2016 Reader Poll

I can’t believe it’s already that time again – time for the 4th annual Beyond the Paid reader poll! I love hearing from my readers – in blog comments, on Twitter, and in person – and the annual reader poll is always interesting. Let me know what you’d like me to write about next year!

While you’re at it, let me know what 2016 post was your favorite. That helps me know what kind of posts to write in the future.

 

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Where Bing Ads Are Beating Google

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post called Where Facebook Ads Are Beating Google. The key area where Facebook is beating Google is in goal identification, right at the start of campaign setup. Bing Ads are beating Google in this way, as well, with their new campaign setup flow:
bing-goal-identification
Like Facebook, Bing is asking advertisers to state their goal right out of the gate. Advertisers are forced to think, before inputting any other information, about what their goal is and their reason for using Bing Ads.

Savvy search engines have finally caught on to what matters, and it isn’t their bottom line. Sure, their bottom line is important – but only if they have advertisers using them. Google may not care, since they’re the big dog on the block right now – but their reign may not last forever. Look at Yahoo. 15 years ago, Yahoo was the most-visited site on the web. They had Overture placing ads in their SERPs. Overture existed before Google Adwords, and was the big dog for a short time.

Not that either Bing or Facebook is going to overtake Google any time soon. But Bing Ads, and Bing/Microsoft, are beating Google in other ways.

Better results.

I’ve long said that results on Bing Ads are better than Google. While not true for every client, in general Bing outperforms Google, both in higher conversion rates and lower CPCs. At Bing Ads Next last week, Rik van der Kooi, Microsoft’s global head of search advertising, said that Bing’s users are better-educated and have higher household incomes than Google’s. And Bing’s market share is at 30% – and has been steadily growing since the launch of the Bing search engine in 2009. Bing can no longer be ignored, at least by advertisers who want to succeed.

Case in point: We landed a new client earlier this year who had been using Google exclusively. We finally convinced them to test Bing, as well. Cost per conversion on Bing was ¼ that of Google. The client was pleasantly shocked. Again, this doesn’t happen for every advertiser, but it didn’t take long to prove to this client that Bing was worth investing in.

Better human interest content on Bing.

We just had a Presidential election here in the US. (No political comments, please!) I enjoyed following the various races on Bing Predicts, which offered projections on all the offices up for grabs. While Bing got the presidential prediction wrong (just like everyone else), the interface was smooth and interesting.

Bing also covers major sports and events such as the Academy Awards, with much more engaging content than Google. Take a look at NFL predictions from Bing:

bing-nfl

Engaging, visual content; game times and predictions by week, and more. I can see at a glance that the Detroit Lions have a 75% chance to beat Jacksonville this week. (Yes, 2016 has gone upside down – the Cubs won the World Series, the Spartans are 3-7, and the Lions are in first place in the NFC Central division. What’s next?!?)

Now take a look at Google:

google-nfl

Ho hum. 10 blue links plus one photo of the Packers. What if you hate the Packers? You’re out of luck. Bing clearly wins with this type of content.

Virtual and mixed reality.

Now I’m not an early adopter of stuff like this. I can barely play Xbox – I leave that to my kids. But I do find virtual reality to be fascinating – and it’s definitely going to impact search in some way.

Microsoft’s Hololens is a fully self-contained computer. You don’t need to connect to your phone or PC, and there are no cables or tethers. Imagine the possibilities of a totally wireless, autonomous mixed reality device.

Now look at Google’s Daydream VR. Everyone was excited about it when it was announced a few weeks ago, but alas:

google-daydream

It only works with the Pixel. I only know one person so far who has a Pixel. Not that that won’t change – it’s a super cool phone – but really? You can’t connect this thing to any other phones or to your computer? Who’s going to buy it?

Certainly, things may change for the Daydream, but Microsoft had the forethought to design their product without such tethers, both physical and wireless, from the start.

Better browser.

All you Chrome lovers, listen up: Microsoft Edge is faster and safer than Chrome, and it uses less battery. 32% less, to be exact. And it blocks malware – something I could have used recently, as I got a virus from something on Firefox.

