Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Of PPC and PBJ: Comparing PPC and SEO Effectively, Part 2

Posted by Herndon Hasty on 11 Aug 2009

In part one, we discussed some practical implications of combining your SEO and PPC efforts in ways that make the most of the strengths of each, layered together rather than mixed, like the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Further research has shown the existence of peanut butter and jelly mixed together in the same jar, but I hold that, much like the pre-packaged, frozen PB&J, it's contrary to the laws of nature and, thus, my metaphor still holds.

More important than combining the two efforts, effective (or tasty) as it could be, the way the two are measured together and separately can be far more important than getting the two to work together. This is especially true given that the way they're measured determines the way they're combined.

Why Combine?

Measuring PPC and SEO together is most important for monitoring big changes in your PPC or SEO results, magnified tenfold for efforts around your brand and another tenfold for established brands. For example, buying branded keywords for the first time or making SEO changes that will allow your brand to have a more prominent place in search results is likely going to cause a massive swing on the other side. High-traffic non-brand terms can also cause this, but it's your brand that often holds the key to massive, mysterious changes.

Outside of catastrophic changes, ongoing comparisons can provide critical insights into how shifts in your paid spend or improving rankings are feeding your total search presence. Did that bump in spending on a group of high-traffic non-brand keywords push more visits to the site, or did it largely steal from natural? And what must you do to get both?

The Key: Combine and Compare

Obviously, watching them both means monitoring paid and natural traffic and -- as applicable -- orders, units, leads, revenue, signups, etc. Two columns of data alone, however, still won't paint a complete picture.

Start by combining the two into a 'total search' metric. Now you can look at how all search engine traffic grew year over year and how each segment has grown in relation to the other by comparing it:

  • Versus Itself: Do the two combined add up to positive growth (or, if you're having a tough year, at least a higher growth rate than before)? This can be checked with a simple year-over-year comparison of the figures, and lets you know if your combined search presence is at least moving in the right direction as a result of your efforts.
  • Versus Total Search: Did intentional changes in one result in actual growth for that sector versus a lift for search as a whole? This can be seen by dividing natural and paid search each by total search to find its share or contribution, and comparing that figure to the previous week, month, or year.

If the growth was strictly for your paid or natural segment, its share should increase. If your search program as a whole experienced growth (products coming into season, changes made to the other side, etc.), this number will remain close to the original figure.

Good Month for Search, or Just a Good Month?

Even more importantly, compare this growth to how your site as a whole grew for the same time period, either by placing the two growth percentages side by side, or by measuring search's total share or contribution to your total site metric. Many times, individuals leading your advertising channels like search will lay claim to stratospheric growth for a given time period, without knowing that the site as a whole might have driven a similar level of growth because of completely separate efforts, and thus shouldn't necessarily get the knee-jerk reaction of increased budget.

Most of the time (and especially with agencies, who are very easy to leave out of the loop), this particular error is committed without malice, as the search team doesn't necessarily have access to the big picture. You can avoid this issue and get a more accurate analysis of results by sharing all of your data and results across your entire team.

Similarly, a low growth or flat month might actually be light years ahead of where the site as a whole finished -- meaning that further investment would be wise.

Everything You Can Learn

Watching these two channels together helps you make good decisions, be it about PPC budget allocation or about long-term SEO strategies and how to truly combine your efforts. Siloing them destroys their context and can quickly leave you with soggy bread or an overly sticky bite -- one way or another, a ruined sandwich.

Resources: http://searchenginewatch.com/3634673

Sunday, August 9, 2009

PPC Integration, Part 1: Integrating PPC with E-mail

Posted by Melissa Mackey on 6 Aug 2009

Pay-per-click ads are a great marketing tool all by themselves. They can be used to generate significant amounts of new traffic and leads. However, PPC doesn't need to be a standalone channel.

This three-part series will cover ways to integrate PPC with other marketing channels. Integrated marketing is nothing new, but in online marketing we often find ourselves working in silos. Integrating PPC with other marketing will create efficiencies across channels and make your marketing dollars work smarter. One channel that works especially well with PPC is e-mail.

It's well known that e-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to retain customers and increase lifetime value. While that's absolutely true, building a sizeable and profitable e-mail database can be challenging.

Enter PPC. But before you run off and open up that AdWords account, you'll need to do some homework.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

While this may seem obvious, I'm often surprised by how many clients put the cart before the horse. They hear that PPC gets great ROI, so they decide to start doing PPC. But without a clear goal, you won't find great ROI -- especially if your goal is generating e-mail leads.

Anyone can put up PPC ads with a few minutes and a credit card, but it takes planning and forethought to craft an effective lead-generation campaign. Be patient, and take the time to figure out what you really want.

Answer these questions first: Do you want to use PPC to generate new leads for your e-mail program? Is your goal to supplement an existing e-mail marketing program with PPC? Or are you trying to generate sales, and then add the new customers to your ongoing e-mail program?

