Google Adwords Big Change Coming?

Upcoming Adword Format Bad for SMBsWhile catching up on the latest SEO articles, a disturbing post showed up today. It appears that Google is testing the effects of showing how many clicks an Ad or Advertiser has previously gotten.

While we promote Google Adwords to many of our small business clients, there are various aspects that are real disadvantages to them. The overall complexity and several default settings are definitely an issue for SMB and independents without some type of Search Engine Marking (SEM) resource.

Well, Google is trying an Adwords experiment that may indeed be another major problem for small businesses. There are apparently two types of displays being tested, one that just says “Clicks”. The other one says “clicks from this advertiser”. In this image, notice the difference between the two almost identical Ads for the same basic product/brand:Google Adwords Click Display Experiment

Showing “Clicks for this Advertiser” in the Ad will create a very unfair advantage for large brands, big Ad budgets and National Ad agencies.

Notice that the top Ad has 156,000 previous clicks and the one below it has 59,000,000. Which would you click?

We’ve been very successful pitching SMB Ads against major brands with deep pockets. We rely on niche targets, whether time spots, longer tail keywords, more refined and selective demographics or sites. If successful, our Ad typically shows higher than the wider casting net of the big check books.

Think of it another way. A big budget allows for less granular keyword bids, less related Ad text to keywords they are bidding on and finally, paying a bit higher due to a lower quality score. If we are able to place our SMB Ad alongside the more generic text from one of their Ads, we stand a better chance of getting the click due to our more relevant copy and keywords.

Unless that other Ad has 59,000,000 clicks displayed and we only have 156,000.

The real shame? All 156,000 of our visitors could have bought a product, while 200,000 of those other clickers could have bounced away from that site’s competing product immediately without buying anything. If that Advertiser’s 58,800,000 of those clicks are for Ads that send them to another page, not that related to our client’s product, then they won’t even be penalized much. And the users that might have clicked and bought, will instead gravitate towards the Ad with more clicks due to the Lemming Effect.

This also means longer running Ads and Advertisers could have better click through rate (CTR) advantage.

Google adds “Click to Call” on Mobile Adwords

Wow, talk about timing. I don’t think my last blog post about the impressive response percentages to SMS or Text ‘Marketing’ messages had even managed to hit most RSS streams before I saw the below Google announcement on a new “Click to Call” business feature sent to my inbox. While I think overall this is a fantastic opportunity for most retail businesses, I’m not thrilled with the limited flexibility they provide as to how to control whether your business phone number shows or doesn’t show.

However, this additional feature continues to make it more and more important that retail businesses formalize their mobile marketing plans:

Coming Soon: Click-to-Call in Ads on Mobile Devices with Google AdWords

Dear AdWords Advertiser,

We’re pleased to announce that beginning in January, your location-specific business phone number will display alongside your destination url in ads that appear on high-end mobile devices. Users will be able to click-to-call your business just as easily as they click to visit your website. You’ll be charged for clicks to call, same as you are for clicks to visit your website.

How will phone numbers appear in my ads? Based on the customer’s geographic location, the phone number and closest business address will appear as a fifth line of ad text when the ad appears on mobile devices with full HTML browsers (e.g. iPhone, Android, Palm WebOS).

Where will I be able to see the results? At launch, you’ll be able to view calls from your ads on your Campaign Summary page within AdWords from the “click type” segment option under the “Filter and Views” drop down.

How will I be charged for phone calls I get from my ad? The cost of a click to call your business will be the same as the cost of a click to visit your website.

What actions should I take?
If you’d like your ads to show location-specific phone numbers when displayed on mobile devices, make sure that your campaign is targeting iPhones and other mobile devices with full HTML browsers, and that you have included phone numbers with your business addresses in the locations under your Campaign settings. If you would prefer your ads not show phone numbers, simply remove the phone number from the business listings included in your campaigns targeting mobile devices.

We hope this new feature enables you to connect more easily with your potential customers. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at ctc-feedback@google.com.

