My Top 3 PPC Blog Posts of 2013

Here we are in the waning days of 2013, and the web is abuzz with “year in review” and “predict next year” posts. I actually find these posts to be fun – it’s interesting to look back and see if our predictions came true, and it’s good to have the “best of the best” in one post.

In true New Years fashion, let’s count down to the top 3 posts on my blog from 2013, as determined by page views. Enjoy!

#3: What’s Up With Bing Ads?

This post was written in September 2012, and yet it was the 3rd most popular post this year. As my longtime readers know, over the years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Bing Ads. This post covers both good and bad at that time – some of the issues I ranted about have since been fixed.

#2: 8 Killer Landing Page Optimization Tips for PPC

In April, I asked the experts at PPC Chat to give me their best landing page optimization tip for PPC. They came through with flying colors in this popular post – and readers offered additional tips in the comments. This one is worth a bookmark.

#1: My Top 10 PPC Blogs

Here, I list my go-to sources of great PPC news and information. If you’re not reading these blogs, what are you waiting for? Again, readers shared additional resources in the comments.

I hope you enjoy these posts, whether as a review or in case you missed them the first time around. Happy New Year, everyone!

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Reader Poll: PPC Topics for 2014

Thanksgiving was last week, and people are still thinking about what they’re thankful for. I’m thankful for a lot of things: my family, my awesome job, my Michigan State Spartans, and much more.

I’m also very thankful for you, my blog readers. Without you, I’d be, well, talking to myself. Many of you I’ve never met; many others I have met in real life and we’ve become friends. Whichever camp you fall into, thank you.

Now is your chance to tell me what PPC topics you’d like to hear more about in 2014. Answer the poll below and let me know!

Got something special you’re thankful for? Share in the comments!

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Google Has Become Yahoo

Google Adwords has been in the headlines a lot lately, and not in a good way. For some time now, PPC advertisers have been complaining about Adwords reps, and the lack of good ones. I even got in on the action back in May, complaining about a rep who reached out to us, only to turn out to be a thinly veiled sales guy. In that post, I lamented the good old days, when we all had Google reps that cared about our business and were there when we needed help or had questions.

That post is the most-commented post on my blog to date. It clearly struck a chord, with many other PPCers chiming in with their own horror stories.

Well, this week it got worse. Search Engine Land covered a story recounted by Martin MacDonald, who posted the audio of a Google rep who thought he’d hung up on one of his client’s voice mail, but really was being recorded the whole time. The story has been dubbed GoogleGate by the SEM community.

The audio is pretty damning. In the SEL article, Google came out and admitted that they use outside contractors. As an agency PPCer, I’d be the last person to complain about outsourcing. But if you’re going to outsource, it helps to use competent and professional people. And the idea of using outsource reps is to supplement your service, not do away with it altogether as Google has seemed to do. True Google reps who are marketing partners have all but disappeared in favor of hard-sell shills.

Read the comments on both the SEL and Martin MacDonald’s posts. They’re rife with accounts of people who had no option but to call Adwords general support, only to have the Adwords Help files quoted to them. I’ve had this happen many times myself. It’s frustrating as a PPC professional to have to educate the Google staff, instead of the other way around. After all, I wouldn’t call if I already knew the answer!

Ever hear the saying “Everything old is new again”? That’s what it’s looking like in search these days. Yahoo took the #1 spot in search in July, for the first time since 2011. How retro.

But I’m not bringing that up to reminisce. I’m bringing it up because Google is starting to remind me of Yahoo back in the old Yahoo Search Marketing days.

Back in 2009, I wrote a rant about Yahoo’s “optimizations.” To summarize, they were making changes to accounts without permission, and (supposedly) telling us after the fact. It caused quite a stir in the PPC community. And we all know what happened to Yahoo not long after – can you say Bing-Yahoo Alliance?

Well, if you read the comments on the SEL and MacDonald post, a lot of people expressed concern over outsourced Google reps contacting them for “optimization” help, and then asking them to sign a list of T&Cs that, among other things, allows Google to make changes “on behalf of” the advertiser without advance notice. I had to read those comments twice, because it sounded so familiar.

