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In-house or Outsource? The Benefits of Taking Digital Marketing to an Agency

In-house or Agency?

The question of, “Do I attempt to complete this work with in-house resources vs. getting an agency to help?” is a dilemma that comes up often, particularly when it comes to digital marketing. Here are some benefits I’ve personally experienced when it comes to taking work out to an agency.

1. Get access to deep expertise across multiple disciplines and sub-disciplines

As an in-house digital marketer, lots of varied demands are placed onto you every day, and often we are required to dabble in different areas in a Jack-of-All trades way. In a prior in-house role, I had responsibility for all paid, earned and owned digital marketing. Although I was pretty comfortable on the search, social and analytics side, I was less clued up when it came to affiliates and media partners.

This is where agencies can make great partners. Not only do they have people with deep subject area expertise, but also people who are experts within subject sub-disciplines. For example, you can be good at SEO – but are you equally an expert at SEO strategy, keyword research, site audits, on-page SEO, technical SEO, content marketing, social amplification, or link development? Because these have become such deep subject areas in themselves, it can often be hard for you to be a true expert across all.

2. Keep your projects on schedule

It’s a sad state of affairs that whenever times got tough, one of the first roles to go within the marketing department at the companies I worked for was the Project Manager. We’d then often end up wondering why a project that should have taken three months to complete was knocking on the two year mark, with no end in sight. Go figure.

Good agency partners know the value of experienced Project Managers and are committed to keeping your project on track – their profitability depends on it. Having recently spent a bit of time in an agency, it has been interesting to see how on-time completion within every major and micro project milestone truly counts when it comes to getting campaigns out on time. You really can’t put a price on having good Project Managers on your side.

3. Benefit from flexible resources

Keeping projects in-house may mean saving money on agency services. However, often that also means you don’t get to spend money on bringing in additional resources in-house either. So the additional workload then gets placed onto existing members of the team who already have their plates full of other projects that take higher priority. Is it worth the saving vs. getting things done well and on time? Things that will ultimately help drive more business. Sometimes it may be, but mostly I’ve found not.

4. Get access to best (and next) in class practices

Agencies work with varied clients, some highly mature in the digital marketing space. These many different experiences really help to build up knowledge around best and next practices along the way. So why reinvent the wheel? From performance benchmarks to more efficient processes and testing out new ideas and theories, you get access to key learnings and expert help from your agency to supercharge your own digital marketing efforts.

What have your experiences been when it comes to taking work out to an agency vs. keeping it in-house?

Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 5 Free Tools Every SEO Should Keep in their Back Pocket

SEO Toolbox

Most people who are familiar with the concept of Search Engine Optimization will know about the Google Keyword Planner. However, many in the search world were not too happy with the loss of Google’s Keyword Tool to Keyword Planner last year, forcing SEOs and search marketers to turn to other alternatives to get additional levels of insight. So what other tools are out there that can help you with your search efforts? Here are five of my favourite:

1. YouTube Keyword Tool Alternative 

Video has, and continues to be, a great way to rank high in the search engine results. However, Keyword Planner is not video-specific and I’ve always found YouTube’s keyword suggestion tool rather limited, particularly when it comes to researching any non-mass consumer segment area. The YouTube Keyword Tool Alternative uses YouTube’s autocomplete feature to help you find longer tail keywords that users type into YouTube’s search box.

As you can see from the example below for “data center”, it provides autocomplete suggestions based on your query. Given the nature of video, very often you see suggestions based around educational themes, such as “fundamentals” and “tutorials”. I’ve found this to be a great research tool for video SEO that can uncover good ideas for video content and topics based upon what users are looking for.

YouTube Keyword Tool Alternative

2. FAQ Fox

If you want to find questions your target audience are asking, then FAQ Fox is the tool for you. Input your topic, select or type in a URL and FAQ Fox presents you with questions that these people are asking. One of the big benefits is that you are seeing exactly how people are typing in the question and the language they use, uncensored and all.

Very often, these are questions that users aren’t finding a good answer for in the search results, so again it is a great research tool that can help guide content development efforts.

FAQ Fox Example

 3. Mozbar

Do you want to see key SEO site metrics at a glance every time you conduct a search? Mozbar is the best way to see metrics such as domain authority, page authority, link counts, social metrics, and more — all of the basics to help you understand a page’s ranking ability.