Sincerely,

The Google AdWords Team

Google Inc.

Study shows Small Businesses with Revenue Growth due to Increased Online Marketing

There’s not doubt that many businesses have substantially cut costs in Sales, Marketing & Advertising. However, according to the “Small Business Marketing Health Check” report from Hurwitz & Associates, small businesses that are doing well have increased their expenditures in marketing, especially online.

The study showed small businesses with increased revenues shifted marketing initiatives toward cheaper digital media and away from traditional channels. The three key online marketing methods used by these small businesses were use of social networking, email newsletter campaigns and ‘search’ (which really means “Pay Per Click”, such as Google’s Adwords platform).

“The survey clearly reveals that the use of low-cost Web-based marketing tools is playing a strategic role in helping businesses succeed,” said Laurie McCabe, partner, Hurwitz & Associates

Thanks to eMarketer’s blog for originally posting details of this report. There are graphs showing various breakdowns of small business revenue, marketing spend and projected spend at this blog.

Good Adwords case studies and tips from article in New York Times

The New York Times has just published an article that provides a decent overview, tips and case study of four small business and their experience with Google Adwords, even though it glossed over some issues a bit incorrectly (but mostly corrected at the very end of the piece). The biggest error suggests one owner had huge runaway costs before realizing it. That’s just flat wrong as you have to set a budget, which isn’t confusing or misleading, and Google doesn’t exceed it. Otherwise, it shows one business that likely isn’t appropriate for Adwords, one that did well after analyzing and adjusting the keywords being bid upon, one that modified a campaign to just target potential customers near his two brick & mortar stores and finally one small business that hired a professional.

There are several great lessons in this article, especially around geographic ‘local’ targeting and using specific keyword and negative keywords.

A few quotes from the article:
“… Monitoring an AdWords campaign requires a lot of effort. That’s why some entrepreneurs, like Rick Smith, prefer to outsource the management of their campaigns. … After attending an S.E.O. trade show … Mr. Smith hired a firm to run his campaigns for him. … They update or change the ads on pretty much a weekly basis, adding in seasonal or holiday hooks when appropriate, and they monitor the results… “I’m spending less than I did when I did it myself,” said Mr. Smith, “and I’m getting more sales as a result.”

Buy ‘Buy’ to Convert More Adwords Clicks into Sales

Remember, the purpose for buying traffic to your site using any Pay Per Click (PPC) system such as Google Adwords is to generate more sales…often called “Conversions”. Just spending money to have more eyeballs reading your pages without buying anything is likely not going to help your bottom line. You want to bring traffic to your site that converts into a sale.

You need to set up conversion goals within your site and monitor the direct relationship between increased traffic and increased sales. Often it is useful with companies that don’t sell directly on the web to engage in a few test campaigns. These test campaigns should be targeted to a unique landing page and utilize a unique phone number, email address or other contact method that can show a direct cause and effect between additional site traffic AND additional sales. By conducting a few of these tests, you can determine what type of traffic behavior can be considered a conversion…and even place a dollar amount to define various ‘better value’ conversions.

One ‘short cut’ method that can also help you bring more traffic that is likely converting into higher sales is to create a copy of one of your better optimized, higher CTR, campaigns and merely add the word “buy” to all your keywords. Obviously, if a searcher is placing the word “buy” on their search, they are likely very close to purchasing. Of course, the tradeoff is that there will likely be significantly less traffic using this additional word in searches. Here is a case where a lower CTR will still probably be a better revenue generator, and an overall  cheaper set of keywords, than the one you selected.  You may want to give this method a try if you don’t have the ability or time to do a true conversion campaign test. As always…monitor results.

Are You Paying Way Higher than your Average CPC Metric?

Ever notice the sponsored link just above the natural search results? It’s a great position for Pay Per Click Ads, as they convert higher than Ads shown on the right side of the page. You can only get that spot by bidding much higher than the #2 bidder…so you risk a pretty high Cost Per Click (CPC) when doing so, unless you know how to offset that risk.

