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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.

Busting the B2B Myth: Why B2B isn’t all that different to B2C

business-to-business

I often get told, particularly by those who have only worked in B2C companies, that business-to-business (B2B) marketing is completely different to business-to-consumer (B2C). And often it is said in a way that makes me feel like a red-headed stepchild. Looking from the outside in, B2B may appear to be some kind of old-time, mystical creature that is slow (I wish), boring (far from it), and terribly behind the times (ok then). But is it really that different?

Here are three common misconceptions about B2B marketing.

Myth 1. B2B only markets to businesses

It often surprises me how using the word, “business” can lead to some interesting assumptions. The most common being that B2B marketers only market to businesses, not people… almost as if you are trying to sell something to a concrete building. But here’s the thing, businesses are composed of people who make decisions to buy just like ordinary consumers do.

Just like consumers, these people have to work within a budget, have branding and emotional preferences, must decide between price and quality trade-offs, and often consult others as part of their decision-making process. Is there much of a difference between whether it is your boss or your wife who has final say? You tell me.

Myth 2. LinkedIn is the only type of “social media” that works for B2B

Let’s face it, LinkedIn is full of boring business stuff (resumes, company profiles, networking groups) so it must be the only social media channel that works in B2B. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Bah! That’s only for the cool B2C kids.

Some argue that Facebook only appeals to younger users, often in school or college. But as Business Insider recently reported, the number of 45 to 54-year-old users on Facebook have grown by 45% since 2012. Even more surprisingly, these users command incomes of over $75,000. Yes, these people actually work for a living, are relatively senior, and most likely have jobs working for very good companies. Most importantly, just like you and me, they don’t switch off from work when they get home at night.

Whether I am watching TV, in the shower, or lurking on Facebook, I always have work on my mind, and I’m not the only one. This is why I’ve seen well-targeted Facebook ads converting 30% higher than PPC in B2B markets.

Myth 3. B2B marketing success is only based on tracking leads, not sales

Sure, leads are definitely important in a B2B environment. Because B2B products are commonly more complex, the buying process can span many months – even years – and often requires additional assistance from a knowledgeable sales person. But leads are only a precursor. Leads are important because they allow us to track (and fill) the marketing funnel now, and in the months and years to come. But this doesn’t mean that B2B companies don’t also track orders/sales. Afterall, any business does not survive off leads, it survives from revenue.

The process may not be as straightforward as most B2C companies with an e-commerce operation, but it isn’t impossible. And even if B2B companies aren’t able to track offline sales, it is what all companies – B2B and B2C alike – strive to do in order to become more effective in tracking marketing investment. Yes, even B2C marketers often struggle to figure out what offline/retail sales were influenced by their marketing activities.

Finally, don’t just assume that B2B marketers don’t sell online. At last check, around 25% of B2B websites also have e-commerce functionality.

So the next time you meet a B2B marketer, don’t turn up your nose and walk in the other direction. Speak to them with an open mind. You may find that you share more in common than you realize.

How much do your PPC campaigns really contribute towards business?

ppc-attribution

Attribution continues to be a hot topic when it comes to PPC.

It is common for companies to base PPC performance upon the buyer’s last click prior to a conversion or sale. This is called, “last click attribution” — giving credit to a marketing channel, based upon the last action a visitor takes. But a buyer’s journey is more complex than that and all good marketers know that PPC spans the entire funnel, including early consideration. If that is the case, then basing PPC performance upon last click alone, is under-representing its true value as a marketing channel.

So how much does PPC really assist in a conversion or sale? And how much does PPC really contribute towards business?

Of course, the answer will depend upon your company and the efforts being made in the search space. But in order to get an idea of the total contribution of your PPC efforts, it is important to look at both direct attribution as well as assist conversions.

Direct PPC Attribution Based on Last Click

Sales that can be directly attributed to PPC (based on last click) is quite straightforward to see, particularly when it comes to e-commerce. You spend money on a searcher’s click and at the end, you get an online sale that can be easily linked back to your spend.

Offline purchase is a little more of a challenge, but not impossible. I was lucky enough to work with a company who had in place a standard process which required sales people to close out offline orders with an order amount. What this meant was the ability to see which offline orders were generated from the web. Adding parameters to the URL that included medium information (EG: PPC) which stayed with each visitor’s record, meant that offline orders could be attributed directly to PPC, based on last click.