I love this tool for the easy competitive comparisons that show why certain pages rank higher than others and how easy or difficult it would be to rank for a particular keyword. Mozbar is available as a plug-in for Firefox and Chrome.

Mozbar Example

4. SEO Book’s Rank Checker

If you don’t have the budget for an Enterprise SEO tool and are having to check up on keyword rank, then make sure to use Rank Checker.

Rank Checker is a handy Firefox plug-in that allows you to quickly see where you and/or your competitors are ranking for a keyword, and which page is ranking. It covers all Google country domains and some Yahoo country domains. I’ve used this tool for a number of years now (even alongside enterprise SEO tools). I found this particularly useful when going through optimization and comparison exercises for international SEO projects.

Rank Checker Example

5.  MobileDev HQ

Over the past few years, we’ve seen how much mobile apps have taken off, giving rise to a new kind of optimization; commonly known as App Store Optimization (ASO).

Having dabbled a little in ASO, I’ve found MobileDevHQ to be a pretty handy tool when it comes to keyword app store discovery and ongoing monitoring. Their helpful dashboards and summary emails cover things such as: Top 5 keywords by ranking change, ratings added in the last 24 hours, and actual app downloads. With the free version of the tool, the number of keywords you are able to track are unlimited and you can access up to three months of historical data.

MobileDevHQ Example

What are your favourite free SEO tools?

Why App Store Optimization (ASO) is a Must for All Mobile App Developers

app-store-optimization-aso

Mobile apps now account for more than half of all time spent on digital media (comScore, 2014). With over 2 million mobile apps and growing, many companies – from small startups to big retailers, airlines, financial firms, and more – are jumping on the mobile app bandwagon. But according to Forbes, only 0.01% of consumer mobile apps will be considered a financial success.

Amidst the excitement of mobile app development, often times companies take the “build it and they will come” mentality and give less thought (or more after thought) about how their app will actually get found by users.

The truth is, more apps are found through app store searches than by any other method – 63% according to Forrester research. This is why App Store Optimization (ASO) is such a critical component when it comes to your app strategy. If you are not optimizing your app for search, then you are missing out big time.

So how do you optimize a mobile app for search?

1. Conduct Keyword Research

As with traditional SEO, it all starts with keyword research. Doing your research up front will help you understand what words and phrases users are searching for in volume and relevance, as well as in terms of competition level. If you are looking for a mobile app keyword research/monitoring tool, my favorite is MobileDevHQ but I’ve also heard good things about Sensor Tower.

2. Optimize Your App Title and Description

Once you have your keyword phrase identified, make sure that you include the keyword in the title and description – as you would with standard HTML and video SEO. The description is also a good place to include any additional or secondary keywords that you may have identified as part of your research.

3. Drive Downloads

Number of app downloads is an important factor when it comes to mobile app rank since downloads is an indicator of app popularity. The thinking being that the more popular an app, the more relevant it is likely to be for the searcher. This can cause quite a quandary when your app is just starting out, particularly when you are competing with well-established apps that have many downloads.

Paid social methods, particularly Facebook app ads, are a good way to reach and segment a high volume of potential app users. The reach and targeting options of Facebook is unparalleled, not to mention that 78% of Facebook users are mobile.

facebook-app-ads

An Example of Facebook’s Mobile App Ads

However, many app developers do not see paying for ads as a worthwhile investment, particularly when comparing the cost per click amounts to the revenue earned per app download — the average paid app retails for around $0.99. However, sometimes it is important to think beyond the initial low (or sometimes negative) returns. Rather, as with all SEO, this upfront investment helps to increase visibility and drive up downloads, which can help organic visibility in the long-term.

4. Encourage Ratings and Reviews

Whilst social signals can be positively correlated with SEO rank, ratings and reviews are a definite factor when it comes to ASO rank. Of course, the number of ratings and reviews that you secure will be dependent on your number of app downloads (another reason why paid social ads is often worth the upfront investment).

This is why it is important to encourage your existing users to rate your app when they are using it – this is a tactic often seen in many popular gaming apps such as The Sims, Smurf Village and Angry Birds. But remember, when it comes to ratings and reviews, ASO cannot help when it comes to the actual quality and usefulness of your app; it can’t polish a turd.

