Top 10 Myths about Pay Per Click Marketing

This article is contributed by Pat Walton.

PPC marketing is the absolute market leader when it comes to online advertising. The largest and most powerful of the search engines, Google Inc. alone pulls in over $10 billion per year in revenue from their pay per click advertising platform Adwords. With such revenue streams it’s obvious that PPC is very popular and well used amongst many market segments. Continue reading

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Keyword Research: Using Google Adwords

This article is contributed by Mariana Ashley

In any search engine optimization (SEO) guide, they will tell you to do keyword research, using Google Adwords. Most guides won’t give you any more detail than that. “Just type in your keywords and Adwords will give you keywords,” or something to that extent, is the general gist. In actuality, keyword research is much more complicated and requires a complete understanding of the function of your site as well as your potential readership. There are a variety of steps that go into keyword research.

Continue reading

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The Google Local Business Center

If you have not heard of the Google Local Business Center and most of your customers come from your local region, then you now have a high priority task today.  When prospects search for suppliers, Google will often now attempt to give them a list of local suppliers.  That’s particularly true if the searcher is using google.com and it is presumably only a short time before it applies to other Google searches like those done with Google.ca.

It works for all the common products and services where you might be looking for a local supplier.  You will usually find a block of ten local suppliers that is listed at the fourth position in the Google keyword search results for the particular product or service.  To an extent it may mean less business for Google as fewer people then click on the Sponsored Link (Adwords) advertisements at the top and down the right-hand side through which Google makes its money.

If you were previously relying on your natural occurrence in the Google search results (what is often called the organic search results), then your entry is pushed even farther down the page unless you can guarantee to be in the top three.  Perhaps that is the lever that will push many local businesses to buy sponsored link AdWords ads in order to appear on the initial screen (above the fold).

Google has now added a Local Business Center User Guide, and it includes a short video introduction to the service.

Mike Blumenthal is a keen watcher of the Google Local Search scene and he offers the following assessment of the  Local Business Center User Guide.

The Guide is a step in the right direction, is well organized and provides additional useful information. That being said, Google needs to “step it up” to bring the LBC into the realm of usable by the small business person it is intended to serve.

It is true that there is a degree of confusion here and for Google it clearly is a work in progress.  If you need any help in ensuring you are visible to your local customers then please contact SMM.

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Google Search Suggest May Be Win/Win/Lose/Lose

Google Search Suggest is a new assist that many keyword searchers are now seeing when they do Google searches.  If you have questions, then there is even a FAQ page that will answer most of them.  Here is how Google Suggest is described:

What is Google Suggest?
As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google’s "Did you mean?" feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type "bass," Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include "bass fishing" or "bass guitar." Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like "prog," Google Suggest might offer you refinements like "programming," "programming languages," "progesterone," or "progressive." You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse.

One interesting feature of Google Suggest is that items appear with a green number next to them representing the approximate number of results that would return for the suggested query.  So if you like what the rest of the crowd was looking for when they typed your phrase, then you can select one of these popular choices.

The selection shown is clearly determined by some algorithm.  Sometimes the choices shown are not at all obvious.  For example in searching for my user name, bwelford, after typing ‘bwel’ I got the following results:

google search suggest

In this case, the algorithm seems to be assuming that this is a typo.  The choices offered are reasonable, but the order they are presented seems to have no logic.  It is not in order of the number of searches done with that expression.  Does the algorithm throw in a random ordering to spread keyword choices among the possible contenders?  That is a mystery for the moment.

As with any change, there are winners and losers.  One clear winner would seem to be the searcher.  If and only if they choose to do so, they can more quickly get to the item they had in mind provided it is on the list. 

An even bigger winner is probably Google itself.  This mechanism is likely to funnel visitors towards a more restricted set of choices of keyword search pages.  Given that such search pages have Adword ads on them, this funneling could well mean that AdWords advertisers are automatically competing on more restricted options.  This could therefore mean higher Pay Per Click revenues to Google.  If this theory is correct, this could have a significant improvement for Google’s bottom line.

… and who are the losers?  If Google is making more money on AdWords, then this means that AdWords advertisers are losers here.  They must pay out more for each click on these more visited web pages, given that they are now competing with more AdWords advertisers wishing to appear for these more attractive keyword phrases.

The other losers may well be owners of web pages that have always ranked well for long tail searches. As others have suggested, Google Suggest may well influence the traffic coming to any given web page.  This funneling of searchers’ choices might sound like a small change but it can have a big effect on traffic.  If most of that traffic was coming through a long-tail search, where someone typed in a fairly long phrase, they may now cease to do that.  Such a searcher may choose the closest concept among the items presented.  Unless the searcher is persistent and insists on typing out their long-tail search query, they will now never come to that particular web page.

