Do the PPC Engines Reward the Right Behaviors?

Years and years ago, when I was in graduate school, I read an article published in the Academy of Management Journal called “On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B “. Originally written in 1975, the article was already a classic, even at that time. Still, as with most college reading assignments, I approached it with disdain, prepared to extract what I needed for the next class exam and then forget about it.

I was wrong. The article has stuck with me, all these years later.

The article’s basic premise: “Reward systems are fouled up in that the types of behavior that are rewarded are those which the rewarder is trying to discourage, while the behavior desired is not being rewarded at all.” An example given in the article is businesses who say they are committed to total quality, yet incent and reward employees for shipping products on schedule, even with errors and defects.

What does this have to do with PPC? A lot.

One example of “rewarding for A while hoping for B” in PPC is the quality score conundrum. Ever since Google rolled out quality score in 2008, advertisers have struggled in their attempts to improve it, often to their detriment. The pursuit of high quality scores is frequently at odds with PPC results goals.

Let’s say that an ecommerce advertiser is using PPC to generate sales. ROI is their primary key performance indicator (KPI) – in other words, the advertiser wants the most sales at the lowest cost. But let’s say this same advertiser is also trying to optimize for quality score, and that their PPC manager is measured and rewarded in part based on quality score improvement.

Both Google and Bing have openly stated that click-through rate (CTR) is the primary determinant of quality score. An advertiser must improve CTR in order to improve quality score. So, the PPC manager who is trying to improve their quality score needs to increase CTR.

In ecommerce, though, high CTR often does not correlate to high ROI. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see the best ROI on ads with the worst CTR!

Carefully crafted ad copy will, by design, discourage unqualified prospects from clicking. That’s why it’s a good idea to include product prices in your ad copy – to prevent clicks from tire-kickers who are clicking on ads to compare prices, with no intention to purchase at that moment. Including the price in the ad precludes clicks from price shoppers.

In this case, though, unfortunate PPC managers are faced with goals that are almost mutually exclusive. They need to improve quality score to make a client or boss happy, and yet improving quality score means increasing CTR – and reducing ROI. It’s a no-win situation, because if the PPC manager is rewarded for higher quality score, the company faces a potential decrease in ROI.

Enhanced campaigns are probably the most egregious case of “rewarding for A while hoping for B”. When Google announced enhanced campaigns, they touted the ease of management.

“Tired of maintaining separate campaigns for each device? Good news – now you can’t! Just use bid modifiers instead!” The same thing goes for geotargeting, dayparting, and other “features” of enhanced campaigns – by introducing bid modifiers, Google claims to have simplified account management.

Why did Google develop enhanced campaigns? The prevalent belief is that the current AdWords system had become unwieldy, with features bolted on to the point that it was taxing their system servers.

Enhanced campaigns are Google’s answer to a system that had become, in their opinion, needlessly bloated and complex. In other words, Google launched enhanced campaigns with the hope of reducing the number of campaigns in the AdWords system, thereby making it easier for advertisers.

Alas, Google fell into the “rewarding for A while hoping for B” trap. In their quest to reduce the number of campaigns, they’ve actually increased them.

Google rewards advertisers (or at least experienced advertisers) with a nearly endless number of levers to pull to improve performance and ROI. We PPC managers use every tool in our arsenal to weed out non-converting traffic and improve our conversion rates. We don’t want to pay a penny more for a conversion than we have to.

Enhanced campaigns took away some of our levers, namely separating campaigns by device. We’re forced to come up with crazy workarounds that, more often than not, require more campaigns, not less.

Employing bid modifiers created a similar conundrum, in that we now have to organize our campaigns by bid modifier. Where in the past we may have had two campaigns, we might now have 10: one for each geo, daypart, and device modification percentage.

Google hoped to simplify the AdWords system, but by rewarding PPC managers with multiple levers, they’ve instead complicated the system by an order of magnitude.

