Having just gotten back from seeing Liz Grey speak to the London IABC about search engine marketing, I’m going to review some of the amazing insight she brought into the room, and some personal thoughts.
Liz: Faculty at the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business, Fanshawe College. Founder & instructor of Search Engine Marketing class. Previous work with Sundance Media. A fantastic speaker – interesting, well informed, strong presentation.
- 77% of users search at least once a day
- 70% of online transactions can be traced back to a search
- More than 80% of people are researching purchases online
- Google’s 2008 revenue was $22 billion
- 98% of that $22 billion was from advertising
- Search ads to be a $44 billion market by 2011
- 40% of us are watching less TV than in 2004
Organic Search (Def’n): The 1- 1,000,000,000 results returned by your search. Unsponsored & entirely determined by the search engine’s ranking system (i.e. Google PageRank). There is no way to buy your way into this section of the search page on Google.
How to work with Organic:
- Use your keywords
- Have high quality content (that people will read = longer site visits)
- Have quality sites link to your site (goes back to have quality content … for them to link to)
Liz pointed out that even if you do all of the above, you simply cannot be in the top 3 results for every single keyword related to your business. What you can do is make a list of those keywords and then pay to show up near and around the search results.
Interesting Fact: 80% or more people click on an organic result, rather than a sponsored ad. However, as they get closer to making their final purchase decision, sponsored ads start earning a little more of the attention.
Liz took the time to run case studies on several businesses that had representatives in the audience – which was great, as people love free insight.
London Life looks great in the organic results, which are framed in sponsored ads from competitors. A few refreshes of this search will even pull up an ad headlined “Don’t Buy London Life.”
Back to the organic – London Life’s meta description is strong. The screenshot below of query: libro bank shows something a little less ideal. Notice how the words london, life and insurance are bolded all over the page? It’s one thing to show up on the page, but in order to be the eye-catcher you will want to make sure your keywords are in your title, meta description (organic) or headline, copy (ads). Just one of the great insights that Liz came with.
Query: libro bank
In the above screenshot, notice how the description text underneath the first organic result is confusing rather than a great elevator speech for the site (the way London Life’s is).
Insight: It’s being said that Google is replacing the homepage. Users are relying on search engines like Google to get them where they want to go, and relying less on memorizing favourite URLs or scrambling to write down the .com pushed out in your ads. The homepage is no less important, but the work no longer stops there. Any page on your site is now a potential entry point, increasing the importance of strong navigation/menu structures and utilities such as site search, site maps, bread crumbs etc. When it comes to Google, one thing you might want to do is check your analytics and see where search engine traffic is landing and then giving those major pages the same attention that you normally save for homepage.
#1 Relevant and Timely
If a user searches for “yorkie puppies” and your ad related to yorkie puppies shows up in the ad bar, the user is not going to mind. You aren’t interrupting the organic results they would normally get, and you are also offering content relevant to whatever they are interested in. It’s really rather nice of you, actually.
Immediately my head goes to Facebook Social Ads – where some ads are keyword driven, but others are geotargeted, or age/sex targeted etc. When I load a colleague’s profile, do I see ads related to what I’m interested in (the colleague)? There may be some kind of subtle keyword influence in what ads show up beside my name, but the ads that end up running down the side of my profile page definitely don’t strike me as directly related to me (see ads to the left). I’ve got the option of voting on whether these ads are what I want to see, so that Facebook can learn my preferences – but that is asking for time that I can just spend whining about how everything is soaked in ads these days.
Back on Google, if I search for query: Melissa Cheater – there are no ads at all! Pop over and see if your name is on anyone’s adwords list.
#2 Pay for Performance
One of the biggest perks to online advertising, including Google AdWords, is that you usually have the option of paying-per-click. If your ad gets blasted across 2,000 results pages but never clicked, your cost is zero. Liz really put it into perspective by comparing to the local newspaper – imagine the paper telling you that they would only charge you if someone actually called or walked into your building.
