Google AdWords and Beyond: Getting the Most for Your Online Ad Dollars
By Julia Wilkinson
Wpromote advises companies on how to most effectively promote their products and services on search engines, with clients ranging from large brands such as Toyota to small businesses such as local plumbers. EcommerceBytes sat down with Wpromote's Mike Mothner to learn strategies that can help online retailers spend their online ad dollars more effectively.
Creating an effective online advertising campaign today requires a lot of knowledge and strategy. Big search engines like Google give advertisers a great opportunity to learn all kinds of things about their customers, but if an advertiser isn't careful, he can lose his shirt (and probably his pants too).
Wpromote's Mike Mothner says access to so much data shows the power and the challenge of Google, Bing and search engine advertising in general; but it is a double-edged sword. "I can see every click to my website; I can see what people purchased; I can see when they came back. And usually knowing what to do to cut through all of that data, and actually making intelligent decisions based on it, requires you to have a really good understanding of the metrics," he said.
The Dangers of Broad-Matching Keywords
"I'd say the most common single mistake in search engine advertising or "SEM" (search engine marketing) is letting Google's "broad match" match keywords to many, many thousands of variations of those keywords," says Mothner. It's a very easy way to get a lot of traffic, but it's going to be diluted, he says. It's going to pull in the good variations, but also the ones that don't make sense.
A good example of this would be a handbags seller who just broad-matched the word "purse." In Google, it would match to a wide variety of keywords; some good, like "Gucci purse," if you sold Gucci purses. "It might also match to "lottery purse," which is not relevant. And it might match to luggage, which is an extension of purse, but you're not a luggage store," said Mothner.
Broad match - definition: Broad match is the default match type that all your keywords are assigned if you don't specify another match type (exact match, phrase match, or negative match). The Google AdWords system automatically runs your ads on relevant variations of your keywords, even if these terms aren't in your keyword lists. Keyword variations can include synonyms, singular and plural forms, possible misspellings, and phrases containing your keywords. See more information on Google Help.
"Where things get really dangerous," said Mothner, "is when you let Google do the research for you, versus me actually doing the exhaustive work of saying, "these are the 100 products I sell; these are the keywords that are accurate descriptions of those 100 products.""
Google makes it very easy to spend a lot of money, says Mothner, and that's really one of the most common mistakes people make.
"When someone comes to us and hires us to run their PPC campaign, one of the first things we do is generally tighten up that broad-matching."
Key Phrases vs. Keywords
When people think of online advertising they often think in terms of "keywords." But Mothner says that people using Google are usually typing in two or more words, and often they'll type in a whole sentence, such as, "Where can I find a place that sells laptop handbags?"
"The thing about keywords is almost all really good, valuable transactional keywords are really not just one word, and that's why it's kind of deceiving," says Mothner. "When you really think about it, very rarely are you going to Google as a user and just typing in one word, unless you're just looking up the definition or something really basic."
If a person is in the market for a handbag, they are probably not just going to go and type in "handbag," he says. "I probably know I want it to be a laptop handbag. I might know the brand, I might know the fabric; I might know something about it. So really what you're talking about is a key phrase. And sort of intuitively, that is more in line with how people think. In fact some people, a good percentage of people, will type significantly more than two or three words into Google."
Mothner says you don't actually have to come up with that entire phrase, but you can be thinking more in terms of logical phrases than just raw keywords - arbitrary words that aren't part of a phrase.
Google Still the Big Guy, But Don't Forget Bing/Yahoo
Google has almost 70% of market share, so it's the logical place a lot of sellers focus their energies first. But Mothner points out the combination of Yahoo and Bing are most of the remaining 30% of total traffic. "It's pretty significant," he says. "So if you're trying to maximize finding valuable visitors, you obviously don't want to ignore the 30% or 28% of the market that is doing their searching from Bing and Yahoo."