Since the winners for this move vastly outnumber the losers, and Google is among the winners, it seems unlikely that this added feature will disappear. We must all learn to live with it.  Search Engine Optimization was already proving to be a challenge with other Google changes and Google Suggest now raises the stakes considerably.

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Knols, Knols, Decisions, Decisions

.. or as Tiffany Monhollon so deftly put it in the words of the bard, To Knol or Not to Knol? Her post is well worth reading since it summarizes much of the present decision problem many of us are facing:

That is the question of the day, isn’t it? With so much talk about whether or not this new service is the Wikipedia-killer or a threat to Squidoo, thought-leaders (and potential experts) everywhere have to be turning that question over in their minds.

The problem is, Knol is such a new tool, even though Google’s done an admirable job trying to define how the process works and what a good product looks like, no one really knows what to do with it yet, much less what to think of it. That’s because what will really define Knol is user involvement. And you better believe Google knows that.

In a world where content is king, Google’s new service simply can’t survive much less become a threat to anything without thoughtful participation from a crowd of established experts. The reason for this is simple: That’s the added value Knol supposedly brings to users – expertise.

knol

write a knol

If you take what Google is saying at face value, that is certainly a fair assessment. However I believe the reality is very much simpler. Knol will never be a place to go to check out information. Google has now already in the Beta phase created a mountain of lucrative web pages that will bring appreciable Adword revenues as these web pages turn up in keyword searches.

If you are surprised by that just check out some of the topics in the Plain old bag o’ knols section of the Knol home page.

Multiple Myeloma, Normal Pregnancy, Interstitial Lung Disease and Pulmonary Fibrosis, Conjunctivitis, Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Diverticulitis, Libido Problems in Women, Seasonal Allergies, Liposuction, Hypothyroidism, Anxiety Disorders, An Overview of Rectal Surgery, Osteoarthritis, Basal Cell Carcinoma, AIDS, Family Planning with Hormonal Contraception, Urticaria, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Patient Safety, High Risk Pregnancy, Hemorrhoids, Decreased Hearing, Specific Information about the Four Major Leukemias, HDL-Cholesterol, Dyslexia, Croup, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Central Sleep Apnea, Malaria, Female Sexual Function and Dysfunction, The Quality of Healthcare, Hematuria, Tinea Versicolor (Pityriasis Versicolor), Prostate Cancer, Menopause – What Is It?, Perioral Dermatitis (Periorificial Dermatitis), Common Cold, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Acute Renal Failure, Nasal Polyps

Since these topics are on the Knol homepage, which is now receiving an incredible number of links from everyone trying to understand the Knol, it is quite clear that these Knol pages will naturally dominate the keyword query search pages. Although some question whether Google will wish to continue with Knols, they will probably find it too attractive in revenue terms to kill off.

For others of us dealing with topics which are less ad-rich, Knol presents a real dilemma. Will Knol become the place to be seen? That will be true only if regular Knol pages turn out to have natural high rankings in keyword query searches. Although a Knol page gives only minor returns to its author, if you are number one in a marketplace, can you afford to let your competitor be the one who writes the important Knol page in your field.

On present indications, you probably can let the competitor do the work. It seems quite clear that Google cannot give an unnatural advantage to its Knol pages in its search algorithms. If it did, the distinction between its natural listings and its paid advertising would become very fuzzy. That would be something that many would certainly encourage the FTC to check out with vigor.

.. and of course if the competitor does write a knol that seems to be gaining traction, your choice is clear. Just go out and write a better Knol on the same subject. If yours gets better reviews then presumably like cream it will float to the top.

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Google Cannot Do All Internet Advertising

Last week saw the launch of Google’s Knol, a sort of Wikipedia With Ads. This is a major event, which will impact most Internet stakeholders in very significant ways. It had been running in a Beta version since December 2007 but now is open to all.

There were many at its start who questioned the wisdom of such an online property. Richard Ball set out the counter arguments well in his post, Google Knol Signals the Apogee of Google’s Hegemony. Nevertheless Google has pressed ahead and we must all learn to live with the consequences. There are many weighty questions to consider such as that posed by Darren Rowse. Is Google’s Knol A Wikipedia Killer or a Blog Killer?. The implications for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are even more unclear.

The only ones who are clearly advantaged are the advertisers with more advertising vehicles to consider. Google’s competitors will clearly not take this lying down. Many new opportunities will likely arise other than Adwords. For example Performancing is putting an extra push behind its Targeted Blog Advertising.

PerformancingAds

We are certainly living through interesting times.