Yes, Google has resorted to the same tactics that got Yahoo in hot water 4 years ago. I sincerely hope that they don’t have the same outcome that Yahoo did. I guess time will tell.

What’s your prediction? Is this just a bump in Google’s yellow brick road, or is it a sign of serious troubles ahead? Share in the comments!

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My Top 10 PPC Blogs

This summer has been crazy month for me. I was on vacation for 10 straight days in July – the first time in years I’ve taken that much consecutive time off – and then another few days off last week. Of course, now I’m swamped at work. Add to that my life as a mom of two busy teenagers, and I barely have a minute to myself.

Being so busy means it’s hard to keep up with the latest PPC news. We all need a go-to source or two for PPC news and info for those times when we can’t keep up with Twitter and the like. While “mainstream” search news sites like Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land are awesome, sometimes I’m too busy to dig through all the posts to get at the PPC gems – especially if I’m looking for something specific. So, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 blogs that focus exclusively on PPC.

PPC Hero

These guys are prolific. With new posts nearly every day by a variety of authors, the PPC Hero team puts out great PPC content from beginner to advanced level.

Clix Marketing

The Clix Marketing blog has been off-again, on-again (haven’t we all?), but lately it’s been really “on.” They’re writing thought-provoking posts over there, so if you haven’t checked them out recently, go do it now!

PPC Chat

OK, technically this isn’t a blog, but you’ll find the weekly chat recaps here. If you’re like me and had weeks of meetings scheduled during PPC Chat time recently, don’t fret – you can read the screencaps here!

Certified Knowledge

With posts by Brad Geddes, a long-time PPC pro, you know you’ll find great content here. Brad doesn’t blog often, but when he does, you’ll want to bookmark it!

Inside Adwords

Yes, the Adwords blog puts that nice Google spin on their posts, but it’s still the place to learn about what’s new with Adwords. It’s also a good place to refer clients or bosses who want to learn more about PPC; their writers do a good job of explaining new features that advertisers might want to try.

Bing Ads Blog

Not to be outdone, Bing has a nice blog of their own. And the posts are written by real people, many of whom I’ve met so I know they actually exist. Bing also does nice analyses of data, along with real-world tips to optimize your Bing campaigns.

PPC Associates

While similar to PPC Hero, PPC Associates puts their unique stamp on PPC news and views. They also have a Facebook PPC blog that’s really good.

Get Found First

The Get Found First blog is another up-and-comer. When you see a new post here, you’ll want to drop everything and start reading. Their post this week on Google’s fishy cost per action metric is thought-provoking to say the least.

RKG Blog

RKG is the ultimate PPC geek’s haven. There are posts over there that I’ve read over and over and still can’t understand them. These guys are among the smartest people in PPC.

Acquisio

Acquisio is a PPC tool vendor, so you might think that their blog would try to sell you. Not so. They use a variety of guest bloggers in addition to their own super-smart staff to write about geeky PPC goodness.

There you have it – my top 10 PPC blogs. Of course, there are many other good blogs out there that I didn’t mention. What’s your favorite PPC blog? Share in the comments!

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PPC News Around the Web, Summer Reading Edition

Well, it’s the last day of May already. If you’re anything like me, your thoughts are fast turning to summer: warm weather, vacations, barbecues, beaches, or whatever you like to do in the summer. Me, I like to read – I read year-round, but there’s something cool and comforting about curling up with a great read in a lounge chair pool or beach side.

With that, here’s my reading list from the many great blog posts that were published in May.

Long Term PPC Keyword Expansion: Moving Beyond the Obvious from John Lee at Clix Marketing. OK, so John gave me some nice props in this post, but he’s also outlined some fantastic and little-used keyword research techniques that you should try.

5 Excel Skills Every Marketer Should Know by Annie Cushing over at Search Engine Land. I’ve found myself bookmarking every post that Annie writes, because they’re (a) so informative and (b) so geeked-out that I need to read them multiple times. While this post isn’t as geeky as some of her others, it’s still a great how-to on much-needed Excel skills.

Getting Away From Our PPC Campaigns This Summer also at Search Engine Land, this one by my good friend Matt Van Wagner. Matt’s found some great hacks that will save time and aggravation. This one is a must-read.

