Why the Yahoo! Search Revenue Gap Won't Close

In spite of Yahoo! accepting revenue guarantees for another year from Microsoft, recently there has been speculation that Yahoo! might want to get out of their search ad deal with Microsoft. I am uncertain if the back channeled story is used as leverage to secure ongoing minimum revenue agreements, or if Yahoo! is trying to set the pretext narrative to later be able to push through a Google deal that might otherwise get blocked by regulators.

When mentioning Yahoo!'s relative under-performance on search, it would be helpful to point out the absurd amount of their "search" traffic from the golden years that was various forms of arbitrage. Part of the reason (likely the primary reason) Yahoo! took such a sharp nose dive in terms of search revenues (from $551 million per quarter to as low as $357 million per quarter) was that Microsoft used quality scores to price down the non-search arbitrage traffic streams & a lot of that incremental "search" volume Yahoo! had went away.

There were all sorts of issues in place that are rarely discussed. Exit traffic, unclosible windows, forcing numerous clicks, iframes in email spam, raw bot clicks, etc. ... and some of this was tied to valuable keyword lists or specific juicy keywords. I am not saying that Google has outright avoided all arbitrage (Ask does boatloads of it in paid + organic & Google at one point tested doing some themselves on credit cards keywords) but it has generally been a sideshow at Google, whereas it was the main attraction at Yahoo!.

And that is what drove down Yahoo!'s click prices.

Yahoo! went from almost an "anything goes" approach to their ad feed syndication, to the point where they made a single syndication partner Cyberplex's Tsavo Media pay them $4.8 million for low quality traffic. There were a number of other clawbacks that were not made public.

Given that we are talking $4.8 million for a single partner & this alleged overall revenue gap between Google AdWords & Bing Ads is somewhere in the $100 million or so range, these traffic quality issues & Microsoft cleaning up the whoring of the ad feed that Yahoo! partners were doing is a big deal. It had a big enough impact that it caused some of the biggest domain portfolios to shift from Yahoo! to Google. I am a bit surprised to see it so rarely mentioned in these discussions.

Few appreciate how absurd the abuses were. For years Yahoo! not only required you to buy syndication (they didn't have a Yahoo!-only targeting option until 2010 & that only came about as a result of a lawsuit) but even when you blocked a scammy source of traffic, if that scammy source was redirecting through another URL you would have no way of blocking the actual source, as mentioned by Sean Turner:

To break it down, yahoo gives you a feed for seobook.com & you give me a feed for turner.com. But all links that are clicked on turner.com redirect through seobook.com so that it shows up in customer logs as seobook.com If you block seobook.com, it will block ads from seobook.com, but not turner.com. The blocked domain tool works on what domains display, not on where the feed is redirected through. So if you are a customer, there is no way to know that turner.com is sending traffic (since it’s redirecting through seobook.com) and no way to block it through seobook.com since that tool only works on the domain that is actually displaying it.

I found it because we kept getting traffic from gogogo.com. We had blocked it over and over and couldn’t figure out why they kept sending us traffic. We couldn’t find our ad on their site. I went to live.com and ran a site:gogogo.com search and found that it indexed some of those landing pages that use gogogo.com as a monetization service.

The other thing that isn't mentioned is the longterm impact of a Yahoo! tie up with Google. Microsoft pays Yahoo! an 88% revenue share (and further guarantees on top of that), provides the organic listings free, manages all the technology, and allows Yahoo! to insert their own ads in the organic results.

If Bing were to exit the online ad market, maybe Yahoo! could make an extra $100 million in the first year of an ad deal with Google, but if there is little to no competition a few years down the road, then when it comes time for Yahoo! to negotiate revenue share rates with Google, you know Google would cram down a bigger rake.

This isn't blind speculation or theory, but aligned with Google's current practices. Look no further than Google's current practices with YouTube, where "partners" are paid different rates & are forbidden to mention their rates publicly: "The Partner Program forbids participants to reveal specifics about their ad-share revenue."

Transparency is a one way street.

Google further dips into leveraging that "home team always wins" mode of negotiating rates by directly investing in some of the aggregators/networks which offer sketchy confidential contracts < ahref="http://obviouslybenhughes.com/post/13933948148/before-you-sign-that-machinima-contract-updated">soaking the original content creators.:

As I said, the three images were posted on yfrog. They were screenshots of an apparently confidential conversation had between MrWonAnother and a partner support representative from Machinima, in which the representative explained that the partner was locked indefinitely into being a Machinima partner for the rest of eternity, as per signed contract. I found this relevant, informative and honestly shocking information and decided to repost the images to obviouslybenhughes.com in hopes that more people would become aware of the darker side of YouTube partnership networks.

Negotiating with a monopoly that controls the supply chain isn't often a winning proposition over the long run.

Competition (or at least the credible risk of it) is required to shift the balance of power.

The flip side of the above situation - where competition does help market participants to get a better revenue share - can be seen in the performance of AOL in their ad negotiation in 2005. AOL's credible threat to switched to Microsoft had Google invest a billion Dollars into AOL, where Google later had to write down $726 million of that investment. If there was no competition from Microsoft, AOL wouldn't have received that $726 million (and likely would have had a lower revenue sharing rate and missed out on some of the promotional AdWords credits they received).

The same sort of "shifted balance of power" was seen in the Mozilla search renewal with Google, where Google paid Mozilla 3X as much due to a strong bid from Microsoft.

