SES Atlanta 2014 Takeaways

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking at SES Atlanta, a one-day return of the classic SES conference. It had a very different feel from the bigger shows, and it was great to meet a lot of attendees and speakers who aren’t part of the larger-show circuit.

The content was very good, with high-quality speakers. Here are a few of the takeaways from the keynotes and paid search track at SES Atlanta.

The morning opened with a keynote by Duane Forrester from Bing. Duane has been around since the early days of search, and his keynote was very forward-thinking. I love that about Microsoft & Bing speakers – they really do seem to have their fingers on the pulse of what’s coming. Duane talked about all the ways that mobile is changing the world of search, in a good way. Did you know that the Tesla car has a 20 inch screen powered by search data? And did you know that my home state of Michigan is one of only 4 states that has approved the use of Google’s self-driving cars? I didn’t either.

I got one of the best ad copy writing tips I’ve heard in a long time from my friend Lisa Raehsler of Big Click Co. For inspiration, watch QVC or infomercials and take notes! Note the calls to action, benefits, and other language they use. It’s very persuasive and can be tested in PPC.

Tracking microconversions was a theme throughout several of the presentations. Kevin Lee talked a lot about tracking microconversions such as newsletter signups or contact form fills, especially in the B2B environment, where actual sales can be few and far between. Omri Levin and Ken Williams of Search Discovery demonstrated how to set up remarketing segments based on microconversions.

The last keynote of the day was by none other than Marty Weintraub of aimClear. It was vintage Marty, with 150 slides for a 30-minute presentation. As always, he got through all of them.

I presented a B2B paid social case study. I had a ton of fun and met a lot of great people. You can check out my presentation below.

Did you attend SES Atlanta? What did you think of the show? Share in the comments!

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Why Sitelinks Are A PPC Worst Practice

A few months ago, one of my coworkers asked me a thought-provoking question that I’ve been ruminating on ever since. She asked, “Does Google’s increased push on the use of sitelinks contradict their best practice to make ad groups as specific as possible and to drive users to the most relevant page? Say I’m advertising blue widgets. Long-standing best practices would be to have a very specific ad group pertaining only blue widgets and using my blue widgets page as the destination URL. Now instead of just being able to send them to my blue widgets page, I’m being pushed to include less relevant pages to keep my ad at the top of the page – Widgets, Widget History, Widget FAQs, etc. If your campaigns and ad groups are properly organized, sitelinks are only useful in limited circumstances.”

I thought this was an interesting perspective – one that I agree with. With our B2B clients, I usually don’t use sitelinks, for this very reason. The client has specific goals for each product or service, and we structure our campaigns and ad groups accordingly. The client doesn’t want us sending traffic to other pages within their website – these pages may not be optimized for conversion, or they distract the visitor from taking the action that the client really wants them to take.

Also, there are times when 6-10 or even 1-2 relevant links besides the landing page just don’t exist. Again, the client has a specific product or service they want us to promote. Maybe they even have a budget dedicated to that product or service. They not only don’t have other pages for us to send traffic to, but they don’t want us using their budget for that traffic!

This problem is more common for B2B advertisers, to be sure. I discussed it with Jeremy Brown in a post back in 2012.

This isn’t the first time I’ve covered the pitfalls of sitelinks. Back in 2011, I wrote a post for Search Engine Watch about the not-so-great aspects of sitelinks. While 3 years is an eternity in search, and Google has fixed most of the issues mentioned in that post, there are still shortfalls. Conversion tracking is still a challenge.

And Google doesn’t make it easy to see how individual sitelinks are performing. Take a look at this example:

sitelink data

At first glance, it looks as though the Contact Us sitelink has driven 8 conversions. Not so fast:

this vs other

In reality, no one is clicking on “Contact Us” – they’re all clicking on the ad itself.

This isn’t unusual, but to new PPC manager, or to clients looking at their own data, it’s misleading and confusing to say the least.

But I digress. I’m not the only one who thinks sitelinks might just be a worst practice. Andrew Goodman, in his famous rant “Why I Hate Sitelinks,” lists 11 reasons why he believes sitelinks are problematic. #1 on the list really resonates with me: “Where is the testing? Where are the key performance indicators (KPIs)? It’s impractical and/or irrelevant to test them; you can’t get actionable feedback.” Indeed.