Many advertisers also unwittingly “reward for A while hoping for B”, often with distractions and pop-overs on landing pages that pull visitors away from the primary conversion action. Don’t make this mistake! Align your goals with your ad copy, landing pages, and website – and don’t reward visitors for something other than what you’re hoping for.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on June 25, 2013.

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How Big Is Your PPC Data Set?

Big data is all the rage these days. I’ve written about big data in PPC before. This isn’t a post on big data per se – but this week I’ve felt the need to talk about how much data is needed to make good decisions in PPC.

Let’s start on the micro side. A couple years ago, I wrote a post on PPC testing and why days are not data. I stole that phrase from my friend Andrew Goodman, but it’s so good that I find myself using it frequently, including every day this week.

Teaching people and clients about PPC is a passion of mine. I love to help others learn about the career that I love. Sometimes, though, the great aspects of PPC such as quick launches, instant data, and cool reporting get overstated. Suddenly you have a client or boss who wants a daily detailed report on his or her PPC campaign progress.

I don’t advocate that. I talk about that at length in my Days are not Data post, but in a nutshell, a one-day snapshot is full of too many normal fluctuations to be meaningful. Those unfamiliar with the ebb and flow of PPC get too bogged down with the daily deluge, causing unnecessary worry and alarm.

I try to remind these folks that they hired a PPC pro for a reason. We DO watch the data on a daily basis and adjust as needed. We just don’t make pass-or-fail judgments on one day’s worth of stats.

Now let’s look at the big data set of the coin. I wrote a post for Search Engine Watch this week called Do the PPC Engines Reward the Right Behaviors? It was a fun post to write – I’d been mulling it over in my head for literally a year, and finally the time was right to write the post.

In the post, I stated that Enhanced Campaigns are a case of Google rewarding for A while hoping for B – rewarding advertisers with lots of levers, while hoping they’ll create fewer campaigns.

While the number of comments and feedback on the post weren’t overwhelming, they were definitely interesting. Most people agreed that Google made things worse for advertisers and themselves with Enhanced Campaigns.

But Larry Kim disagreed with me. He has been out there trumpeting the nirvana of Enhanced Campaigns ever since they were in beta. Therefore, I wasn’t at all surprised with his stance.

I have a ton of respect for Larry and have no problem with what he said. But I still disagree.

Enhanced campaigns are fine for smaller advertisers with simple settings and campaigns. They’re good for local advertisers who previously had trouble hyper-targeting their PPC.

But for those of us running complex campaigns with diverse goals and objectives, Enhanced Campaigns are a nightmare. Several large PPC companies have written about their tribulations with Enhanced Campaigns, including higher CPCs and worsening performance across millions of dollars of spend. Matt Van Wagner is moving budget to Bing because of them. We’re seeing weirdness with our clients who’ve transitioned, including the same CPC spikes that others are claiming.

I’m not questioning the veracity of Larry’s data. I’m sure it’s accurate for his client set. But for most of us, the PPC big data says that Enhanced Campaigns are bad news.

What do you think about PPC data? When is enough enough? Share in the comments!

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3 Big PPC Mistakes Even Pros Make

Everyone makes mistakes. You’ve heard that saying a thousand times, and yet it still rings true.

Even seasoned professionals make mistakes; and usually mistakes are the best way to learn.

Still, especially when you’re new at something, it’s encouraging to know that even the pros mess up at times. Every golfer loves it when Tiger Woods shanks a drive, for example.

I asked PPC pros to share their biggest PPC mistakes (anonymously, of course). One long-time PPC manager sent me three mistakes and said they’d made all of them in the last year! I know I’ve made my share over the years, too.

With that, here are the mistakes people made, and how to avoid them.

1. Budget Mistakes

“One of my team members uploaded a new campaign with a budget of $5,000/day, not $500/day. Campaign went live over a weekend and spent a ton.”

“PPC mistakes I have made: spending budgets too fast and forgetting to add new budget for the start of a new month (using Manager Defined Spend).”

One of the great things about PPC is that you can decide how much you want to spend. As an advertiser, you can decide to spend $5 per day or $50,000 per day – and you control the budget limits.