One metric many SEO gurus use before attempting to bid for that spot is to make sure that you have a really low CPC. Unfortunately, they also assume a low CPC means you aren’t paying 8 – 10 times MORE than that…right? Wrong.

One of my clients has a CPC average of $.68 and we bid very high in order to have the best chance of getting the coveted “Sponsored Link” above the natural results. Most of the time, we thought we were getting similar low CPC, as our average didn’t change much. (Simple example: We bid $10 to get the Sponsor Link, and the next closest bid is $1. Our CPC will be a little more than $1 but we grab the Sponsor Link and get much more traffic).

You really need to understand how this works as well as monitoring your costs very carefully if you’re going to implement this PPC marketing strategy…because you could easily be paying 8 – 10 times more for some clicks than your average, maybe even higher. Because, if you are bidding $10 and your Average CPC is $1, your real CPC cost could be $0.1 for some clicks and $9 for other ones.

AND…the clicks that cost $9 are not necessarily the ones that convert to real sales.

This may come as a surprise to even many SEO experts, but Google doesn’t make it easy to view the cost of individual clicks. Google only easily shows Average CPC.

However, you can use Google Analytics to help uncover a good bit of the real costs, even though this method isn’t perfect.

First, you’ll need to use the reports tab and select “Geographical Performance”. This is a quick and dirty way to try to display the most detail about individual clicks as possible. In many cases, you’ll seeing the price of a single click in various countries if you set it up for daily and regional as shown here:

Geographic Perf Settings for Granular CPC View

Geographic Perf Settings for Granular CPC View

By doing this every click will be separated by ‘AdGroup’, then ‘Day’ and finally, ‘Region’. And there can be hundreds of regions in a single country, making it possible to see the cost of many single clicks. Even group clicks are significantly reduced, so you have a better CPC average cost at that level.

While you may want to export this data into a spreadsheet and analyze or sort columns by more than one criteria, you’ll also see that by merely clicking on the CPC label at the top of the report, you can quickly see how high your actual Cost Per Click might be:

Highest CPC is 5 times higher than Avg

Highest CPC is 5 times higher than Avg

Keep in mind that the Average CPC of the above real account is $.65, but in this case we have paid over $4 for clicks in some countries that really don’t convert very well for this client.

Based on analyzing these reports, we decided we should take action. Even though this client already had separate campaigns for US, UK/Europe, Australia and RestOfWorld to achieve higher position for less cost, we decided we should split them up even further.

We grouped low converting countries into their own campaigns and lowered our bid max for that group.

We maintain high bidding on the good converting campaigns to still be assigned the coveted Sponsor Link where our CPC is truely low. We lowered bids in areas where the reports showed an actual high CPC and convert into sales less frequently.

Google Adwords Rotate ‘option’ likely isn’t doing what you think

When you create an AdWords campaign, you can edit the Ad Serving setting to either “rotate” or “optimize” the showing of the Ad.

I’ve always read, and generally practiced, using the rotate option to help me refine better and better Ads. The thought being that if Google rotated between two Ads evenly, you would begin to see which one is written better by a higher CTR and possibly conversion rate.
BUT…this doesn’t actually mean that your two Ads are in essence being given equal impression opportunities.

Why is this? Several variables go into whether your Ad will get shown (an impression), one of those variables being Ad Rank. Ad rank is a ‘hidden’ score that is looked at prior to deciding whether your Ad will be shown…and obviously your two Ads may score slightly different, one being lower. Based on the dynamic nature of the Ad serving process, picking “rotate” may mean that you are giving up on potential impressions, since your top Ad (Highest Ad Rank) is being considered at that moment.

Ad Rank can vary from ad to ad, because

* Different ads cause different CTR with the same keywords,
* Quality Score (QS) is largely determined by CTR, and
* Ad Rank is the product of Bid * QS…

…so every ad has a different Ad Rank.