These are just some of the basics that you need to be thinking about when it comes to App Store Optimization. As digital marketers, we need to remember that as with SEO, ASO is also a long-term effort and investment, but definitely an important and worthwhile one.

5 Digital Marketing Stats That Every Marketer Should Know

1. Digital marketing budget is expected to increase to over half of a company’s overall marketing budget by 2016 (source: IDC)

digital-marketing-spend

More companies are realizing the power, efficiency, and accountability that digital marketing activities can bring and this is being reflected in the amount of investment over time. With buyer journeys becoming more complex and unique, companies are realizing that they must show up at the right time, in the right place, and more often.

Being where customers are searching and consuming content is critical, and a lot of this is taking place online. According to Google’s Shopper Sciences study, “The largest hub for every category was online search. No matter where consumers entered their journey, they touched down on search at least once, and usually many times”.

2. Mobile users check their phone 150 times each day (source: Huffington Post)

mobile-phone-usage

Admit it, most of us own multiple devices and we go to bed with our mobile phones. According to SAP, there are now more mobile devices than what there are people on Earth. It is difficult to ignore the rise of mobile usage and the impact that it will have on your marketing efforts.

As we are reminded that more searches will come from mobile than desktop in 2015, not to mention the penalties that Google say they are applying to non-mobile friendly sites, the time to get your company’s mobile presence in order is fast running out.

3. Apps continue to dominate the mobile web with 86% of time spent (source: Flurry)

mobile-apps

From airlines, hotels, insurance companies, banks and Fortune 500 companies to small businesses and start-ups, mobile app development has gone through the roof – some more useful and well-thought out than others. With over 2 million mobile apps in the app store (and growing), app store optimization is becoming increasingly important for companies and app developers who want to get found.

4. Social Media is the most powerful content distribution channel (source: Business Insider)

every-10-sconds-on-facebook

  • …83,333 links are shared
  • …85,000 comments are left
  • …54,976,850 pieces of content are posted or shared

With stats like these, the power of social media (and the growing correlation of social factors on SEO) as a content distribution system cannot be ignored. But with this, companies have to remember that we can no longer rely on just organic social media to drive results. The development of well-targeted paid social advertising is an important driving force when it comes to social media.

5. Photos increase sharing, with 27% of photo tweets being retweeted (source: Twitter)

photo-sharing--social-media

Pictures really do speak a thousand words, especially when it comes to social media. In a study looking at the effects on retweets (tweets that are re-shared with a person’s followers), tweets that included a photo URL came out on top, further reinforcing the power of imagery in social media. It’s no wonder why sites such as Instagram and Pinterest have grown in popularity. In a study by ROI Research, 44% of respondents were more likely to engage with brands if they posted pictures compared to any other media.

4 Lessons from the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit NYC

Digital Innovation Summit

This month I attended the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit in beautiful New York City. This is the first time that I attended a more general digital marketing conference that wasn’t specifically focused upon search and social disciplines.

It was refreshing to hear several sessions from a client’s perspective and that many of the challenges client companies are facing likely aren’t that much different to your own. Here are my four key takeaways from the summit.

1. Digital Marketing is Everyone’s Job

Digital marketing cannot be operated within a silo; it spans horizontally across organizations, touching many different areas within marketing and sales. Price Floyd, VP of Digital Marketing at BAE Systems, went as far to say that in the future, digital-specific roles like his within companies would go away.

BAE Systems rely on their employees to moderate their social community. What they initially found was that fear is the biggest obstacle for getting employees to adopt and support company social media efforts. This is why internal training programs are so important to teach best practices, provide tips and tricks on how to get set up and running, and have guidelines in place to prevent any potential social media mishaps that can cause havoc with a company’s reputation.

2. Use Social Media as a Content Distribution System

There is no doubt that these past couple of years, content has been the new darling of the digital marketing world. So much so that companies are struggling to keep up with an increasing appetite for content. However, content by itself is worthless unless you have promotion behind it – driving traffic to the content on your site, using it in a way that builds relationships with your prospects, and ultimately creating sales.

