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In AdWords, your Quality Score is like a warning light, according to a quote in “Google: Stop Losing the  Forest for the…Quality Score” at PPC Hero. It shows how healthy your ads and keywords are, but it isn’t anything more than an indication to look further if it’s low. The warning light is a good illustration, because when it comes on you aren’t supposed to be examining the light itself but the system it is connected to.

This look at Google’s whitepaper on Settling the (Quality) Score (pdf) includes a nice chart on things that matter, and things that don’t. These things make a difference in your Quality Score:

  • user device matters, so think about mobile targeting and landing page experience
  • performance on related keywords matters when launching new keywords, so invest in relevant searches
  • relevance to user intention matters, so make sure ads and landing pages match what they want

However, in terms of that Quality Score, keep this in mind:

  • It doesn’t matter how you structure your account, so do what works best for you
  • It doesn’t matter which networks you target, so feel free to test new networks
  • It doesn’t matter where the ad is on the page, so don’t bid up higher positions to get a higher score–think about user experience instead

The warning light is a valuable tool when it’s used the right way, as a signal that you need to look further into the system it monitors. With the Quality Score, Google is reminding us that it is a tool, not a grade.

You’ll find more insights on PPC Management at http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/pay-per-click.php.

Google has made a number of minor tweaks to their Adwords pay-per-click advertising program. The aim is to increase clicks, thus driving more revenue to Google, while it is hoped it will also drive more revenue to advertisers. Whether or not it does is open to debate although one change, relating to site links for those that use them, should see improved CTR and with it improved sales.

Do you include site links in your Adwords campaign? It is certainly worth having a closer look if you don’t. Site links allow you add extra links to your Adwords ad unit – up to ten for a campaign. Google has, in the past, shown the top four links in any ad unit displayed. Google has now changed this and will automatically rotate these links based on historical performance. This is good news for website owners who have several pages they want to drive traffic to.

In other changes, Google will change the way that domain URLs are displayed. Over the next week Google will modify all ad units displayed in search results so that the domain URL is all in lower case. This is to match the way domain URLs are displayed in search results. According to Google:

In any given month, we experiment with hundreds of subtle variations of the Google search results page, testing everything from font sizes and colors to layouts and spacing, as well as dozens of other variables. Recently, we found that by standardizing the look of the URLs on the page, we were able to improve many of our user metrics, including ad clickthrough rates

I am not sure that a change in the display of URLs will make a huge difference in click through rates, but then, any improvement is bound to be welcome.

The final modification will be a welcome one for those who have drilled down to really fine tune their ads. Negative keywords, in other words keywords, or parts of keywords that your don’t want associated with your ads, had to be set campaign by campaign. Now you can create a set of negative keywords that can be used with multiple campaigns. That will make life a little easier for Adwords users.

Of course, there are many Adwords users that don’t use site links or negative keyword lists when they really should. This could be costing them a significant amount when it comes to wasted or lost clicks. If you don’t completely understand how to use them, then consider working with a team of pay-per-click management specialists to fine tune your Adwords campaign.

There has been an interesting change in the way local search results are being displayed in Google. Rather than a seven pack with map followed by organic listings, the seven pack has been taken out the frame and listed in a similar fashion to organic search results. The map has been moved to the sidebar pushing Sponsored Links down the page.

Having conducted numerous tests, the question now is whether or not a business still needs Google’s pay per click sponsored ads. There are points for and against and your decision will depend on your advertising motives. Let’s consider some of  those points:

Points Against Pay Per Click in Local Search

The way local results are now being displayed, it is quite normal now for a business to have two free listings in search. The first listing is in the local search results and includes a link to your web site and a link to your Places page along with a Google map placeholder. The second listing could be located below the local search results depending, of course, on your search ranking for that key term.

If your paid listing is not ranked in the first three then it could be pushed down into the side bar listings. These now appear almost below the fold – not exactly a highly clickable location. This could result in a large drop in click-through rates.

Points for Pay Per Click in Local Search

Following on from point one in the arguments against, if your site ranks highly in search results, ranks highly in local search, and ranks in the top three for paid search then you could see your site (and brand) listed three times in a search results page. This may well increase click-through rates in both organic and paid search listings. That amount of exposure can also be good for branding purposes.

What will be interesting to see is the feedback from local businesses. Those that are not bidding for positions 1-3 may see a drop in click-through rates. Those that are bidding for those positions may well see a rise in those same stats. If that does become the situation, you will probably see those positions becoming more competitive, and more expensive. Have you noticed a change in your click-through rates?