The problem with the last click approach is that it is short-sighted. A customer’s journey is not based upon one single path or even one touch; it is multi-channel and multi-device, and no longer about one single moment of truth, but multiple moments that are equally important. This is why assisted attribution is important.

Assisted PPC Attribution

If you are lucky, you have access to multi-event attribution tools, systems, models and a team of super smart statisticians who can provide you with conversion and sales numbers that your PPC program assisted with.

If, like me, you are an ordinary Joe, then Google Analytics (GA) is as good a place as any to start in order to give you a directional idea around PPC assist activity.

A prerequisite is that you have your goals set up in GA. Then you can start digging in to the data by going to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions. Remember to adjust your date range and your look back window (any time from 0-90 days) depending on what is appropriate for your business. Unfortunately, GA doesn’t let you go back beyond 90 days… but hey, what do you want for free?

You can then start to build models based upon the assist data. One simple example may be that you use the percentage of assists from PPC to apply against the conversions or sales you get from the web. Sure, the method may not be perfect, but it is a start. If anything, lean more towards the conservative as you start building out your models. This way you aren’t starting with over-inflated numbers. Trust me, you will be thankful for this as you start to improve your understanding and adapt your methodology over time.

With the prominence of PPC in the early stages of the marketing funnel, particularly when it comes to display, it may not be surprising to find that the assist activity from your PPC campaigns is more than double the contribution of your last click (direct attribution) numbers.

Hungry for More?

Attribution is a massive and complex topic. Here are some helpful articles to provide more food for thought:

5 Mind-Blowing Takeaways from the Covario-Google Executive Summit

covario-google-summit

Covario’s Executive Summit took place this month at Google’s Mountain View campus. Other than feeling like a kid in a candy store (I seriously just wanted to stay there, and be like Milton from Office Space), there was a ton of interesting information being shared from the folks at Google. Here are my main takeaways from the summit.

1.  It’s time to take the “Year of Mobile” seriously

Google are taking mobile VERY seriously so it is time we did too. The signs are clear:

  • At SMX Advanced last month, Matt Cutts stated that companies without mobile-friendly sites will get penalized in the SERPs.
  • The YouTube one channel design was rolled out in June to provide a better experience across devices, particularly mobile.
  • Last week, enhanced campaigns were rolled out, forcing search managers to separate PC, tablet and mobile bidding under the the same campaigns.

Sameer Rakheja, Google’s Global Search and Planning Lead, reaffirmed this. According to Sameer, the PC era is coming to an end. There have been five consecutive quarters of declining PC sales. In fact, mobiles and tablets have finally surpassed PCs. Multiple sources say that more searches will come from mobile than desktop in 2015. If that is true, then we only have one year, six months to get our ship in order.

However, with all of the mobile mayhem going on, it is important to take a step back and not make the mistake of looking at mobile in a silo – This isn’t just about being better in the mobile channel, it’s about being better across multiple channels.

2. Use SEM and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) together to better target intent

Shopping is a complex journey that involves moving searchers from demand to intent to conversion. It is no longer about one single moment of truth, but multiple moments that are equally important (or as Google calls it, the Zero Moment of Truth – ZMoT).

Just like there is interplay between SEO, PPC and social media, there is also much interplay between online and offline shopping behavior. Perhaps not surprisingly, 78% of all purchase decisions are made before arriving at the store.

Sameer shared some pretty compelling stats around online shopping:

  • Multi-screening: 65% of people move between screens when shopping online
  • Online purchases: 19% of online shopping is carried out between 8pm-12am
  • Repeat visits: 55% of online purchases occur on the second or subsequent visit
  • Complex journeys: 52% of online customer journeys take over 19 days (ZMoT)

Jon Venverloh, Google’s Head of Sales and Channel Intelligence, stated that there are now 1.3 billion products on Google Shopping; this is quite possibly the largest catalog on the web.

Successful Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) rely heavily on good retailer data and product markup. According to John, if you get the data right, then your conversion will be 3X higher compared to standard (text) PPC ads. However, with that being said, don’t dismiss standard PPC ads altogether. Just like SEO and PPC, you get better performance by using PLAs and standard PPC ads in a complementary way.