Bloomberg found that social media is the most important form of news distribution, helping them to demonstrate thought leadership amongst their audience. Forbes readers no longer just consume content, they share it with their networks & participate through comments. Content visits and social sharing was so important to Forbes that they adapted their reporter compensation model based on the number of visitors to site and articles shared.

However, an important note to make is that we can no longer rely on just organic social media to drive results. I think Marty Weintraub put it best in his ClickZ New York session: “Search PPC is to SEO as Social PPC is to content marketing. Social media without advertising just doesn’t work.”

3. Have a Clear Strategy That Utilizes Digital Maturity Models

According to Booz and co, 49% of companies are distracted and surprisingly two-thirds of companies do not know what to do.

When it comes to business strategy, companies must have a clear strategy, own this strategy (not outsource it or let an agency define it) and most importantly stand behind it. The importance of understanding the larger goal from a business perspective, in order to shape the tactics and success measures that you subsequently use, almost goes without saying but unfortunately is often forgotten. For example, when it comes to social media, the question you have to ask is: What is your business goal? (not what is your social media goal?).

A strong strategy will help to provide a company with focus, especially amid all of the digital distractions. One good method to help maintain focus is to understand where your organization’s level of digital maturity is currently at. You can then align resources and analytics with your digital maturity model and use this to inform your longer term roadmap.

For example, if your organization is still in the planning phase of maturity, then you may require outside expertise from a digital marketing agency and utilize basic metrics like visits and conversions. Whereas if your organization is in the advanced phase of maturity, then you may have teams of vertical in-house PPC/SEO/Social Media/Content specialists and utilize attribution and predictive analysis.

4. Do Not Underestimate the Important Role of Agencies

The question of in-house vs. outsource is a topic that comes up every once in a while, particularly as organizations look to make more efficient use of their marketing budgets.

It is important to combine what is inside of your company with fresh, outside perspective and ensure ongoing cover and continuity, especially when you are still building the foundations of digital marketing within your organization.

Whilst the numbers may look good on paper, remember that not all of the smart people work for your company — all companies (even the mighty Google) get outside help. Good agencies have a high level of deep expertise and will be the ones keeping up-to-date with all the latest goings-on in the ever-changing digital marketing industry.

What makes a conference worth attending? Lessons from a serial conference attendee

Image

Despite an abundant amount of information online, coupled with Twitter and other news delivery feeds, conferences are still an important and necessary source of education.

Conferences help to:

  • Open your mind to fresh ideas and different perspectives
  • Facilitate best practice sharing, not just limited to your company
  • Keep you up to date with the latest news and goings-on
  • Allow personal interaction with your peers, thought-leaders and industry-known figures (“Matt Cutts – OMG!”)

When you start to get a few conferences under your belt, you soon start to realize that some are out of this world amazing, whereas others make you think, “Wow, that’s two days of my life that I’ll never get back again”.

So other than a tropical beach location and catchy session-filler music, here’s a list of essentials that I look for to help separate the good from the bad.

1. I don’t just want the latest and greatest. Are there also lessons that will stand the test of time?

It’s always good to hear the most up-to-date news and changes going on in an industry, particularly in fast-moving areas like search and social marketing. But with so many changes happening so often, things can become out of date relatively quickly.

I’ve always found the most conference value from topics that stand the test of time. A good example of this was the 5 Stages of SEO Maturity model from SES Conference & Expo. Even though I saw this session several years ago, I still find myself applying this model today.

2. One size does not fit all. Has the content been tailored to different experience levels and has this been communicated clearly by the event organizers?

There’s nothing more disappointing than being geared up for a conference expecting one thing, only for it to end up being something completely different — particularly when it comes to topic levels being either too basic, or so complicated that it leaves you confused.

Conferences that match their content to experience levels of the audience, and clearly communicate this up front, really help to set the right expectations for attendees so that they aren’t wasting time and training budget. Sometimes it isn’t immediately clear by reading through the session descriptions whether a session is going to be skimming the surface of the topic or getting into the real, technical grit.

What I like about SearchFest is that their session tracks clearly indicate beginner, intermediate, or advanced. I also love SMX Advanced because I know it’s going to be skipping the basics and jumping right into meaty discussions. They also split out their tracks by key topic areas, including Paid Search, SEO, Local, Social and Mobile.