The problems arise when simple typos are made in budgets, or when an agency manager forgets to add new budget to their MDS (which I have done myself).

How to avoid budget mistakes: Have someone else double-check your entries, and put a reminder on your calendar for the last Friday of each month to reset your MDS budgets.

2. Bidding Mistakes

“My biggest PPC mistake: late one night I accidentally increased bids on two keywords… I meant to type 11 cents, but I typed 11 dollars. By the next day the account had racked up $7,000 in unwanted charges!”

“I tried changing bids only to remember that the client has automated bidding for those keywords – after spending time setting up all the new bids.”

“Biggest mistake: Forgetting a decimal point on a bid. Fortunately, it wasn’t for a client account. Unfortunately, it was for me. Ka-Ching.”

“Someone I worked with once put a popular head term on broad match with a £80 bid instead of a £0.80 bid.”

I’d be willing to bet that every PPC manager has made a bidding mistake at least once. It’s easy to type $30 when you really meant $0.30 – or vice versa – and the results can be disastrous in a short period of time.

I once set up a bunch of new keywords for a client in a very competitive vertical, and couldn’t figure out why they weren’t getting any traffic. Turns out I’d set the bids at $0.50 instead of $50!

How to avoid bidding mistakes: It’s hard to completely avoid them, but using an offline editor like AdWords Editor or Bing Ads Editor helps, because you can check your work before the changes go live. Also, make sure to check your campaigns the next day – you’ll easily spot anomalies before they get too far out of control.

3. Network Targeting Mistakes

“Not turning off content network for a new campaign, set to single word broad match. Not always a mistake, but this time it was.”

“With all the teams I’ve managed, the favorite rookie mistake has always been content network =on. Have seen £00s wasted on that.”

Google doesn’t do novice PPC marketers any favors with their campaign defaults. PPC best practices such as separating search and content (display) and proper geo-targeting are overridden by Google’s default settings, which target “All Countries and Languages” and “All Networks.”

google network default

How to avoid network targeting mistakes: Make sure all new hires are trained in best practices for PPC settings, and be sure to check their work early on. Using a desktop editor makes it easier to double-check all campaign settings before pushing campaigns live. After the changes are live, check the settings again in the online interface to make sure everything is the way it should be. Schedule a report, segmented by network and campaign, to be sent to your email the day after the campaign goes live. If you’re seeing traffic in the wrong place, you’ll know what to fix.

Summary

Hopefully this post has taught you two things: that even the most experienced PPC managers make mistakes, and how to avoid those pitfalls!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on February 5, 2013.

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International PPC: How to Go Global

This week, I had the enormous pleasure of hosting PPC Chat. It was my first time hosting, and I had a blast! Credit goes to Matt Umbro for helping me prepare ahead of time – Matt, you made my job easy!

Anyway, we talked about International PPC and I learned a ton. I’ve managed international PPC campaigns before, but have always felt like I could be doing it better than I was. And as we all know, the world is getting smaller and more and more companies are going global, so it’s time to get on the international PPC bandwagon.

Here are my key takeaways from the chat.

Enlist the help of native speakers for ad copy & keyword creation and optimization.

Sure, you can use Google Translate for this, but that’s probably worse than running ads in just English. Not only will the ads read awkwardly, but you might inadvertently make cultural faux pas. We’ve all heard the legend about the Chevy Nova selling poorly in Latin America. Don’t be that advertiser. Either use client resources to vet your ad copy, or hire an international contractor to help you.

International PPC rollout strategies vary.

Answers to the question “When you launch internationally, do you start with an entire account, or one campaign at a time?” were widely varied. The majority of chatters said they launched gradually, one campaign at a time, to control spend and results. James Svoboda said it best: “Campaign at a time. Too many ‘WTF is happening to conversion rates’ scenarios can happen.” Indeed.

While many chatters agreed with James, Jessica Fisher had a different strategy: “I just roll them all out with low budgets and conservative settings. Takes less time & you never know what will/will not convert.” This also made a lot of sense to me: the low budget minimizes risk, and you’ll learn faster.