When building your campaigns, always bring it back to searcher intent. Whilst standard PPC ads work best for broader searches (EG: baseball cap), PLAs should be used to focus on long-tail, specific searches (EG: Dallas Stars ’47 Brand NHL Yosemite Cap). These people know exactly what they are looking for, so make it easy for them to buy and for you to convert them.

In addition, it seems that Product Listing Ads are lending themselves more to omni-channel retailing where it is no longer about the channel, but more about the consumer’s experience, and providing them with a seamless approach through all available shopping channels. For example, PLAs can now be linked to local stores, giving searchers the option to buy at brick and mortar, not just online.

In instances like this, attribution tracking will be vitally important for search marketers. This leads us nicely into…

3. If you haven’t already, go check out the new conversion path and assisted conversion reports in Google Analytics

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love Google Analytics any more than I do… until I saw the conversion path and assisted conversion data in GA. I’ve been struggling for a while now with the whole attribution question. We all know that search delivers way more than what our “last-click” tracking tells us, but how do you show it? And what about all of the assist activity that search is not getting credit for?

Now we can get visibility into this in GA… So beautiful.

search-attribution

Here are some of my favorite points from Neil Hoyne, Google’s Marketing Attribution expert (who, by the way, I could have happily sat and listened to all day long):

  • Most marketers just focus on conversion. It’s important not to neglect the dormant audience – you need to feed the future funnel.
  • Display does not have immediate impact on conversion but it does have significant impact on the early consumer deliberation process.
  • Sometimes it isn’t the keyword that’s ineffective, it’s the customer. Is there a more effective way to support them through free channels?
  • It’s not just about the data, it’s about actually using the data to make smarter decisions.

I have a feeling that I will get more into this topic in a future blog post.

4. Be prepared for a Google product takeover

Creating a seamless experience across all Google products seems to be a huge focus for Google right now.

According to Lauren Kelley, Google’s Social Product Expert, Googlers have been told by Larry that everything they do must integrate with Google+. So the next time someone rolls their eyes at you when you mention Google+, slap them. This is just one more reason why we need to take Google+ seriously.

An example of where this is already happening is that somewhat annoying pop up you get when you go into your YouTube channel and it asks you to link your YouTube channel with your G+ profile. The goal is to help companies amplify content across Google products.

Lauren also showed a pretty seamless demo where she conducted a music search in Google. The Google Play result lets you listen to and buy the song. You can also share this on Google+ where people within your Google+ network can also listen to the song, share it, and buy it on Google Play.

It is true. Google is set to take over the world.

5. Keep an eye on what’s new and things to look out for in the future

Throughout the day, the Google crew covered a bunch of betas and gave one or two clues as to what to expect in the future:

The number of searches just keep growing, and over time the long tail will continue to get longer. Sameer reported that currently there are 100 billion searches being made a month and 16% of searches every day are new. That is just mind-blowing.  And in winning the moments that matter, “How to…” searches are becoming critically important – these searches have doubled over the past five years.

With the increasing integration of Google+, everyone is wondering if profile targeting will be coming any time soon. Whilst there are no current plans for ad units in G+, Google are testing promoted Google+ posts and follower remarketing (Facebook anyone?). In addition, we saw “buy” buttons on Google+ posts, which I had never come across before.

Finally, the Google maps search advertising beta looked pretty darn cool for all you local search marketing folks out there. Keep an eye out for this one.

There is no doubt that consumer expectations are rapidly changing. Most of us own two to three devices and we go to bed with our mobile phones (don’t deny it!). To sum things up, Google seem focused on providing answers in the moments that matter, providing a better multi-channel (and multi-Google product) experience and moving beyond keywords towards a more personalized, relevant search experience through richer targeting options.

Thank you to Covario and Google for hosting this most excellent event.

How promoted YouTube videos can boost your video SEO efforts

youtube-for-business

“Video is the easiest way to break into the top of the organic search results”. I heard this a lot on the conference circuit last year.

Now I like a lot of things when it comes to search marketing, but my favorite thing of all is finding easy wins. So hearing that video was an underserved area in the SERP, coupled with the fact that over 80% of Google’s video results come from YouTube, seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

But is video SEO really as straight forward as it seems?