The iPad search results are becoming more like phone search results, where ads dominate the interface & a single organic result is above the fold. And Google pushed their "ehnanced" ad campaigns to try to push advertisers into paying higher ad rates on those clicks. It would be a boon for Google if they can force advertisers to pay the same CPC as desktop & couple it with that high mobile ad CTR.

Google owning Chrome + Android & doing deals with Apple + Mozilla means that it will be hard for either Microsoft or Yahoo! to substantially grow search marketshare. But if they partner with Google it will be a short term lift in revenues and dark clouds on the horizon.

I am not claiming that Microsoft is great for Yahoo!, or that they are somehow far better than Google, only that Yahoo! is in a far better position when they have multiple entities competing for their business (as highlighted in the above Mozilla & AOL examples).

Google AdWords Ads Add Album Cover & Song Preview

Before I get any drops of jupiter hate on the following...I was typing in training.seobook.com & somehow accidentally hit enter after typing train & when the URL completion didn't work I got the following SERP.

If you click the feature video link it does a YouTube video overlay. The other links lead into the relevant iTunes webpage.

Such media extensions have been in place for movies for quite a while now, but this is the first time I have seen them on music-related search results. In time one could expect similar ad expansions to hit other media areas like books, games, and maybe even other vertical search features. Google could possibly roll it out globally on brand searches as well at some point, allowing companies to offer intro videos (or even reviews of new product lines) directly in the search results.

Buying Google AdWords Ads on Brand Keywords?

Is Paid Search Incremental or Cannibalistic?

Earlier this month Google referenced a "study" they did which showed that 89% of AdWords ad clicks were incremental (meaning that they were clicks that the website would not have received if they relied on organic search results alone).

As part of that "study" they stated that "indirect navigation to the advertiser site is not considered." Why did they chose to exclude that segment of traffic? Because they advertiser would have got almost all of it anyway. They never really defined what indirect navigation is though, so you are left to guess as to what qualifies as being part of that segment.

The "study" also stated:

A low value of incremental ad clicks may occur when the paid and organic results are both similar and in close proximity to each other on the search results page. This increases the likelihood of a user clicking on an organic result as opposed to a paid result. Close proximity occurs when the ranking of the organic result is high, placing it near the paid results. Organic results triggered by branded search terms tend to have a higher ranking on average and this may lead to a low IAC value.

So which keywords should you advertise on? And which keywords are buying the milk when you already have the cow for free? According to Google:

A low IAC value does not necessarily suggest a pause in search advertising is in order. In fact, for many advertisers with a low IAC, it is still profitable to invest in search advertising. To evaluate the economic benefits of search advertising, an advertiser must run a calculation incorporating their individual IAC, conversion rates, and conversion revenue. The below equation can help determine whether search advertising is worthwhile on a case by case basis.

Is an Experiment Required?

Google later suggests that a more rigorous test would include a split test experiment that compares a control group against an ad group with paid search ads held back. They then suggest that "many advertisers are adverse to conducting such experiments due to the setup costs involved and the potential revenue impact from having a hold-out group."

What I don't buy *at all* is the suggestion that such studies need to be rigorous & expensive. On the organic search front, Google Webmaster Tools already offers organic search CTR stats by ranking position & ranked page:

And since Google is heavily promoting adoption of the +1 button, they also offer A/B split data for how that button impacts search performance.

If Google provides this data for free for organic search then why (other than protecting their own revenues) do they suggest this data is hard to attain for paid search? If Google respected their advertisers & wanted the advertisers to advertise based on complete data they would make this data available automatically, like they do with the +1 button data.

No "Study" Required

Here is my big problem I have with Google suggesting that I need a quantitative study to know if I should buy my own branded keywords:

  • I know I am going to get almost all the clicks anyhow (Google removed "indirect navigation" from their study for a reason, and 3rd party studies have shown how directly cannibalistic these ads are)
  • the whole point of building a brand is increased affinity with users & not needing to pay for incremental distribution driven by brand demand. To spend money to build brand only to have to keep rebuying the existing brand equity is quite a futile exercise.
  • in the bid auction Google sets arbitrary pricing floors at the keyword level to squeeze advertisers (almost nobody is bidding on "seo book" but if I do Google will want $2 or $3 per click)
  • even if I go through said "quantitative study" I end up needing to re-test it every so often as Google arbitrarily juices the ad prices to increase their revenues
  • when Google offers the enhanced long sitelinks they are doing so because they think the search query is primarily navigational, yet they still put ads above the organic search results, which IMHO is pretty dirty
  • and the dirtiest bit of it all (that smells the worst) is that competing against you in the ad auction is not only arbitrary pricing floors, but also Google itself, which buys keywords against your brand (using their own monopoly money)

Larger Sitelinks Drive Down Competition

Google recently expanded sitelinks in the organic search results to make them take up a huge portion of the above-the-fold screen real estate, driving down attempted organic search brand arbitrage & negative reputation issues.

Driving Down the Search Results

Using features like Google Instant, a Google+ promotional bar & longer AdWords ad copy, Google has been aggressively pushing down the search result set so fewer listings appear above the fold.

Each month there is another test of some new feature that pushes the organic search results downward.

Zero Moment of Burning Ad Budget

Google promotes a concept called "the zero moment of truth" suggesting that you need to advertise just about anywhere late in the conversion cycle to "be there" and reinforce your messaging.

However, with enhanced organic sitelinks, the brand owns so much of the search real estate that it will lose limited traffic to competitors if it doesn't buy AdWords on its branded keywords. Further, given the ability to block certain sitelinks & edit the page title & meta description you should be able to control the copy on your branded organic listing to make it look and feel like the ad copy you would use in AdWords.