IE was the whipping boy of browsers – it was slow, didn’t offer extensions or features, and felt old-school. Edge is none of those things. It’s better than Chrome – beating Google yet again.

So should you abandon your Adwords campaigns in favor of Bing Ads? Beating Google is cool, but Bing Ads isn’t there yet. But ignore them at your peril.

What do you think? Is Google vulnerable here? Or will they get a clue and catch back up? Share in the comments!

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Google Still Hates B2B Advertisers

Yesterday, Google launched a new website for Adwords advertisers to help them achieve their marketing goals. “Finally,” I thought, “an answer to my pleas!” Just last week, I showed where Facebook ads are beating Google – in helping advertisers achieve their objectives. I called Google to task for focusing more on the money.

Hey, maybe they listened to me.

But as I dug deeper, my disappointment grew. There is zero content on Google’s marketing goals site covering B2B advertising.

I know Google hates B2B advertisers – I wrote about that last year. But I was hoping for one measly section on lead generation or something B2B-ish. No such luck.

I’m not the only one who’s disappointed.

tweets-1

How hard would it have been to include a lead generation section? It can’t be that Google doesn’t have something to offer – plenty of advertisers are successfully investing significant funds into lead generation ads.

tweets-2

Couldn’t agree more with Julie here – I get that sales cycles for B2b are long, and quick case studies are hard to come by. And many B2B advertisers don’t want to do case studies because they don’t want to share their “trade secrets” with competitors. But we’ve had plenty of clients who were willing to share case studies publicly. If we can find a couple willing clients, surely Google could. It seems to me like they’re not trying. Kirk Williams seems to agree with me:

tweets-3

Could Google really be that lazy and short-sighted? And if so, does it open the door for someone else to sweep in and help B2B advertisers out?

tweets-4

This is a huge opportunity for Bing to create content showing why Bing Ads is great for B2B advertisers. Like Meg said, many B2B advertisers get more bang for their buck from Bing. For one of our clients, cost per conversion on Bing is 1/4 that of Google for the same set of keywords. It’s a home run.

In the end, does it matter that Google hates B2B advertisers?

tweets-5

I see Brian’s point – giving everyone the same options leads to commoditization and same-ness in a game where it pays to be different. I still take pride in the fact that I was able to beat Amazon when I was doing in-house PPC back in the early days. Amazon was running cookie-cutter ads, even worse than the ones they run now, and we ate their lunch in our category by being different.

The problem, though, goes back to what Julie Bacchini said: Google’s leaving B2B out of the mix gives advertisers the idea that PPC won’t work for them. Just this week, I dealt with client questions around this very topic. I had pulled some information from Think with Google that was as close as I could get to B2B. The client said, “Isn’t there anything closer to our business?” I had to say no – and it caused them to question why they were doing PPC anyway, even though their PPC program is crushing every other marketing effort in terms of efficiency and lead generation.

C’mon Google – help us out here! At least pretend you have a few B2B advertisers.

What do you think? Does this latest move show that Google still hates B2B advertisers? Or is it a non-issue? Share in the comments!

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Where Facebook Ads Are Beating Google

Now and then, we see talk in the blogosphere about Facebook Ads being the next best thing in online advertising. For years, I viewed that sentiment with skepticism. How could a social network, with no search or intent, ever perform better than Google?

Well, Facebook recently launched a Shop function. And while it hasn’t taken off in a big way yet, it could. Just think about all the data Facebook has that Google doesn’t.

Here’s the kicker, though. As I was setting up a new Facebook Ads campaign this week, it hit me. Facebook makes advertising easy by focusing on advertiser goals: what do you want to accomplish?

facebook ads objectives
Just look at this. Not only are the goals stated in plain English (reach people near your business, collect leads for your business, increase conversions on your website, etc.), but Facebook has grouped the objectives along the buyer journey.

Think about that for a second.

Nearly every advertiser we work with understands at least a little about how users go about deciding to buy from them. Whether their product is an impulse buy or a long-term consideration deal, the advertiser knows where they fall.

And most of the time, the advertiser knows what they want to do, even if it’s in basic terms: “We need to increase sales.” “No one knows about us, so we need to create awareness.” “We want people to attend our event later this month.” Simple.