3. I’m here to learn. Are the actual topics really relevant to what I care about and do they carry substance?

When I go to a conference to learn, I’m not that interested in company sales pitches or session fillers. What is important is whether the topics being covered are relevant, timely, and provide enough substance in the time allocated.

There’s nothing more boring for an audience than having to listen to a presenter:
a.) Do a blatant sales pitch for themselves or their company
b.) Spend the entire session telling the audience how great they are

I think you’d agree that as paying attendees we are there to learn things, not there for the hard sell. The best way for people to sell themselves or their company at a conference is to teach us something we can use to make us heroes and blow away our targets. If they can do that, then we will remember them.

4. I want to listen to a speaker who can captivate an audience. Is there a strong keynote and speaker line-up?

Audiences can often tell within a few moments whether a speaker knows their stuff or not. Throwing out general statements like, “LinkedIn helps your SEO” just doesn’t cut it. I often find that a good speaker doesn’t just speak about theory and strategy but can also demonstrate that they have been in the weeds, gotten their hands dirty, even made mistakes along the way. It makes for a more credible talk.

There are definitely people and speakers that draw crowds – and rightfully so – but variety is also good. If, like me, you saw that same speaker the last time, and the time before that, and the time before the time before that… you can quickly start to lose interest.

In addition, coming from a client company, I don’t just want to hear from agencies all the time. I also want to hear things from the client perspective. A healthy mix of agency and client representation makes for better appeal since client attendees relate to the challenges faced by other clients, not agencies… and especially not agencies who whine about their clients.

5. I don’t just want to hear theory, I want real world examples. Most importantly, are these examples going to be applicable to my company?

Hearing about the number of viral hits for a Super Bowl ad is definitely cool but the reality is that most people aren’t lucky enough to have that kind of budget to work with. Additionally, some companies require measures that go beyond just “hits” and impressions.

If the example or case study is relatively unique to the speaker’s company and not applicable to a wider audience, then the talk becomes an interesting listen, but not really something that can be used.

These are just a few questions to consider when evaluating the usefulness of a conference. Feel free to share some of the lessons you have learned about your conference experiences.

SEM Booty: Best of 2013

SEM Booty Top 3 2013

For those who know me, you will know how much I LOVE data. Even more so the lessons you can learn, how to take action, and what to do better the next time.

This is why I love seeing the annual blog stats review that WordPress provides, not just because they make it look so pretty, but because you pick up so many interesting tidbits. For example, I learned that last year alone, there were SEM Booty Blog visitors from 114 different countries *mind blown*.

But in general, it is always a good idea to understand which blog posts have been the most popular, in terms of visits, commentary, and sharing. Looking at such data helps to give blog managers and content developers a better idea of popular topics, what’s on people’s minds and how interest may have changed from years past.

So with that, here is a quick round-up of the Top 3 SEM Booty Posts from 2013. A big thank you to everyone who has ever read, shared and commented.

1. How Much Do Your PPC Campaigns Really Contribute Towards Business?

The topic of attribution continues to be hot, hot, hot – and I do not see this changing any time soon. This post discusses both direct attribution and assisted attribution methods in relation to Pay-Per-Click advertising, and the key things you need to think about when showing the real business value of PPC.

2. 5 Mind-Blowing Takeaways From The Covario-Google Executive Summit

Covario’s Executive Summit held at Google’s Mountain View campus did not fail to disappoint. From the “real” year of mobile, to the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMoT), and the died-and-gone-to-heaven conversion path and assisted conversion reports in Google Analytics, this summit was packed full of great takeaways straight from the mouth of Google. I’m sure Covario’s INFLECTIONPoint Conference next week will also have a ton of useful lessons for the coming year.

3. How Promoted YouTube Videos Can Boost Your Video SEO Efforts

Winning in the SERPs is not just about getting your page to the top. You also need to think about PPC, shopping results, local listings, images, and of course video! But is Video SEO as straightforward as it seems? Running various test cases in YouTube helped to uncover a ton of things that influence rank, including… paying for promoted videos (gasp!). Make sure you check out this interesting case study about how paying for promoted videos can boost your video SEO efforts.