I’m not totally anti-sitelinks. Sitelinks, and ad extensions in general, are a great way to take up more screen real estate. For advertisers with a robust catalog of related products and pages, sitelinks make a lot of sense. But they’re not for everyone, especially those with tightly-themed ad groups or those with only 1-2 relevant landing pages.

What do you think? Are sitelinks the love of your PPC life, or are they a worst practice? Share in the comments!

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PPC Experience: Necessary or Not?

In many careers, the longer you’re at it, the better you get. Think about teaching or coaching, for example. First-year teachers can be downright scary to parents, because they lack experience and may not know how to handle tough classroom situations. The same thing goes for customer service. I worked in customer service for 4 years, and I definitely got better at it the longer I did it.

But what about in PPC? After all, the only constant in the PPC world is change. Knowledge you had yesterday can be obsolete tomorrow – just look at what Enhanced Campaigns did to device-specific campaigns. So does experience matter?

Jeremyah Grigery posted that very question on PPC Chat this week:

Grigery
A flurry of fascinating conversation followed, with most contending that experience counts in many ways. Although performing actual PPC tasks may not require years of experience, knowing what tasks to perform does.

I believe that experience counts for a lot in PPC. Knowing the history of PPC helps veteran PPC’ers come up with workarounds in situations like Enhanced Campaigns – because in the early days, we had to use a LOT of workarounds! I like how Julie Bacchini put it:

Bacchini
A lot of people also talked about having general business savvy, which is something else that comes with time. We often find that junior staff (and this goes beyond PPC to all areas of the agency) are not experienced in dealing with clients, so they struggle with it. Let’s face it – client communication is a learned skill. When I first came to the agency world in 2007, I had a lot to learn, despite working in customer service for much of my career and in PPC for 5 years. So if you’re dealing with clients at all, experience definitely matters.

In fact, life experience helps – and that’s true of any job. Susan Wenograd said it best:

Wenograd
In fact, experience dealing with change is super important in PPC, as Tamsin Mehew points out:

Mehew
I’ve worked with people over the years who were very resistant to change. Any time a new process was put in place, they complained and resisted it. I’ve even dealt with a few people like this in the time I’ve done PPC, although they’re usually not fellow PPC’ers, but rather people in support roles. Nonetheless, learning to adapt to change makes a difference, so if you’ve had experience with it before, it’ll likely be easier to swallow.

So if you’re new to PPC or only have a year or two of experience, does that mean you’re doomed? Absolutely not! Willingness to learn, combined with a curious and positive attitude, is a good recipe for success in PPC. Some skills can be learned faster than others. I’ve found that daily PPC management tasks are easier to grasp, while dealing with clients and giving presentations are harder and take longer to master. But that’s a generalization: I’ve known people who were great with clients but shaky on the day-to-day. As with all things PPC, it depends!

Did you see the discussion about PPC experience on PPC Chat? What do you think? Does experience matter? Share in the comments!

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Bing Ads Device Targeting: Never Say Never

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news that came out of Bing Ads on Wednesday: they’re making some changes to device targeting to, well, be more like Google. The changes don’t go into effect until September, so advertisers have time to plan. There will be an initial phase that combines desktop and tablets, and then a second phase that eliminates separate campaigns for devices altogether, moving instead to the bid modifier model that Google has – except, Bing will have a tablet modifier.

Here’s what campaign structure will look like when all is said and done, and how Bing Ads device targeting compares to Google:

bing campaigns

Needless to say, the news has not been well-received by the PPC community. Personally, I appreciate the fact that Bing is giving us a lot of notice about the changes – more than Google gave us for Enhanced Campaigns. And I love the fact that they’ll be including a tablet modifier – something we have repeatedly requested of Google, to no avail.

But what is so disappointing about the announcement is that it basically negates the bold statements made by Bing Ads in the past. Just last year, Bing Ads wrote a manifesto saying “We Believe In Advertiser Choice.” They made the point in multiple speaking engagements; I remember a Bing Ads team member at SMX Advanced last year saying they would continue to offer advertisers control over devices – and the room erupted in applause.

