PPC Predictions – A Look Back

Yep, it’s cliche – everyone is blogging about their predictions for 2011. It happens every year. Last year, I had the privilege of sharing my predictions on David Szetela’s PPC Rockstars podcast, along with several other PPC luminaries.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions or predictions (I know, that goes contrary to me participating in a podcast on just that topic, but whatever). So this year, rather than postulate on what will happen, let’s look at whether I was right last year.

On the podcast, I predicted that the rate of growth in PPC would slow in 2010 vs. previous years, due to social media and other factors such as increasing CPC in search. I also predicted that the Microsoft/Yahoo merger would happen, but it would make no dent in Google’s market share. On the show, David politely disagreed with me. (David’s always polite!)

Well, guess what. I was wrong on the first one. According to Efficient Frontier, year-over-year growth from 2008 to 2009 was 6%, and Y/Y growth from 2009 to 2010 was 10-15%. I attribute this to the economy, which rebounded in 2010. It’s actually a good thing for PPC that I was wrong on this – it indicates that advertisers still see a high value in this channel.

On the second prediction, about Microsoft & Yahoo, I was right!!!!! (Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, David!) According to Efficient Frontier yet again, Google’s click share in Q3 2009 was 72.0%. In Q3 2010, it was 78.3%. So, despite all the ballyhoo surrounding Microhoo, Google continues to win the search click wars – at least for the time being.

So, I’m batting .500 for 2010. Not too shabby, I’d say!

As I like to say, to thine own self be true – I won’t be making any predictions for 2011. If you’d like to see some good ones, though, check out the Search Engine Watch article from John Lee – who, not coincidentally, works for David over at Clix Marketing. Here’s to success in 2011!

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Top 5 Free PPC Tools

It’s December, and around the world the holidays are upon us. For many, the holidays bring a spirit of giving. In keeping with that spirit, I thought I’d list my top 5 favorite free PPC tools. Think of it as my PPC gift to you. (wink)

#1: Adwords Editor

Without a doubt, Adwords Editor is #1 on my list. All the other tools are, well, not useless, but much more difficult to put into practice without Adwords Editor. When I train new Fluency Media PPC staff, the first thing I have them do is “download Adwords Editor.”

If you’re new to PPC, or are a PPC Luddite, Adwords Editor is a downloadable application that lets you edit your Adwords campaigns offline. So if you’re without an internet connection, you can still work on your campaigns, and then post the changes the next time you’re connected.

Adwords Editor is also great for creating campaigns, copying campaigns, ad groups, or keywords, moving keywords or ads from one ad group to another, and making changes in bulk. It was originally developed as a tool for Adwords staff and was built off the Excel platform, so it has many of the features we all know and love from Excel, including find & replace, sorting, filtering, appending, copying….. You get the picture. I literally could not do my job effectively without this tool.

#2: Google Keyword Tool

While the Google Keyword Tool has undergone several recent changes, and is notoriously inaccurate at times, it’s still my go-to tool for finding keywords. I like to start with the “website” feature, entering a URL and letting the tool tell me what keywords it thinks are relevant. Not only does this give you a lot of keyword ideas for your PPC campaigns, it alerts you to potential issues with the page that could negatively affect your PPC and SEO results. In other words, if you think the page is about one thing, but the keyword website tool tells you it’s about another, you’ve got a problem – and you’ll need to address it if you want to earn the best Quality Score and organic rankings.

#3: Acquisio Modified Broad Match Tool

I just discovered the Acquisio Modified Broad Match tool about 2 weeks ago, although it’s been around since July. The guys at Acquisio are awesome – I consider Marc Poirer, their co-founder, to be a great friend in the SEM industry – and this tool is simply incredible.

Earlier this year, Google introduced Modified Broad Match and SEMs all said, “Finally!” It’s long overdue, and is easy to implement if you’re only modifying a couple of keyword or keyphrases. However, applying modified broad match to a long list of keywords is daunting. Excel’s Concatenate function won’t do it, Adwords Editor won’t do it, and the thought of typing that “+” sign over and over is enough to make my stomach hurt.