How to Exclude Mobile Apps on the Google Display Network by Bryant Garvin at Get Found First. This was spurred by a Twitter discussion amongst some of us frustrated Display advertisers who were seeing placements like this:

tablet display site fails

Bryant has an easy and yet not-so-obvious way to eliminate this garbage traffic. Thanks, Bryant!

Market Research for International PPC Success by Heather Cooan at Search Engine Journal. International PPC is a whole new ballgame for those of us who’ve been stuck stateside. This post covers key differences that international advertisers need to be aware of.

Speaking of international PPC, I’ll be hosting this week’s PPC Chat where we’ll be talking about International PPC! Hop on over to Twitter at noon Eastern time on Tuesday, June 4 and join the conversation!

Adwords Support Sinks To A New Low by me. This was really a frustration rant on my part, but it ended up being my most-read and most-commented post ever. Clearly I struck a chord. In case you missed this one, go take a look and be sure to read all the comments.

PPC Books I Recommend. I regularly get asked about PPC books and which ones I recommend. I finally decided to compile a list someplace for easy reference. I have read all of these books and refer to them often. If you’re new to PPC, or if you just want to learn more, bookmark this page as your starting point.

Enjoy your summer reading!

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PPC News in February, Enhanced Campaigns Edition

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that Google’s Enhanced Campaigns are February’s big PPC news. Countless articles and blog posts have been written about Enhanced Campaigns already. Here are a couple that I thought were particularly informative.

A Detailed Look at Enhanced Campaigns by PPC Hero. Great overview and step by step detail on Enhanced Campaigns.

Enhanced Campaigns – New Bidding Opportunities and Challenges As usual, Rimm-Kaufman comes through with a thorough post on the pros and cons of Enhanced Campaigns.

Should You Upgrade To Enhanced Campaigns? by Brad Geddes over at Search Engine Land. This post outlines who should upgrade now, and who should wait.

I’ll be appearing on the Marketing Nirvana podcast on Webmaster Radio in a couple of weeks to talk more about Enhanced Campaigns, so stay tuned for more on that.

Speaking of Webmaster Radio, check out this PPC Rockstars episode  where Marty Weintraub and I talk about using Google Analytics to improve PPC performance. I even get an Eddie Van Halen reference in there!
eddie van halen
Rock on, PPC friends!

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PPC News Around the Web: Top 7 Posts for January 2013

January is nearly over, and as always the month went fast. And as usual, there was a lot of interesting PPC news published this month. Here is a summary of the top 7 PPC news posts and articles I bookmarked this month.

All About Display

A Search Marketer’s Guide To Google Display Advertising, Part 3.  I stumbled across this excellent series by my good friend Matt Van Wagner a bit late in the game, on Part 3 of 3. The entire series is required reading for both new and experienced Google Display Network users; you’ll find links to Part 1 and 2 in this post.

Get On Those Negative Keywords

I don’t believe this was new in January, but it was new to me: World’s Biggest Negative Keyword List, compliments of Clix Marketing and via David Szetela. While there are other good negative keyword lists out there, this one buckets keywords by vertical. I found it immediately useful for a few client campaigns where we’ve been struggling with irrelevant traffic.

Geek Out Posts

Let’s face it – when you’ve done PPC and SEM for a long time, most blog posts are underwhelming in terms of true geeky content. That’s why these next 2 posts made my list for this month: they’re so technically awesome that I need to go back and re-read them, because I was lost the first time around!

Advanced Filters: Excel’s Amazing Alternative To Regex by Annie Cushing, who gets my vote for being the Miss Universe of Excel. Her posts are so full of knowledge and resources that I bookmark nearly all of them (and then go back and try to understand how the heck to replicate what she did).

Google Analytics Tips: 10 Data Analysis Strategies That Pay Off Big! by Avinash Kaushik. Google Analytics is a valuable tool for PPC data analysis, and this post is full of great tips. It starts out easy enough, but quickly moves into custom reports & segments for some serious data crunching. As a bonus, it includes many of Avinash’s unique phraseology.