This was really a differentiator for Bing Ads. For advertisers with a discrete mobile budget, Bing Ads was their only choice. For advertisers who needed to control tablet spend, Bing Ads was their only choice. Come September, those choices will start to go away.

I guess all good things must come to an end. In PPC, things are constantly changing – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But it’s a little frustrating to see Bing Ads do an about face on something they repeatedly said they’d never do. Never say never, I guess.

I had the privilege of being on an “advanced notice” call about the changes that took place prior to the announcement. Several other industry leaders were also on the call. The feedback on the call was universally negative. Several people brought up concerns about the model, especially the fact that the tablet modifier starts at -20%. Why not -100% or at least -50%?

Bing claims that their research shows that the average advertiser sees results 20% worse on tablets. I’m sure that’s true. But how many of us are average advertisers? As the saying goes, averages lie – especially in this case.

So why did they do it? While I don’t know the real reason, I think it comes down to efficiency. Enhanced campaigns threw us all for a loop last year, Bing Ads included. They did a miraculous job of maintaining the ability to import Google campaigns in the face of Enhanced Campaigns.

But I believe it’s costing them. The fact that things aren’t exactly the same as Google causes issues with campaign imports. They realize that for people to really embrace Bing, they need to have as much parity as possible with Google. I’d be willing to bet that the lack of parity is costing them big, both in lost advertiser dollars and in development costs trying to maintain a system that doesn’t match Google’s exactly.

So did Bing Ads make the right decision? Only time will tell. I still love many things about Bing: better results in many cases than Google, lower CPCs, amazing reps and community managers who truly care about the PPC community, and many tools that are better than Google, including a tablet modifier. Who knows – maybe this will spur Google to offer a modifier as well!

What do you think about the announcement? Does it really mess up your campaigns, or doesn’t it matter? Do you like the way it was handled? Share in the comments!

 

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PPC and Content Marketing: Timing

In earlier posts, I talked about the 4-step content audit and audience research. In this post, we’ll talk about the timing of content marketing PPC.

In many ways, timing is important for all types of PPC. Maybe you’re running a sale for a limited time, or doing a promotion around a holiday. You might have a marketing calendar that helps you determine when promotions should run.

PPC for content marketing is no different, although it’s critical to pay attention to timing. Ideally, you’ll have an editorial calendar that tells you when new content will be published. The editorial calendar is your roadmap for planning PPC for content marketing.

But what if you don’t have an editorial calendar? You can still be successful – you’ll just have to work a little harder.

The first step in planning when to promote content is to review your content audit and audience research data. Hopefully, you’ve organized the information in your content audit into a matrix by content type. If not, you can do that now. There are several different ways to organize the content to figure out when to promote it. One I like is the Periodic Table of Content Marketing by Econsultancy.

Then, organize the content by audience. Think about the seasonality of your product or service, and that of your audience as well. For instance, if you’re marketing to landscapers, summer is going to be their busiest season. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t market to them in the summer – especially if you have articles or tools that will help them be more efficient during the busy season. But be aware that because they’re busy, they may not use every PPC channel. They might stick to search, to find answers to pressing problems, and save social media for times when they’re not as busy.

If your industry isn’t very seasonal, or if your content is more evergreen, you might want to organize it by type or theme, like the Periodic Table illustrates. Then, set a schedule to push out different kinds of content.

It’s likely you’ll have some content that’s time-sensitive, like a promotion, limited time offer, or holiday-related piece. Make sure to slot that in during the appropriate time.

By now you probably have a good grip on when you’ll launch each piece of content in PPC. There’s one more step in the timing process, and it’s frequently overlooked: when to stop promoting each piece of content! Sometimes it will be obvious; but what about assets that might get outdated over time? If you’re a software provider, for instance, you’ll want to expire any content referring to old releases.

And most content, even evergreen content, gets stale over time. Be sure to track the performance by asset so you can spot any attrition in your content marketing PPC campaigns.

Make sure to do a periodic check to make sure old content isn’t still running. Remember, you’re paying for the engagement, so you don’t want to pay for people to click on old content!

Don’t forget to include testing in your timing plan. While testing is easier in some PPC channels than others, you should always be testing – whether it’s pitting 2 pieces of content against each other, testing audience segments, or even images in Facebook ads. You should also test what type of content performs best: white papers vs. videos, for example. Build all of this into your timing plan.