Step 2: Begin With the End in Mind: the Landing Page

The next step is to decide which page of your Web site will best help you accomplish your goals.

If you want to use PPC for generating leads for your database, the best landing page will almost always be your contact form or "contact us" page. If your primary goal is to generate sales, then the best landing page is the page where the searcher can buy your product or service without additional clicks.

And if you just want to use PPC to reinforce an existing message, send them to a page they'll recognize: a replica of your e-mail marketing message, complete with graphics and a call to action.

Step 3: Develop Your PPC Ad Copy and Keywords

Once you've figured out what you want your PPC campaign to do and where you want visitors to go, it's time to think about the message. In PPC, your ad copy and the keywords you bid on are equally important. Choose keywords that are relevant to your product or service, as well as to your goals.

For example, if your goal is to increase e-mail signups, and your e-mail program involves coupons or deals, then you'll want to bid on coupon-related keywords. If you're a B2B marketer offering a service, find out what keywords they're searching for and bid on them.

If customer acquisition is one of your goals, and your budget permits, consider bidding on "conquest" or competitive keywords. While the debate continues to rage on whether it's a good idea to bid on competitors' trademarks, it often makes sense to bid on related products or services. Compelling ad copy can effectively create awareness and acquire new leads.

Speaking of compelling ad copy: The right copy is crucial to generating quality e-mail signups. The last thing you want is to pay for clicks to your site via PPC, and then end up with few signups to your e-mail database, and/or a high unsubscribe rate.

Use your ad copy to attract the right leads and filter out the wrong ones. Make it clear that you're offering a product, service, or item of value in exchange for their permission to contact them via e-mail.

Now isn't the time for clever or quirky PPC ad copy. You have 70 characters to show people what you've got -- make them count by spelling out the benefits of signing up for e-mail as clearly as you can in your PPC ads.

With the right goals, landing page, and messaging, PPC can be an effective and cost-efficient means for quickly growing your e-mail database.

Resources: http://searchenginewatch.com/3634626

Monday, August 3, 2009

Paid Search PPC Lessons From The Catalog Industry

Posted The direct mail industry is enormously sophisticated. They’ve been on the leading edge of data modeling since the 1970s, and smart PPC advertisers and agencies would do well to study them.

RKG is in the midst of a research collaboration with Digital Element and Kevin Hillstrom of MineThatData to determine if some well-known truths from the catalog industry also apply to the world of paid search, namely that geography matters.

Catalogers have known for 50 years or more that people in rural areas respond to offers at a significantly higher rate than those in urban areas. Indeed, postal zones C & D, corresponding to semi-rural and rural areas, have always outperformed zones A & B. Is the same true in Paid Search?

The early answer appears to be: “Absolutely!” Just looking at low population density states like Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, etc, the quality of the traffic appears to be more than 60% higher than that of more urban states. We’re going to take a look deeper along the lines of postal codes to see if this trend is as clear in PPC as it is in catalog mailings.

Another factor catalog mailers have always known: the presence of retail stores matters. Not surprisingly, if you send a catalog full of terrific products to someone who lives near a physical store selling similar products, you’ll drive a lot of sales to that store. If that store is part of your retail chain, great, if not…

Our study will take a look at the impact of having a retail chain store in the same zip code as the searcher. Indeed, this might allow us some insight into the elusive store spillover effect. By comparing the quality of traffic in similar zip codes with and without a physical store presence, we might conjecture that the difference is a pretty good proxy for the amount of spillover.

Kevin Hillstrom has done pioneering work in the field for catalogers. We hope to find out whether the same notions hold true for retail chains and online pure-plays that don’t mail books.

What’s the point? Measuring the phenomena doesn’t necessarily mean we can act on it. Who wants to set up complete campaigns for each zip code?!? No one, and indeed, slicing that thin would leave you with no data to model.

However, we hope that armed with data, we can convince the engines to give us two additional tools—er, beyond the one’s I already asked for—that would allow us to manage programs at the next level.

  1. Population density settings. Maybe just 4 levels, corresponding to the postal zones. This would allow us to create at most 5 variants that would capture the benefits, and we might not need that many.
  2. Zip Code list tagging. Let us set up a list of zip codes representing anything (our client’s stores, their competitor’s stores, whatever). That tagged group (”my stores”) could be applied to campaigns to either establish different efficiency targets—if I know 20% of the sales happen in my brick and mortar store rather than online I can target a different efficiency threshold for that campaign—or simply suppress ad service to avoid driving traffic to a competitor’s store.

Sophisticated marketing techniques allow retailers to generate more sales for their marketing dollars, and the more sophisticated the tools the more retailers can spend cost effectively. That’s good for the retailer, the engines, and the agencies that handle complex accounts well.

Resources: http://searchengineland.com/ppc-lessons-from-the-catalog-industry-23229