How can I get the best results out of my Search Engine Marketing campaign?

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We get this question a lot — and the real answer is: “it depends.”

The best way that I can possibly explain search engine marketing, in general, has to do with your ability to properly “tweak” the dials to optimize for your desired result.

Understanding that more clicks = more cost, it’s best to describe the process is visually in this format:

Search Engine Marketing Dials

The "SEM Dials" can be turned to dictate the performance of your campaign. Here, I illustrate all of the moving parts and their impact on certain areas of the campaign's performance.

To view the full sized image that indicates the search engine marketing dials, please click here.

Allow me to explain in short:

  • Targeting Area
    • Geotargeting to an acute area of focus will limit the search volumes, keeping cost/clicks down.
    • Opening it up to more of a wide area of focus will allow for a higher number of impressions, clicks and cost.
  • Max Daily Budget
    • If your max daily budget is low, Google’s algorithm doesn’t give you “preferential treatment,” which means that your ads will show in off-peak times, or in highly competitive time zones with poor ad positioning.
    • If your max daily budget is high, you’re signaling to Google that you’re capable and willing to spend advertising dollars on your campaign, thereby providing you with a “preferential treatment” in terms of seeding.
  • Max CPC Bid
    • If your max CPC bid is low, you’ll receive poor ad position placements, which will translate to less clicks and less conversions.
    • By maximizing your CPC bid, you can (over time) back off once you’ve “earned clout” by proving that your ads are relevant to certain keywords, but a high CPC amount gives you a chance to compete with a new campaign (although the costs will be high at first).
  • Keyword Specificity
    • The more “general” your keywords, the higher number of visitors you will receive to your website, but your conversion rate will drop, and the visitor quality will be more “shopper” than buyer. That’s not to say that the net result won’t be a higher amount of revenue, just that you’re hoping that you can find buyers sprinkled into the mixture of shoppers that you’re reaching, and your cost per acquisition should rise dramatically.
    • The more specific your keywords are, the inverse relationship will be from the above statement. Ideally, you’ve got a mixture of these keyword types, in their own ad groups, with their own budget requirements.
  • Ad Creative Messaging
    • If you’re attracting more “shopper” audiences in an attempt to attract more visitors, your call to action will be more passive in nature (i.e. “Learn more now”). Your conversion rate should take a hit with the increase in traffic, but could overall net better results than if you optimized for lower traffic volumes.
    • If you want to attract more “buyers,” your ad creative will be written in such a way that pre-qualifies the traffic (i.e., “Become a member now with a $25 or higher donation”). Your conversion rate should improve dramatically, but you’ll be sending far less traffic to your landing page.

Does this make sense? I hope so.

— GC

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Understanding Eye Flow and Avoiding The Corner of Death

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I just recently started following the Neuromarketing blog and wanted to share a really interesting article they just posted in today’s issue.

It’s called “Avoid the Corner of Death!,” and it is greatness. Below, I’ve copy/pasted their article, including the most interesting part: The eye flow chart.

Understanding this is critical, especially for landing page optimization purposes, and tells me that if you’re placing your most important information (a video, an ask, etc.) on the upper-right hand corner of a two-column landing page layout, that you’re putting your most important information at the last place in which this eyeflow chart ends.

More over, anything in the bottom-right corner is squarely in the “Corner of Death,” and will be overlooked by your audience. Avoid this at all costs.

Here’s the rest of the article:

What’s the worst place to put your logo, and where do advertisers most often put their logo in print ads, TV spots, and direct mail pieces? The answer is the same: the lower right corner, an area dubbed the “Corner of Death” by facial coding expert Dan Hill.

Hill’s comments stem from an interesting eyetracking study by Steve Outing and Laura Rule, reported in The Best of Eyetrack III. This illustration shows a composite average of how people scan a typical web page:

 

Corner of Death

Understanding eye flow & how visitors view your web page, website, email, or print piece and where you should (and more importantly should NOT) place your most important information.

Outing and Rule caution against taking this exact path too seriously, as variations in layout will cause differences in how people scan the page. The skull graphic wasn’t part of Outing and Rule’s report, but rather inspired by a similar image in Hill’s new book, About Face.