There are some nuanced exceptions though, as brands are not always well aligned with how people search...

When You Should Buy Your Brand Keywords

Short Term Specials & Promotions

If you have an event coming up that you need to promote for a short duration of time then running AdWords ads is a great way to instantly get exposure for that campaign.

Certain Misspellings

In the past if you misspelled keywords Google would put the spell correction right at the top of the page. More recently they have decided to put it below the AdWords ads. So on this type of ad (where Amazon already ranks #1, but has the organic search results pushed down by the ad & then a spell suggestion) I think that ad is burning money.

In other cases, like where you don't rank high in the organic search results, buying AdWords ads on common misspellings is a much smarter idea. For instance, I think this is a smart ad buy by Agoda.

However, in the longrun, if I ran Agoda, I would point a few misspelled links at my website to boost my rankings for common misspellings.

One way to reach misspellings and longertailed searches for your brand is to use an embedded match, where you bid on agoda and then use -[agoda] as a negative keyword.

Brand is Shared By Multiple Companies

Mercedes Benz is burning a bit of their ad budget by advertising where they are irrelevant.

Certainly it makes sense for them to buy exposure for the branded keywords, but in the above examples they should put -kingston as a negative keyword.

When Google Runs Negative Ads

In some cases Google ads promote negative messaging. For instance, while using Gmail I saw an ad suggesting that I should "uninstall McAfee" in a computer that did not even have it.

Buying branded ads in those cases would likely make sense, if for no other reason to compete with & block out risky negative ads that could go viral. Whether Google should even allow such ads is another question for debate.

Big Money Markets Full of Spam

Google was recently clipped by the DOJ for a half-BILLION Dollars for running illicit ads promoting Canadian pharmacies. The DOJ went so far as highlighting that Larry Page knew what was going on & intentionally allowed these ads to run:

Mr. Neronha said those efforts amounted to "window-dressing," allowing Google to continue earning revenues from the allegedly illicit ad sales even as it professed to be taking action against them. Google employees helped undercover Justice Department agents in the sting operation evade controls designed to stop companies from advertising illegally, he said.

"Suffice it to say that this is not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own," Mr. Neronha said in an interview. "This was a corporate decision to engage in this conduct."

After the above instance, Google is perhaps going to be "guilty until proven innocent" where they are running sketchy ads.

In the short run it is likely appropriate to still run branded keyword ads while the issue is getting sorted out, but if you see anything like the following on your branded search results it probably makes sense to fight it on the public relations front in the background while opening the wallet to protect the brand publicly.

And since most major pharmaceutical corporations are routinely fined for running illegal ads, I don't understand why these pharma corps don't have a black hat SEO (or 3) on staff to help manage the search results.

If Google wants brand then give it to them in spades. ;)

Longer Google AdWords Ad Copy

I was just checking out the ongoing strategic meltdown in the value of the Dollar & noticed an AdWords ad with an extended headline & a 150 character ad description.

Currently I believe the above extended description is a limited beta test, but if Google starts mixing that in with Google Advisor ads & ad sitelinks there might not be a single organic result above the fold on commercial keywords.

The above image is even uglier when Google Instant is extended.

Using the 150 word ad descriptions would drive everything down one more row per ad. Adding another line to each of the AdWords ads would push the "organic" search results down another listing.

Of course one response is to operate in the tail of search, but just look at DMD to see how well that worked for them.

They are so desperate that they sent legal threats at a site flaming them. Humorously, that site also runs AdSense ads.

And that desperation is *before* Google has finalized a legal agreement on the book front & started aggressively pushing those ebooks in their search results with full force. In 12 months ebooks will be the new Youtube...a service that magically keeps growing over 10% a month "organically" in Google's search results.

Your content isn't good enough to compete, unless you post it to Youtube.

In addition to uploading spammy videos in bulk to Youtube, maybe SEOs should create a collective to invest in "an oversized monitor" in every home and on every desk. :D

Alternatively, switching the default search provider on every computer you touch to Bing doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Set Up a Local PPC Campaign in 8 Easy Steps

Local PPC Tips

Recently, we did a post on the benefits of using PPC for Local SEO. In this post, we are going to go through how to structure a local PPC campaign for a small business.

This post is designed to show you how really easy it is to get a local PPC campaign up and running. If you want to streamline the campaign building process, choosing the right tools upfront can be a big help. Landing page creation can be a time-consuming and expensive task, but it doesn't have to be.

Step 1: Choosing a Landing Page Tool

For the quick generation of nicely designed landing pages, Unbounce is tough to beat. Unbounce has a variety of paid plans available. Unbounce hosts your pages on their site. You can use a CNAME record to have these pages look like they are on your domain via sub-pages or via a sub-domain. This is done very easily through your host and you can get the instructions as well as track the status right from the dashboard:

Unbounce Dashboard

I just set up this new account so it will be a little bit before this propagates. Once you arrive at the landing page dashboard, you just click the big shiny green button to create a new page:

Create New Page

You can choose from any of Unbounce's pre-designed templates (which are quite nice) or you can start with a blank template.

There are quite a few templates we can use, but since this is largely a lead generation campaign (for a local insurance agent) I'm going to grab one of the spiffy lead generation templates.

Customizing Unbounce

Unbounce has a Photoshop-like interface which makes changing text and imagery a breeze:

Unbounce Editor 1

Unbounce Editor 2

For a local insurance agent who sells maybe 3 or 4 different products to a small handful of towns, setting up his or her landing pages is really quite painless.

