There’s been a lot of talk lately about The End Of The World. Just check out a few Google search results on the topic. I blame Harold Camping, and his May 2011 Rapture predictions. Either way, there appear to be two distinct camps battling it out: those who believe on some level that something disastrous is coming our way; and those who feel as though that first group is totally nuts. Regardless of which side you’re on, if you’re in the PPC game you might find some credibility in one of my favorite ‘the end is coming!’ quotes:
It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.
The meaning is pretty clear for those considering an underground backyard shelter. But for PPC? When it comes to online advertising—and more specifically, the spending of your hard earned dollars on advertising—it’s probably best not to sit around and wait for something disastrous to happen. Take it from the boy scouts, and Be Prepared.
1. Do your keyword research!
You don’t need to be a PPC expert to do a little bit of introductory keyword research. Never assume that you can throw a few phrases together that describe what you do or what you sell, use those as keywords, and watch the revenue come rolling in. Google has put together tools that are fairly simple to use, that will help you identify keywords that a.) have healthy search volume, and b.) don’t cost an arm and a leg. The Keyword Tool is a great place to start. You can begin with a word or phrase that accurately describes your business, and the tool will populate with additional keyword suggestions related to that original term. Don’t be surprised if there are a lot of duds. This is an automated tool, after all, and algorithms aren’t always known for their subtlety or understanding. Don’t write these off, though, without first considering using them as negative keywords to weed our irrelevant traffic. The bottom line? You want a balance of high search volume (i.e. actual folks out there looking for what you’re offering), and low cost (CPCs).
2. Create plenty of ads
Now that you’ve got a decent keyword list in the works, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got good ads to go along with them. One common mistake made during the ad creation process is putting together one really great text ad for each ad group, and letting that ad do all the work. Poor ad—that’s a lot of pressure! Not to mention the fact that if for some reason your ad is disapproved or comes down for editing there will be no ads left to show in its place. Add to that the fact that you’ll have nothing else to compare it to stats-wise, and you’re not in a very good position. You always want to have at least two ads per ad group at all times. This way—provided they’re not identical—there’s a good chance that if one of your ads gets disapproved you’ll still be in the game with the other. And if you need to edit them, do it one at a time so that you continue to run. You’ll also be able to get a better idea of what users are responding to, and make better ads because of it. You can measure your stats, see which ad is performing better, and use that information to optimize your ads…but remember, do it one at a time.
3. Brush up on policy
Yeah, it’s no secret that I’m a bit of a stickler about the Google AdWords policies. And I completely understand that policy isn’t all that fun to read about. So I’ll keep it short and sweet…as I’ve said many times before, while you may not be able to memorize all of the policies, at least make an effort to know those that govern your industry. You should also probably have a basic understanding of things like editorial policy for text ads, to avoid getting disapproved for something simple and preventable. No one likes having their ads come down for not following the rules, only to spend hours researching online and calling support to get them back up.
4. Analytics is your friend
I won’t lie—Google Analytics isn’t the most user friendly program for those new to PPC. However, if you have the ability to get the tracking code on your website, and understand enough about the reports to get a basic idea of what’s going on, it will help you—I promise. Even if you don’t intend to do super in-depth analysis of your traffic patterns, visitors, and goals, Analytics will help to show you where people enter your site, where they navigate, and where they drop off. Why is this important? Imagine for a moment that you’ve been running PPC campaigns just fine for a little while now, and all of a sudden the calls just stop coming. You check your Analytics reports to see what’s going on. You notice that the bounce rate on a key page just prior to your conversion page has jumped immensely in the past few days. You check out your website, and—voila!—the very page that Analytics pointed you towards is now showing a 404 error. Who knows how it got there, but now that you know why people are leaving your site, you have the opportunity to fix it, ASAP.
So there you have it. None of this is rocket science, or even as drastic as stocking up on a year’s supply of filtered water and dehydrated meals. But with a little bit of preparation and time spent up front on your PPC account, you’ll fare much better in the face of unexpected difficulties. By no means is this a comprehensive or complete list of things that one can do before or during the creation of PPC campaigns, but it is a start, and could help save you some dollars down the road.
Utilizing videos online to increase conversation rates, traffic and interest in goods or services is becoming more common practice today. But if you don’t believe that video can make a difference on your website, consider these facts:
- If YouTube was a standalone entity it would be the second largest search engine in the world behind only Google.
