction.

If you want to roll this out, there’s no time to waste! Get started on analyzing your keywords today, and check back on your increased bids once a week until you reach your Christmas shipping deadlines.

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