Alternative to Unbounce (for Wordpress Sites)

Once you start generating thousands of unique visits a month (hopefully!) Unbounce can get pricey. At that point, where you are presumably making lots of sales off of PPC, you might want to invest in having a designer start creating some custom landing pages rather than paying a hundred or hundreds of dollars per month on a service like Unbounce.

If you are using Wordpress and don't mind getting your hands into some basic coding then you should check out Premise (which is a relatively new Wordpress plugin from Copyblogger Media.

After doing some basic customizations on the look and feel of your template, you can quickly generate good looking and solid landing pages while getting copywriting advice built right in. Also, Premise comes with a ton of custom, well-designed graphics from their in-house graphic artist. The plugin works with any Wordpress theme.

Geordie did a review of Premise over at PPC Blog.

Step 2: Keyword List Generation

With local keyword research you'll most certainly run across a lack of data being returned to you by keyword tools. There are a few tips you can use when doing local keyword research to help get a better handle on a keyword list suitable for a PPC campaign.

Throughout this post we will be referring to a local insurance agency but this can apply to any campaign that is pursuing local PPC as an option.

Competing Sites

One of the first things I would do would be to check out the local sections of bigger websites. In the example of insurance there are plenty of large sites which act as lead aggregators and target local keywords (usually down to the state level).

You can very easily visit one of these sites and take a quick peak at their title tag and the on-page copy to determine what keywords they are targeting. In your market, like with insurance, there usually are related keywords that might overlap. Car insurance and auto insurance are classic examples in the insurance industry.

Looking at a few competing sites might give you an idea of whether or not most sites are pursuing keyword x versus keyword y. This can be a helpful data point to use when constructing your PPC campaign.

Google Trends

Google Trends is a nice tool to use when you are trying to discern between similar keywords and it offers trends by region, state, and city. For example, here are some charts for home insurance versus homeowners insurance versus homeowner insurance:

Google Trends

Here is the section where it shows trends by location (you can filter further, down to a city level)

Google Trends

I usually like to keep multiple variants in the PPC campaign to start just to test things out but using Trends to find which variant is appreciably higher in volume can help with choosing which keywords you should be looking to research further.

Your Own Knowledge

You know how your customers speak about products and you know the lingo of your industry best. That is how I usually would start a local keyword list. Then I would move into using Google Trends and looking at competing sites to see what the tools tell me about my initial take on a possible keyword list.

I would then further expand that list by entering those core terms into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and the SeoBook Keyword Tool (our tool is powered by Wordtracker) and see what keywords I may be overlooking.

You can search in those tools for local terms like "boston car insurance" but the data, when you start to dig in to keyword research, gets almost non-existent for local terms past the point of a core term like "boston car insurance".

I would recommend taking the non-geo modified keywords you find with the processes mentioned above and entering them into a keyword list generator, along with the names of the towns and cities you service (and states). You can use our free keyword list generator :) .

SeoBook Keyword List Generator

This campaign happens to be in a small, rural area. So the strategy here is to get feedback ASAP to see if we are dealing with any palpable volume which would warrant further investment into a PPC campaign (outside of just testing search volume for SEO purposes).

I'm going to say that this agency sells car, home, life, and business insurance in 5 towns. There are some local PPC tools out there but for a campaign this size it won't be all that time consuming to set up.

What you can use is our free keyword list generator and export to either broad, phrase, or exact match after grouping everything together :)

Keyword Generator

Once you click "Generate" you get the results displayed like this:

Export that to CSV and you are good to go!

So basically, because the volume is small, we want to try and hit as many variations as possible. With local keywords you can have the following modifiers:

  • state spelled out or abbreviated
  • zip code
  • town or city
  • various combinations of the above 3 elements

You can choose to do your ad groups by a particular variable like city/town or product. As modifiers are playing a huge role in this campaign, and to keep things cleaner for me, I will do the ad groups by town and one for the state.

Step 3: Setting Up the Campaign

There are some initial steps you'll have to go through when you set up your AdWords account.

Choosing Local Settings

There are 2 areas for location targeting:

  • Location and Languages - where you would select specific language and location settings (country, state, town, custom map, etc)
  • Advanced Settings - where you can target by physical location and search intent, just physical location, or just search intent. You can also use Exclusion settings where you can exclude by physical location.

In the next section I'll show you why I chose certain settings for this specific campaign and when other options might be appropriate.

Location and Languages

With Location and Languages you get the following options:

Location Languages

In this campaign I am targeting one area of a particular state for a local business. There is no set rule here, preferences should be considered based on the client.

For instance, this is a local insurance agent in one part of the state with 2 offices in this particular area. It generally isn't wise to attempt to go after towns which are not within driving distance to the offices.

The selling point of a local agent is local service, a place you can drive to in order to talk with your agent about your policy, and so on. Most local agents do not have the technological ability to compete with direct writers like Geico and Progressive with respect to being able to adequately serve customers across the country. If the agency had multiple offices across the state I would reconsider my position on location targeting.

In any case, we are using broad matched geo-modified keywords and the surrounding states may have one or two overlapping town names so I'm going to use a custom map for location. The custom map works here because I can generally cover most of the areas where people who live in the area of the client either live or work.

Alternatively, I could choose (as states) Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island but then you could run into overlapping town issues (which is the concern with just going country wide). You could solve that by introducing the state modifier (CT or Connecticut in this case) into your keywords but that defeats the goal of starting with a low effort campaign to see if there's any volume in the first place (just using city/town and keyword as a broad match)

Just click on "Select one or more locations" and click the Custom tab in the dialog box that opens up:

Custom Map Dialog Box

You can click or drag to create your custom map. I like to click (must be 3 or more clicks) because I find it to be more precise when trying to isolate a location.