Not only does Facebook make it easy to choose your objective, they tailor the campaign setup experience to your objective. Different objectives have different ad options. While this may seem confusing or complex to those of us used to setting up Adwords campaigns, for a novice advertiser it’s much more intuitive. There are fewer levers to pull, but also fewer choices to try to understand.

Facebook also optimizes campaigns for your objectives. More often than not these days, I just set my Facebook Ads campaigns to optimize for my objective. Why bother dealing with bid management when you don’t need to? We get great CPCs and reach on Facebook even when we use auto-optimize.

Why is that? Well for one thing, Facebook has frequency – something Google Search doesn’t have. People don’t always search for the same thing over and over, but on Facebook, you can see the same ad multiple times, making it harder to forget. And Facebook knows who we are – which can be a huge hurdle for search, where you have the intent portion, but no idea whether the person searching falls into your target audience.

Let’s contrast the Facebook experience with Adwords. Here’s the first page in Adwords signup:

adwords-signup-1
Yikes, an email opt-in. Not the best start. Before I even know whether I want to do this or not, Google is asking for my email address. Facebook already has it, since you need an email address to sign up. It’s the same thing, but feels different to the user.

And then there’s Adwords Step 2:

adwords-signup-2

Hoo boy. Complicated language about a campaign (what’s that??), a budget (whoa), “choose a target audience,” which doesn’t look like a target audience from the mindset of a novice advertiser, and “set your bid.”

Think about this for a second. Two of the three steps have to do with money – before I even see what I’m getting or who I’m reaching, I have to tell Google how much I’m willing to spend each day and for every click – and “Adwords automatically sets your bids to help you get as many clicks as possible within your budget.” And I pay for every one of those clicks!

Can you see the difference here? Facebook focuses on the experience – they don’t ask for a budget until everything is set up, and if you choose to let them optimize, you never see a bid at all. Instead, Facebook thinks about campaigns the way advertisers do – by objective and audience.

Looking at it another way, let’s say I’m talking to a new prospect who is thinking about doing online advertising. Do I go in and immediately ask them to opt in to our agency emails, and then immediately ask them what their budget is? Or do I ask them what their goals and objectives are, and talk about their target audience? Which of these approaches is going to win me the sale?

Exactly.

Now of course I love Adwords. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them. And Adwords campaigns are some of the most effective around. We have countless options: text, image, video ads; remarketing, Google Display… the list goes on. In the hands of an experienced professional, Adwords is a beautiful thing indeed.

But to the advertiser, it’s confusing. How many hours do we all spend each week just trying to explain Adwords to clients? Yet everyone understands Facebook, because they use it every day; and because it makes marketing sense to them.

And who knows? We may see Facebook overtake Google at some point.

What do you think? Is Facebook’s approach more logical than Google’s? Will Facebook Ads continue to grow in importance, or will Google remain king? Share in the comments!

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Expanding Your PPC Account with Ad Extensions

If you have a PPC account that’s doing well, chances are you’ll want to expand it at some point. One way to give yourself a better chance for more clicks is by using ad extensions.

Ad extensions are a great way to help make your ad stand out on the search results page. Ad extensions usually help your ads get a better click-through rate, which can increase traffic and conversions.

To have ad extensions display, ads must appear in the top 1-3 positions, above the search results.

Sitelink extensions.

Sitelink extensions are additional links that display below your ad, leading to pages on your website other than your ad’s final URL. Sitelinks are commonly used to show complementary products, FAQ pages, reviews, and other pages that you wouldn’t want to use for your main landing page, but may provide additional information to help the searcher buy. In the image below, sitelinks are highlighted in red.

sitelink-extensions

Each sitelink must have a different URL from your ad’s final URL.

Callout extensions.

Callout extensions are similar to sitelinks in that they offer the opportunity to display additional text. However, callout extensions aren’t links. Instead, think of callout extensions as a way to give more information about your company. Using descriptive text such as “free shipping,” “24-hour service,” and other features that you want to share with the searcher is a good way to use callout extensions. Slogans also work well in callout extensions, especially if your slogan is well known.