While Microsoft’s BING search engine isn’t exactly news, I thought I’d share my initial thoughts concerning it’s appearance on the scene.

Bing has brought a traffic increase to Microsoft. Exciting news for them, but don’t get excited yet! Whether you are in the business of Internet marketing or simply looking into your options for hiring an internet marketing firm, consider the following:

  • Making the Switch- before everyone rushes over to BING for their marketing needs, be it Pay Per Click or not, there are a lot of facets to each engine. While Yahoo! has been at bay in the number 2 spot under Google for a long time, there are many campaigns that don’t work on Google and do work on Yahoo! Just because a site is bigger does not make it better, and while jumping on any given bandwagon may seem like a good plan, there is no rush. Should BING continue in its success, it will only further establish the engine, and thus, it will still be there later on. Still, if you’re one of the people that can’t wait to dive into a new channel and truly believes that a new engine is the way to go, there are other things to consider first.
  • Duplicate Content- On a Google search, as a primary example, you will find multiple links to the same site. Between all links to the same domain, there will be home page links, interior links, and potentially file links, like .pdf files and the like. BING, however, is a different story. As of recently, the BING algorithm is designed to remove duplicate content, for the purpose of only showing the most relevant page on a given site matching the search query. This may or may not be a good thing for your site. Many sites might have many similar products or services listed on the home page or on interior pages, in which case a direct link to one product might not be optimal. For eCommerce sites, this could improve ROI since, assuming the product or service page is most relevant to the search terms, such a user would be inspired to buy the product or sign up right then and there. For some businesses, however, browsing is all part of the purchase process, so taking users directly to a product page may very well give them the impression that this is the only option they have. However, even under this circumstances, site optimization will play a role in the success of your online marketing efforts.
  • Site Optimization – Another thing to consider is the layout and organization of your site. Suppose users land on interior pages but do not find what they are looking for – are they easily able to access the home page, other similar products or services, and category pages from all corners of the site? It’s often difficult to find a perfect balance between enough options and too many options – and a website can become quite cluttered with too many links and poor layout / design, so a smart plan of action is to have a professional website, designed by an experience firm that not only understands design concepts and techniques, but it familiar also with Internet marketing strategies that must be implemented on-site. Whether you BING or not, be sure you or your hired marketing firm understands how the search engine being utilized works, and optimizes the site for such engines to return the best results.
  • Content- Thus far, it is rumored that BING weighs on-site content over all. This means that a site featuring picture galleries without ample description, sites lacking company’s information, and sites without rich context may be penalized for it. This doesn’t denote a negative effect on rank – just the absence of a positive one. Be sure there is rich on-site content to accompany all the beautiful pictures of your products, staff, facilities, etc. A site should read well in your language, because this is what search engines look for.
  • Complaints - Despite its swift jump to #2, BING has still received many complaints about how the engine ranks sites. For example, with giving equal weight to interior and home pages on a site, it may find a lower-ranking interior page to be more relevant, and therefore return that page lower in search results, where as a search engine like Google, which displays both interior and home pages, factors in the home page rank as well when considering the position of results. Another problem that many might find with BING, although not quite an official outcry from users, is the weight it gives to interior links compared to the weight it gives to external links. In recent years, it’s always been understood that while on-site SEO is important, it should not factor into rank as much as relevance. On BING, however, it seems that proper linking structure within a site will do more for your rank and relevance than it will on Google, which is known for giving much more weight to exterior links for both rank and relevance. This might be a problem, or it might be good for those with well-optimized websites.
  • Pay Per Clickon BING – As I mentioned above, BING’s algorithm is quite unique compared to Google and Yahoo, so for anyone planning to experiment with a PPC campaign on BING, approach with caution. I would not recommend ending a PPC campaign on Google or Yahoo just to replace it with one on BING. I’ve always said that exploring the options is a good way to feel things out and find what works for each business, so I would encourage delegating some budget, or even better, increasing a budget to see what BING can actually do for your company – just don’t put all of your eggs into this basket because it’s fresh and new.

All in all, I’m impressed with BING, but I can’t say I’m surprised at all. Microsoft has been around for a long time and they obviously know their way around IT. I’d say that a gradual transition is best, but even better when managed by an experienced Internet marketing firm.

If you’re not familiar with the Google Content Network option within a Pay Per Click campaign, it may be worth looking in to. Depending on your niche, there may be countless websites partnered with Google who participate in Adwords. Essentially, these sites have “digital billboards” which are swapped out much like ranking positions on paid Google searches.