Over the past several months I’ve been running test cases on YouTube to better understand what elements help to influence rank within video results. To follow are some key factors that need to be taken into account when optimizing your video for organic search, including why it pays to pay for promoted videos.

Start with good content

Just like anything on the web, everything begins with good quality content that people find interesting. One way to start is by identifying a popular search query or topic and build your script and video content with this in mind. Just like well optimized page content, it’s a lot easier to optimize a video from the start rather than trying to retrofit it to a keyword after the fact. Remember to write the script and present the video in a way that will keep viewers interested and get them to stick around to watch and hear all you have to say.

Apply video SEO

There are plenty of good video SEO cheats, tips and tricks that you can follow to help optimize your YouTube video, covering important elements like file names, titles, descriptions, closed caption scripts, and thumbnails. However, even after applying these techniques, it can take quite a while to build up traction in the universal video results, particularly for highly competitive keyword queries. Optimizing your video for these elements provides a good foundation, but often it only gets you so far when ranking organically. So what else should you be looking at?

Understand the importance of social signals

Social signals continue to be the topic of the moment, and play a vital role in the video SEO mix. View numbers are nice but if all people are doing is viewing your video and not interacting with it in some shape or form, you are losing out. The first hurdle is getting the right people to your video; not so much for the view count but more for the likes, comments, favorites, embeds and shares that come from increased viewership (this of course assumes that the video content you developed is interesting to begin with).

So assuming your video is worthy of being liked and shared, how can you quickly get lots of social interaction going for your video?

Pay for promoted videos

As a test case, a video was uploaded to YouTube that applied video SEO elements for a popular keyword query, with a history of strong conversion. Over the space of four weeks, the YouTube video held a steady page two position, within the organic video results. A targeted YouTube promoted video campaign was launched and within a matter of days the video increased from a rank of 10 to a rank of five. As the promoted video campaign drove more views from interested viewers, there was an increase in the video getting liked, commented on and favorited. Each time a jump occurred in likes/comments/favorites, there was a corresponding increase in rank.

As promoted video spend was dialed up even further, views shot up which led to a spike in social interaction, pushing the video into the number one video rank. Several months later, the video continues to maintain a number one position at the top of the video results on Google and YouTube.

you-tube-seo

The efficiency of YouTube promoted videos

Of course, SEO performance should never just be about rank. It’s also about delivering company KPIs, whilst maintaining efficiency. In the test case, YouTube promoted videos proved to be highly efficient, in comparison to traditional PPC search engine performance. Within the first few months, the promoted video ads were pulling in click-through rates of over 10%, at a quarter of the cost-per-click (CPC) of the equivalent Google search engine campaign.

At the end of the day, you pay to play

So what’s your best bet when it comes to video SEO? If you want your YouTube video to show up in the video results, apply SEO to key video elements. If you want to boost your video rank to the top, you need to drive views to your video by paying for promoted video ads. Ultimately, the increase in views amongst interested viewers will lead to an increase in viewer interaction, further strengthening the social signals associated with your video.

May Roundup: Social Media Advertising and Vendor Management

may-roundup

2013 has been whizzing by and somehow we are almost half way through the year. Here are a couple of highlights from a very busy May, as well as some extra thoughts on how paid social and organic social play together and the importance of really knowing your agency account manager.

Social Media Advertising and the Paid-Organic Social Interplay

This month, I appeared in a Forbes article alongside social media marketing extraordinaire and mentor, Marty Weintraub, about how to triple your success using social media advertising platforms. Yes, B2B Facebook ads really do work for demand generation.

The article also touched on the topic of how organic traffic from Facebook increased whilst using Facebook ads. We often hear about the interplay between PPC and SEO, but it is interesting to see that paid social and organic social also work very well together. The chart below shows over time how paid traffic from Facebook ads also led to a corresponding increase in organic website traffic.

Increase in organic social visits alongside paid social ad visits

Increase in organic social visits alongside paid social ad visits

What is interesting, is that this interplay goes beyond Facebook. Promoted videos on YouTube can also boost organic rank (and traffic) by helping to increase social signals for a video.