Callout extensions are highlighted in red in the example below.

callout-extensions

App extensions.

If you offer a mobile app, you can drive downloads via app extensions.

app-extensions

For e-commerce advertisers who offer a shopping app, encouraging searchers to download and use your app instead of buying on your website can help make shopping easier for the user, therefore potentially increasing your sales.

Call extensions.

Many businesses depend on phone calls to drive telephone sales or foot traffic to their store. Using call extensions allows you to include your phone number as an extension next to your ad. Here’s what call extensions look like on desktop:

call-extensions

Call extensions are particularly helpful for users searching on a mobile device. These searchers often have an immediate need, so making it easy to call your business will help generate calls:

call-extensions-mobile

All the user has to do is tap the “Call” icon, and a call is placed to your business. Advertisers pay a per-click fee for each call tap, just as you would for a click to your website.

Location extensions.

Location extensions allow advertisers to include their business address, directions to their business, a phone number, and a pin on Google Maps.

location-extensions

To use location extensions, you’ll need to set up a Google My Business account and link it to your Adwords account. Once the accounts are linked, just select Location Extensions from the Extensions menu:

location-extensions-in-adwords

The default is to add all business locations to your account. Location extensions can help drive both online and in-store traffic for your business.

What’s your favorite ad extension? Do you use extensions for all your clients without fail? Share your experiences in the comments!

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PPC: Not For Kids

Yesterday there was an article published on BBC entitled Boy racks up 100,000 euro bill advertising his brass band. Unbelievable – some 12 year old kid in Spain opened an Adwords account and racked up 100,000 euro (about $111,000 in US dollars) on PPC ads.

Here’s the kicker: “he was under the impression people clicking on the adverts would earn him money.”

Oh my.

First off – parents, don’t let your 12 year olds sign up for Adwords. Monitor their internet usage, for Pete’s sake.

OK. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here is where I think this kid went wrong. Here’s the Adwords home page (and yes, I realize this is the US, English version, but I have to believe the Spanish one says the same thing.)

adwords-home-page

It seems clear to me that you’ll pay when someone clicks, but read that sentence carefully: “And only pay when they click to visit your website or call.” I can see how an uninitiated user, especially a child, could think it means “And Google only pays you when they click to visit your website.” It’s a stretch, but I can see it.

Google, in their attempt to make the Adwords barrier to entry very low, has oversimplified things. I’ve written about this before. There’s no shortage of stories about people who have wasted thousands of dollars, or more, on ill-advised Adwords ads. There’s the small business owner who didn’t keep up with his campaigns and competitors. Once upon a time, 10 or more years ago, it was possible for novices to run a fairly successful Adwords campaign. Those days are long gone, just like the days of fixing your own car are long gone. Nowadays, you need a good mechanic for your car, and a PPC professional to run your Adwords campaigns.

And yet, there’s obviously still a lot of waste in PPC. I see it every time I do an audit. Surprisingly, many people running PPC campaigns still don’t follow best practices. A simple Google search gives me an idea of the scope of the problem:

wasted-adwords

755,000 results for a long-tail search about wasting money on Adwords, and a ton of blog posts in the top 10 results. Clearly it’s not just this poor Spanish kid, who luckily got Google to credit him back (or I think his mother did – go Mom).

Does this mean no one should ever try to run their own PPC campaigns? I’d say no, but I hesitate in giving that answer. With all the complexities in PPC these days, it’s wise for small business owners or individuals to at least have a professional look at their account. It’s worth paying someone a couple hundred bucks to avoid losing thousands, in my opinion. Or, consider hiring a PPC professional to run your account. I know plenty of PPC pros who take small side jobs, or who will perform audits for a nominal fee. It’s worth it.

I also take issue with Google making it seem so easy. It shouldn’t be so simple for a 12 year old to open an account:

netmeg

I’m not sure what that something would be, and it’s probably easy to game. I know plenty of kids who signed up for Facebook well before their 13th birthday, simply by lying about their age. At least with Facebook, there’s no money at stake (although there are plenty of other things at stake, like privacy, self-esteem, cyber-bullying, and general tween-age shenanigans – but I won’t get into that here). The point is, situations like the one with the 12 year old simply shouldn’t happen. There should be some warning button that outlines the risks or at least says “Are you sure? Your credit card/bank account/whatever will be charged every time someone clicks on your ad.”

