Yesterday, I presented at SMX Advanced on Conversion Rates and the Laws of Diminishing Astonishment. It was a great panel, and I’m excited to share my deck with my readers. Enjoy!
Yesterday, I presented at SMX Advanced on Conversion Rates and the Laws of Diminishing Astonishment. It was a great panel, and I’m excited to share my deck with my readers. Enjoy!
In 2015, I wrote a post detailing 5 challenges for PPC lead generation. Lead generation in PPC, especially in Google, continues to be a struggle for many B2B advertisers. Here’s why the reasons outlined in my 2015 post are still true this year.
Nothing is sold.
Google loves to talk about all the great ways to sell products via AdWords. You can set up a shopping feed, which has been enhanced recently; you can use mobile ads to direct shoppers to your local store, and you can even track store visits to measure foot traffic from PPC ads.
All of this is great for ecommerce advertisers – and useless for most B2B advertisers who use PPC. Lead generation advertisers don’t sell products through a shopping cart or a brick-and-mortar storefront. These advertisers are national or even international companies who, at best, have a local sales force that calls on businesses. No one is going to buy a $1,000,000 enterprise software package through an online shopping cart with a credit card. So none of these lovely features apply to B2B.
Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.
As mentioned above, Shopping is a non-event for B2B. And in February, Google removed all the ads in the right rail, relegating them to the top and bottom of the SERPs. The only thing that appears in the right rail now is shopping ads. Lead generation advertisers can’t use shopping. So we’re locked out of that prime real estate.
Landing pages can be a challenge.
Yes, even in the 2016 world of PPC, lead generation landing pages can be a challenge. Testing landing pages is an even bigger challenge.
Lately, Google has been pushing dynamic features like dynamic search ads and dynamic sitelinks. These features are a big timesaver for ecommerce advertisers who are selling hundreds of products – I wish we’d had them when I was doing in-house ecommerce PPC!
But for lead generation advertisers, dynamic ads and extensions are a nightmare. Frequently, we have a few specific pages we want to send search visitors to, and they’re often built on a CMS like Marketo or Eloqua. The main client site usually isn’t optimized for lead gen, so we don’t want to send people there. We don’t want Google crawling the site and creating dynamic stuff out of it. So we don’t use dynamic search ads, and we opt out of dynamic sitelinks.
Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.
This is generally still true and is still a problem. It’s very difficult to mash together CRM data and initial conversion data and optimize based on it. Even phone call conversion data, if you’re using 3rd party call tracking, is hard to match up with PPC data, unless you’re using a bid management platform like Acquisio.
That said, there are a few companies out there who’ve created CRM integration with AdWords. And AdWords just launched a Salesforce import of AdWords data – one of the first innovations strictly for PPC lead generation that I can remember.
PPC tools and features are often at odds with lead generation.
A while ago, I wrote a post titled 3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers. It’s still true, and Julie Friedman Bacchini did a good job of outlining how Google ignored B2B in their recent set of announcements.
I’m thrilled with the fact that we will be able to bid separately for tablets again. Tablets perform universally badly for lead generation. And expanded text ads will be a boon to lead generation advertisers. Just this week, I struggled with describing B2B services, many of which use long words, in only 70 characters.
All that said, I’m particularly frustrated by the focus on local and mobile. I get that mobile is huge and can’t be ignored. Even our B2B clients see a lot of mobile traffic. But voice search continues to pose problems. And none of our clients have physical locations that customers can visit. People aren’t searching for “enterprise software sellers near me.” All the focus on “near me” is, frankly, annoying.
I still hold out hope that Google will finally show some love to PPC lead generation advertisers. But I’m not holding my breath.
What do you think? Will Google ever consider lead gen? Or will they continue to focus on pizza parlors? Share in the comments!
Voice search has come on strong in the past year or so. Bing Ads has been ahead of the pack on voice search, predicting a year ago that it would be big. Purna Virji of Bing Ads talked a lot about voice search in her recent Reddit AMA, as well.
