The Top 3 PPC Innovations of 2009

Well, the New Year is here and believe it or not, it’s 2010. I know, everybody makes “top” lists around this time of year, but there were some great PPC innovations in 2009 that I can’t let go by without mentioning.

#1 – The New Adwords Interface. Around mid-year, Google released a beta version of a very different Adwords user interface. Early on, it was much maligned for issues such as horizontal scrolling and instability. Google, in its usual fashion, took the criticism in stride and gradually made improvements (I guess that’s the point of a beta, right?). At the end of July, the interface came out of beta and everyone was ported over whether they liked it or not.

I was one of the early detractors of the new interface, but I have to say that now that I’m used to it, it’s one of the greatest PPC innovations not only of 2009, but of the past 5 years. I love the graphs that show trends in impressions, clicks, conversion rate, and/or a number of other metrics – enabling users to spot issues instantly. And many functions that once required running and poring over multiple reports now can be performed right in the interface. Placement performance reports are nearly a thing of the past – I can see how individual content sites are performing right in the interface. Search query reports also can be run in-line. You can even segment by day of week, network, or device – right in the interface. I sound like a broken record, but it’s really cool and a huge time saver.

#2Bing. While Microsoft’s rollout of their new “decision engine” isn’t strictly a PPC move, it’s definitely had a ripple effect on PPC. While market share for Bing is still paltry compared to Google, it’s growing – and PPC advertisers are seeing increased traffic as a result. While some of our Fluency Media advertisers haven’t seen a lift, others have – especially those in the travel vertical. Bing is really a pretty good search engine, and I expect big things from them in 2010.

#3 – Yahoo’s so-called auto-optimization debacle. Way back in January 2009, Yahoo changed their Terms and Conditions, allowing them to “auto-optimize” PPC accounts. The PPC engines have offered optimization recommendations for years. Our Google reps regularly provide optimization suggestions for our clients’ accounts. The difference with Yahoo is that they (1) created new campaigns without input from the account manager, and (2) implemented the campaigns live without permission, or even knowledge, of the account manager.

This caused a huge stir in the SEM industry, with recognized experts denouncing the practice. While Yahoo tried to defend themselves, no one was buying it.

Personally, I was able to get our rep to opt us out of auto-optimization, but it was a terrible experience all around.

Well, those are my top 3 of 2009 – what were yours? Share them in the comments!

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Healthcare Search, And The Art Of Slowing Down

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. And it’s not just because I’ve been busy. I have been busy, but that’s not the only reason.

Thursday, August 6, was a pretty typical day. I drove 80 miles to our Ann Arbor office for the day, where I had a client meeting. After the meeting, a couple co-workers and I walked several blocks through downtown Ann Arbor to get cupcakes to snack on. I drove home afterward and had a normal evening with my family, and worked on last-minute plans for our summer vacation, for which we were to leave 2 days later. Then, tired, I went to bed.

I woke up a couple hours later feeling terrible. Fever, aches, muscle cramps, etc. I tried to go back to sleep, but by 5 a.m., I knew I was really sick. My chest hurt and I was coughing badly. My husband took one look and said, “We need to go to the doctor.”

Later that morning, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. I’ve never had it before, although our daughter did when she was 6, so I knew how scary it could be.

Luckily, I wasn’t hospitalized – with a blood oxygen level of 94, it wasn’t hospital-serious. However, the doctor told me that it takes 6-8 weeks to recover from pneumonia.

“Pshaw,” I thought. “I’m in great shape, and if I just rest for a week or so, I’ll be fine.” But just in case, I turned to the Internet to see what I could find about pneumonia recovery. I searched on both Google and Bing, partly because one of Bing’s primary verticals is health care searches. I wanted to see if, indeed, this was “better than Google.”

I wasn’t disappointed in Bing. A Google search turned up a mish-mash of forum threads, blog posts, and informational articles – and it was hard to sift through it all. Bing, on the other hand, turned up highly relevant and credible articles about exactly what I needed: information on how long it really takes to recover from pneunomia.

Even though the online information backed up what the doctor said, I still blew it off – much to my detriment. 3 weeks into my recovery, I came down with bronchitis. While it wasn’t severe and I caught it early, it was the wakeup call I needed. Yes, even pneumonia wasn’t enough of a wakeup call for me to realize I needed to slow down.

I’m 43 years old. I’m told I don’t look it, and most of the time I don’t feel it, either. I’m proud to be able to successfully juggle a full-time career and be a good wife and mother – and still go to the gym twice a week and participate in a few extra-curricular activities of my own. I eat healthy and have kept off a 35-pound weight loss for 10 years. I think I’m doing pretty well for my age.

But that doesn’t make me infallible. Being a busy working mom can be stressful, and I wasn’t doing a good job of slowing down and resting when I was tired – I just kept soldiering on. I sort of had the attitude that I’d sleep when I’m dead.

No more. Now, I make sure to get at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night (as opposed to the 6-7 I was getting before I got sick). I take frequent breaks during the work day instead of pushing through 8 hours without stopping. And if I’m too tired to work out, I don’t – even if it means missing a day.

I heard recently that, for many moms, “the slowing-down process is not something we’re good at.” That’s for sure. But in the past 2 months, I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I’ve learned to say, “No, I can’t do that just now,” even to my boss. I think I’m worth it. I *know* I’m worth it.

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Early Results from Bing PPC

The SEM world is still a-buzz over Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine. While it’s still way too early to tell whether it will be a Google killer or even an improvement over, early results for one of our adCenter PPC clients are encouraging.

I ran a quick analysis of visitors & conversions for this client, whose business is in the travel vertical, comparing the first 11 days of May to the first 11 days of June. Their PPC campaigns were unchanged during this time as far as budget and strategy.

Growth in visitors from Bing PPC is 25% higher than average. Even more exciting is that Bing/MSN’s traditionally-good conversion rate is continuing: conversion rate from adCenter is 58% higher than average for PPC, and actually increased since the Bing lauch – whereas overall conversion rate from PPC is down slightly.

Is this proof that Bing’s a Google killer? No. Is it a good sign for overall client ROI? Absolutely.

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Microsoft Search Summit 2009: Bing, adCenter, and More

Last Wednesday through Friday, Microsoft held their Search Summit, where approximately 80 search experts gathered in Bellevue, WA to hear about and discuss the latest and greatest about Microsoft’s search products. In previous years, MS had two separate conferences, with organic / SEO represented at Search Champs and advertisers at Ad Champs. This year, they decided to combine the two for a super-power-search experience.

Of course the biggest buzz out of this conference was over Bing, MS’s new search engine. I have to say, initially I’m impressed with the functionality of the engine, especially in certain verticals like travel and shopping. Instead of a mish-mash of results, Bing returns an organized SERP with sections for reviews, price, features, etc. It’s pretty cool.

On the advertising side, a lot of discussion focused on the adCenter spring upgrade, including the new and improved adCenter Desktop, which is close to coming out of beta.

Most of the advertiser sessions included plenty of time for questions & discussion, which is always the best part. Controversy over trademark protection continues, with lots of debate over Google’s recently announced trademark policy change. It seemed as though half the attendees favored the new policy, and half were up in arms over it. I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out.

All in all it was a useful and informative conference, with networking that was second to none. I’m honored to have been a part of it. I hope that Bing gives MS the traffic boost it needs to make all their efforts worthwhile.

If you’re interested in reading more news from the conference, WebProNews has a good summary of interesting tweets from those in attendance.

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