3 Important Lessons From 2013

2013-search-lessons

2013 was a roller coaster year and as expected, Google did not disappoint with their mass of algorithm updates and continued knowledge graph expansions. But Google weren’t the only ones who were keeping us on our toes. Bing teamed up with Klout in a move to better incorporate social influence, and Yandex (where mass link buying often got you to the top) set themselves on a path towards not attributing any ranking factors to links.

In between all of the algorithm shuffling, there were many other important lessons to be learned. So keeping with the tradition of December posts, here are my three key lessons from 2013:

1. Never Forget The Basics

No matter what you do, there are always lots of new, shiny things around to consume your time and attention. But if you are not building from a strong foundation to begin with, then your efforts can often end up being wasted. In SEO, sometimes just sticking to the basic values of clean on-page factors and valuable content that people will want to share, can help to reduce the time you spend on being reactive and playing catch up to the never-ending algorithm updates.

Search marketing can sometimes feel so overwhelming and fast-moving that it can be easy to forget about the basics. This year, I learned not to be afraid to put on the brakes when needed. Remember to keep in mind that search is a marathon, not a sprint.

2. Get Your Analytics in Order 

It doesn’t matter how well or successful you think your program is doing, if you aren’t accurately measuring the outcome – in a way that is meaningful – you may as well not be running anything at all.

This year, going through a new CMS launch, I re-learned the importance of tracking accuracy and picked up some new tricks along the way, particularly with regards to attribution. A key takeaway I learned is that whenever possible, make sure you use actual numbers and don’t rest your laurels on numbers based on averages and calculations, which can vastly skew reality.

3. Life is About Making Big Moves

ron-weber-tweet

I couldn’t have said it any better than my Twitter pal, @sdmktgguy. Regardless of what the future holds, 2013 will always be a memorable year for me. It was the year that I left my first employer of 14 years, to work for a different company, in a different state, in a different industry. And despite all of the scariness that change can bring, I’ve never felt more excited and eager to make a difference.

The 5 Stages of SEO Maturity

seo-maturity

I’ve attended quite a few conferences over the years and although sessions that talk about the latest industry news, trends, and search engines updates are interesting, the discussion can become very dated, very quickly. The sessions that I’ve found most useful are those that provide lessons which you can take with you and apply right now, or even several years down the road.

One session in particular, at SES San Jose, talked about the 5 Stages of SEO Maturity. Even though I heard this talk at one of the first SES conferences I went to many moons ago, I found myself referring to it just the other day. So I wanted to share this in a blog post, and also thank Alex, as I’ve found it to be such a useful model over the years. I’m sure you will too.

Stage 1: TRY

This is when an organization has heard about SEO and wants to try it out. As part of experimenting with a SEO program, they allocate part-time resources (often adding these duties to an existing employee’s role) and focus on a small selection of striking distance keywords that can help to increase visibility in the search engine results and bring in website traffic.

Try Checklist:

  • Part-time in-house SEO resource
  • Strategy: Focus on low-hanging fruit and priority keywords

Stage 2: INVEST

At this stage, the organization realizes that SEO has the potential to really benefit the business and so they start to take it more seriously. They go beyond priority keywords and simple on-page optimizations, and delve more into content development efforts as well as the wider education of the company. As they invest more resources, time and money, there is the need to show the value of the program (beyond traffic), often through conversion and lead tracking.

Invest Checklist:

  • Full time dedicated in-house SEO resource
  • Strategy: Expand out keyword set to more than just priority keywords
  • Allocate dollars for content and link development
  • Invest in technology to track success
  • Pro-active site audits
  • Ongoing training and education for content providers

Stage 3: MEASURE

As the organization becomes more advanced in SEO practices, measurement becomes even more important – particularly the need to tie SEO directly to overall business measures, including sales, revenue and ROI.

Measure Checklist:

  • Bring on additional SEO resources
  • Strategy: Efficiently monitor and tie SEO metrics to business metrics

Stage 4: SCALE

At this stage, the organization is pretty well versed in the SEO space, and so the focus is on how to better scale company efforts. There are specialized SEO roles within the team, including strategists, writers, and analysts, with the goal to dominate the search engine results.