Girl Power

Marty Weintraub from aimClear takes on gender diversity on search conference speaking panels and backs it up with data in Female Online Marketing Speaker Stats: 13 True Evangelists Discuss The Data. Ever wondered why so few females speak at search conferences? Marty interviews longtime conference speakers and organizers to get at the reasons. Disclosure: I’m one of the Evangelists in the post. But don’t let that stop you! It’s an analysis that’s long overdue.

Conversion Optimizer Case Study

Brad Geddes brings us yet another informative and detailed post with Case Study: Quadrupling A Small Account’s Conversions In Just 90 Days. A fascinating read illustrating how to replicate his results! (And yes, I realize that this was published on December 31. A mere technicality.)

Most-Commented Beyond the Paid Post

While it wasn’t the top in page views in January, my Adwords Search Query Reports: US Versus The World post garnered the most comments of any in recent memory. It illustrates what’s so great about the PPC community: people chimed in with stories of their own and suggestions for additional research to help me get to the bottom of the situation. I’ll be doing a follow-up post soon, thanks to all the great insight shared in the comments.

There you have it – my top 7 PPC news posts for January. What were your favorites?

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3 PPC Wishes – Fulfilled?

google_bing_logosHere we are in 2013, and wow, did 2012 go fast. It seems like yesterday that I was writing my inaugural 2012 blog post on my 2007 PPC Wish List.

Every year in PPC is full of changes and innovations – some needed, some expected, and some surprising. This year was no different. Plenty of posts have catalogued everything that happened, so I won’t bore you with that here.

Instead, let’s see how the search engines did with my 2007 PPC wishes.

Wish 1: More traffic and search leadership from MSN/Bing.

While I can’t go so far as to say Bing hit a home run in 2012, they did hit a long triple. They renamed themselves as Bing Ads, reworked their online UI and desktop editor, and essentially made themselves more like Google. They went a long way towards greater search leadership with these innovations. They also continued to provide the great community outreach and customer support that they’ve been known for. And their PPC search team was ever-present at search conferences, something we’ve seen less and less from Google.

This is all well and good, but what about traffic? If you’d asked me that question in June, I’d have told you they were still languishing in the basement. But by the end of the summer, Bing had reached an all-time high of 25% share. We saw similar increases in our clients’ traffic from Bing Ads, and thankfully the traffic quality, for the most part, remained as good as it’s always been.

Wish 1: Fulfilled!

Wish 2: Better Adwords query matching.

In my 2012 post, I lamented the awful query matching on Google. Throughout the year, Google did make strides in this area, most notably by adding the option for “near match” for exact and phrase match keywords.

In reality, though, this was just Google’s way of changing a default setting (near match is a default) and sponging from newbie PPC advertisers. I know few veteran PPC’ers who choose to have near match enabled – if we want near match, we’ll use modified broad.

Furthermore, judging from my search query reports, even when you do opt out of near match, you’ll still get “close variants” that aren’t closely related at all. It’s frustrating.

Add to that the continued annoyance of “session based broad match”, and Google has completely failed on this.

I’m actually working on a blog post that will further delve into the miasma that is Google keyword matching. Stay tuned for that in future weeks.

Wish 2: Unfulfilled.

Wish 3: More accurate PPC traffic estimates.

On this wish, both Google and Bing made significant positive changes.  Google completely revamped their keyword tool, offering several new options.  My favorite is the “Ad Group Creator,” which groups keyword suggestions by theme. While some have complained about the suggestions made by the tool, I like them – it saves time slogging through thousands of keywords trying to weed out the irrelevant terms. You’ll still need to slog through, but it’s much faster to eliminate entire buckets of keywords than to pick them out one by one.

Google’s traffic estimation tool also has improved geotargeting capabilities, and from what I can tell, they’re fairly accurate. This is huge for advertisers who want to expand into new markets, or who only serve certain cities, states, or regions.

While the Google improvements were good, Bing’s were awesome. I’m not talking about their online keyword tool, either. I’m talking about Bing Ads Intelligence.

I’ve written before about the tool, and am finishing up another post about it. For now, suffice it to say that Bing Ads Intelligence is now my go-to keyword research tool. It’s faster, easier, and more accurate than Google’s, and it offers features that Google does not.