I've created a custom map targeting the locations where customers likely live and work:

Custom Map Results

By their very nature most local businesses service a specific, geographical segment of a particular market. In sticking with the insurance example, let's say you have an agency in Boston, Cape Cod, Springfield, and Worcester (hitting most of the major counties in Massachusetts).

In the case of multiple locations you'd want to run multiple campaigns targeting those specific locations and perhaps an extra campaign which didn't use geo-modifiers but used just the state for targeting. This way, even if you hit on a broad keyword from another area of the state it still is likely that you service that location within driving distance.

You could easily highlight the multiple office locations on a landing page whereas a competing agency that just has a location down on the Cape would generally benefit very little, if at all, from doing any sort of broad-based geographic targeting (targeting the whole state with non-geo keywords as an example).

Advanced Location Options

You have five options here:

Advanced Settings Locations

You can read more about the options here and I'm going to leave them as defaults based on my geo-only targeting.

I may come back to these options if I find the search volume is not high enough to warrant continued PPC investment. In this market, non-geo modified keywords are brutally priced for a small, local agent so I think starting a bit more cautiously is a good idea.

Google makes a good point regarding the usage of these options

These targeting methods might conflict with location terms in keywords. You should only use either the advanced targeting options or use keywords to accomplish your campaign goals, but not both methods.

So if you've got a campaign which is exclusively using geo-modified keywords and a specific locale you could really mess things up if add another layer of targeting on top of that (which would be unnecessary anyway).

Businesses that service a community wouldn't benefit as much, if at all, from using these options but a small or local business which does business all over the country, or promotes travel to the local area, or ships products to different locations can benefit from these kinds of options as described in the example Google gives on Napa Valley Wine.

Say you are a chocolatier in Vermont and you want to run multiple campaigns for Vermont (exclusively with location matching and geo-modified keywords) but then you want to run other campaigns targeting Canada and maybe one for the US as well, while excluding Vermont and/or geo modified searches. You can do these sort of things with the variety of location options AdWords provides.

Network and Devices

By default Google opts you in to the search network and display network. I would avoid the display network at this point and just focus on the search network for these particular keywords:

Networks Devices Ppc

Bidding and Budget

For a basic starter campaign like this, and for many campaigns quite frankly, you can skip some of the advanced bidding options and just use manual bidding and "show ads evenly over time".

Bidding And Budget

Generally I recommend that you should be comfortable assuming somewhere in the high hundreds to a couple thousand dollars worth of AdWords spend being lost due to testing and such (based on whatever your cost per click is). Even though it's a much more targeted way of advertising than say a local newspaper ad, you still have to go in expecting to lose a little bit upfront in order to find that sweet spot in your approach within your market.

I would say, if you could, budget $100.00 per day for a month and take a peek at it each day just to make sure things are running smoothly. You'll have to pay a bit more upfront on a brand new account while your account gains trust in the eyes of Google. The beauty of a daily budget is that you can change it at any time. After a month or so you should have a pretty good idea of what is going on unless your business is in its offseason.

Location Extensions

I would use both the address extension (from Google Places, and if your a local small business you absolutely should be in Google Places) and the phone extension. This helps your ad stand out against the other insurance ads from large companies with no local presence and insurance affiliates with no location at all.

Location Extensions

Advanced Settings

Starting off, I would recommend leaving these as default and come back to them later to adjust if you start to see things like conversions being heavily weighted to weekends versus weekdays or days and nights. With a local campaign though, chances are you might not have enough data for awhile to make those kinds of data-driven decisions.

Some of the options are N/A anyway because we are not using the content network.

Advanced Settings Ppc Campaign

Step 4: Ad Targeting Options

The examples given above were for keywords being geo-modified because the advertiser is mainly a local business servicing a very specific area of the state and the non-geo modified keywords for this market are brutally priced.

For most local businesses, especially to start, I recommend using a geo-modified keyword campaign and then moving into setting up another campaign which is more of a keyword driven campaign rather than a geographically driven campaign (from a keyword standpoint). Why? Mainly for the examples mentioned above and because starting out with a huge AdWords campaign can be overwhelming to a new user, which can lead to poor management and a poor account quality score right off the bat.

Once you get comfortable with AdWords and you are seeing some early success (or failure, like obvious lack of volume for instance) I would begin to consider moving into setting up that second campaign. By failure I specifically mean a lack of volume early on. If you are consistently showing in the top 1-5 spots in AdWords but are getting very, very little traffic then that means you need to broaden your campaign. If you are getting traffic but aren't converting then you need to tweak and test elements on your landing page and maybe consider other keywords you haven't bid on yet.

I would suggest launching the geo-targeted campaign first and do the initial steps for a broader, non-geo campaign in the background (keyword research, building landing pages, thinking about ad copy and ad group structure, and so on). Obviously this is quite a bit different than a company that happens to be located in Anytown, USA but mainly sells nationally with little or no local presence.

Step 5: Setting Up the Ad Groups

Eventually you may find yourself adding campaigns for non-geo modified keywords while utilizing the targeting options mentioned above, or maybe you want to target just the Display Network. In this case, especially for small business owners who are working with a campaign for the first time, simplicity is preferred in the face of the many options provided within the AdWords System.