In an recent article, Hill says:

If we take print ads as an example, you’ve got 1.7 seconds of average viewing time, per reader. And the lower right-hand corner is typically the second to last place people look on a page. (What’s even worse in terms of timing, along the upper right edge, i.e., the alley of death.) What you don’t see, you don’t get. [From Mediapost – The 6 Secrets of Eye-tracking by Dan Hill.]

Despite these findings, the lower right corner is by far the most common single location for the primary logo/brand identity use in all types of advertising, according to Hill.

So based on eye-tracking research, where should the logo or brand identity be placed so that consumers actually see it? Hill says that the best place is the lower middle part of the page or layout, At that point, the viewer will have engaged emotionally with the leading part of the ad, and will then have the opportunity to associate the brand with solving a problem or satisfying consumers’ wants.

I hope you enjoyed.

— GC

How can I increase my Google AdWords Quality Score?

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Google AdWords Quality ScoreFor those of you using Google AdWords, you’re likely wondering how you can optimize your campaigns and increase your overall results. One area that you should be focused on is your campaign keyword selections — and most specifically, your Google provided “quality score”.

The quality score is the basis for measuring the quality and relevance of your ads and determining your minimum cost-per-click (CPC) bid for Google and the search network. This score is determined by your keyword’s click through rate (CTR) on Google, and the calculated relevance of your ad text, keyword, and landing page(s).

There are several ways that you can improve your quality score, but here are ten good ways to do so:

Factors your can manage within AdWords:

1.) Split your keywords into smaller more targeted ad groups

By grouping your keywords into smaller more targeted ad groups, you can manage each subset of the overall campaign individually, and build small victories into overall campaign increases with a compounding effect. Consider using the built-in keyword grouper tool in Adwords editor to group keywords into 15 groups of 20 related keywords.

2.) Create relevant ad copy for each group

Once you’ve broken up your keywords into smaller more targeted groups, you must then focus on the ads for each group. If you have one ad group focusing on selling “Red Widgets” — then write copy specific to that product, or offer.

3.) Optimize Creatives

Create multiple versions of ads for each group that you’ve created. By doing this, you can test different ad variants and determine the best performing ads for each group to emphasize over time. Measuring the ad clickthrough rate (CTR) as the measurement for which ad creative is performing best.

You should consider turning “ad serving optimization” to the “OFF” setting so that you can accurately split test all 4 ads yourself.

4.) Experiment With Matching Options

If you are using broad matches for your keyword sets within the campaign, you may want to consider using “exact match” and “phrase match” keywords to each ad group. By doing this, you can measure which keywords generate the best quality score and lowest cost-per-click (CPC). According to studies that I’ve read, the exact match keyword groupings will achieve higher quality scores in most cases.

On-page factors you can manage:

5.) Link Building And SEO

As with any Google-related ranking, the number of inbound links and the quality in which your webpage or website is built will have implications upon your quality score. Essentially, if you don’t focus on organic ranking factors, the odds are that you will not achieve as high a quality score as you otherwise could.

Considering launching deep link building campaigns (paid links through third-party (relevant) websites, directory listings, and the like). Additionally, ensure that you have all of the factors in place that generate good organic rankings (title tags, alt tags on images and links, a well constructed and properly internally linked website, and so on). Ensure that your navigation structure works properly and include a site map to help accelerate the indexing of your website.

6.) Implement Keywords

For each page we implement most of the keywords into the copy used in your AdWords campaigns into the on-page copy.

7.) Split Test Landing Page

By doing multivariate or A/B split testing on landing pages used within your Google AdWords campaigns, you have a chance to measure which page is performing better. Ultimately, I always say that “a marketer’s intuition is trumped by cold, hard data” — there’s no way to arrive at that data unless you setup a control and a test version of your experiment.

8.) Meta Tags

Take your best performing keywords within your AdWords campaign and place them into meta tags within your landing page’s back-end file. Use the exact ad text from the best performing creative in the meta description. Also use the best performing and most descriptive keywords as the title of the page.