- Google owns YouTube
- YouTube Channel links to your website are Do Follow
- Google has been incorporating more and more videos into organic search results
- Having a video on a landing page, even if it’s not played, increases conversation rates in the average range across the web of (10-30%).
Keep your Videos to the Point.
No matter the topic people on the web by nature have short attention spans, your video needs to grab their attention and hold it. The second they feel bored or that the video did not fit what they were looking for, they will hit the back button and move on to the next. Ideally your video would be under 2.5 minutes and drive home your point, product or service.
Use Keyword Research
To optimize just about anything on the web requires keyword research and since Google can not actually watch the video to determine what it is about, you will need to tell Google using keywords. After the keyword research is complete incorporate your keywords into the video name, video title and in your video tags to effectively optimize your video.
Submit your Videos to YouTube
As referenced above, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world thus not having your videos on YouTube is doing a disservice to your organization. YouTube is no longer just a funny video clip database it houses hundreds of thousands of educational & product videos. You can find videos that market iPads and others teaching users how to select industry flooring.
Create a YouTube Channel
Have you heard that link building is important? Do you want a great Do Follow link from the second biggest search engine in the world? Then you need to create a YouTube channel.
The challenge with videos is making them interesting but for whatever reason many people are not using proper video search engine optimization best practices to make sure they obtain the maximum number of views possible. Do not be lazy, create great videos and optimize them with the same efforts you do with new content.
I absolutely dislike shopping in retail stores & malls; they are crowded, it’s hard to locate what you’re looking for, you’re never sure if you’re getting the best deal, and sometimes you run into untrained & unfriendly staff. These are just some of the reasons why I believe internet shopping is growing at an incredible speed. Couple that with the growing number of ways to access the internet: (computer, phone, iPad, iTouch) and you have a recipe that excites internet marketers like myself.
A few months ago I wrote a blog explaining some of the issues I continually run into with the checkout process of online retailers and at that time I overlooked one very important item—coupon codes. Coupon codes have several names such as “promo codes”, “promotional codes”, “web deal codes”, “web coupons” and so forth. Any smart internet shopper will go to his or her favorite search engine and enter “coupon code + store name” and dozens of websites are produced all saying they have the coupon I am looking for—sadly they rarely do and when they do have a coupon code that I want, it doesn’t work.
This is where my frustration began; a few days before Memorial Day I started to receive a slew of emails all of which contained a coupon code or a click to obtain a discount offer. As mentioned I hate shopping but I consider myself an opportunist; if the deal is great, I will buy. With that said, I ran into the following issues:
- Coupon codes were heavily laden with disclaimers and rules. Some of these rules were not easy to understand and left me frustrated when I researched an item, added it to my shopping cart and then I couldn’t receive the discount.
- The “click to receive discount” offers failed to work and no promo code was provided to ensure I could enter the discount in myself.
- Some companies offered 15 -25% off but increased shipping fees to counter the discount offers.
Helpful tips to increase sales when using coupon codes:
- Have a coupon code page that lists all offers and clearly states the disclaimers. This will keep visitors on your website and they will always know where the coupons reside. Plus you’re likely to see increased organic traffic as some shoppers will do searches for coupon codes before ever visiting an online store. In other words would you rather they find your coupon on your actual website, or on CouponCabin.com?
- If you use a click to obtain discount offer, then display the coupon code when the user gets to the landing page. That way, should the discount code not automaticly work, they can still obtain the discount that brought them to your website, without having to return to the source that sent them to your website in the first place, because they may not return a second time.
- Make sure the discount codes work! If the coupon code is rejected for any reason, make sure you tell the consumer what the problem is.
One of the hardest tasks internet marketers have is getting people that are interested to the website, thus if your make them leave to find a better deal or frustrate them with broken forms, discounts or pages, you’re likely to lose revenue because of it. In the world of the web, the easier receiving discounts and searching is, the more sales you will obtain.
I hadn’t intended to post about AdWords Policy again today. Nope, my full intention was to move along to a different topic entirely. This was before I’d done my due diligence, however, and checked the Policy Change Log. I know, I know, I harp on this a lot. But to be fair, there’s really a lot of good stuff in there. Like this gem: “The AdWords policy on information harvesting will be changing on May 17, 2011.”
A lot of curious advertisers visiting the change log would probably skip right past the expandable header titled ‘Information Harvesting.’ If they clicked for more info, they might even stop after that first line I quoted above. It’s really easy to assume that you’re not affected, since ‘information harvesting’ sounds incredibly sinister. There’s no way that you could possibly be guilty of such a thing, right? Well, do you have any forms or fields on your website that ask for a user’s full name? Perhaps their birth date? What about their email address, phone number, national identity, or mailing address? Then you should probably pay attention.
