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

How can I measure the level of engagement a web visitor has with my website content?

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Recently, our team developed a proprietary formula to properly measure the level of engagement a web visitor has with any particular piece of web content.

By leveraging data found within Google Analytics, we build the following formulaic equation and named it the Aggregate Engagement Index™.

Here is the formula:

((AP x AT) x (1-AB)) + (0.1 x AP)

  • AP = Average Page Views
  • AT = Average Time on Site (measured in seconds)
  • AB = Average Bounce Rate

The Aggregate Engagement Index™ enables us to compare the relative engagement levels of each traffic source to
BioLogos.org. The most engaged audience is the one that receives the highest rank value.

Notice that the formula doesn’t place emphasis upon the amount of traffic arriving at the particular page. We specifically made this decision to give all pages an “equal opportunity” against pages like the home page of a website, etc.

For a few examples of how this works, let’s take a look at some sample data below:

Referral Source Visitors Avg. Pages Avg. Time Avg. Bounce Engagement Rank
Blogs 68,849 3.14 264.32 49.72% 4.48
Facebook 16,579 1.93 146.52 70.67% 1.02
Other Social 4,159 2.99 266.29 54.79% 3.90
Twitter 6,158 1.65 98.71 74.02% 0.59
YouTube 584 4.21 355.48 38.18% 9.66


In this example, I am attempting to measure the engagement rank associated with visitors from a particular type of referral source (in this case, social networks).

As shown in the chart, visitors arriving at my website from Blogs represent the largest amount of visitors, but visitors arriving at my website from YouTube are 115.67% more engaged in my content.

Pretty cool, huh? This can tell me a number different things (I need to focus more attention on attracting visitors from YouTube, Facebook visitors are “overrated”, Twitter visitors are the least engaged, I need to focus on blog syndication, etc).

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.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

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I recently watched a video about communication, sales and marketing that struck me as the most influential piece of footage that I have seen in some time. The following video is simply amazing and should be digested by all marketers, regardless of the product/service they market or sell.

The Golden Circle, by Simon Sinek:

In the video, Simon talks about motivations of the human psychology – and more specifically, gives examples of tremendous successes and failures throughout history of true visionaries that have leveraged The Golden Circle to become some of the most influential people or companies in modern history. He chronicles the stories of Apple, The Wright Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Summary of The Golden Circle methodology:

The Golden Circle methodology teaches us marketers to communicate the reason “why” we do things. If you think about your marketing efforts — do they commonly focus on the “what” you do (this widget can do this, here’s what we’re doing to help people, etc.)? If so, try shifting your messaging, value propositions and brand to focus on the “why” you do it is what you do.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle of motivation, or in this case marketing, should be leveraged by all marketing groups across the globe. Communicating from the center to the outside is the proper way to be successful. Remember, people don't buy "what" you do, they buy "why" you do it.

Why:
The purpose of your organization, the cause you serve or your belief in how you can change the world (or business, etc). This is driving your organization’s motives and actions.

How:
These are the guiding principles of your organization. These are specific steps or actions you take to realize your “why” (or purpose).

What:
The what is a byproduct of the steps you take to fulfill your purpose. This is the tangible result of “how” you bring your “why” to life. These items could be your product or service.

Marketers deal with these three areas every day. This is not new thinking at all, is it? But what Simon teaches is to focus on the direction in which we message.

Most marketers will build their campaigns starting with the “what” and work their way into the center of The Golden Circle — which is the “why”. Worse yet, some marketers forget the “why” all together. The “why” should be communicated in every thing you do when interacting with your prospective and existing customers.

In Simon’s example of Apple, he says that if Apple were run by most marketers, that a marketing message from them would sound something like this:

What: We make great computers.
How: They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

… Want to buy one?

Of course, there is no “why” here — because as he says, most marketing organizations do not clearly communicate their “why”. He then outlines exactly how Apple markets and sells their wares, by outlining the following way in which they inspire, which is:

Why: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the ‘status quo’. We believe in thinking differently.
How: The way we challenge the ‘status quo’ is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly
What: We just happen to make computers.

… Want to buy one?

Clearly, the second of the two is far more motivating. It explains why people will camp outside of an Apple Store for weeks before the new iPhone is released in 100+ degree temperatures. People are inspired. People are motivated. People buy from Apple not because they make a cell phone, or a smart phone or even that they have a touch-screen phone per se.

They buy from Apple because they are inspired by what they believe. They, too, want to challenge the status quo. By buying Apple products, they feel that are different from the rest of the world. They feel that they, too, are innovative and creative.

They buy from Apple because they believe in thinking differently.

In conclusion, I would like to first thank Simon for opening my eyes with this discussion. I have now completely changed my line of thinking with regards to strategy and marketing approach. Every single marketing objective I build, develop or deploy will now be filtered through The Golden Circle moving forward.

Did it inspire you, as well?

— GC

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