My advice? Work with your client or boss and decide which approach you’re most comfortable with. Depending on your goals and objectives, either strategy could work for you.

You must support the languages in which you’re advertising.

The “quote of the chat” came from my friend Carrie Hill: “If you cannot support the conversion in another language – why are you targeting it w/ PPC?” This is something that we’ve struggled with. Advertisers want to create ad copy in native languages, which makes a lot of sense – but their website is in English only, and they don’t have customer service reps who speak other languages!

Think about that for a second. You’re running ads in the Netherlands, in Dutch. Your keywords are also Dutch. So a Dutch-speaking person searches, sees your ad, clicks on it – and ends up on an English-language site. Strike one – you’ve already alienated him. Then Mr. Van Customer calls your international 800 number in hopes he can reach another Dutch speaker. Strike two – your CS reps don’t speak Dutch, either. If he’s really persistent, he might go back to your site and find a contact link, and he sends you an email – in Dutch, which no one can read or respond to. Strike three.

Sure, we can all use Google Translate, and it’s better than nothing. But we’ve all seen those awkward translations it spits back, too. The point is, you must support the language!

If you can’t, you’re better off running ads in English. That way you can still reach English-speaking customers in other countries, without alienating others.

If you missed Tuesday’s chat, you can check out the streamcap. Did you participate in the International PPC chat? What are your best international PPC tips? 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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Partner PPC – Doing It Right

In the world of business, there are makers and sellers: companies who make products, and companies who sell them. Sometimes they’re one and the same, and other times they’re different. If you buy plastic bags for your retail store, chances are you’re not buying them from the bag manufacturer, but from a vendor who bought the bags and then resells them to you. It’s common practice, and it’s good for business.

Years ago, in another life, I sold radio and newspaper advertising for a living. We frequently dealt with co-op advertising, where a product manufacturer would agree to pay for a portion of a reseller’s ad, provided the reseller included certain elements about the manufacturer – their logo, name, slogan, etc.

Nowadays, I find myself working on similar programs for PPC. We usually call them partner programs, although they go by different names. Still, the premise is the same: working with a reseller to promote a manufacturer’s product or service.

Like with most things PPC, there is a right way to do partner PPC and a wrong way. The wrong way is for the partner to go rogue, trying to bid on manufacturer trademarks without permission. I once had a client whose resellers were doing just that – using PPC effectively to sell their products, to the point that the client lost nearly all control over them, including the prices they were charging. The resellers were using PPC for acquisition, with rock-bottom prices that undercut the manufacturer themselves. Needless to say, this was a challenging situation for all involved.

So what’s the right way to do partner PPC?

Work together.

Too often, partner PPC ends up as a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Resellers decide to start bidding against manufacturers, never talking with one another – and soon, no one is getting good results from PPC.

Avoid this trap by calling a meeting with resellers and manufacturers and work out a program. Decide on the parameters first! Advertising is a business deal, so it makes sense to have a contract or at least program guidelines for participation.

Decide who gets what keywords.

Many vendors selling the same thing to the same audience means many different advertisers bidding on the same keywords. Depending on the partner program setup, you may even be sending traffic to the same display URL.

For these and other reasons, it’s crucial to decide who gets to bid on what keywords. Many partner programs work well with a “divide and conquer” strategy, where the keyword list is divided as evenly as possible across all partners. Other times, if traffic goes to partner sites, it can be possible for multiple partners to bid on the same keywords. Decide what makes sense, and stick to it. Periodically run reports to make sure duplicate keywords haven’t slipped into the mix.

Keyword coordination takes time, but it’s worth the investment in better performance for all involved.

Get trademark approvals in place ahead of time.

A huge benefit of working with a well-known manufacturer is using their name in your ad copy. But often, the manufacturer has applied for trademark protection with Google, meaning partners won’t be allowed to use the terms in ad copy. There are several workarounds for this, all involving the trademark owner giving express permission to companies to use their trademark. Get all this done before launching PPC! It’s frustrating and time-consuming to set up a campaign and get approvals, only to have all your ads declined for trademark use.