9.) Essential Site Pages

Ensure that your landing page (at least in the footer of the page) includes basic web page content, such as an “About us”, “Contact us”, or “Privacy policy” pages. This just helps build additional brand-specific keywords into your overall quality score ranking.

10.) Make Sure Google Thinks You’re Relevant

Use the Site-related keyword tool to make sure that Google thinks that your landing page is related to the keywords that you are targeting. Just simply type in your landing page address and double check that your selected keywords are included in the results found. If not, consider adding the results of your search into your campaign sets where appropriate.

I hope this helps all of you guys out there and you enjoyed the read.

— GC

How you can use search engines to test upcoming campaign message effectiveness

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If you have a direct mail, print advertisement or any other type of offline marketing campaign that you are planning on launching soon, it’s imperative that you spend the time and additional resources to properly test a few different campaign themes/messages.

It’s important to do this specifically because of the costs associated with traditional/offline marketing campaigns. When you’re outlying that amount of capital, it’s important to ensure that you can go to market with the best chance of success.

By leveraging search engines to test messaging themes, marketers can quickly, cost-effectively, and successfully collect the type of data that can provide them with the information to properly determine the most effective campaign theme/message.

The following identifies both benefits and considerations associated with leveraging this technique:

Benefits:

  • Faster data collection
    Online campaign data can be collected within a matter of days or weeks, as testing a direct mail program to a segmented test list for your direct mail file can sometime take months to fully analyze. Online testing provides immediate and actionable data that provides the organization an opportunity to subsequently increase their direct mail campaign’s speed to market tremendously, as well.
  • Lower testing costs
    The costs associated with implementing an online test for your direct mail campaign is significantly lower than the costs associated with creative design, print production, processing and mailing of a direct mail test. As previously mentioned, the data collected online to determine the most effective message or theme for your direct mail campaign can be completed in weeks, as opposed to months.
  • Numerous testing options
    Search marketing provides the ability to quickly test multiple components associated with your direct mail message, including the headline/subject, tone, call to action and any other associated creative elements like images.

Additional Considerations:

It should be noted that the audience demographics associated with Search Engine traffic may vary slightly from those of your direct mail file. Leveraging “negative keywords” may help to mitigate faulty or varying data, as it will limit the traffic types to only the most “qualified” visitors.

Testing methodology

SEM Testing Methodology for Offline Marketing Campaigns

In this example diagram, we are looking to test four separate campaign messages.

The control elements of this type of test would be:

  1. Test duration
  2. Search engines used
  3. The method of ad serving (i.e. using either a CPC or CPM model)
  4. The budget assigned to each ad
  5. The same landing page design

The variable elements for each of these message types would then only be related to:

  1. Ad headlines
  2. Ad copy
  3. Landing page copy

By setting up the test in this regard, we can successfully test which message is most effective by measuring the following categories:

  • Traffic
    • Ad impressions
    • Ad click-throughs
    • Unique number of landing page views
  • Conversion rate
    • Ad clickthrough rate
    • Landing page conversion rate
  • Average gift received / number of names collected (depending upon what the goal of the campaign is)

The winning message(s) in these categories should be proclaimed the “winner” and used in future campaigns.

How can I get better results from my banner advertising campaign?

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Banner Advertising

When it comes to launching a successful banner advertising campaign, you need all the help you can get. Here are 8 items that will help you to mitigate your failure rate and increase your chance of success.

I always find it funny that most people I talk to about banner advertisements still think that they don’t work. Whether or not a banner advertisement “works” depends upon what your objective is related to that advertisement to begin with.

As covered in a previous post (“What is the difference between marketing and advertising”), most online marketing efforts are measured specifically by return on investment (ROI). When it comes to advertising, you have to measure its success based upon how it lifts your direct response marketing channels (email, search, radio, etc).

Take a look at my other post titled “The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there” to get a better understanding of how you should set your expectations regarding ROI on advertising channels, OK?

For those that “get” the value of banner advertisements, let’s take a look at an 8-point list of items that will help your banner advertising campaign be successful.