What do you think? Should Google somehow “gate” Adwords to keep the kids out? Or is it ok the way it is? Share in the comments!

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Using Competitive PPC Intelligence Effectively

Earlier this week, an interesting discussion started on the PPCChat hashtag on Twitter regarding the use of competitive PPC intelligence obtained from tools such as SEMrush, SpyFu, and iSpionage, as well as visiting competitor websites. I commented that I was doing competitor research, and wondered how many remarketing ads I’d see as a result.

A few PPCChat’ers suggested some ways to avoid being retargeted. Shashikant Kore recommended using the incognito window of Chrome. Dan Nicholson said he uses a separate Google account or user in Chrome to avoid that problem. These are great suggestions if you don’t want to be followed around by irrelevant remarketing ads.

The discussion then turned to competitor landing page reviews. Julie Bacchini asked:  “Is it one of your standard practices to visit competitor sites too to see their remarketing?” John Ellis replied, “Yes, not only visit the site, but explore different pages to get the most variety possible.”

I do this as well – at a minimum, I’ll visit competitor landing pages and take screen shots to share with our clients. Often, we get ideas from competitor landing pages – or at least we learn what not to do!

But what if you want to see what competitors are doing with remarketing? There are definitely instances where this would be helpful, especially if your clients are asking for this information.

Julie Bacchini said she subscribes to email lists of competitors and follows them on social media. I’ve done this before, or I’ll set up Google Alerts for the competitor name to see what shows up.

Steve Seeley took it a step further: “I do the same, then target Gmail users with their domain and advertise better offers.” Great idea (and very sneaky!)

We then got into a lengthy and detailed conversation about the accuracy of competitor PPC intelligence on traffic volume and spend. Timothy Jensen put the following out there:

General PSA: don’t ever rely on a competitor tool for competitor spend estimates that are anywhere close to accurate.

I agreed, saying we use the data directionally, rather than as the exact amount. For example, if the tool says your client is spending $10,000 per month and Competitor A is spending $50,000 per month, you can assume that Competitor A is outspending your client by a factor of 5 to 1.

But Kirk Williams argued that even directional data can be off the mark: “When I analyzed my clients it ranged from like -200% to +500% in accuracy.” Jason Channell countered by saying he’d tested several of the tools against campaigns where he knew the spend, and the tool was accurate within plus or minus 20%. That’s been my experience as well. I can live with a margin of +/- 20%.

So why is Kirk seeing estimates that are that far off? It could be that some competitors (or his clients) are using dayparting, geotargeting, or even device targeting that’s throwing off the tools. Remember, competitive PPC intelligence tools scrape the SERPs and estimate – they don’t actually KNOW what everyone is spending. They scrape and guess. So things like geotargeting can throw off the accuracy, or even cause the tools to report no spend at all.

If tools are really so inaccurate, should we even use them? The consensus seemed to be that yes, competitor intelligence tools still have value, especially those that show the ads and keywords competitors are using (most tools do this). As far as spend goes, Kirk Williams had a great idea: just say “tool estimates aren’t exact, but it does look like you’re on the low end of spend.” I always include a caveat in any competitor report saying the numbers are estimates only.

Finally, I loved the suggestion from Kevin Cronin: “I try to shift conversation from competitor spend to ‘is this the right channel/targeting for you? If yes, take advantage.’” I’ve written many a post on this blog about PPC strategy, and that’s what Kevin’s point gets to – what is your ultimate goal anyway? Focus on that and not your competitors. One of the great aspects of PPC is that the “little guys” can compete with advertisers with deeper pockets, simply by sticking to their own goals and finding their niche.

How do you use competitive PPC intelligence data? Do you find it to be wildly inaccurate, or is it good enough? Share in the comments!