Even though you may exclusively use Google, you have to keep in mind that there really is this other segment, says Mothner. Also, nowadays Bing actually powers the Yahoo search ads, so all you have to do is go to Bing, and you'll show up in Yahoo and Bing, he adds.
A lot of times advertising in Bing/Yahoo is less competitive, he said, because "there's some segment of the audience, or of advertisers of your competition that didn't go ahead, or find it's not worth it to go create a campaign in Bing and Yahoo," says Mothner. "So if there's maybe 20-30% less competition, the cost per click and cost to acquire a new customer is many times cheaper in Yahoo and Bing."
In terms of conversions, Mothner says Bing and Yahoo may be more effective in some cases and in others not, but "it's almost always universally cheaper. And usually cheaper means better if I'm actually looking at the cost per conversion."
Although a lot of his customers come to him just wanting to focus on advertising on Google, Mothner says "we almost immediately say no, let's not just focus on Google; in fact a lot of the time when we talk about some of the earliest, biggest dramatic changes we made to campaigns, one is we tighten up and don't use Google broad match when it's overused, and two is when we make sure there's a robust campaign built out in Yahoo and Bing, which is really important."
What Works on Facebook
While Facebook is not known as being the most effective ad medium, Mothner points out that while users don't go there with the clear intent with which they usually approach a Google search, Facebook can be a good way to reach out to new customers - to "raise awareness, or introduce a new product, or acquire new customers who've never heard of your brand."
Facebook has an enormous audience, and people can be targeted very granularly by interest, and other companies they like.
"I can say ok, I'm selling this pair of hemp sandals and I think people that like whole foods might like my sandals, I can go and advertise to people on Facebook that like whole foods. That's a really powerful way to reach a new audience that doesn't yet know about your store or your product or service," says Mothner. "What it doesn't work well for is a plumber in El Segundo...that's not something you're going to want to raise awareness for in any sort of meaningful way. That's something when you need one you know it."
Mother says things work well in Facebook when they have a pretty good idea who the audience is and the things they like, and then they extend discounts. For the sandal company, this may be 40% off for first-time customers. "We would not want to give that discount to everyone, but to acquire a customer that had never heard of our brand before, that's pretty powerful."
Twitter: on the Bleeding Edge
"Twitter as an advertising medium? It's really in its infant stages," says Mothner. "You can have promoted tweets; only recently did they allow you to show up in people's Twitter feeds." Mothner says he thinks that will become an effective way to advertise, "but the system is still pretty early."
But Twitter can be a great way to engage with customers, in addition to Facebook. It's also a great place, especially if you're a little bit larger, to also engage in customer service. "So if somebody got shipped the wrong product from your store and they tweet about it, it's a great public forum to turn a negative into a positive," he says. If you're smart, you can see what people are talking about and then engage with them, Mothner advises.
Reaching iPods and iPads: Segmenting by Device
As we hear about more and more customers shopping via mobile devices, advertisers also need to be savvy about how to target - or exclude - users on certain kinds of platforms. "You can basically decide in your AdWords campaign if you want to reach different devices," says Mothner. "If you don't have a site that works very well on an iPhone, then you should not bother advertising to iPhone users."
Mothner says at a minimum you can use your campaign to divide out devices that aren't going to be effective. "But if you can really do it intelligently, you're not going to turn it off. You're going to have a separate campaign, you're going to track differently, and you're going to understand what different users are worth - like iPad users are worth more than iPhone users or smartphone users."
Keeping an Eye on Your Ads
How often should businesses monitor their campaigns? "It really is kind of a daily thing...in terms of at least checking up on things," says Mothner. "We would never go longer than a day without looking at things because it's a dynamic marketplace and things are going to change." And if you have any sort of "decent sized campaign," you need someone, whether it's internally or externally, where that is a significant part of what they do, he advises.
The goal should be not to just have your campaign on cruise control, but to continuously grow it. "What we want to do is, from month to month, increase overall the footprint that you have, increase results, lower your cpa/cost per conversion...we want to really be moving those metrics ongoing."
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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