Get tracking and reporting in place.

Tracking is important no matter what kind of PPC you’re doing, but it can be especially challenging in partner situations where you’re sending traffic from multiple accounts to the same website. Make sure your analytics package can handle this, and be sure to use tracking URLs so you know whose traffic is whose!

A word of caution:  If you’re an agency managing multiple partner campaigns, be very clear about what type of reporting partners will receive. I once worked on a national program that had one manufacturer and 20 partners – and I managed all of the campaigns. The partner budgets were relatively small – but reporting time isn’t usually dependent on advertiser spend! We had to be very clear about the kinds of reports we’d provide to partners (and to the manufacturer), and how to handle requests for extra reporting. Luckily, we were able to use automated reports that didn’t take much time to create. Otherwise, you’ll find your workload increasing for every partner you take on!

With advance planning, and a true partnership attitude, partner PPC can be very lucrative for both the supplier and the partner. Have you done partner PPC? What are your favorite tips? Share in the comments!

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How Online Marketing Is Like Fine Dining

Online marketing has been all the rage for 15 years now, at least. From the beginning of public adoption of the internet, success measurements have varied. In the early days, it was all about “hits.” Then it was all about site visits (unique visitors). At some point, the more savvy online marketers started worrying about conversions.

And yet, in 2012, I’m often surprised to hear clients coming in saying “we need to do PPC” or “we have to get out there in social media.”

Why is this bad? Because they’ve chosen the tactic before they’ve set goals and mapped out a strategy.

Have you ever been to a really fancy dinner where each place setting has 3 forks, 2 spoons, a couple knives, and a seemingly endless number of plates? And have you sat there at the table wondering which water goblet you should drink from, and worrying about which fork or spoon you should use for the first course?

I’ve been there, too. But what I’ve noticed about these fancy meals is that 9 times out of 10, it becomes plainly obvious which utensil you should use once the first course actually arrives. If it’s soup, you use a soup spoon. If it’s a salad, you grab the outside fork. If it’s seafood in the shell, you’ll pick up the little seafood fork (I don’t eat seafood, so forgive me if I haven’t used the right analogy here!).

The point is, once you know what your goal is (eating soup vs. eating a salad), the right utensil becomes obvious.

Online marketing is the same way. Marketers spend an inordinate amount of time debating which tactic they should start with: PPC, SEO, social media, email, website optimization…. and often they can’t agree on what makes the most sense. In the meantime, their sales are struggling to get past the appetizer course.

A better approach is to think about your goals. Is increasing sales the first order of business? Are you looking for awareness for a new brand or product? Are you selling inexpensive products or services to consumers, or are you an enterprise solution provider selling to CEOs with a 12-month sales cycle? Is your website ready to capture sales or leads, or does it need work?

All of these factors will affect which tactic you choose. Many online marketing tactics work together, and it’s great to integrate as many tactics as you can within an overall strategy. But before you get to that step, it’s critical to establish your goals and determine how those goals will be measured. So even if your goal is clear from the beginning, if you don’t have tracking and analytics in place, how will you know if you’ve achieved it?

So the next time you’re debating a dip in the waters of PPC, SEO, or social media, put down your fork and think about your goals first.

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Google’s Display Network, Part 1: Best Practices & Myths

Just last week, I had a call with one of our Google reps. He was quite knowledgeable, and made several helpful suggestions on Adwords features we could try for our Fluency Media clients. While I was aware of most of the features already, he explained them in detail, and suggested which clients should try which features.

One of the features he brought up was the Google Display Network. The conversation with our rep reminded me that many new advertisers don’t know how to use the Display network, which then prompted me to outline some of the best practices and myths.

When Google launched the Display network about 7 years ago, it was like the Wild West: the network was full of MFA sites, and there were none of the great features like site exclusion that we have now. It was a huge gamble to even thinking about running ads there.

Thankfully, Google listened to advertiser feedback, and made huge improvements over the years. Still, though, the Display network can be a money pit for advertisers who don’t follow best practices.