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The Decline And Fall Of Search Engine Strategies

Earlier this week, the news broke that ClickZ Live, formerly Search Engine Strategies, was shutting down. Long-time search pros took to Twitter to share stories of how they got started in the industry speaking at SES.

tweets
As many of my readers know, I started doing search way back in 2002. It wasn’t long before I realized I had a lot to learn. So in 2003, while working in-house, I convinced the CEO of the company to send me and our IT director to Search Engine Strategies in Boston.

I was hooked. I got to hear the movers and shakers, including Andrew Goodman and Brad Geddes, speak at the conference. I met many of the people I’d been chatting with on the Search Engine Watch forums. The content was so valuable that I started attending SES annually. I even blogged about how much I loved it. SES was really the only game in town, and it was a great one.

In 2009, I had my first speaking gig at SES. It was the start of a love affair with speaking about search that continues to this day.

My last SES was in 2012 (not counting a small local show in Atlanta in 2014). I couldn’t justify attending anymore – I wasn’t learning anything, since the content had been watered down so much; and there were other conferences that were more valuable.

And then, in 2014, SES/ClickZ Live started charging people to speak at the big shows.  That was the death knell for the conference for most of us. Search pros just can’t afford to pay to speak – and why would we? Many conferences pay their speakers (although, admittedly, it’s not common in the search industry).

charging-to-speak

The whole demise of SES is sad, and yet not surprising. Search Engine Strategies as we know it died two years ago, if not sooner. Not long ago, out of curiosity, I checked the website for a recent ClickZ Live event, and I didn’t recognize a single speaker on the agenda. And the session topics weren’t interesting at all. I couldn’t imagine any search marketer worth their salt paying to attend, much less paying to speak.

It truly is the end of an era. Thankfully, there are plenty of other good search conferences out there: SMX, HeroConf, and Pubcon; plus some excellent local conferences such as SEMpdx, SLCSEM, and DFWSEM, to name a few.

What are your thoughts on the end of SES/ClickZ Live? Does anyone even care? Share in the comments!

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Ad Testing: Conversions Per Impression

Ad copy testing is one of my favorite aspects of PPC. Where else can you get so much great data about what people respond to, so quickly?

The challenge in ad copy testing isn’t so much writing the ads, it’s deciding how to pick a winner. And there are many different opinions on how ad tests should be decided. If it were up to Google, they’d pick click-through rate as the deciding metric – as evidenced by their default “optimize” option:

ad rotation
(I hope all my readers know that “optimize for clicks” is NOT the ideal setting for most advertisers!)

Others may say total conversions should decide the winner in PPC ad testing; still others may vote for conversion rate or cost per conversion.

Arguments can be made for all of these options. An argument can even be made for CTR, if traffic, and not conversions, is your goal. I’ve optimized accounts using most of these metrics. And I’ve often seen that the ad with the worst CTR has the best conversion rate. Sometimes you actually want to discourage clicks from the wrong users, so a low CTR may be a good thing.

But my favorite way to analyze ad tests is using conversions per impression.

I first learned about conversions per impression from Brad Geddes in a blog post several years ago. It’s a revolutionary concept, and one that works well especially for lead generation. (If you’re doing ecommerce and measuring ROAS, you may want to stick to ROAS as your testing measurement instead of conversions per impression, as Brad outlines in this post).

The conversions-per-impression metric often serves as the tie-breaker when one ad has a higher CTR and the other has a higher conversion rate. Here’s an example:

conversions per impression example a

This image is from AdAlysis, another great tool that Brad developed. AdAlysis highlights winning metrics that meet a certain confidence level. In this test, you can see that one ad is winning for CTR at 99% confidence, but the other metrics are less than 90%.

I added green highlighting for the metric that’s higher in each of the conversion columns. Although these aren’t winners yet, you can see that the first ad has a higher conversion rate. If you were measuring conversion rate alone, you might be tempted to pick the first ad as your winner.

But look at conversions per impression and cost per conversion. Both of these numbers are better for the second ad. If you picked the first ad based on conversion rate alone, you would have possibly picked a loser.

At a minimum, you’ll want to wait until the conversion metrics reach statistical significance, especially since impressions are pretty different between the two ads (the first ad has half the impressions of the second, even though they launched on the same date). But it looks like the second ad is in the lead here.