Within an Adwords campaign, you can set a given campaign to bid on these spots, just the same as bidding on search rank position. The idea is, visitors to these sites are already looking for information or a service relavant to your business, which makes these ads highly visible to those that may not be doing searches for your niche, but are still looking for it. It’s a good idea to set up a test campaign so that, at the very least, you can see if this is a good option for your company. After gathering a certain amount of data from various reports provided in Adwords, it is best to set up a Placement campaign, which will either allow or disallow specific websites from showing your ad.

The first step is to utilize the Placement Tool to search for sites relevant to your site. By entering a number of keywords for each adgroup you set up, a list returned, and you can add placements to each adgroup from a list of sites returned. Each adgroup will then specifically target the placement sites within to have your ad shown. This is not a guarantee that your ad will show, but a bid much like standard PPC campaigns. Of course, your ads should be relavant to each placement adgroup you setup.

The next step is to set up a number of general content adgroups with your keywords, relavant ads to display, and no placements. Let this campaign and the placement campaign run for the course of a few months to see which sites are showing your ads, how many clicks they are getting, what the click-through rate is, and how many conversions result. Once you’ve let the campaign run for awhile, you can run a placement report for each, which can be set to return the domains with pages on which your ad was shown. Organize your report by conversions and those sites with good conversions (be sure to check for lower costs per conversion as well) can be kept within the placement campaign, or added to it if they show in the general content campaign and were not already in the placement campaign.

Next, organize each report by cost. This way, you can find the sites with no conversions and a lot of spend, or those with high conversion rates. With this list of domains, you can add them to the negative keyword/placement list, so they will no longer show the ad. Do this within the general content campaign, but before you add these sites to the placement campaign, move these sites into a new adgroup that basically mirrors the one from which it came, and add a list of keywords to the group. This way, only pages relavant to those keywords will show the ad, and you will be more likely to get conversions. If the site placements within a placement campaign adgroup including keywords are not converting, then ad them to the negative kayword/placement list.

If PPC confuses you, don’t hesitate to ask an Internet Marketing Firm like Reciprocal Consulting any questions you may have.

Believe it or not, a good number of people don’t know that a Pay Per Click campaign as an ongoing process can be just as intense as the initial setup. Sure, for the first few months of PPC, keywords are created, bids are set, adgroups are organized and ads are written, but after the keywords are chosen, they need to be analyzed on a weekly basis, and bids need to be adjusted, which can be pretty time consuming if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The general idea is to adjust bids for each keyword based on a number of different factors, so you may very well be adjusting the bid on the same keyword multiple times. It is best to use Adwords Editor for this process, and depending on your niche, you should download the data for all active campaigns (choose the Selected Campaigns option from the menu) over a good chunk of time (a month or two is the standard), and view all of the keywords at once.

  1. Start by checking the cost per conversion  on keywords that are converting – organize the column by descending order, with the greater values at the top, and the lower values at the bottom. This is important, because the cost per conversion tells you exactly what you are paying, verses what you are making from the use of that keyword. If you come accross keywords with a high conversion rate and a good position (1-3) you may be able to trim the bid a little, but not any lower than your average Cost Per Click (CPC), as this would likely lower your position, which can have a large factor in clicks. Generally, if a keyword that converts at a good rate is in a high position, you may be able to spend less per conversion.
  2. Next, look at the Position of keywords. For keywords that are in position 1-3, you may not need to adjust them at this point, as those positions are likely leading to the most clicks. For the rest of the keywords, if they have a good conversion rate, try raising the bid just enough to get them to show up in the top 3 positions. If they convert well with a few views, they will probably convert well with more views, and the conversion rate should be similar, but also lead to more conversions.
  3. You should now have a good number of keywords with adjusted bids. The next step is to check the overall Cost of each keyword. See how much each one is costing overall, and then compmare them to the conversion rate and CPC. Some keywords may be converting great, and at an excellent rate, but costing you the majority of your budget for that campaign or adgroup. If this is the case, you have two options – adjust the bid to allow for other keywords to perform, or lower the bid on other keywords to improve the number of conversions on that keyword. Basically, you would only want to limit the well performing keyword if your budget is tight, and/or your other keywords have not been in high enough positions to have the chance to show their conversion potential.
  4. Lastly, organize your keywords by clicks. Reference all other information in the campaign while checking how many times people actually click the ads for that keyword. However, instead of changing bids, check the ads in that adgroup. If the clicks are low, the ad might not accurately represent the keyword. If there are only a few like this, you can pretty much let those keywords continue to run, as they will not cost much, and may change. If there are a lot of keywords like this, you may want to consider creating a new adgroup which shows ads more relavant to those keywords – or put them into an adgroup with an ad using a dynamic header.