Wish 3: Fulfilled!

Wow, that’s 2 out of 3 PPC wishes. I’d say 2012 was a pretty good year!

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My 2012 End Of The World Post

Image courtesy of www.bizarrocomics.com

OK, I don’t really believe the world is ending on Friday. But I do want to take this opportunity to share some of the highlights of 2012, both in the PPC world and personally.

The beginning of 2012 brought with it a new job for me, and it’s been nothing but rewarding. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with the fantastic team at gyro and to do it mostly from home!

I also crossed 3 things off my bucket list: seeing Van Halen in the front row, walking a half marathon, and celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary with a cruise. All in all, it’s been a very good year!

2012 has been a good year for PPC in many ways, also.  There were some amazing PPC conferences, including the inaugural HeroConf.

There was the uproar over Google ad rotation, and Bing went from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Every year I’m surprised by posts saying PPC is dead, and by the blatant misunderstandings about how PPC works. In fact, my Adwords Debacle post was one of the most-read posts on this blog in 2012. PPC has been around for well over 10 years now, and yet the lack of understanding amongst many advertisers is always a surprise.

2012 brought some amazing info-sharing around the blogosphere. In June, I listed some of my favorite posts. Since then, there have been more good posts, including this one on testing millions of ads and this one on increasing PPC sales. My bookmarked list of great PPC posts grows by the day!

For a roundup of big PPC news in 2012, check out these Search Engine Watch posts by my friends Joe Kerschbaum and Alex Cohen.

And finally, no 2012 roundup would be complete without a shout-out to my favorite PPC resource, PPC Chat. Founded by Matt Umbro, PPC Chat has become my go-to source for quick answers to tough PPC questions. Someone is always there on the hashtag ready to help! I’ve met so many friends and PPC pros, both online and in real life, as a result of PPC Chat. If you do nothing else in 2013, get in on the PPC Chat action!

Finally, I’d like to wish all my readers a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year in 2013. Without all of you, I’d be, well, talking to myself. You all rock!

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YSM, You Are the Liar!

Yahoo Search Marketing caused a stir recently when they updated their Terms and Conditions to include “auto-optimization” of YSM accounts. They decided to update one of our client’s accounts shortly thereafter, and it was anything but “optimized.” I’m quoted in the Search Engine Roundtable post, so I won’t reiterate Yahoo’s idiocy here.

Now, Yahoo has decided to speak out on the issue on their blog. They sing the praises of this “service” and claim that it “helps small advertisers improve performance issues on their accounts.” While that may be true for some advertisers, it was anything but for my client. Then Yahoo has the audacity to say that “not everyone in the blogosphere understands this new program, which we believe is the result of misinformation more than anything else.” What?!?!? Misinformation???

Bullcrap. My story is 100% true, and it offends me that they would call it “misinformation.” Furthermore, it appears that they went against their own intentions when they took it upon themselves to optimize our client’s account: Yahoo claims in their blog post, in bold font no less, that auto-optimization “is not designed for larger advertisers who actively manage their accounts.” I manage hundreds of thousands in advertiser spend and have been doing SEM since 2002 (before Yahoo even HAD a PPC program – it was still Overture then). I do actively manage all of my clients accounts. Yet Yahoo felt the need to add a new campaign with ad copy that could have been written by one of my 11-year old twins (wait, I take it back- it wasn’t even that good). And they were bidding on keywords that aren’t even relevant to my client’s offering. It was as far from optimization as it could be.

Yahoo goes on to say that “Advertisers are notified of any changes within 24 hours (usually, fewer than eight hours).” Double bullcrap. I never received any notification that this had been done – I found it by accident when I logged in to “actively manage” my client’s account.

Yahoo, you screwed up once by launching this “feature” in the first place. You screwed up a second time when you violated your own principles by doing this to an account that is being actively managed by a professional SEM. You screwed up a third time by calling all of us SEM pros – A-list bloggers and long-time SEMs – liars.

Three strikes and you’re out. I shut off Yahoo for this client and many others as a result. It’s just too risky and their attitude sucks.

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