Here’s another example:

conversions per impression example b

This is an interesting one. These ads have nearly identical impression numbers. The first ad is winning for CTR, but the second is winning for both conversion rate and cost per conversion. You may look at this and say “well, I bet the second ad is doing a better job of weeding out unqualified visitors. I’ll pick that as my winner.”

You’d be wrong. Look at conversions per impression here. The numbers are nearly identical, but the top ad’s number is slightly higher. This ad may end up doing better because of the higher CTR.

Remember, every impression is an opportunity for a conversion, as is every click. Conversions per impression takes both CTR and conversion rate into account, and allows you to maximize conversions per opportunity. That’s why I like to use this metric, especially for lead gen where revenue doesn’t play into the equation.

If you’re not using AdAlysis, you can calculate conversions per impression manually – just divide total conversions by total impressions, and run the numbers through a statistical significance calculator. (And if you’re not using AdAlysis for ad testing, what are you waiting for? It’s inexpensive, and worth every penny.)

Whatever metric you use to determine ad tests, make sure you use best practices for picking the winning ad. Don’t guess. The stakes are too high to risk a wrong guess!

What metric or metrics do you like to use to evaluate PPC tests? Have you tried conversions per impression? Share in the comments!

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Channels Are Not Strategy

Earlier this week, TechCrunch published an article by Samuel Scott called How Google Analytics ruined marketing. It’s a lengthy but important article saying that’s because Google Analytics (and all web analytics packages, for that matter) force marketers into looking at performance by channel, instead of focusing on strategy and objectives.

In the years before web analytics, the article says, no one talked about “television marketing;” yet people today constantly talk about “Facebook marketing,” “content marketing,” and even “social media marketing.” These, the author states, are not strategies.

I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve written about strategy so many times that I created an entire section on this blog for it. And yet, on what feels like a daily basis, I hear marketers talking about “Facebook marketing” and the like as a strategy.

Here’s the thing: a strategy is a means for achieving a business goal. According to Wikipedia, “marketing strategy has the fundamental goal of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.” If you read the rest of that Wikipedia page, it reads like a college textbook on marketing. It takes me back to my undergrad and master’s degree days.

The point is, we’ve forgotten what we learned in school. Channels aren’t strategy.

Lots of marketers mistake tactics or tools for strategy. Sometimes they get stuck on a particular creative idea, and want that idea to become their “strategy.” But ideas aren’t strategy. They’re ideas, and creative is an important part of any marketing mix. But the strategy should help a business achieve goals – not be an end in itself.

The same thing goes for calling “Facebook marketing” a strategy. It’s not.

That’s not the worst of it. Even the TechCrunch author got it wrong! Here’s his example:

techcrunch strategy
This isn’t strategy either! SEO is a channel, not a strategy. Take a step back: why did the person create informational material in the first place? No one creates information material for the fun of it. They’re doing it to sell stuff! That’s the strategy, not SEO.

When decision-makers think about marketing strategy (and spending their money on any type of marketing efforts), they have questions in their mind. Back in 2014, I wrote about 7 Things About PPC Strategy Your Clients Want to Know. In the post, the first thing mentioned is campaign goals. What are we trying to accomplish? And “be on Facebook” or “get to the top of Google” aren’t goals. You can spend a bunch of money marketing on Facebook or bidding high on Google, only to find it didn’t generate a single sale. This is why channels aren’t strategy. They don’t achieve goals.

Another question in the client’s mind is “how do we know if we’ve succeeded?” Well, if your strategy is “Facebook marketing,” you’ve succeeded the second you put a post on Facebook. And if that’s true, then every crappy company who’s posting to a Facebook page is succeeding. We all know that’s absurd.

Remember, a strategy includes goals and objectives. Sure, your strategy may be to “use Facebook to reach our target audience and generate sales of blue widgets” or “engage in SEO to improve visibility of key product pages to increase sales.” But the strategy isn’t “Facebook marketing” or “SEO.” Those are tactics – means to an end.

To make sure your strategy stands up, check out my Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Strategy.

What do you think? Do you find that marketers understand strategy, or are clients coming to you saying “we want to be on Facebook”? Share in the comments!

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