I’ve definitely noticed more obvious voice queries in our clients’ search query reports lately. The much-ballyhooed “near me” searches are showing up in droves in several client accounts. We’re also seeing really long search queries, with 15-20 words not uncommon. Queries that start with “give me the number for” or “can I get the name of” or “what’s the company on First and Main” are prevalent, as well.
Voice search is obviously cool and efficient for the user. It’s so easy to say “OK Google” and start asking a question in natural language. Cars nowadays are equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to mobile phones, giving drivers the opportunity to perform voice searches without taking their eyes off the road. My teenagers almost never type a search query into their phones – they either use OK Google or Siri. It’s the stuff of Star Trek: “Computer! Identify that flying object!”
As search marketers, though, voice search is wreaking a bit of havoc. The search engines, despite their outward support of voice search, seem to have trouble handling lengthy voice queries. Our clients’ ads have shown on some highly irrelevant queries that are obviously voice searches.
The challenge is multiplied if you’re using call-only ads. Call-only ads are great in that they display a nice big “Call” button:
But when call-only ads show on irrelevant voice searches, they tend to generate unqualified phone calls – wasting client call center resources on top of wasted click costs.
Another issue is that the engine’s negative keyword functionality hasn’t kept up with voice search. Negative keywords don’t work when the negative term appears more than 10 words into a search query. So if you have “free” as a negative keyword, and someone voice-searches “what’s the name of the company on fifth and main that offers free haircuts to kids,” your ad will still show – even if you’re not offering free haircuts. This is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for our clients.
Another huge issue is close variants. Close variants have always been a problem, but with voice search, we’re seeing even bigger challenges.
Take the example of “company” vs. “companies.” In theory, search queries with either word should perform the same. A search for “business phone company” should perform the same as “business phone companies.”
The problem is, with voice search, the two are very different. Let’s look at an example.
Consider these two queries:
what’s the name of the business phone company on 5th avenue
business phone companies that can help my small business
The first query is clearly someone who is looking for a specific business. They just can’t remember its name. If you’re that business, you’re in luck. If you’re not, you’re going to get a lot of clicks and/or phone calls from people looking for a competitor! Not cool.
The second query is clearly from a user who is looking for a business phone company. If you’re that advertiser, this is exactly the prospect you want. It’s an obvious lead-generation question that should convert well.
And yet, if you’re bidding on “business phone companies,” your ad will serve for both queries, because of close variants.
I’ve become increasingly frustrated with this as time goes on. There’s no way to keep your ad from showing on irrelevant searches, and the irrelevant searches are becoming more frequent due to voice search – leading to worsening ROI from paid search.
We can only hope that the engines will reconsider their stand on close variants and give us the option to choose to include them once again. Otherwise, I can envision paid search quickly becoming too expensive with too low an ROI for many advertisers.
What do you think? Is voice search helping your PPC performance, or hurting it? Share in the comments!
In many ways, advertising makes the world go round. We help businesses sell products. We make users aware of new things that they may need or want. And we try to keep it fun and relevant while we’re doing it.
The digital age has brought a revolution of sorts to the advertising world. With digital advertising, the high costs, long lead times, and lack of results that were common in traditional media became a thing of the past. Instead of local businesses cutting expensive TV spots or buying newspaper ads, they’re now using search and display to promote their products and services.
Digital is less expensive than traditional media. It offers a nimbleness and immediacy that’s unmatched in the advertising world. It’s measurable down to minute details.
And yet, we’ve found ways to fail at digital advertising.
Like anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to advertise. Here are 3 ways we’ve failed at digital advertising.
Poor landing pages.
Landing pages aren’t advertising per se. You can have the best landing page in the world, but like the tree falling in the woods, a great landing page makes no sound if no one is there to hear (or see) it. Advertising is needed to drive visitors to your landing pages. And poor landing pages, sadly, are still common, even in 2016.
Sure, it takes more effort up front to create great landing pages. But it’s worth it in the end. You wouldn’t spend a bunch of money creating and buying TV ads, only to have people show up at your dirty, cluttered store – and you shouldn’t spend money on digital advertising until your “virtual” store is in shape.