Best Practice #1: Realize that Display isn’t search.

The first concept to understand is that Display isn’t search. Ads aren’t served based on keywords typed into a search engine. Instead, ads are served on websites where the content matches the content of the ad. Because of this, Display campaigns should always be separate from Search campaigns. Although Google allows advertisers to run ads in both Search and Display in the same campaign, don’t be tempted to take this shortcut. It’s not unusual for ad groups & campaigns to perform very differently in the two networks, so you’ll want the control you get with separate bidding for Search & Display.

Best Practice #2: Use small, tightly-themed ad groups.

This is good advice for search campaigns, too, but is critical for Display. It’s your job as an advertiser to make it abundantly clear to Google what your ad group’s topic is, so Google can show it on appropriate pages. Using tightly themed ad groups will accomplish this.

Best Practice #3: Make heavy use of the placement performance report & site exclusion.

Probably the best thing Google did to enhance advertiser performance in the Display Network was to create the placement performance report. I remember literally whooping with joy when this launched – finally, advertisers would have the transparency to see where their ads were being served, and what the results were on a site-by-site basis! Use this feature to your advantage. The report is easier than ever to run in the new Adwords interface – just go to Networks, set your date range (I use All Time to give the largest data set, and start excluding.

There are a few myths out there about the Display Network that advertisers should be aware of, as well.

Myth #1: Display is an inexpensive source of traffic & conversions.

OK, so this isn’t a total myth. Frequently, Display is a great incremental source of conversions at a very low cost. However, this is by no means always true. Click costs can rival those in search – in fact sometimes CPCs are higher in Display than in search, depending on the vertical. So if you’re looking for a quick way to grab incremental conversions, Display is definitely not the answer. You’ll get traffic, but it may not be inexpensive, and it may not convert.

Myth #2: Display is for everyone.

Again, this isn’t a total myth. We have several clients who get as good or better results from Display as from search. But it’s not a given. For every client who gets great results in Display, we have at least 2 who got horrible results, despite our best efforts to optimize. I firmly believe that there are some businesses for which display is just not a good fit. But you wouldn’t know this from talking to Google – every time I talk to a Google rep, including the conversation last week, they try to pitch me on trying Display for every client.

Myth #3: Site targeting in the Display network is easy.

First, a brief explanation. There are a few targeting options in the display network: keyword targeting, interest category targeting, and placement, or site, targeting. With site targeting, an advertiser can choose exactly which sites they’d like their ads to appear on. So if you want your ads to appear on about.com, you can target that site using site targeting.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not. First of all, there are thousands upon thousands of sites in the display network, so choosing the right sites is a daunting task. Secondly, advertisers tend to gang up when site targeting – everyone wants to target the same popular, high-traffic sites. And what happens when inventory is short and demand is high? You got it – the price goes way, way up. So not only is it challenging to figure out what sites to target, it can be challenging to get conversions at a good cost when the bids are so high.

In Part 2, I’ll share some display network resources that will help you make the most out of the network.

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3 Reasons Why PPC Management Is Like CSI

Much has been said about the shortage of search marketing professionals and how difficult it is to hire good SEMs. The field is growing rapidly, and many companies (ours included) are suffering from growing pains, made more painful by the difficulty in hiring good SEMs. This got me thinking about what traits are desirable in an SEM, and particularly a PPC manager.

This topic has been covered before, but experience has given me some ideas to add to the list.