Scale Checklist:

  • Specialized SEO resources (strategists, dedicated content writers, outreach specialists, analysts)
  • Strategy: Organize and prioritize – make all keywords winners

Stage 5: COMPETE

At the compete stage, organizations don’t just want a great presence within the search engine results, they are out to crush the competition as well as stay ahead of the game by planning ahead for future trends. This seems very unicorn-like, and although I’ve never experienced a company who is anywhere near this stage, it certainly provides a great goal to strive towards.

Compete Checklist:

  • Multiple SEO teams
  • Strategy: Crush the competition — predict the future using existing data
  • Monitor SEO market share

5 Useful Tips for PPC Newbies

PPC Newbie

Several years ago, search marketing and social media was relatively new and somewhat experimental. Back then, we were still trying to get our heads around 25/35/35 character limits on ads and how to use social media for more than just customer service.

Everyone has to start somewhere. I had my trusted 1st Edition copy of Search Marketing Inc in hand, learning about PPC on the go. Inevitably, I hit some pretty hard lessons along the way. With the benefit of hindsight, are there things that I would have done differently, wised up to quicker, or just avoided like the plague?

Here are just some of the things on my list:

1. Spend time up front to do proper keyword research

Speaking to company product experts is a necessary step in order to build up an initial keyword list. But don’t just stop there. Sometimes, when people have worked for a company for a long time, views can be very insular, and strong – sometimes unfounded – opinions run riot.

In addition to speaking with product experts, make use of keyword tools to find search volumes and related words that may be more in tune with customer vocabulary. Always run regular tests to compare keyword performance and weed out the words that just don’t perform. Don’t hang on to expensive words that don’t convert, just because someone thinks it is important. At the end of the day, customers will tell you what keywords work, through the data you collect. This leads us nicely into…

2. Do everything you can to get your tracking right from the start

You don’t know how good (or bad) you are doing unless you are measuring it, and measuring the right things. Ask yourself, do front end metrics like impressions, clicks and cost per click really tell me if I am spending my money wisely? Figure out what the key conversions are on your site and track them. Understand what actions are most likely to lead to sale and track them. Look wider into your company’s systems to see if there is the capability to track sales/orders, both online (through e-commerce) and offline.

By taking the time to understand this, not only will you see how much your program is really delivering to the business (making discussions and negotiations with executives much more meaningful), but you will also get consistent historic data to show how much your program has improved over time.

3. Develop a program structure that is built for return and efficiency

Having a well thought-out PPC program structure in place at the start will improve your performance and save lengthy “restructuring” projects later on. Don’t just think about campaigns built around major product categories, but consider campaigns built around intent, conversion and efficiency. Some examples include:

Brand Campaigns – Build out a brand campaign that includes company name misspellings. Brand campaigns convert well and efficiently because these people already know that they are looking for you. Despite arguments around keyword cannibalization, data shows that having a presence in both paid and organic provides incremental traffic (and conversions) to your site.

Priority Keywords – Priority keywords are those keywords that are important to your business and provide high return. Identify priority keywords (no more than five) within each product category and keep these well funded by separating them out into their own campaign. Doing this also helps you to better control funding to these words which is critical if you are working within tight budgets.

Conversion Events – If you know what key conversions most likely result in a lead or a sale, then build a campaign and adgroups around these specific conversion events.

Searcher Intent – Build campaigns around different stages of searcher intent. For example, you may consider building a campaign based on the marketing (Learn/Buy/Use) funnel. Doing this allows better control over how you fill the funnel and where to focus budget within the different stages.

4. Understand that PPC ad copy takes practice and constant revision

With a limited number of characters to work with, there is no room for waffle. This is a good thing because you have to make every word count.  Twitter is a great channel to practice sharpening up your micro-messages.

As with any good ad, you need a call to action. Give people a reason to click on your ad. I’ve been surprised as to how often a call to action is missed out.

When you have your adcopy, don’t just leave it be. Run multiple ad variations, weed out the weakest performing and replace them with new variations, over and over.

5. Don’t wait until the end of the month to see whether you hit your targets

If you have monthly targets, don’t wait until the end of each month to see whether you managed to reach your goal or not.

Keep on top of things by setting up weekly run-rate reports to provide a regular health check of how your program is performing to plan. Your weekly reports will help to flag when you are falling behind, giving you plenty of time before the end of the month to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it.

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