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Business Strategy Reality Check With Google Adwords Keyword Tool

Some might find the title somewhat oxymoronic, given that the words Business Strategy are coupled with the notion of a Keyword Tool. However the linkage will become clear later.

Recently Trevor Claiborne of the Inside AdWords crew at Google informed us all that the Keyword Tool is now Updated With Search Volume Data. He illustrated this with the image shown below:

Adwords Keyword Tool

If you are not familiar with the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, it would be worth your while to check out. This latest change provides for free what many expensive keyword tracking services had been providing. It’s no surprise that AdWords professionals, such as Xurxo Vidal, Bloom Search Services, are enamored by this new Search Volume Data service.

As Tamar Weinberg of Search Engine Roundtable pointed out, some other experts are questioning its usefulness. Michael VanDeMar believes that the tool is useless for SEO, even though it shows exact numbers. Certainly the source of the numbers needs to be considered carefully. It may not provide an exact indication of the clicks your own particular AdWords campaign might produce. However for comparative purposes the figures would seem to be useful and clearly Google itself is the best source for Google click data.

The other advantage of the data is that you can download the figures into an Excel spreadsheet. Previously for all results, an indication of the search volume was presented as small histogram bars and only a rough visual comparison was possible. These quantitative results allow more intensive analysis, which is why it can provide a reality check for your business strategy. To explain this requires a short background review of Internet marketing.

Challenging Business Realities

An increasing number of businesses are realizing that the Internet is the primary way many prospects and clients will be communicating with them. Of course the Internet has a major weakness. That is because the Internet is a really, really crowded scene. It’s hardly surprising to hear that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet, is working on tags to help find online information.

At the same time the Internet has a major strength. That is because the Internet is a really, really crowded scene. That means that for any product or service, however specialized, there will be a very large number of prospects who are active on the Internet. Since the Internet is a superb way of communicating, which is independent of geography, this gives great opportunities in Internet marketing.

Given that the Internet has changed the way the business world functions, clearly a business strategy must make sense in this modern reality. As Michael Porter has said,”Of course strategy is hard – it’s about making tough choices.” In other words you must decide what you will do and what you will not do.

The best reality check for your business strategy would really be provided by the views of those prospects you are aiming to persuade to become customers. One indicator of the prospects needs is how they go looking for solutions. What keywords might they use in searching for solutions? The Adwords Keyword Tool provides such data. Of course it is mixed in with keyword data for non-prospects who happened to be looking for somewhat related products or information. Nevertheless the Tool can help in confirming or rejecting a particular strategy.

Doing The Reality Check

The following is very much a Big Picture approach and cannot be pushed to the nth degree. It only confirms that a particular strategy has the necessary characteristics to allow success. It does not go beyond that to check that it has sufficient characteristics to actually be successful. However by applying the check, it may give insights into how a strategy can be tuned to improve the chances of success.

Step 1 – Determine the characteristics of your most typical preferred prospect and their needs.

Step 2 – Determine the most likely keyword phrase that would be included in a Google search for a solution

Step 3 – Use the Keyword Tool on that phrase in the following way. Insert the words of the phrase on a single line without quotes and allow synonyms to be included. What the Tool does is to explore the concept that is behind that keyword phrase and show you what closely related keyword searches are being done.

Step 4 – Download CSV files of the two lists of keywords developed by the Tool into Excel spreadsheets. The data should be combined into one spreadsheet of adjacent rows. Sort the rows based on the values in the 4th column in descending order. The fourth column contains the annual monthly average searches for the particular keyword or keyword phrase. Sometimes you will find a large number of closely similar keyword phrases that have high search rates measured in the tens of thousands. This may either mean trouble or opportunity. In other cases, very many fewer keyword phrases are listed. Provided the search rates are measured in the thousands, then you likely are looking at a potentially interesting strategic niche.

Step 5 – After comparing a number of different businesses and the key words that might be appropriate, one can develop a sense of what this analysis suggests for the corresponding strategy.

Step 6(optional in some cases) Repeat the analysis with the keyword phrase in quotes to produce a tighter comparison of what may be competition.

Possible Outcomes From The Reality Check

This approach is very much a work in progress. Accordingly it is not yet possible to produce a taxonomy of all the different patterns and what they may imply for a given strategy. The following represent examples of what we have seen in practice. Repeating the cycle and refining the ideas is often beneficial. Readers who try out this approach are encouraged to add their own experiences in the comments.

Case A – A Strategy Lost In The General Noise
Findings
– The words with high search numbers clearly represented much more than just searches by the prospect niche. Clearly there would be many other online properties that such searches were accessing. A website focused on the keyword phrase would probably never stand out in this very crowded space.