The idea with ad groups is to align them as tightly as possible with specific keywords. Using the town or city as the main grouping variable, followed by the product, we can indeed have very tight ad groups. This will also allow us the ability to create a landing page which is super targeted to the keyword being bid on. For example, let's take the idea of two towns and two keywords (auto insurance, home insurance)

I would set up the ad groups as follows:

  • (ad group) Town 1, (keywords) Town 1 auto insurance | Town 1 car insurance
  • (ad group) Town 1, (keywords) Town 1 home insurance | Town 1 homeowner insurance *as well as other closely related terms like home owner, home owners, condo, renters, and tenants
  • (ad group) Town 2, (keywords) Town 1 auto insurance | Town 1 car insurance
  • (ad group) Town 2, (keywords) Town 1 home insurance | Town 1 homeowner insurance *as well as other closely related terms like home owner, home owners, condo, renters, and tenants
  • (ad group) State/State Abbreviation, (keywords) State (Massachusetts) auto insurance | State Abbreviation (MA) auto insurance (and so on)

I would repeat this process for as many towns, states, and product variations as needed. You can mix in copy and imagery to speak to similar words like auto and car, as well as to speak to similar products like homeowners, condo, and renters insurance

Since we targeted a specific area on the map, we can target just state level searches without worrying about someone searching from an area we cannot service.

Step 6: AdWords Copy

When you first set up the campaign you get the page where you can name the first ad group and set up the sales copy, with helpful ad previews on the right:

AdWords Preview Copy

Here, you will enter:

  • Headline
  • Description line 1
  • Description line 2
  • Display URL
  • Destination URL

These are fairly self-explanatory and ideally you want your headline to contain your targeted (or most of your targeted) keyword as it will be bolded when the ad shows to the user.

I usually use the first description line to describe the features or benefits of what I'm or the client is selling, and the second description line as a strong call to action

Your display URL is what the user sees and can be customized to speak more to your offer, while the destination URL is URL Google actually sends the user too (this would be your landing page URL).

So for example, if you were selling insurance in Boston and your domain was massachusettsinsurance.com you could add /Boston to that in your display URL so it appears more relevant to the user (they do not see the destination URL)

Step 7: Install Analytics

AdWords offers PPC specific reports but installing, if you don't already have it, an analytics package is must if you want to really track your campaigns at deep levels. You'll want to be able to track conversions and typically that requires a multi-step process (even if you are just collecting emails) and having an analytics package can really take your data analysis to the next level.

You can use the AdWords Conversion Tracker for some conversion metrics but a full-featured analytics package gives you more options and data points to utilize. Some of the more popular and affordable analytics packages are:

AdWords offers built-in integration with Google Analytics, so for simplicity you might want to give that a shot upfront. Even though it's free, Google Analytics is a fully featured analytics provider suitable for large and small sites.

Step 8: Test, Tweak, and Adjust

Local campaigns can sometimes take a bit of time to return an appropriate amount of data needed to analyze and adjust to trends in your account. So, be careful not to make wholesale changes to a campaign off of a small amount of data. Try to be consistent for a bit and see what the data tells you over time.

Some tips on account maintenance would be:

  • If you get low relevancy messages or "ads not showing" messages on a keyword, isolate it in its own ad group with a super-targeted ad and landing page
  • Never let your credit card expire :) You can also prepay AdWords if you'd prefer'
  • Try different ad text copies from time to time, pointing out different benefits and using different calls to action
  • Try different elements on your landing page (maybe a click-thru button instead of an opt-in form, maybe a brief video, etc)
  • When adding new keywords keep the same tight ad group structure that you started out with
  • Use the Search Terms report to find exact keywords that triggered an ad click on your broad or phrase matched keywords
  • Use the keywords found in your Search Terms report as additions to your current PPC program and SEO planning, rinse and repeat

The more targeted your keywords are (and landing pages) the fewer clicks you should need to determine an appropriate level of feedback from your data. Over time you should pay attention to your conversion rates as they stabilize and look at feedback that way. In other words, if you typically convert at 30% and all of a sudden you go 0-100 on your next 100 clicks, something might be up. Where as if you convert at 5%, you'll need more clicks to determine anything from that data.

I'd peg the click amount to be somewhere in the hundreds when first setting up the account (assuming the keyword/landing page is super targeted). On a really targeted local campaign, I'd like to see a couple hundred clicks or so before I made any decisions on that particular keyword. Since local keywords are usually more trial and error upfront, pay close attention to the aforementioned Search Term report to find those really targeted keywords.

A local campaign is generally smaller in nature so it's a bit easier to have really tight ad group structuring (one or a few keywords per ad group). This makes it a bit easier on the local business owner because upfront set up is quicker and maintenance and tracking are both a bit more streamlined.

A local business that combines SEO and PPC can really clean up in the SERPS. To help get you started, you can pick up a 75$ AdWords credit below and if you are an agency you should check out the Engage program which gives you a generous amount of coupons for your clients.

Free Google AdWords Coupons

Google is advertising a free $75 coupon for new AdWords advertisers, and offers SEM firms up to $2,000 in free AdWords credits via their Engage program.

Amazon Sponsored Products Ads

Outside of Google, Amazon and eBay own perhaps the 2 largest streams of ecommerce traffic. In fact, both are amongst the top 10 sites in Alexa (even though ~ 100% of their traffic is commercial while ~ 0.001% of Twitter's traffic is). In spite of Google's prominent promotion of Wikipedia, Amazon still gets more traffic.

In the leak of AdWords top spenders data last June Amazon was #5 on the list. Kantar Media's research estimated that Amazon's Q4 Google AdWords spend was almost double their nearest competitor.

Why mention this?