Enter the Acquisio tool. Just copy and paste your keywords into the box, indicate whether you want all words modified or only specific words, and click “generate.” Voila! It’s that simple. I recently created a huge holiday campaign with several hundred modified broad match keywords in a fraction of the time it would have taken me otherwise, just by utilizing this tool.

#4: SplitTester and SuperSplitTester

If you’re running ad copy tests (and you should be), you’ll need a tool to tell you whether your test results are statistically significant or not. There are several good tools out there that fit the bill, but I like SplitTester and SuperSplitTester.

If you’re just looking at one metric, i.e. CTR, conversion rate, or whatever, use SplitTester. Enter the number of clicks (for CTR) or conversions (for conversion rate) and the CTR or conversion rate percentage, and it tells you whether the results are significant, and at what confidence level.

SuperSplitTester takes it a step further and incorporates CTR, conversion rate, and cost per impression. It runs all those metrics through its super-secret algorithm, and tells you which variation will make you the most profit over time. We use this free tool for almost all of our clients’ PPC tests, and the results speak for themselves.

#5: Twitter

Twitter? Yes, indeed – Twitter is one of my favorite PPC tools. It’s not a tool like the other 4 I’ve listed, in that it doesn’t take in data and spit out a result. Nonetheless, Twitter is my go-to place when I’m having a PPC problem that I can’t solve, or when I want to get quick feedback on something. It’s also become my news reader: I get breaking PPC news from Twitter before I see it anywhere else, and it aggregates everything into one place. Not only is it a great way to keep up with friends in the industry, it’s really become a valuable PPC tool.

Bonus Tip:

Since I’m feeling especially generous, here is a bonus tip: My good friend Alex Cohen from ClickEquations wrote an article for Search Engine Watch not long ago on 43 Paid Search Tools. It’s long, but as always, highly educational. Check it out!

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Integrated Search Marketing – The Big Takeaway from SES Chicago

It’s hard to believe that SES Chicago was 2 weeks ago already. As always, it was a great conference, with informative sessions and fantastic networking.

One common theme throughout several of the sessions I attended was integrated search marketing. Interestingly enough, we’ve been preaching the integration gospel at Fluency Media for a while now. A year ago, I wrote a series of articles for Search Engine Watch on integrating PPC with other online marketing channels. And now, it seems as though everyone’s on the integration bandwagon.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the session called PPC or SEO: The Ultimate Search Marketing Battle. It wasn’t even a battle, really – both sides ended up saying that both PPC and SEO are necessary for maximum SEM success.

Despite my disappointment at the lack of blood in this session :), here are some of the key takeaways:

• Use PPC to inform SEO! Where have I heard this before?
• Integrating PPC with SEO yields better results, efficiency, and cross-channel intelligence.
• Combine the two to reduce your risk. You need to do both PPC and SEO to effectively mitigate your risk.
• Use SEO for niche, long tail terms. (I actually disagree with this – SEO works well for broader terms that are expensive in PPC, while PPC is great for niche & long tail terms.)
• Build your site with SEO in mind. I wish more companies did this!
• Build inbound links.
• PPC helps with immediate presence. (In other words, SEO takes time; PPC can bridge the gap until your SEO kicks in.)
• Use PPC for top ranking on competitive terms that you’ll never rank for organically.
• Use both to dominate real estate above the fold. A Google case study showed that top organic & paid listing increases unaided awareness by 17x!
• Resolution Media ran a test with their clients where they paused brand terms in PPC for a month to test. They found that not bidding on brand terms led to 42% overall decrease in traffic on paid AND natural search. I actually wrote an article for DM News on this very subject – we found that not bidding on brand terms also decreased direct traffic.
• Perform landing page testing in PPC to decide what pages to optimize for SEO. (GREAT advice!)

I thought these were great tips. Do you have any to add?

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Skills Every PPC Manager Should Have

Yesterday, my friend Matt Umbro wrote a fantastic post on PPC skills titled PPC and So Much More. He’s identified 3 key skills that people often overlook when it comes to PPC, yet are critical to doing it well.