Use landing page best practices to avoid this common digital advertising failure.
Failing to understand the mobile mindset.
There’s no doubt that mobile devices have changed our lives. What was once the stuff of Star Trek writers’ imaginations is now in the palm of each and every one of our hands. I’m sure few of us can imagine life without our mobile devices now.
Each of the past 5 years has been declared “the year of mobile,” and yet it’s taken digital advertisers far too long to catch up. I still see websites that aren’t mobile optimized, forcing PPC advertisers to shut off mobile altogether – thereby missing out on a huge chunk of potential traffic and conversions.
And the ads we’re showing on mobile are terrible. The user experience is beyond painful.
Case in point: an eConsultancy article this week that asks, Has CNN created the worst ever mobile ad experience?
It may not be the worst ever, but CNN has definitely failed at mobile digital advertising – as have a lot of other advertisers. In our greed to capture as many leads, subscriptions, and dollars as possible, we’ve forgotten that there is an actual user on the other side of the mobile phone who just wants to read your content without having to tap a tiny “X” in the top of the screen to get your crappy ads to go away.
Stop the madness.
Bombarding users with untargeted remarketing.
I still remember when I first heard about remarketing, at an SES conference about 10 years ago. I was blown away by the fact that we could actually target previous visitors of our website with specific ads that were different for each user. What a game-changer!
Remarketing has definitely changed the game for digital advertising. It’s enabled us to have the frequency advertisers enjoyed with the repetition found in traditional media like TV and radio – and the added bonus of targeting that the traditional media lack.
And yet, so many advertisers fail at remarketing by doing it wrong.
Remarketing isn’t stalking. If you’re aware that ads are following you around the web, the advertiser has failed at digital advertising.
If you’re using remarketing – and you should be – I implore you to put some effort into targeting your audiences and ads. I’m going to be speaking about remarketing at SMX Advanced in a few weeks, so if you’re coming to that great conference, I hope you’ll attend my session. Come introduce yourself!
Digital advertising is great. It’s provided me with a wonderful and fulfilling career. I hope we can stop failing at it.
What are some ways you’ve seen advertisers fail at digital advertising? Share in the comments!
Editor’s Note: eConsultancy posted a follow-up article to the CNN post on June 15, 2016. It’s an interesting read.
10 years ago this month, I tried a little experiment. Blogging about search was becoming all the rage. Industry movers and shakers were all starting up their own blogs. So I decided to set one up for myself as an experiment.
Back then, there was no WordPress. There were a few paid blog platforms (Movable Type, anyone?), but really the only free game out there was Blogger. So that’s where I started.
I came up with Beyond the Paid as a play on Jim Gaffigan’s Beyond the Pale comedy album, which had just come out. He’s hilarious, by the way – go check him out if you’ve never heard his standup. Anyway, I thought it’d be a fun name for a PPC blog. Little did I know that a few years later, I’d end up creating an LLC for myself with the same name!
I took a look back over the last 10 years’ worth of posts. Here are some momentous occasions from the past 10 years in search, or at least in my life in search.
It’s amazing to think that in 2006, I’d already been doing PPC for 4 years. Looking back on my posts from that year, you’d hardly recognize we’re talking about the same job. Topics included MSN, which exists now as Bing; click fraud, which still happens, but isn’t the big to-do it was back in 2006; and Danny Sullivan leaving Search Engine Watch. How many PPC pros today even know that Danny started SEW? This was HUGE news at the time, with everyone wondering what would happen to SES and the SEW site.
The pay per click version of Adwords had been around for 5 years in 2007, and nefarious advertisers figured out that they could make a lot of money gaming the system. Garbitrage, the practice of creating crappy Adsense domains and then running Adwords to send traffic to them and make money, was rampant. I wrote about garbitrage in May of 2007. Note in that post that I also mention the beta of Google’s placement report. It’s hard to imagine search without that now, but it was new and exciting in 2007.