Amazon recently started giving away a free $75 coupon for product ads on their site.

You can use the following coupon to get $50 worth of free ad clicks from Amazon.com good for selling your products on Amazon.com.

A lot of their customers may be used to buying on Amazon, but you don't get much more of a pre-qualified ecommerce visitor than a person who clicks on your offer who is already on Amazon.com. If you sell on Amazon.com, then even greater friction is removed from the transaction, further boosting your conversion rates.

AdWords Logo.
Google is also pushing free $75 AdWords coupons fairly aggressively. You can get a free $75 AdWords coupon here (or here or here or here or here or here or here) ... many options linked because some of their coupon offers expire over time & we update this page periodically. The Google Partners Program also offers coupons to consultants managing AdWords accounts.

Bing Ads: Bing and Yahoo! Search expand the reach of your business to millions of monthly users. Get a free $50 Bing coupon today.

Using PPC for Local SEO

We are all aware of the importance Google has been placing on local search over the last couple of years, we touched on it in a recent blog post.

Google also has some interesting statistics on local numbers pertaining to small business stats and Google's local stats (20% of searches have local intent).

As a local advertiser, starting an SEO campaign in your local market is typically built on the strength of your keyword research. Say you are an insurance agent, do more people use car or auto when searching for auto insurance? Do people use "city/town keyword", "city/town, state, keyword", "zip code keyword"?

Some of these questions can be answered using a tool like Google Trends. Here you can see the results for "Texas Doctor" versus "TX Doctor":

So here you can see that it's pretty close, and volume is pretty close in Google's keyword tool as well:

However, when you get into phrase match the volumes separate a bit:

Overcoming Keyword Tool Volume Concerns

The other thing you'll want to keep in mind is that sometimes these tools can be off on volume, sometimes a lot and sometimes not so much. How do you solve this? You can do a PPC campaign to test a few things like:

  • actual search volume of your chosen keywords
  • conversion rates on keywords
  • additional keywords that trigger your ads via the Search Term Report in Adwords

The beauty of starting your campaign with PPC is that you can not only keep it running if it's profitable for you, rather than it just being a proving ground for keywords, but you are able to discover keywords and keyword groups that are profitable and have enough volume to where an investment into SEO is worthwhile.

Local search, by definition (since it is roughly a quarter of the search market), is on the lower end of the volume pole but in comparsion to a local business's resources and reach the volume is typically relative to that of keywords for a national company pursuing non-local keywords country wide.

Thinking About Campaign Structure

In addition to finding juicy keywords and keyword themes to build on, you can eliminate the poorly performing ones or the ones which have close to no volume from your PPC campaign and remove it from your SEO planning. This not only helps your PPC account grow and mature but also helps you avoid wasting time and resources on chasing irrelevant or unworthy keywords.

As we discussed, sometimes local keywords can use a variety of modifiers like the city or town name, the state name, and the zip code in conjunction with the keyword(s) so making sure you are targeting the right mix from an SEO perspective is really helpful in getting quicker and better results. There is no point in optimizing your on-page content and targeting your link building plans on your keyword(s) plus a zip code if your market is searching by city/town and state (and vice versa). In the interest of time and better results, it makes sense to nail down the correct keywords upfront.

Starting off with Research

Generally, my initial research process goes something like this (we are assuming you've got a live site already):

  • look in analytics to find keywords that you are already receiving traffic for
  • see if there are any trends in that data in terms of language (car vs auto insurance for example)
  • begin broad keyword research to find terms related to the market (exclude local modifiers for now)
  • use free mindmap software or free site planning apps to visualize the main content areas of the site with those keywords
  • use google trends and insights, in addition to the google keyword tool and the free seobook keyword tool to compare data points on core terms (again, like with car/auto insurance or home versus homeowners insurance)
  • make a list of competitors in my area and check the volume on their brand name

So now I should have a good idea of which keywords I want to look at locally and some notes on any glaring differences in volume between closely related terms.

Going Local

Now it's time to "localize" the data. I like the local keyword tool over at PPCblog.com because it does a really good job of working in all the different local modifiers that can be associated with your local PPC campaign.

That is a paid tool, as part of the PPC blog community and training membership (along with a lot of other quality PPC tools), and it's quite robust and easy to use.

If you are looking for a free tool along those lines, with less on the functionality front, you can use this free tool from 5minutesite.com.

Then I move into searching on some of the core terms in Google's keyword tool and the SEObook keyword tool (powered by Wordtracker). Many times you'll find nothing for some of your local searches, in terms of volume, but you should still keep them around for testing in PPC because keyword tools can be off on local searches based on their traditionally lower volume sets. Also, most keyword tools don't or can't allocate resources to capture every single search.

So now I should have a list of locally modified terms where the keyword portions were driven by non-local keyword research and local modifiers were added via a local keyword tool.

In addition, I should have notes and screenshots of data from Google Trends and Insights showing any language differences (of substance) both nationally and locally (locally when available, sometimes no data exists in the tools). I also should have notes as to any language or keyword trends I found in my analytics or tips I received by talking with employees who deal with customers as well as my own knowledge of the industry.

Working with AdWords

There are different ways of attacking your campaign in AdWords. Initially, I am just doing this for testing on an SEO campaign but if you decide to stick with the PPC campaign you can get into removing the local modifiers and bidding on those broader keywords while targeting searchers geographically.