To me, the number one trait a successful PPC manager must possess is a passion for finding the answer and to get to the bottom of the mystery. I’ve often said that a good PPC manager must have a “CSI mentality,” meaning they must keep digging until they find out the real answer to the question. This mentality is important for several reasons:

  1. PPC is a performance-based medium. Campaigns succeed or fail based on metrics like ROI, CPA, ROAS and many other alphabet-soup measures. When a campaign fails to meet objectives, a good PPC manager must (1) be able to recognize this quickly and (2) dig until they find the reason. It’s not enough to say “well, this campaign is a flop.” Yes, some campaigns do turn out to be flops, but all avenues for optimization and improvement must be explored before this declaration can be made. There are many reasons why campaigns under-perform, and it takes a curious mind to look at all these reasons and test and tweak until, as I mentioned, all options are exhausted.
  2. In a similar vein, PPC is a constantly-evolving field. A good manager has to have a desire to learn and dig out the answer not only from the campaign data itself, but from external sources such as PPC program help sections, industry newsletters and blog posts, forums, search conferences, and other resources. Yes, it’s challenging to keep up with the information overload when you’re already so busy because you’re handling the workload of 3 people due to the SEM pro shortage – but it is imperative to take the time to stay on top of the news anyway. Not taking advantage of the collective wisdom of the many PPC and SEM pros who willingly share their knowledge for little to no cost is foolish.
  3. Good PPC managers have the confidence to take risks. Most direct marketers know that testing is critical, and that sometimes tests perform the opposite of what you expect. The same is true in PPC, except the feedback happens much more quickly. A good PPC manager is willing to test everything, even the craziest of ideas, without hesitation. To do this takes initiative, decisiveness, creativity, and self-confidence – hemming and hawing has no place in PPC. Take the ball and run with it – if it turns out you were running the wrong way, you’ll know quickly and can chalk it up to testing.

Not every marketer is cut out for PPC management, just like not every law enforcement professional is cut out for CSI work. If you can find a marketer who likes to solve a mystery, though, chances are that he or she will make a good PPC manager.

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6 Reasons Why In-House Search Engine Marketing Is Super-Effective

SEMPO has an article in their Learning Center called 6 Reasons Why In-House Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is Ineffective. Gugo at the Search Engine Watch forums posted a rebuttal this morning, and I added my own, which I’d like to share here.

The SEMPO article is an editorial, so take it for what it’s worth. Still, I just couldn’t let it go by without responding. It’s a nice try on the part of the author, but sorry, it’s off the mark.

Here are 6 reasons why outsourced SEM can be ineffective:

1. SEM and SEO Campaigns are time intensive. When your SEM agency is managing multiple clients, time spent on your account can suffer, causing irreparable damage to your campaign. An in-house SEM’s sole job, day in and day out, is to monitor your company’s SEM efforts, keeping a constant eye on performance.

2. SEM requires dedication. That’s why you should hire someone whose sole job is SEM for your firm. Their dedication is what they’re getting paid for, plain and simple.

3. SEM is very competitive and the market drives costs up. Why risk your hard-earned dollars on an agency that doesn’t know diddly about your business? An in-house SEM understands your business economics and how they fit with SEM strategy and tactics, allowing you to compete smart.

4. Successful SEM campaigns demand accurate tracking and analysis of effectiveness. An in-house SEM understands your internal business tracking methods and metrics, and how they fit with the organization’s overall marketing mix. Rather than relying on out-of-the-box analytics solutions, your in-house SEM can look at internal measurements to gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns vis-a-vis your other marketing efforts. Furthermore, as an expert not only in SEM but in your specific vertical, your in-house SEM understands the nuances of marketing in your space and can interpret the metrics accordingly – rather than just looking at figures on a page from a canned analytics solution.

5. SEM agency reps often are unaware of search engine policies. Especially if you’re speaking to a junior rep who just hired in last week.

6. SEM agencies often do not have support. Having support at the search engines is great, and usually agencies do fine with this. But does your agency have support within your organization? Do they know which guy in IT to go to when your landing page URL suddenly breaks? Do they know which marketing director to approach when they need additional budget for a PPC test? Do they regularly sit down with your CEO to talk about overall organizational goals and strategies?

Don’t get me wrong – SEM agencies exist for a reason. Many small to medium size businesses cannot afford to hire a full-time in-house SEM, and for these folks, a good agency is a godsend. But don’t diss in-house SEMs. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than many agency folks, and I find I often know just as much if not more about SEM than they do. We’re all in this together, you know!

I wonder what SEMPO’s In-House committee thinks of this article??

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