Through past tests, I’ve found that a well-targeted YouTube promoted video campaign can help to substantially increase video rank. Campaigns can be used to drive more views from interested viewers, which in turn leads to an increase in the video getting liked, commented on and favorited — all those good social signals that help towards improving your organic position. Look out for my next post on how promoted YouTube videos can boost your video SEO efforts.

Vendor Management

This month, I also gave my two pennies worth on Webmaster Radio’s PPC Rockstars, talking from the PPC vendor manager perspective. In particular, how size and scale is an important factor to consider when choosing an agency to work with and never to underestimate the importance of working with a good agency partner.

In addition, your main agency account manager/team is also important. It is always good to know who you will actually be working with day-to-day. Very often, when agencies come in to pitch, they send in their best sales people and a whole troop of executives. The question you have to ask is, are these the people who are really going to be working on your stuff? Typically the answer to that question is no.

The thing that you have to remember is that your success will be highly dependent on the people who are supporting you day-to-day. So make sure you get to know who these people are, their level of experience, what other clients have they worked with, and what their working style is like. Ultimately, this person will be a part of your extended team, so they need to be sharp and willing to go the extra mile for you.

5 ways that search and social work better together

ama

It was an honor to speak at the American Marketing Association (AMA) event last week, on the topic of digital marketing and how search marketing and social media marketing can be used together to improve campaign performance.

Here’s a quick summary of the key points I covered on how search and social can work better together:

1. PPC reinforces SEO results

Often people ask the question, “Why bother paying money to show up in PPC when you are already showing up in SEO, for free?”.

Google’s study on ad click incrementality does a nice job of explaining this. In essence, you get substantially more traffic from having a presence in both organic and paid search, compared to just having a presence in organic search alone. Surprisingly, there is a lot less cannibalization of clicks than what you would expect. As many of us have seen time and again, bad things happen to traffic when you shut down your PPC campaigns. To the non-believers, go ahead and try shutting them down, and see what happens!

There are many things to be gained from having a presence in both SEO and PPC, including:

  • Reassuring the searcher that you are the right choice
  • Increasing your shelf space in the SERP, pushing other listings (and competitors) down the page
  • Effectively using complimentary messaging between the two,  to better appeal to different people’s intent

2. PPC informs SEO research

Keyword tools are an easy way to see the number of searches being made for a given keyword. For SEO, it is important to be targeting the right keywords from the outset since you’re going to spend a lot of time and resource on optimizing a page for that keyword. So spend that time well by choosing keywords that people are actually searching on.

Unfortunately, huge volumes do not always mean quality or relevance. By looking to your PPC campaign data, you can get a good sense of what keywords are high quality (ie: visitors who come in from keywords, take actions on your website and convert well). Quality indicators can range from using weighted quality scores (for example, scoring visitors higher depending upon the quality of actions they take); to actual conversion counts and cost per conversion; all the way through to online sales. Depending what your KPIs are, will depend on what quality indicators are important to you.

What you want to get to is that balance between good search volume and good keyword quality. Those are going to be your highest priority keywords and will form the basis of what to focus on, from a SEO perspective.

3. Social media is increasingly influencing search results

There’s no doubt that social media is becoming more and more prominent within the search engine results. If you think about it, social media is the natural progression from link building, because social activity is a more telling measure of popularity and relevance (and a lot more difficult to game). Some examples of social within the SERP, include:

  • Blended video results from YouTube which are very common to see
  • Google+ company pages which are taking up an increasing amount of real-estate
  • Authorship which is linked to individual Google+ profiles
  • Personalized Google+ social recommendations and shared articles which are making more of an appearance

4. Social media goes where PPC can’t

When someone types in a generic search word (such as, “car”), you don’t really know what they’re looking for as their intent is not clear. And in terms of who they are as a person — their interests, motivations and preferences — that isn’t clear either.

This is where Facebook ad targeting comes into play. In Facebook, people love to share information about themselves and their life, with targeting possibilities that marketing dreams are made of.

Check out this prior post covering 3 ways that Facebook wins over Google for a more detailed low-down.

5. Social media informs PPC campaigns

Retargeting (when done right) can be a great way to help inform your PPC program.  Retargeting is basically another chance for you to try and win back people who showed some kind of initial interest in you but didn’t go on to take an action.