  1. Set campaign goals
    Any successful campaign will start with the goals and work backwards from there. Define the purpose of the banner ad campaign before starting on your creative, etc. If your message is built to increase sales, the odds are that it will vary greatly from one that is looking to increase brand awareness/recognition.
  2. Placement environment
    Although some research I’ve seen shows that animated banner ads can receive upwards of 2 or 3 times the number of clickthroughs, they are often limited by channel type. For instance, a static (non-moving) banner can be placed in an RSS feed, email newsletters/campaigns, etc, where the animated banner cannot be displayed in such an environment. By understanding the website’s native creative style and designing your advertisement to appear as content that BELONGS with that website as a piece of valuable content will always outperform some annoying banner advertisement with a flashing button.
  3. Call to action
    This might be the biggest mistake that most advertisers run into when they concept and implement a banner campaign. Don’t forget your call to action … if you don’t ask someone to take a step, why would they? Well, they might, but let’s drive them to click, OK?
  4. Visual appearance
    As previously discussed, camouflaging your advertisement as a piece of native content will work well, but if you can’t do that then lean on brighter color schemes. Stay within your brand guidelines, but know that it’s a natural instinct to overlook banner advertising as the web continues to age and become more commonplace with younger generations. You want to stand out from the content … get noticed with flashy colors.
  5. Messaging
    Keep the message simple, short and focused. Don’t provide multiple calls to action, or too much text. Just provide a simple message that when an audience member views, they can quickly determine to learn more and clickthrough to your landing page. Which brings us to …
  6. Landing page
    Don’t send visitors to your website with navigation to the rest of your website. When you have a fish on the line, it’s like setting down your poll and being content with the fact that you got a nibble. Real that sucker in! By mitigating the chance of failure (by setting up a single page, with clear selling value propositions and a conversion point, like a easy-to-fill out form), you substantially increase your chance at converting that person into a customer/donor. It’s important to note that minimizing friction/anxiety factors (like the length of your form, the design of your page, the copy being too long, etc.) – you can massively increase your conversion rate. If you’re trying to get people to opt-in to receive your email newsletter on your landing page – don’t ask them for their social security number, or mailing address. Some prospective customers would argue with me that this is critical information to have on their file, but you can have a strategy in place to collect that information later. Capture their interest now, engage later, move on.
  7. Content Freshness
    Refresh banner ads regularly. Some studies that I’ve reviewed have indicated that clickthrough rates of banner ads start to drop off after 2-3 weeks. Refresh your creative to provide a new fresh look and feel (even if your message is the same). This does two things: (1) appears new to the audience again, thereby giving them a psychological incentive to clickthrough to investigate (even if it is again), and (2) depending on the network, give your advertisements a higher level of priority in the server’s queue of ads to display (especially in a cost-per-click/CPC model). If you’re not getting clicks, ad networks will eventually stop serving your ads and will cut off your traffic.
  8. Testing and tracking
    Data/Analytics > Marketer’s Intuition. Whenever someone says, “I think that ___________”, my almost immediate rebuttal is “Let’s test it!” Look, nobody is a mind reader, especially not through a banner advertisement … so, build a couple of different types of content (which would be your experiment’s “treatment”) and serve it on the same network, at the same days/times, with the same budget setup (which will act as your “control”), and let it rip. Evaluate for at least 5-7 days, and then move forward with the better performing creative set and cut the under performing one. Do it again if you’d like against a third, forth, etc., etc. number of creative sets until you’ve got the absolute best performing ad creative/message. This is your business, make it work for you!

As Peter Drucker (and as repeated by Dr. Flint McGlaughlin from Marketing Experiments) once said:

“Adequacy is the enemy of excellence.”

Always strive for better things for you/your business and you will always be better than when you started.

I hope this helps in setting up your next banner advertising campaign – remember always to track your results (remember my credo, which is “If you can’t track it, don’t do it!”). Track it by medium (banner), or by individual sources (they websites in which your ads were served) to segment, optimize and re-prioritize moving forward.

All the best,

— GC

The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there.

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The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there.

Advertising is not a direct response channel, but it can provide a significant lift to direct response marketing efforts when it is added to your overall mix of activities. Trust me, you're not throwing your money away when you advertise online.