Matt has kindly given me credit for inspiring the post, but he deserves the credit for calling out these key aspects of our craft. Nice work, Matt!

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PPC In-House or Agency: Decisions, Decisions, Part II

Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of in-house PPC management. I’d like to thank all of you who commented on Twitter and linked to the article – it’s gratifying to know that I can help sort out some of these things for you!

In Part II of this 2-part series, I’ll cover the pros and cons of agency PPC management.

(And it bears repeating: let me make it clear that this is my personal blog. As such, the opinions expressed in this and every post here are mine, and do not necessarily reflect those of past or present employers.)

Agency Pros:

  • Experience. Chances are they’ve done this before. Lots of times. They’ll be ready to hit the ground running with best practices, instead of spending a lot of budget trying to, as someone on Twitter said last week, “get a clue.”
  • Contacts at the major search engines. Any agency worth their salt has a dedicated account team at both Google and Yahoo/Bing – meaning they have a direct line to help and support within the search engines.
  • Contacts in the SEM industry. Again, most agencies worth their salt attend at least one or two search marketing conferences per year. The really good ones not only attend the shows, they speak at the shows. They’re plugged in to what’s going on in the industry – and your account will benefit from their connections.
  • Multi-channel integration. Many (although certainly not all) digital agencies can manage not only your PPC program, but your SEO, social media, display, email, and sometimes even traditional media. This holistic view gives them a “big-picture” perspective that can get lost when these programs are siloed across several in-house departments.
  • Accountability. As an outsourced vendor, it’s in the agency’s best interest to be good stewards of your PPC budget. If they’re not, it’s pretty easy for you to pick up your ball and go to another agency – or go home and do it in-house.

Agency cons:

  • Cost. This depends on how you look at it: of course, it costs money to pay a full-time in-house PPC staffer. But an agency is going to charge you to manage their PPC budget, resulting in either a higher PPC budget, or a reduced spend with the search engines.
  • Communication can be an issue. Good agencies know how to work around this, but sometimes it’s hard for a client to know just what the agency is doing.
  • Accountability. Yes, I know I listed this in the “pros” column, but hear me out. An in-house PPC manager has to report to your company’s management team. If they do a poor job, chances are good they’ll be fired – and have to look for another job. But an agency manager likely works for several clients. Unless they’re grossly negligent, doing a poor or even mediocre job on your PPC account probably won’t’ cost them *their* job. It may cost the agency your business, but that person will probably just keep on working there.
  • Depth of account manager expertise. While it’s absolutely not the case at many agencies, sometimes the day-to-day management of your account will be handled by a junior staffer (or even an intern). While junior staff is almost always monitored by senior staff, if it’s important to have your account managed by a seasoned PPC pro, it’s not guaranteed at an agency.

Like I said, there’s no one right answer. I’ve done both, and I strongly believe in both approaches. If you’re wrestling with this idea, I recommend listening to this episode of the Best Search Strategies show. Jamie and Brian (both are super-smart acquaintances of mine) give a thorough overview of questions and considerations to review when you’re deciding on in-house or agency.

And as always, let me know your thoughts!

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How Not To Do Online Marketing

Last Friday was a fun day on Twitter – it was #shittyadviceday. I’m not sure who started it – when I logged in to Twitter at around 8 a.m. EST, some of my European SEM friends were already having fun with the hashtag.

The basic concept is to tweet something SEM-related that’s bad advice. In other words, if you read the tweets, you should absolutely do the opposite of the #shittyadvice that was provided. Here are a few of my favorites:




If you want to see more, just search for #shittyadviceday on Twitter Search.

What #shittyadviceday tips can you add?

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Busy Week In The PPC World

It’s been a busy 7 days in PPC land, at least for me. One of the things that’s kept me busy is the Adwords Professional exam. My certification was set to expire at the end of this month, so I needed to re-take the exam. I’ve been using Google Adwords since its inception in 2002, so the exam wasn’t difficult, but it did take time. (By the way, I passed with 97%!)