Let’s take YouTube as an example. Based upon certain actions viewers take (ranging from a simple viewing the video to more involved actions such as likes, comments, shares…), Google allows you to build a retargeting list of these people and their actions. You can then target them again (maybe with a complementary call to action) across the wider display network in order to try and move them further along the funnel and complete a conversion action.

YouTube can be a great way to provide important intent clues for your PPC campaigns. As an example, someone who watches a video that is more education-based is more likely to be within the learn stage of the funnel. Therefore, you can retarget these people with ads and call-to-actions that are more learn-related (for example, a whitepaper). Versus someone who watches a video that goes more into a detailed product demonstration. These viewers are more likely to be within the research and consideration phase, so you can retarget these people with ads and call-to-actions that are more buy-related (for example, a special discount code).

Thanks again to the AMA, and to everyone who came along. The full slide deck is available here: Team Search and Social to Elevate your Online Presence.

Learn how to use SEO, PPC and Social Media together, at AMA Portland Event

seo-ppc-smm

Search and social work better together.

Learn some sneaky tips and tricks at the next AMA Digital Marketing Event at The Living Room Theater, in Portland on Wednesday 24th April.

I’ll be speaking more about:

  • How PPC reinforces your SEO results
  • How PPC informs your SEO research
  • How social media is influencing search results today
  • How social media goes where PPC can’t
  • How social media can improve your PPC performance

What are you waiting for? Go get your golden ticket! Early bird prices end today.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

How to Justify the Ongoing Investment in Ratings and Reviews

ratings-reviews

Just thinking of our own behavior when it comes to online research and purchase, we know how powerful and useful ratings and reviews are, as a consumer. But what exactly does ratings and reviews contribute to business? And more importantly, how do you measure it in a way that is meaningful to executives?

During a time where every penny is a prisoner, why should you bother maintaining ratings and reviews on your website?  Why not just take that money and put it into some demand generation activity instead, where you can see an immediate (albeit short-term) impact?

Recently faced with such questions, I started doing some general research on “How much is a positive review worth?”. What I found were a bunch of articles talking about fake review services that you can buy (nice!) and  “guestimate” ranges so large, that the information just wasn’t meaningful, or applicable.

So I started looking closer to home, and ways to use business-specific data to show the ongoing value of ratings and reviews. Here’s what I came up with (as a side note, the more you can link the measures back to your own company and/or web marketing KPIs, the better success you will find in convincing people of its long-term value).

1. Number of reviews viewed (read)

Website traffic is a common “quantity” metric used by businesses — the thought being that the more visitors you get, the more conversions you will likely (hopefully) get. Looking at the number of reviews that were viewed (implied as read) is also a quantity metric. This measure can help to show how much of the review content is being consumed by your visitors (ie: is the content valuable to your visitors?).

2. Conversions influenced by a rating and review

A quantity metric only ever tells half of the story. You want to support this with quality indicators such as conversion data, or ideally sales/order data. However, it is difficult to know whether a rating or review was solely responsible for a conversion/sale. In most cases, reading a review would be just one contributor within the whole customer decision-making process.

One way to try and gage the impact of the review is to look at your conversions, and filter down to see: of the conversions that happened on your site, how many had viewed a review prior to converting? This is relatively straightforward to see in analytics tools, such as Google Analytics  (providing that everything has been tagged appropriately) by having ratings/reviews set up as an advanced segment, then looking at conversions as a secondary dimension.

3. Engagement of visitors

Whilst being able to show a connection to conversions/sales is nice for the executives, there are other softer benefits of ratings and reviews that shouldn’t be ignored. Whilst “engagement” may be a soft measure, it does help to build a broader picture that isn’t just focused on immediate return. Afterall, lifetime value is also important. Good indications of engagement include:

  • Average time spent on the site by visitors who viewed a review
  • Average number of pages viewed by visitors who viewed a reviews

Then compare these numbers against the average time spent / pages viewed by all site visitors. What you will likely find is that visitors who have read a review will spend much more time on your site and view many more pages on their visit. I found that visitors who had read a review stayed 4X longer on the site and visited 3X more pages compared to the average visitor.