If you’re like me, you’ve just wrapped up a great Independence Day break and you’re rolling up your sleeves in an attempt to put your nose to the grindstone. Don’t you just love 4-day work weeks? It makes everything seem to fly by, which is not necessarily a good thing.

After all, there are organizations out there that need help in their fund raising efforts — and the Strategist has been hammering away all week. I apologize for missing my Tuesday publishing date, although I highly doubt there is anyone out there that was disappointed. 🙂

Now, let’s get on with the show, eh? As promised in last week’s blog about the difference between marketing and advertising, I mentioned that I would write this week about banner advertising on the web and why you should do it, even if you ROI is not there.

We had a meeting with a customer before the holidays and this exact question was asked in our call. “Why should we continue to use banner ads if the ROI is not there?” It’s a valid question at the surface level. In today’s economy, it’s difficult to justify expenditures that do not bring a positive return on investment, right?

Well, I challenge that line of thinking. Why?

It’s a simple answer: Advertising is not a direct response channel.

Let me say that again — Advertising is NOT a direct response channel.

A direct response channel is where you’re engaging an audience directly, on a one-to-one level to ask them to perform a specific action. Believe it or not, by slapping a “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” button on your banner, you’re not actually marketing to an audience in a direct manner.

So, what is advertising? Advertising is an indirect response channel. It’s specifically used for brand building, brand awareness and brand loyalty initiatives.

Then, why would anyone want to spend money on that? Well, you can ask one of the million+ public companies that advertise daily on television, outdoor signage, over the radio, etc. — or I can just tell you.

When it comes to advertising, it’s about a consistent, repetitive interaction with a prospective and/or existing consumer base with your brand. The more times they hear the brand, the more “trust” is built in the brand. You may disagree with this, but I would imagine that you’re far more likely to buy a product from a large national brand than you are from the local mom & pop shop that sells the same widget, at a similar price point. It’s not just because of location (which is a major factor), but it’s also about the fact that you interact with the brand nearly daily.

With online marketing tactics like email marketing bringing such clarity and bottom line results to move the needle, it’s hard to justify to others within your organization the expenditures that you’re making in other online channels that are not “generating the same types of results”.

What if I told you that you need to look at your overall marketing/advertising mix as a mathematical equation? Remember all of the way back in high school when you took algebra? Well, take a look at this algebraic formula that I use to communicate the effectiveness of a true marketing and advertising mixture:

Marketing Effectiveness = (A + B) * C

Here are the variables that I plug into this equation:

  • A = Traditional direct marketing/sales activities
    This can include things like direct mail, telesales, trade shows, etc.
  • B = Online direct marketing/sales activities
    This can include email marketing, search engine marketing, etc.
  • C = Online/Offline Advertising activities
    This is whatever you are doing to advertise on the web, on television, outdoor signage, etc.

With this mathematical equation, the “A” value is increased when combined with “B”. But both values are MULTIPLIED when “C” is introduced to the equation. Yes, online/offline advertising is an expense in most cases (and really good marketing/advertising firms can find a way to give you at least 75% of your money back with their strategies — we do it all of the time), but by in large your other marketing activities will receive a lift when advertising is in the mix.

We’re in the process of compiling some figures to back these statistics up, so bear with me while we collect that data. I’ll be sure to post an update here whenever those numbers come back.

The idea is that even if your ad is shown to a particular website visitor and that visitor does not click on the ad — that they have received a “brand impression” (this isn’t ground breaking stuff, is it?). When we marketers target and deliver a direct response message to this visitor (direct mail, email, telephone call, etc.) — then the visitor will have already had an exposure to our brand, making our jobs much easier to ask them to perform whatever our call to action is.

My boss gave me a great video to watch the other day about subliminal advertising. This one is done by Derren Brown and it’s a short 6:40 watch.

I know, I know … you’re FAR too busy to watch the video, right? Trust me, it is totally worth it, so if you don’t watch it now, bookmark it and watch it later over a lunch break or something, OK?

They won’t let me embed the video directly, so when you attempt to watch the video, you will be driven to YouTube to watch it (in a new window).

Derren Brown — Subliminal Advertising:

If you don’t believe me, does this help?

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