Speaking of the Adwords exam, I wrote about why you should become a Google Adwords Certified Professional at Search Engine Watch last week. If you’re not certified, check it out.

Also keeping me busy this week is reading about the approval of the Microsoft-Yahoo Search Alliance. While nothing’s changed yet, the alliance could prove to be interesting over the next 12 months. I for one am looking forward to saving time and effort managing campaigns in the two very different interfaces.

For more on the merger, take a look at John Lee’s post on the Clix Marketing Blog. He pretty much took the words out of my mouth with that post. It’s great stuff!

And with that, I’m off to the rat race!

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Effective PPC Landing Pages

This week, search marketers are voting on the best SEM articles of 2009 in the annual SEMMY Award competition. If you’re involved in SEM at all, I highly recommend you read every single finalist’s article. They’re authored by a Who’s Who of SEM, and are a great “continuing education” resource for the industry.

If you’re doing PPC, I suggest you go to the Design & Usability category and read every article. “Why not the PPC category,” you may ask? Well, of course the PPC category is important, as well. However, I’ve found, especially lately, that many PPC advertisers need serious help with their landing pages.

Apparently Steve Baldwin from Did-It agrees with me. His MediaPost column from earlier this week covers 6 common landing page errors he found recently while he was searching for a particular item he wanted to buy. I don’t often side with Steve – it seems that frequently, his articles are intentionally contentious and take the “devil’s advocate” point of view. But this time, he’s spot on.

I wrote about good PPC landing pages for the Fluency Media blog a while back. You’ll find many of my recommendations are the same ones that are in Steve’s article. (Hey, maybe he copied me! Ha ha!)

Getting back to the SEMMYs, my favorite Design & Usability article is 25 Point Website Usability Checklist by Dr. Peter J. Meyers. It’s a comprehensive list of design & usability elements that every website owner should review before launching a new site or a site redesign. He covers accessibility, navigation, content, and other important website and landing page elements. Bookmark this article, and look at it the next time you’re designing a landing page.

There is one PPC SEMMY nominee covering landing pages, from my Twitter friend Saad Kamal. (BTW, even though it’s not quite Friday, he definitely gets one of my Follow Friday recommendations!) Saad’s article, entitled 9 Effective Tips for a Better Landing Page, gives very specific and detailed instructions on how to craft a landing page especially for PPC. Of course, his tips are great for web pages in general, but are especially helpful when it comes to PPC-specific landing pages. If you follow his suggestions, I guarantee you’ll get good conversion rates.

What are your best PPC landing page secrets? Share them in the comments!

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PPC Happenings Around The Web

If you’re not currently participating in online SEM forums and/or reading SEM blogs, I strongly suggest you start doing so! Here are a few hot topics around the web this week.

Google Account Issues: There are a couple of threads on the Adwords Help forum dealing with some pretty serious issues with advertiser accounts. First is a thread about people having trouble canceling their accounts and getting refunds. Theoretically, one can cancel an Adwords account at any time, but apparently it’s not that simple

In another thread, an advertiser acting in an agency capacity got into a dispute with their client, and to make a long story short, Google handed their account over to the client – leaving the agency guy in the lurch with a lot of unpaid client work. It seems as though whoever pays the Adwords bill is considered the account owner, but it’s still unclear. I’m hoping Google clarifies their policy soon.

PPC Budget Strategy: The Search Engine Watch Forum is one of my favorite SEM forums. It’s been around for a long time, and I met a lot of my best friends in the industry there. There’s a thought-provoking thread going on now that started out as a discussion of budget strategy, but is morphing into more granular territory. Discussion continues on how to get the best ROI, match type bidding strategies, and other gems.

Changes To The Adwords Certification Exam: Google is apparently changing the Adwords Professional certification exam, turning it into four exams instead of one. Coverage is at Search Engine Roundtable.

Make a point to read up on these news items, and add your thoughts!

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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.

#2 -Bing. 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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