2007 was a momentous year for me personally, too. My twins turned 10, I won a trip to the very first SMX Advanced, and in October, I left the in-house world to work for an agency. 9 years later, I still miss my MagazineLine colleagues (many of whom are still there), but I’ve been thankful for the opportunities the agency world has given me.
The huge news of 2008 was the Microsoft-Yahoo deal. Prior to 2008, PPC pros had 3 major search engines to deal with: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Adwords was then, as it is today, the market leader; Yahoo was second, and Microsoft was a distant third. But Yahoo’s search platform, Panama, was awful. It lacked an offline editor, was slow, and just painful to use. MSN adCenter, as it was called at the time, wasn’t much better, but Microsoft was actively innovating, much like they still are today.
The search engine Bing officially launched in 2009. It was announced at Microsoft’s Search Summit, a sort of predecessor to Bing Ads Next. I was lucky to be in attendance, and the Bing hype was real.
Not to be outdone, Adwords continued its frenetic pace of change. In 2009, they updated their policy to no longer permit multiple display URLs in a single ad group. This wasn’t something I’d done on a large scale, so it didn’t affect me, but I know plenty of advertisers had a lot of restructuring to do.
2009 also marked my very first speaking engagement, at SES Chicago. I’d been attending SES since 2003, and blogging since 2006, and yet somehow had it in my head that no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I owe a debt of gratitude to Kevin Newman, then my editor at Search Engine Watch, for pushing me to pitch to speak. Speaking at search conferences is one of the best parts of my job – I love sharing and teaching others about PPC.
2010 marked the official demise of Yahoo Search Marketing, which had been brewing since 2008. While there were aspects of YSM I missed, it made it easier to deal with only 2 PPC engines rather than 3.
Modified broad match made its debut in 2010 – can you believe it’s been 6 years? Finally, we had our “old” broad match back – MBM works the way broad match used to in the early days of Adwords, before close variants ever became a thing. It’s hard to imagine life without MBM now.
Adwords also launched Segments in 2010. Data that used to require running a report, or data that wasn’t available at all, became visible right in the UI. Segments is a feature I use regularly to diagnose trends and issues in accounts.
I only have one milestone for 2011, and it’s a huge one: Google’s SSL change, aka the beginning of Not Provided. While this change didn’t have a big impact on PPC, it changed the whole game for SEO. I’m still not a fan.
In January 2012, I started at my current company, gyro. I can’t believe I’ve been here 4 years! I’m eternally grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my career.
I also finally moved my blog to WordPress in September of 2012. After 6 years on Blogger and being frustrated with its lack of flexibility, I took the plunge and have never looked back. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, WordPress is the way to go.
Finally, in 2012 I wrote one of the most popular posts on the blog, about Adwords DIY. The post was in response to a New York Times article about a guy who was trying to run PPC on his own for his business, and failing at it. The post generated a lot of discussion, with the conclusion being that PPC had really gotten too complicated for most small business owners. Funny to think that I started in PPC as a sort of DIY side project!
2013 was all about Google. The biggest news of the year by far was Enhanced Campaigns. We’ve all gotten used to Enhanced Campaigns by now, but there are still little things that frustrate me to this day. Maybe the upcoming Adwords redesign will solve some of the issues. I’m not holding my breath.
I also noticed a big decline in service levels from Google around 2013. Long gone were the days of the Google Fridge and lava lamps, but we’d still had a semi-regular Adwords rep – until 2013 when they moved to the quarterly model. I’m still bitter about the poor Adwords support, by the way.
I got lucky in 2014, writing 2 of the most popular posts on this blog. The first was 26 Free Tools for PPC, which also ran on Search Engine Watch. This was a crowdsourced post from PPCChat, and I’m ever grateful for my friends there who are always a source of ideas and inspiration.
I also wrote a post on how not to do remarketing – which ended up being the most-commented post ever on my blog. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of different opinions on how to properly remarket to people.
Ah, 2015. The year of the infamous Call Only Ads. A year later, we’re still getting terrible performance from call only ads. I hate when Google takes a good thing and turns it into a bad thing.