Starting on May 17th, AdWords began requiring any advertiser whose website requests any of the above information (as well as other pieces of information not listed above) to “provide a clear, accessible explanation of how the information might be used, as well as a simple, effective way to opt out of future direct communications.” If you don’t do this, you’ll be in violation of the policy and in danger of interruption to your advertising.
Additionally, if you accept any sensitive financial or personal information, such as credit or debit card numbers, bank account numbers, wire transfer numbers, or even a driver’s license number, you’ll need to ensure that it’s “transmitted securely over an SSL (https:) connection.”
So while you may not be the next black hat hacker extraordinaire, if your website collects even the most innocuous of personal information from users you’ll need to include usage information, opt-out information, and possibly an SSL connection. While the internet user in me is grateful for the protection, I have to wonder how this will affect the many websites that contain fairly benign forms. Sure, this will be great when it comes to the shady guys, operating forms purely to sell your information and fill your inbox with spam (or something worse). But I’m sure there are lots of legitimate forms out there, too. I’m not saying they’ll be hurt by this, since anyone on the up-and-up shouldn’t be worried about including usage information, but it will be interesting to see what kind of effect this has on various different types of websites that collect information.
I’m also curious as to the enforcement of this policy. Is it reactive-only, meaning they’ll be accepting complaints about offending sites and taking action then? Or does Google have the resources to proactively seek out these sites and take action? Depending on which tactic is chosen, one could either see very slow forward movement in the changes, or a lot of false positives. In the end I think it’s a good thing, for now I’m just interested in some of the finer details that you won’t necessarily find in the official policy description.
Check out the Information Harvesting policy for more details.
XML Sitemaps have been around quite a while now and are becoming a more main stream recommendation from SEOs and Webmasters. In fact much of the information on XML Sitemaps for SEO use is conflicting and within this blog we will answer some of the most basic questions on XML Sitemaps and give you a better idea if you need one on your website.
It is important to understand that nowadays Google and other search engines are accepting more Sitemaps than ever before and they include the following types:
- A Sitemap of your Main Website
- A Sitemap for Images
- A Sitemap for Videos
- A Sitemap for a Mobile Website
Basic Questions about XML Sitemaps Answered
If I have an XML Sitemap but create a new page, do I have to immediately update my XML Sitemap?
The short answer is yes, you should, but no you don’t have to. If you’re using an XML Sitemap, you can use that to tell Google you have created a new page; however, if a page was created on your website and not added to your Sitemap with a strong internal and external linking structure, the page is still likely to be found and indexed organically.
Does having an XML Sitemap mean that every page on my website will be indexed?
No, Google will still make a decision whether or not to index each page on your XML Sitemap individually; therefore, there still may be pages that are not indexed even though they appear on your Sitemap.
Are there any drawbacks to using an XML Sitemap?
Yes, and I will explain two of the biggest reasons why using an XML Sitemap can hurt you more than it helps.
- If you’re using an XML Sitemap, you’re providing information not only to Google and the other search engines but also to your competitors. There is an attribute called priority (<priority>) which tells Google and your competition which pages on your website you deem most important. While this is an optional attribute, the default priority of a page is 0.5 so you have two options: let Google decide which pages are the most important, or tell Google and your competitors which pages are.
- The second drawback is the benefit of understanding flaws in navigation and indexing. If you use an XML Sitemap, a page which may not be linked to by any other pages on your website can be indexed and receive traffic; this may make identifying that it isn’t linked anywhere on your website a real problem. Identifying gaps in navigation and indexing is a critical part of improving user experience and improving SEO.
Who should have an XML Sitemap?
This answer is straight from Google’s mouth, but I will say I disagree with points three and fourth and will explain below.
- Your site has dynamic content.
- Your site has pages that aren’t easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process—for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or images.
- Your site is new and has few links to it. (Googlebot crawls the web by following links from one page to another, so if your site isn’t well linked, it may be hard for us to discover it.)
- Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.
Rebuttal to point three: Having worked with over 50 new domains, I can honestly say Google has never once had an issue finding a new website and indexing it; however, at EverEffect we focus on proper SEO Tactics which include indexation friendly site architectures.
Rebuttal to point four: While I agree using an XML Sitemap on a large website (1000+ pages) can help get more of your pages indexed, it hinders your ability to understand issues with organic indexing and site architecture.