A $100k Bet and the Million Dollar Question: Key Takeaways from INFLECTIONPoint Conference

covario-inflectionpoint

Jeff Ma presenting at the 2013 INFLECTIONPoint conference

The seventh annual Covario INFLECTIONPoint client conference took place this month. The theme of the conference was focused very much on how search is no longer just about search. Rather, it is about search (getting found), social (getting shared) and content. Ignore the integration of these disciplines at your peril!

Here are the key lessons I took away from the various presentations, discussions, and keynotes.

1. Brands need to become publishers 

If brands are to get ahead and flourish, then they need to crank up the content creation machine. However, putting together a bunch of crappy, spammy content will not work. It needs to be interesting, engaging content that people actually want to spend time reading, and ultimately share. Content can’t be plain or just interesting for your particular set of niche customers. It needs to be pee-your-pants interesting on a much wider scale (more on this later).

Part of achieving such success is addressing the myth that anyone can write (just like how anyone can do marketing, or anyone can do social media, or anyone can design a website). True that anyone may be able to do these things, but doing it well is the important distinction. Jeff MacGurn put it best: “ Great content isn’t written by experts, it’s written by great writers” and great writers are rarely people who have a full-time job, unrelated to writing, who all of a sudden are told to write something when they have a spare moment. The trick is getting your experts and writers to work together. Great content may be written by great writers, but writers still need information that comes from experts.

Some examples of good brand publishers include Whole Foods (for their recipes and healthy eating tips), mint.com (for their savvy use of ordinarily boring financial data), and of course, Amazon (for their customer reviews).

2. Content is not king, it is a democracy

Developing good, quality content is all fine and dandy, but it is only one piece of the larger puzzle. Afterall, there’s no point writing great content if no one is reading it.

What helps your content to succeed is the wider community getting it out to the masses. For example, when Majestic launched Flow Metrics, they did what is becoming a lot more common amongst smart companies these days: they specifically targeted key search industry influencers (such as Danny Sullivan and Barry Schwartz) ahead of the launch, giving them special beta access to the new tool as well as supporting content and press releases. Targeting these influencers really helped Majestic get the word out to the wider search community.

So when developing content, it is important to think bigger — develop content for readers and influencers, not customers because most content is shared by readers and influencers, not customers.

3. Believe in maths, data and statistics to make decisions

As search marketers, data plays a central role in the decisions we make every day. Understandably data was an important talking point at the conference. Jeff Ma (member of the MIT blackjack team, and inspiration behind Bringing Down the House and 21) presented a keynote on using mind-bending data in making card playing decisions.

Other than being an entertaining presentation with stories of losing $100k one day and winning $900k the next, there were some other interesting data points from Covario studies.

Content Sharing Platforms — The most used content sharing platforms:

  • 52% Facebook
  • 15% Twitter
  • 8% Email
  • 8% Hard copy print outs (!!!)

Social Signals — Covario’s social signal test found that Facebook Likes made a bigger impact on SEO rank than Google+ and LinkedIn.

4. Organization can either help or hinder your success

There are two key challenges of search integration: data and organization. If the search function within your organization isn’t centralized, you miss out on the benefits of scale, overall program insights get easily lost and it becomes much more difficult to achieve the incremental benefit that PPC/SEO/social brings.

Click cannibalization vs. click incrementality is always a popular topic. A study by Covario found that there was a 20% increase in click-throughs when you use both PPC and SEO together.

5. Attribution, the million dollar question

This past year, I personally feel that great strides have been taken to understand and tie social media to solid business KPIs. However, the question of attribution (argh!) continues to elude us.

This was particularly pertinent following Shar VanBoskirk’s Forrester keynote which touched on topics like “digital disruption” and the “omni-channel challenge”, which goes way beyond SEO, PPC and social, and delves into how digital in general is colliding more with traditional channels.

Although there was some good discussion about how attribution is not about first touch or last touch (it is more about intelligent attribution and mapping it out visually to understand impacts), there was no practical process or simple answer. This topic is something that is near and dear to my heart right now as I try to better understand the attribution of social media which does tend to be more skewed towards early funnel actions. It has always been a struggle to properly give credit to early funnel activities, when you are attributing based on last touch.

Answers on a postcard, please!

Additional Information

Be sure to also check out Thom Craver’s excellent conference coverage for Search Engine Watch.

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