Finally, lay out all of the timing into your Periodic Table or editorial calendar. Not only will this keep you on track, it’ll help you plan your campaign setup. It might make sense to have campaigns based on promotion dates, especially in search where you don’t have to worry about audiences. Mapping out the timing will help guide your campaign setup process.

The key here is to think everything through ahead of time! So many advertisers just jump in to a Facebook or Twitter Ads campaign without thinking about timing. We’ve all seen the “Save on Mother’s Day Gifts” ads that are still running. With advance planning, the timing of your content marketing PPC will be easy.

Got any tips for timing your content marketing PPC? Share in the comments!

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26 Free Must-Have Tools for PPC Success

Nearly every craft uses tools to get the job done. Carpenters have hammers and saws. Doctors have expensive medical devices like MRI machines and tests. Writers have a computer (or a typewriter, or pen and paper).

PPC is no different. While it’s certainly possible to manage PPC using only the AdWords and Bing Ads online interfaces, doing so will be less than optimal.

I asked 20 PPC experts to share their must-have PPC tools. They responded with gusto. Here are their top recommendations for 26 free, must-have tools for PPC success.

When it comes to free tools, Google is king. One-third of the tools on the list are from Google!

1. AdWords Editor

A few of us old-timers remember life before AdWords Editor. It wasn’t fun. I was doing in-house PPC at the time, and we actually hired an intern to update ad copy for us, it was that arduous to do manually. With Adwords Editor and its many bulk editing features, those days disappeared. Several experts mentioned Editor, most with a comment like “Duh! It’s essential.”

2. Google Analytics

The AdWords and Bing interfaces only go so far. They don’t tell you what happens after the ad click. Use Google Analytics to gauge bounce rate, pages visited, and many other analytical gems that will help optimize your marketing efforts.

3. AdWords Scripts

We’ve recently started using AdWords Scripts, and it’s become obvious they’re a must-have. Use them for exception reporting, daily stats, and client reporting – amongst other things.

4. Google Plugin for Eclipse

Use this plugin to help develop AdWords Scripts. (Recommended by Leo Sussan.)

5. Google Documents

I love creating shared Google Docs for internal and external use. It’s even possible to have multiple users editing them at once – something you can’t do with Microsoft Office. (Suggested by Larry Kim of Wordstream.)

6. Google Drive

Google Drive is great for storing Google Docs and other files. (Suggested by my coworker Ben Nusekabel)

7. FTP for Google Merchant accounts

Who wants to update thousands of product listing ads manually? Use FTP to send your merchant feed to Google automatically. (Recommended by Matt Vaillancourt.)

8. Google Suggest

Google Suggest is a fun and enlightening way to do keyword research. (Recommended by Aaron Levy of SEER Interactive.)

9. Bing Ads Editor

Not to be outdone, Bing Ads has some great free tools of its own. While Bing Ads Editor isn’t as robust as AdWords Editor, it’s still a must-have PPC tool for those using Bing Ads.

10. Bing Ads Intelligence

I love this Excel plugin for keyword research. It’ll show search volume, create ad groups, and provide demographic data – all in Excel.

11. Facebook Power Editor

If you’re running more than one simple Facebook Ads campaign, you need to be using Power Editor. It’s like AdWords Editor for Facebook. Use it to create audiences, play around with targeting, and create an image bank for your campaigns.

12. Excel

OK, it’s free if your computer has Microsoft Office, which 90 percent or so of us do. Excel is necessary to analyze and manipulate PPC data. Many of the experts named it a must-have.

13. Excellent Analytics Plugin for Excel

Use this plugin to pull Google Analytics data into Excel and make reporting easier. I’m definitely going to check this one out. (Recommended by Arianne Donoghue.)

14. Statistical Significance Spreadsheet

This is a simple, yet often overlooked, way to streamline tracking of ad copy and landing page tests. (Recommended by Andrew Bethel.)

15. Analysis ToolPak for Excel

Use the free Excel plugin Analysis ToolPak to add advanced hypothesis testing to Excel at no cost. (Another recommendation from Sussan.)

16. Uber Suggest

Use Uber Suggest for keyword research. I’ve even used Uber Suggest for blog topic idea generation. (Another great recommendation from Levy.)