Google has a few different ways of targeting users based on location:

Locations and Languages offer you the ability to target in 4 ways:

  • Bundles - mostly specific countries (United States, Spain, Canada, etc) and regions (North America, Central America, East Asia, etc)
  • Browse - essentially goes country - state - metro area - specific city or town
  • Search - search for and add just about anything (country, state, town, zip code to find towns or cities)
  • Custom - a nifty point, click, drag interfact where you can isolate a specific area where you want your ads shown

You also have some advanced options like the Targeting Method:

Google has a really helpful chart on this here, and below is a screenshot of the information:

I like to leave both on as it helps with gauging not only the potential of your keywords but also the overall level of activity for your services (via keywords) in your market. Plus, the search term report can help you breakdown keywords that trigger your ads and this kind of PPC can help you show for broad SEO terms that you might not have the resources to compete for.

Another advanced targeting option is the exclusion method:

Google has information on this method here and here's a chart showing the relationship:

I like to use this in some cases where there may be towns that overlap. For example, you could live in Maine and be targeting "Augusta" as a modifier but you'll probably want to exclude Georgia from your targeting as that is another area which can produce searches for that modifier. You can also get around that by adding a state modifier, Augusta Maine Insurance or some such, but you may find many folks use just the city or town name. That is when exclusion methods can be helpful.

Starting off on the Right Foot

Now I'll start to build the PPC campaign and pay attention to some of the core principles of trying to obtain a good quality score and good overall performance for a new account:

  • tight ad groups with keywords that are relevant to the ad group and the query
  • quality landing pages which speak specifically to the intent of the query (don't use a generic insurance template for all the different kinds of insurance you sell)
  • starting off with a managable amount of keywords to help focus on quality of traffic rather than quantity, and to help promote good keywords and remove or isolate bad ones

As an example, you might be selling life insurance in a few different towns. I would consider using town-specific ad groups -> keywords -> landing pages as my structure.

You can use helpful landing pages for a specific town by talking about things like average family size in the town, average income, and so on to help residents get a more customized experience when shopping for life insurance.

You can also build product-specific ad groups and group your town/city modified keywords in there if that makes more sense for your specific campaign.

Waiting for Results

In about a month or less I should have a pretty good idea of:

  • search volume for my proposed keywords
  • new keywords that I didn't find initially
  • which keywords convert and which don't
  • will PPC fit into my ongoing marketing efforts?
  • what type of SEO investment does my search volume call for?

We live in a world and business environment where we want things yesterday and sometimes it can be tough to play the patience game. In my opinion, lack of patience is a leading cause of SEO and PPC failure these days.

If you take the above approach with a new campaign or a new idea, you will thank yourself in the short, mid, and long run. There are few sources of advice better than hard data, whether it tells you what you do or don't want to hear.

Free Google AdWords Coupons

Google is advertising a free $75 coupon for new AdWords advertisers, and offers SEM firms up to $2,000 in free AdWords credits via their Engage program.

New Google AdWords Training Course

Back when I got into SEO part of the reason I wasn't too into PPC back then was because I had limited cash, but another big reason I wasn't big on it was because it seemed so simple and boring. Over the past couple years that has changed a lot!

Today Google AdWords is far more complex than SEO was in 2003.

With that complexity there are additional opportunities for some & additional expenses for others. But keeping up with all the changes is easily a full time job.

Noticing that trend, and seeing stuff like the below image, I thought it made sense to try to create something great servicing the AdWords / PPC market.

Google keeps controlling more real estate, and if you are not leveraging AdWords then there is a chance your business could eventually get pushed "below the fold" - perhaps not for longtail keywords...but certainly for the highest traffic and most valuable keywords in your industry. Google recently launched their vertical search panels, and to some degree you can think of many of these as what will eventually amount to some form of an ad channel (or a channel which promotes content from premium related partnerships with Google).

I am decent at AdWords, but my level of proficiency is nowhere near my level with SEO, and so we needed the help of someone else if we were going to make sure that we had bar-none the best product/service on the market. And so we decided to partner with Geordie to turn PPC Blog into a great membership website which mirrors this one.

Off the start access costs $179, but Geordie and I wanted to offer SEO Book blog readers a recurring 30% discount off of that, by using this code

This coupon will work for the first 100 subscribers, and then after the discount will no longer be available.

You can join here

Just like with SEO Book, you can cancel anytime and are under no obligation to stay any longer than you find it valuable to do so. If you do any serious amount of PPC it is quite easy to find a few tips that help you save $5 or more a day, especially when you consider how much PPC stuff Geordie has done (he has managed millions/yr in ad spend for the past 4 years & has brain dumped everything he knows) & how high quality the membership will be.

60+ training modules and a friendly PPC focused forum await you :D

Killer Google AdWords Guide for Affiliates

My wife used to tell me that I would give too much away...and then she pens something like this AdWords affiliate guide. It doesn't seem fair ;)

Google AdWords Tax Calculator

Many experienced advertisers realize that there are many gotchas in the AdWords system...optimization tools and default setting which optimize to boost Google's yield at the expense of unsuspecting advertisers, who don't yet know what match types are or that their ads are syndicated to content sites by default.

To help new advertisers get past many of the gotchas we created the Google AdWords tax calculator - a free utility which highlights many stumbling blocks that catch new AdWords advertisers.

AdWords tax calculator.

Given that each keyword market is unique it would be impossible to make a tool that was 100% accurate in every situation, but the goal of this tool was to simply highlight common issues, and help new advertisers address them. Individual efficiency gains may be greater or smaller than the rough initial estimates the tool provides.

Please let us know what you think, as we will gladly iterate this calculator to make it better if you have some great ideas you think we should include in it. Like all of Google's products, our calculator is starting out in beta :D