Overall XML sitemaps do have their purposes, but with the increased indexation rates of Google (and the fact that it can understand your website more clearly than 10 or even 5 years ago) it is important to consider the drawbacks and make a decision as to whether you need an XML Sitemap or not.
With all of the AdWords policy talk lately—see recent entries on policy troubleshooting, issue prevention, trademark policy, and online pharmacy policy—it wouldn’t seem right to close out the discussion without touching on one final, at times very frustrating, policy-related topic: landing pages.
If you’re an affiliate advertiser running ads on behalf of someone else, a business owner new to the online marketing game, or someone who’s ever been caught in the confusing web of landing page quality (LPQ) problems, you may want to check out a few of my thoughts on the topic. I can’t promise to fix anyone’s LPQ issues, but I might be able to provide some quick tips on what to keep in mind when creating or revamping landing pages for your account that just might help to keep you from the wrong side of LPQ. As always, since I think that other marketers tend to be the best source of good information, I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these issues as well.
So, without further ado, a checklist of dos and don’ts for your online advertising landing pages:
- Do: make sure that the top-level domain, which appears in the URL in your ad, matches the top-level domain of the URL on the page where the user lands after clicking. (This isn’t really a landing page-related policy, but is one of the easiest ways to get disapproved [or simply denied during the ad creation process] if you break it.)
- Don’t: redirect or take users to a different landing page briefly after they click on your ad. It may sound innocent enough—taking users to a page with a matching domain when they click, and then redirecting them elsewhere so that you were technically operating within the above-mentioned policy, but this is not recommended. Google doesn’t like it when you try to trick their system, and they may kick you out. For good.
- Do: make sure that your landing page contains relevant, unique content that directly relates to what was being advertised in your ad copy.
- Don’t: use a landing page that has no purpose other than to take the user elsewhere. What do I mean? Come on…we’ve all seen them: an ad that takes you to a landing page with little or no content on it, aside from a link (or multiple links) to a separate site that actually contains the content or product you were looking for. This is just a bad experience for the user.
- Do: highlight the features that make your website unique from others in your particular industry. For example, if you’re a travel site, chances are that there are tons of other sites very much like yours showing up for the same keywords. Do you have unique offers? Perhaps you offer more results due to partnerships with specific vendors? Anything that sets you apart from the crowd should be prominently highlighted on your landing page, so that users (and Google) can see what makes you different.
- Don’t: offer a landing page whose main content is advertising and links, or content that is contrived to mask the fact that the page is serving to drive traffic elsewhere.
Essentially, from my experience I’ve found that what Google is looking for is landing pages that are real, useful websites. This can be observed time and again when advertisers are brought down for what Google considers to be ‘Bridge Pages.’ What exactly is a bridge page? Exactly what is mentioned in #4 above. Many times used by affiliate advertisers who are running ads on behalf of a parent company in profit-sharing type of endeavor, these are created so that the affiliate has their own landing page and therefore does not have to use the domain of the parent company in their ads. As one might expect, if they weren’t using a separate page they’d be competing in the ad auction against the parent company, which wouldn’t result in their advertising being worth much either to them or the larger entity. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you’re not an affiliate this doesn’t apply to you, though. I’ve seen plenty of bridge page-type landing pages set up by a company simply because they feel as though they’d like to have multiple landing pages available to them for different ads, all leading back to their main page.
So, does this make things more difficult for affiliates whose actual business means that they must direct traffic to the parent company site? Absolutely. But aside from what many believe, I think that this is less an attack on affiliates and more in the interest of the user. What I’ve heard time and again from Google representatives are these simple questions: why would a user want to visit your site when they could go straight to the parent company? What added value are you offering on your site that makes it worth their time to go through what is essentially an intermediary? These are the questions that you should ask yourself as well, if ultimately a user will need to click to a different site to reach their goal. It isn’t impossible for landing pages that drive traffic elsewhere to succeed, but the key is to make it worth the user’s while to be there—offer multiple link choices. Information that cannot be received elsewhere. Anything that makes your landing page more than an obstacle in a user’s path to getting to their destination.
Once again, I can’t stress enough that the above information will not necessarily fix landing page problems. I can’t define exactly what is being viewed as ‘useful information’ or ‘unique content’ by the reviewers, but hopefully the above information can help someone new to the online advertising world understand a little bit better what to keep in mind when formulating landing pages. Any other tips or experiences to share? Please share them in the comments!