17. Keyword Wrapper

Use this easy-to-use tool to quickly create keyword sets in all match types. Build out your keyword list in minutes with this tool. (Recommended by Mark Kennedy of SEOM.)

18. Phrase Builder

Enter a few words, and Phrase Builder will mash them up into keywords. (Another tool recommended by Kennedy.)

19. Soovle

Soovle serves up common searches on a multitude of sites, including YouTube, Answers.com, and Amazon, in addition to the usual search engine subjects. (Yet another keyword tool from Levy.)

20. Convertable

Convertable is a free lead generation tracking service (in beta). If you aren’t ready to give Salesforce a try, check out Convertable.

21. SplitTester

SplitTester is my favorite free online statistical significance tester. Just plug in clicks and CTR (or conversion rate) for 2 ad variations to see which one is the winner, and at what level of significance.

A Few More PPC Tools

Several experts suggested tools that are fixtures in any office, and yet are essential for PPC. Microsoft Outlook and Spotify were two that Lisa Sanner from PointIt finds necessary. I have to agree.

Finally, no list would be complete without the tools that each and every PPC expert uses every day:

  •     Experience (Sanner)
  •     People (e.g., sales teams, live chats) (Sanner)
  •     My brain (Michael Madew) and Matt Vaillancourt)

Special thanks to Aaron Levy, Andrew Bethel, Arianne Donoghue, Ben Nusekabel, David Szetela, Larry Kim, Leo Sussan, Lisa Sanner, Mark Kennedy, Martin Roettgerding, Matt Umbro, Matt Vaillancourt, and Michael Madew for contributing your suggestions.

In addition to these free tools, here are 18 Must-Have Paid Tools for PPC Success.

Hopefully you’ve learned of a few new helpful free PPC tools from this list! What are your must-have PPC tools?

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on March 11, 2014. It was so popular there that I had to share it with my readers! Enjoy!

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Think You’re Cut Out for Being A PPC Manager? Take This Quiz

So you wanna be a PPC manager. Do you think you can bring the goods? Here’s a quiz to see if you’re cut out for PPC:

1. You’ve run into a problem on the job that has you stumped. You:
a. Ask your boss for help
b. Look up the answer online
c. Move on – it’s probably not that big of a deal

2. You’re reading a book or article and you see a word or phrase that’s new to you. You’re not sure what it means. You:
a. Keep reading, making a note to ask someone about it later
b. Stop reading and dig out your smartphone to search for more information
c. Who has time to read?

3. At the weekly staff meeting, the boss announces that the entire office is being remodeled and all the desks will be moved around, creating a new seating arrangement. You:
a. Go along with it, but cringe inside at the thought of sitting next to people you don’t know well
b. Embrace the change, even though it may be challenging at first
c. Complain! Who needs the disruption of yet another office move?

4. You’re having trouble finding the answer to problem you were working on in Question 1. You:
a. Keep doggedly running Google searches in hopes of eventually finding the answer
b. Go to an online forum, discussion board, or Twitter and ask your question there
c. Fuhgeddaboudit

5. You’re talking to a colleague who doesn’t know a lot about your job, and they’re asking a lot of questions. You:
a. Answer them as quickly as you can
b. Patiently explain the concept in layman’s terms, pausing to check for understanding
c. Tell them to ask someone else

6. You’re at an amusement park with your best friend. He or she is bugging you to ride the latest thrill ride. You:
a. Hesitate, feeling the need to research the ride first
b. Run ahead to get in line for the ride
c. Tell him or her no thanks, it’s not your type of ride

7. Your boss has given you a new assignment, something you haven’t done before. You:
a. Ask a lot of questions, and check in with the boss daily for reassurance
b. Map out a plan, get the boss’s ok, and run with it from there
c. Ask the boss to assign the work to someone else

If you answered mostly B, congratulations! You’re ideally suited to be a PPC manager. The best PPC managers love to dig for the solutions to tricky challenges. They are constantly hungry for learning something new, and aren’t afraid to test it out on their own PPC account. They persist until they find out why performance has fallen off. They embrace change – let’s face it, PPC is a daily dose of something new! They love a new challenge and taking risks. And they’re patient, because most people don’t understand PPC. Whether you work in an agency or in-house, you’re going to have to explain what you do on a regular basis. And good PPC managers know when to ask for help, turning to the fantastic PPC community for help.