Case B – Too Much Competition
Findings
- There is only minimal information on the advertising competition for certain phrases (a scale from 0 to 100%). Nevertheless, if many of the keyword phrases have 100% competition, then clearly this is a market with a large number of competitors who are willing to spend money on PPC advertising. This undoubtedly translates into equal competition in organic search as well. Using that keyword phrase to define your target prospect may well be very weak strategy.

Case C – Prospects Don’t Use That Keyword Phrase
Findings
– One analysis showed that surprisingly there were no searches at all for the assumed best keyword phrase. Prospects were likely using some synonyms that did have high search results. The strategy was refined using one of these alternate phrases.

Case D – Several Keyword Phrases All Somewhat Strong
Findings
– In this case, a number of alternate keyword phrases had somewhat comparable search rates. The advertising competition for some of these was strong whereas for others there was little competition. One of the alternates with little competition was selected to define the ideal prospect and therefore the best approach.

A Robust Strategy – Focus, Focus, Focus

The common thread that often runs through these strategy check cases is that to focus on a tightly defined niche is often the best policy. The overall measure that counts is the size of the niche multiplied by the small percentage who will convert into purchasers. The advantage here is that by targeting a tighter niche, it is more likely that the prospect will be aware of the company and more likely that they will find that what the company offers is attractive. Given the crowded Internet, even what might be thought of as a micro-niche can be preferred. This will be more fully explored in an upcoming SMM Newsletter.

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Google Alienates More Of Its Stakeholders

 
It’s Not Easy Being Google

The Google share price is over $740 today, so certainly the stock market is not unhappy with Google. However more and more of the people involved with Google in one way or another are writing about their dissatisfactions.

Andy Beard was concerned about the Google initiative to develop an Open Social platform for social media web developers. This is to compete with the enormously successful Facebook. However the concepts are not owned by Google. Beard felt that this was a Google Reputation Management Disaster.

In parallel with this, Adwords advertisers were complaining that the rules were being modified so as to bump up Google’s advertising revenues in the third quarter. Mike Churchill has a good explanation of this in Expanded Broad Match and The Google 1-2 Punch

Why does Google refuse to allow opt out for “expanded broad match”? The original explanation I received for implementation of “expanded broad match” was to enhance the AdWords user’s experience and provide them a better variety of related ads. Started out innocent enough, but as Google went public and had to answer to the ridiculous quarterly financial demands put on public companies by “Wall street” they probably realized that killing “expanded broad match” would have a severely negative impact on AdWords revenue. Furthermore, with continued “Wall street” pressure following Google’s first time “missed quarter” Google probably sees this:

(My Opinion Only and I will remove it if Google will allow us to opt out of “expanded broad match”.)

Not only can they NOT AFFORD to allow opting out of “expanded broad match” – by just loosening the knob they can instantly and dramatically pump revenue up in seconds.

Another commentator, Robert X. Cringely, believes that all these instances show that Google is becoming The Next Microsoft. He feels that some of the problems are created by the sheer size of the organization with little serious direct competition.

So Google says it will do the right thing and maybe even intends to do the right thing, but failures in its IT systems effectively keep it from doing the right thing, which brings us back to Microsoft, which has long been the poster child for inability to follow through because of IT failings.

It’s not that Google learned this behavior from Microsoft. It may just be an inevitable part of having an IT monopoly.

Related: Is Google Now The Big Ugly?

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Maximum Bangs From Your Adwords Bucks

Google wants your Adwords ads to succeed

For Google, Adwords is their big revenue generator. So not surprisingly they work hard to make it successful for Adwords publishers. They provide a wealth of information, some of which can be found at the Google Adwords Learning Center.

The better the quality of Adwords ads, the more readers will appreciate them. In turn this will improve the readership of ads, which is of benefit to Adwords publishers. This continuing improvement spiral is win/win for all. It was for this reason that last year Google introduced the quality index for Adwords ads. This considers both the ad itself and the landing page from it.

The latest innovation is to give advertisers reports on their Impression Share. The Inside Adwords blog gives more information on this:

“Share of voice” is a metric often used in the advertising industry to represent the relative portion of ad inventory available to a single advertiser within a defined market over a specified time period. Impression Share, a new AdWords metric, is similar to share of voice — it represents the percentage of times your ads were actually shown in relation to the total number of chances your ads could have been shown, based on your keyword and campaign settings.

Not every advertiser’s goal is to appear each time his or her ads have the opportunity to show; however, Impression Share is a convenient way to assess shifts in the competitive landscape as well as ways to diagnose where you’re losing Impression Share.

In total, the support available to advertisers is impressive. When coupled with the ability to measure conversions using Google Analytics, the ability to assess performance is beyond that available in any other medium.

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