Google created yet more fun with the launch of the new Adwords Editor. I’ve gotten used to it, but I still don’t love it. Alas, Bing Ads is working on a new Editor that mirrors Google’s, so I guess I’m stuck with it.
On a personal note, my twins graduated high school in 2015. They were starting kindergarten when I started doing Adwords. It’s crazy how fast time has flown by, especially when I’m doing a job I love. Now if time could slow down with the kids just a bit…
We’re not even halfway through the year, and I can’t even imagine what’s in store these next few months in PPC. Already we’ve lost right hand side ads and have seen “wider” search results. We know Google is revamping Adwords. Bing continues to innovate and is rolling out with Bing Ads Editor for Mac later this year. It’ll be fun to see what happens next!
So, here’s to the next 10 years on this blog. If they’re anything like the first 10, I’m in for a wild ride.
Even the best PPC managers run into problems from time to time. But PPC problems aren’t really problems if you know how to solve them.
High Traffic, Low Conversions
Novice PPC managers and new advertisers will inevitably have a campaign or ad group that drives a lot of traffic, but few to no conversions. Remember, rarely will generating clicks be your goal – the goal is to drive conversion actions on your website.
But novice PPC managers will often fall into the trap of believing the search engines: focusing on high CTR and traffic. The default setting for search campaigns in both Google and Bing is “optimize for clicks,” rewarding the ads with the highest CTR.
Forget all that. Focus on your goal, which is driving conversions. If you have a campaign or ad group with high traffic and low conversions, first look at traffic by keyword. Is one keyword driving the bulk of non-converting clicks? If so, pause it right away. Did you accidentally use broad match when you meant to use exact match, or mistakenly add a keyword like “keyword”? (Don’t ask how I know this.)
Maybe you have an ad that isn’t performing – likely because it’s making a promise that’s not delivered on the landing page. Pause that ad.
Or maybe your landing page isn’t performing well. This is probably the most common reason I see for high traffic and low conversion rates – terrible landing pages. Take a long hard look at your landing pages and your website. You may even want to pause your PPC campaigns until you can fix the issues on your website.
Don’t forget to check and make sure your ads are driving to the right page, and that the page and any associated conversion tracking is working. It’s not unusual to find broken landing pages or tracking codes.
Low Quality Scores
Quality score is one of the most misunderstood metrics in terms of its importance. While I don’t believe you should optimize for quality score as one of your key KPIs, you shouldn’t ignore it either.
If you have a lot of low quality score keywords in your account, you have a problem. The problem may be as simple as being in an industry that has traditionally low quality scores – a lot of B2B advertisers fall into this category. But if you’re an ecommerce advertiser, or you’re seeing low quality scores on brand terms, you have a problem.
Use the ad diagnostic tool to see where the problem lies. Is it your landing pages, CTR, relevance, or a combination of all three? The ad diagnostic tool will give you a starting point.
Then set about fixing the issues. If you have low quality score keywords that aren’t generating much traffic, or aren’t converting, just pause them. If they’re super relevant, or if they’re converting, consider moving them to their own ad group. Write very specific ad copy that includes the keyword. Use the very best landing page. Often these steps will boost quality score.
If your landing page is the problem, you can use Bing Ads Intelligence to help diagnose the issue.
Poor Landing Pages
This relates to the first two PPC problems – can you sense a theme here? Landing pages are often a huge issue, and yet are the last thing PPC pros focus on sometimes.
If your landing pages are poor, you’ll have trouble getting good ROI. Fixing your landing pages is a must. As mentioned earlier, you may have to pause your PPC campaigns temporarily while you fix your landing pages and website.
Look critically at all elements of the page. Does the page try to do too much? Is it cluttered, with no area of focus? Does it lack a headline and clear call to action? Try putting something in the cart and checking out. Are all the steps logical? Are there any barriers to conversion? Features like email signup interstitials and other popups are popular, and yet can distract a user from actually buying from you. Remove these from your landing pages, or wait to serve them until after the person has checked out.
With a little sleuthing, you can solve the biggest PPC problems. How do you solve tricky PPC problems? Share in the comments!