If you didn’t score well, don’t despair! You’ve just identified the areas you’ll need to work on in order to succeed as a PPC manager. (Although if you chose mostly C’s, you might want to consider an alternate career path.)

What about you? What traits do you look for when hiring new PPC managers? What do you still need to work on? What’s your favorite aspect of being a PPC manager? Share in the comments!

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When Bad PPC Advice Is Good Advice

A couple months ago, I wrote a post called 6 Ways to Spot Bad PPC Advice, on the heels of a couple of PPC posts that I felt were misguided.

I stand by what I said, but have come to realize that I might have been a bit harsh in my delivery. As with all things PPC, what works for one advertiser (or campaign, even) may not work for another. In fact, what works one week might not work the next in the same campaign!

Sometimes, what is generally considered to be bad PPC advice might be good advice, in the right situation. Here are 6 instances where bad PPC advice might turn out to be good advice.

Sometimes you should spend more on PPC.

I railed against the suggestion to spend more on PPC because it’s usually Google’s first “optimization” suggestion, and all it optimizes is Google’s bottom line. But there are times when it makes a lot of sense to spend more on PPC. Have you ever had a campaign that was converting like crazy, but the client (or your boss) wouldn’t increase the budget? Frustrating, isn’t it?

While increasing the budget isn’t the first thing you should do to optimize a campaign, spending more is good advice for high-performing campaigns that are budget-limited.

Sometimes you should expand your geotargeting.

We had a client whose product appealed mainly to government organizations. They wanted to limit targeting to Washington, DC to reach federal employees. So we tried it for a while.

We found that volume, and conversions, were very low with this approach. When we expanded the campaign to other locations that also had high concentrations of federal workers, performance (and conversions) increased dramatically.

While I stand by my recommendation against targeting the whole world, getting too granular with geotargeting isn’t always the best choice. Sometimes expanding geotargeting is the right thing to do.

Sometimes broad match is necessary.

Ever tried running PPC for an esoteric brand that’s not well-known? Ever tried bidding on keywords that are relevant but low-volume? Ever gotten too long-tail and had that “Low search volume” warning in Google?

In these instances, broad match is a good idea. I’m still a fan of starting out with phrase or exact match and expanding from there, but if you run your entire keyword list through a keyword tool and the volume for every term is 0, you’ll want to try broad match.

Of course, you’ll want to carefully monitor your search query reports and aggressively add negatives. And modified broad match is a safer strategy than expanded broad match. But sometimes broad match is necessary.

Sometimes high-volume keywords will boost conversions.

I actually laid out how to go about adding high-volume terms in my post. It can and often should be done. Using my previous example of “low search volume” keywords, sometimes you have to go a few steps up the funnel to higher-volume terms. With careful monitoring, bidding, and budgeting, along with extensive negative keywords, high-volume terms can boost conversions. We’ve even seen instances where a single-word keyword, usually a no-no in PPC, converts like crazy at a good cost. It’s possible.

Sometimes you need short-tail keywords.

See above. It actually seems as though Google is discouraging very long-tail keywords with the “low search volume” penalty, in fact. I’ve had highly relevant, 5 and 6 word phrases not only get slapped with “low search volume,” but get hit with low quality scores as well. We could debate whether Google is right or wrong here, but the fact is that at this point, it’s their sandbox and we have to play in it or leave.

You should definitely test including appealing promotions.

I actually acknowledged this as a good tactic in my original post, with a caution: Don’t rely too heavily on deep discounts and “all promotions, all the time.” But if you have a deal or special, it’s definitely good advice to promote it via PPC.

What do you think? Are there times when you need to turn PPC best practices on their head and do things you wouldn’t normally do? Do you ever use any of the tactics in this post? Share in the comments!

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PPC and Content Marketing: Audience Research

In an earlier post, I talked about the 4-step content audit, which helps marketers identify what content they have. Once you’ve finished your audit, it’s time to do some audience research.

Audience research in content marketing is as important as keyword research in search PPC. Audience segments will form the basis for your content marketing PPC campaigns.