For more information on Pay Per Click, please consult an Internet Marketing Firm like ReciprocalConsulting.

While Google Adwords is an easy way to create an effective, keyword-rich PPC campaign, in order to use the program to its full potential, consider which features to use and when to use them. This is a continuation of sorts to my previous post about setting up an Adwords PPC campaign, discussing the keyword grouper featureavailable in the Adwords Editor.

Remember, the first step is to create a basic keyword list. Then, once you’ve explored all variations for your keywords, you’re ready to use the keyword grouper.

Ideally, different ads should show up for different keywords, but it takes awhile when done manually. That’s why Adwords includes the Keyword Grouper. This tool will show you commonalities between keywords and attempt to group them based on these similarities between keywords. However, this tool may not always group keywords as effectively as hand-picking keywords for your various adgroups. More so, editing such a campaign later on will prove more difficult.

Suppose you run a PPC campaign for a travel agency. Your best option would likely be to create a master adgroup for the general area of travel you service, then to duplicate this adgroup and change the area name to specific locations in the keywords, as well as within each ad. This way, you can cycle 4 or 5 relavant ads for the particular area denoted by the adgroup, for each main area of travel.

Using the keyword grouper in this case may be overkill. Not only will the travel areas be grouped, but so will methods of travel, places of interest, as well as different synonyms for travel, such as trip, vacation, tour, etc. For smaller overall campaigns, this may be optimal, but your ads need not always repeat exactly what the user searched for, as would be the purpose for creating as many adgroups as would be generated through this method of keyword grouping.

Still, one can use the tool in this case and simply copy and paste the unnecessary adgroups into more appropriate, existing adgroups. Either way, the tool can be handy, or it could create more work for you.

A simple way to optimize your Adwords PPC campaign, is to run regularly scheduled search query reports.

What is a “search query report,” you ask?  A search query report is available through the Adwords interface, and it shows the actual search queries people typed in before clicking on one of your ads. While the reports leave something to be desired in terms of their level of detail, they can still be very useful. The problem is that some of the keywords get lumped together under the heading, “x other unique queries.” That being said, the queries that are actually shown can be surprising and informative at times.

New Adwords users often think that their ads will only show up when someone searches for the keywords exactly as they enter them into Adwords, but that’s not usually the case. Whenever you “broad match,” or “phrase match,” a keyword, you leave the door open for many different variations on the search phrase to trigger your ad to display.

Broad matching in particular, gives Google a lot of room to show your ad for a wide range of different queries. I’ve seen where Google completely drops one of the keywords in a broad matched phrase. An example would be:

Keyword: bright blue widgets
Search phrase that displays ad: blue widgets

Google can also change your broad matched keywords based upon algorithmic ways that it defines concepts. This can get scary at times. To prevent your ads from showing up for keywords you don’t want, run search query reports regularly; and either use “negative keywords” to get rid of terms you don’t want, or take out the broad matched keywords replacing them with more accurate phrase matched keywords.

Don’t rule out the “broad match” altogether though, because broad matching can sometimes bring in cheaper conversion costs by showing your ad for search queries you hadn’t thought of targeting.

To run a search query report while in the Adwords interface, click on the “Reports” tab, “Create a new report,” then choose the “search query performance” radio button, and define the rest of the options.

While natural search is a great way to increase targeted traffic, believe it or not, some people don’t search the internet that often. Consider the lesser acquainted browser, familiar with the Yellow Pages or other convenient source of advertisement in one location. Should this tech-deprived person decide to use the internet to find their restaurant, dentist or school of choice, they will probably look to an official source.

Most people know about the sponsored ads that show up in Google searches, but did you know that ads driven by Google Adwords can show up on official, high-ranking sites as well? When I say “official” I am referring to sites associated with large, well-known companies, like Amazon, AOL, Time-Warner, etc. Google already owns a significant portion of the ad space on these sorts of sites and, when appropriate, will show your Google ad on their pages. Depending on relevance, bid and various other factors, Google will rotate ads in certain spots on certain pages hosted on one of these high-ranking websites. Not only will your ads be visible to thousands of people a day who regularly browse the site, but they will likely be on the site looking into information relevant to your business. This is the Google Content Network.

Some might consider this mass-exposure to be a problem for local businesses, but this is not the case. Just as Pay Per Click ads can be set up to target geographical areas, so can these ads, which can be image ads as well.

Interested in setting up an Adwords campaign? It may be a lot cheaper than you think. Also, you can setup a campaign on Yahoo! or MSN as well.