#3 Money doesn’t always win
The Google AdWords system seems to be about as complicated as the PageRank algorithm that drives its search engine. You go pick your keywords and then set maximum bids (the most you are willing to pay) per click. Higher bids can help move you up, but they won’t guarantee a starring spot at the top of the search page. Google scores each of your keywords for quality, based on bounce rates and ctr and other variables. If your ad is not triggering any clicks, or has a high bounce rate, your “Quality Score” is going to drop lower and lower and you are going to have to bid higher and higher to stay on the screen, until your score is so low that the cost is too high. Liz throws this back to Google’s original mission of always showing the best results – even in ads.
There is no end to the “dimensions” that you can filter and sort and query your campaign results by. Google AdWords in particular are so trackable that you can trace a purchase or sale directly back to a search query and ad click through that happened days and days ago.
Neat fact: When an ad is geo-targetted, Google puts the location underneath the ad. Left: “Canadian Term Insurance” is not geo-targetted, and “Don’t Buy London Life” is targetting users in Ontario.
Let’s talk branding: Capital One runs ads on “hand in my pocket” so that if all you remember is their ad jingle, you still end up at their company site. Nestle has run ads on “healthy snacks” with copy promoting their 100 calorie “singles” bars.
Breakdown: In Canada, Google earns about 70% of search traffic, and Yahoo! takes 10 – 15%. In the US, Google runs closer to 60% and Yahoo! comes in at 25%. A few years ago, Google was at 50% in the US – so they are becoming increasingly dominant (feels a bit like Facebook’s start in Canada and slow growth under and then over MySpace in the US).
I’ve always looked a bit sideways at the Google Content Network. The content network is thousands of sites that participate in the Google AdSense program. If a click-through comes from a content network site, then the site earns a share of what is paid for that click. The examples that Liz showed have me rethinking my wariness of the content network – it seems like your ads only get pushed onto sites that are relevant to your keywords/ad. It’s also interesting to note that while Google does not run any picture or video ads on their search result pages, it does run media ads on the content network.
Query: university of guelph (on youtube)
One of the reasons that I’ve been wary of the content network is because I’m not really sure what sites my ads are going to show up on – some 16 year old kid’s blog about whether Blair and Chuck will ever make it work? But YouTube is part of the content network, and it’s certainly worthwhile to have ads there … and they are even relevant! See my above screenshot of the ads shown on youtube when I searched for query: university of guelph. You’ve got a guelph related link, a student related link, and then a direct link to Redeemer University in Toronto – but no Guelph. Maybe UofG is like me and was holding back from the content network, but it certainly seems worthwhile to have your homepage advertised when people are looking for videos related to you, so that you can pull them across to your official presence. So one of the biggest outcomes of today’s presentation is that I will be giving the Content Network a clean slate in my head.
Writing for Pay Per Click
On Facebook, you get a 20 character headline and 135 characters of copy – as well as your 110 x 80 image. On Google, you get 25 characters for headline and two 35 character lines of copy. One nice thing about Google is that you can specify a long clunky destination URL but specify a shorter prettier display URL that prints under the ad.
Liz made a great point to include your keywords in the ad. I went over this earlier, but on Google the user’s search terms are bolded throughout all organic and sponsored results. Not only do you want your ad to make it onto the results page, but you also want it to be nice and bold – and to do that you need to include the keywords that the user is using to get there. One thing that I am going to be looking at in my next campaigns will be setting up themed keyword groups, each with their own ad variations. This will help me take advantage of Google’s bolding, and will also hopefully pump up my CTR and quality scores.
Liz’s second point on ad copy was always remember to have your offer! She mentioned that Free Shipping is one of the best things you can do for your ad, as well as Low Price Guarantee etc. Your landing page should have 2 calls to action – one that gets them to the sale, and one that grabs their information because chances are they are not going to buy on the first visit which means you need to bring them back.
Measuring Your Success
- Impressions (are you being shown)
- Click Through Rate (is your audience clicking)
- Bounce Rate (are they hitting “back” right away? your landing page is missing the mark)
- Average Time on the Site (similar to bounce rate)
- Page Views (where did they go next? did they stay or go?)
- Navigation Paths
Not only can you adjust your campaign at the drop of a hat, but you can also tell if search ads simply aren’t working for you. Chances are that there is always some kind of way these ads can benefit your end goals, but it also depends on how invested you are in finding that sweet solution.