The first step in researching your audience is to talk to your client, or your sales team if you’re in-house. Ask them about their ideal prospect: what job level they hold, what they like to do, what they’re passionate about, what need they are trying to fulfill.

If you want to get really granular, create marketing personas for your audience. It sounds hokey, but naming each segment of your customer base helps visualize your customer’s needs.

Once you have a good idea of who you’ll be marketing to, it’s time to jump into the engines. It’s easiest to do audience research in the social PPC platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Facebook is probably the first engine that comes to mind when thinking about audiences as opposed to keywords. Facebook targeting focuses primarily around interests and interest groups. A typical Facebook audience for a construction company might look like this:

facebook segment

If you’re a B2B advertiser, or are looking to target individuals associated with companies or job types, LinkedIn is ideal:

linkedin targeting

And with Twitter, you can target individual Twitter handles. It’s a little tougher to find users on Twitter, but if you know the companies or type of individuals you want to target, it’s not too bad.

While you’re doing your content marketing audience research, think outside the box. What do your users like to do? If you’re selling organic food, for instance, you might target those who are interested in environmental issues like recycling and green energy. They might be interested in your competitors – consider creating a segment targeting the competition’s fans! For B2B, targeting fans of industry conferences or trade shows is a good bet. Get creative!

Don’t forget about PPC keywords. Frequently, you’ll want to have a search campaign in addition to social campaigns. Remember, users may see you on a social channel, and then turn to a search engine for more information. Try to use keywords from the content itself, especially if you use product names, buzzwords, or themes in your content. Definitely include branded terms in your research as well. You might even consider keywords like “Company X Facebook” to reach those who saw your ads there.

Once you’ve identified your audience, think about how you want to segment them. This is where your content audit comes into play. Sometimes the segmentation will be obvious: if you have some content for architects and some for builders, separate your audiences that way.

Other times, though, it may not be so simple. In those cases, I often start with a larger audience initially. Then, I watch performance and segment based on that, rather than on audience attributes. Play around with your audience segments and test, test, test!

Audience research can be much more time-consuming than keyword research. But make sure to invest the time. Your content marketing PPC campaigns will be more successful with good audience research.

For some great tips on audience research and getting super-creative, I highly recommend Marty Weintraub’s book, Killer Facebook Ads. It’s a fun read and has some incredible tips on finding prospects with creative audience segments.

Got any killer audience research tips? Share in the comments!

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Google: Too Big To Fail?

On Tuesday, Google made what was played up to be a huge announcement of new features. Search marketers feared they were in for another Enhanced Campaigns-type of blow; it turned out to be pretty benign.

Talk on Twitter during the announcement was interesting, though. Google led off with a “history of radio ads” narrative that was boring and, frankly, off-topic – which drew jeers from the Twitter crowd.  Then they talked about promoting apps – another underwhelming feature. Finally, they talked about some new bulk editing, experimenting, and reporting enhancements that look cool and truly useful. The final reactions on Twitter? Meh.

twitter reaction to google announcement

Much has been said about what ended up being an overreaction by search marketers prior to the announcement. Some of it rubbed us the wrong way. I maintain that our fears were warranted, given the disruption caused by Enhanced Campaigns last year.

But what struck me about the announcement is the fact that Google led with apps, as though this was the big thing that advertisers really cared about.

Based on my own needs and the chatter on Twitter, they’re wrong. I don’t have a single client who wants to advertise apps – in fact, I don’t think I have a single client who HAS an app. So why was Google pushing apps so hard?

Ever heard of Google Play?

Google is creating products that will serve their interests – not their customers’ needs. They’re headed towards a slippery slope.

The new reporting features also indicate that Google thinks they are bigger and better than the bid management and reporting platforms. Yet another slippery slope.

When companies start to believe they’re above the rules, they start walking into “too big to fail” territory. When companies think that “all your data are belong to us,” they start walking into “too big to fail” territory. When companies tout a huge “announcement,” only to push something that 90% of their customers don’t’ need, they start walking into “too big to fail” territory.

So what do you think? Is Google too big to fail? Are they oblivious to the needs of their customers, the advertisers? Were we fools for being concerned and worried about the announcement? Or did the announcement give you pause? Share in the comments!

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