Super Juicy New Google AdWords Feature

Google is constantly innovating and improving their AdWords administration tools. Most enhancements are very nice to have - the one they added last week is extremely helpful.

As we know, part of Google's magic is providing relevant results. This extends to the advertising that appears on the search results pages (i.e. AdWords). They work very hard to reward relevant ads and penalize irrelevant ads so that only the most relevant show up for their visitors.

Guessing the right formula for appearing to Google like you have the most relevant ads can be tricky. The first (and most important) step of course is to choose relevant keywords, write relevant ads, and have a relevant site on the other end. 

But that's not always enough. And even when it does work you're often left with a nagging feeling that you're overpaying for clicks because you haven't convinced the Google algorithm that you're as relevant as you really are.

Additionally -- with increasing frequency, Google is cranking up the difficulty of getting a good Quality Score (Quality Score determines how much you pay for clicks and (indirectly) where you appear on the search results page).

So the trick becomes -- how do you read Google's mind about how relevant your keywords + ads are?

Well, they just gave us a huge help: They now reveal the Quality Score for each keyword.

Here's how it works:

First - you need to enable the reporting. It's not on by default, but you can easily turn it on.

  1. Go to an Ad Group page
  2. At the top look for this link:

    Qs1_1

  3. Click the link and select Show Quality Score

     

    Qs2

Once enabled, you'll see a new column added to your report. "Quality Score"
There are 3 Quality Score status possibilities.

Poor

Qspoor

Ok

Qsok

Great

Qsgreat

As you can see from the screen capture examples here, Quality Score has a tremendous impact on your bid price.

Of course knowing what your Quality Score is is only part of the battle. However, with this new intel, tweaking your keywords, ads, and site to get that score up just got much easier.

p.s. remember, I'm available for hire if you need some specific help.

Quickie: AdWords vs AdCenter

I don't have enough evidence yet to draw conclusions about the quality of the traffic - but I do have a very quick opinion about the admin tool.

Let's take a scale of 1-10.
1 being Yahoo -- 10 being Google.

I'd put adCenter at a 6.5.

In spite of the nightmares I had signing up to use them - I have to say that the post-pain usage was moderately promising. They aren't AdWords by any stretch - but, they've ripped off enough from them to make it useful and have avoided enough of the Yahoo obtuseness that I didn't pull all my hair out and spit by the time I was done. More detailed review later.

Google AdWords doesn't work for everyone. (Part I)

I've spent a fair amount of time extolling the virtues of Google AdWords here on the Frog Blog, but AdWords does in fact have some limitations and I don't want my arm-flapping excitement about AdWords to obscure that fact.

Over the next few posts I'll be discussing three of the more challenging scenarios businesses face when using Google AdWords. These are scenarios that uncover some of the limitations of Google AdWords. After I've covered these three challenges, I'll offer a few tips for dealing with them, and ask you to share your ideas as well. 


AdWords is a phenomenal business tool, as I've discussed before. Revolutionary in its leveling of the playing field. Mom and Pop can play right alongside Microsoft and Wal-Mart. It's great.

But it's not for everyone.

Challenge #1: Low Ticket Items

Are you selling $1 widgets?

Let's do some (simplified - no shipping, handling, etc.) math.

Dreamland math:

  • Let's say you get clicks for the rock bottom price of 5c (unlikely[1], but possible).
  • Let's say your profit margin is 50% (common). So, 50c profit per widget.
  • You'd need to convert at 10% to break even. A 10% conversion to sale for most things is extremely high. Not totally impossible, but probably. You'd need to convert at better than 10% to make this profitable. Don't count on it.

Oh, and just to be fair...
Realistic math:

  • You pay 50c to get clicks
  • Your profit is 50c
  • You have to convert 100% just to break even.

I'm going to get sneered at for saying it because there are exceptions (of course), but as a rule of thumb $19.99 is about the lowest ticket for which you can profitably use AdWords without some upselling, cross selling, backend play, high probability of repeats or other additional revenue stream.

Are there exceptions?
Of course, and here's what you'd need to be an exception:

  • An unbelievable conversion rate
  • A niche without any competition
  • A product a bunch of people really want

Find that, and you just won the lottery.

[1] The price you'll pay for clicks is wildly dependent upon your industry. Some industries can get away with sub-10c clicks for placement on the first page, some can't even buy clicks for less than $100. You can technically get clicks for as low as 1c, but I've never seen anything below 3c and those are extremely rare and usually don't last once the campaign gains steam. Brilliantly matched ad copy and keywords, a stellar CTR and an absence of competition can produce sub-10c clicks, but this it's rare to maintain that long term.

Next time... Challenge #2.

A tip on writing AdWords ads (Now I'm just showing off)

Bragging_1

A successful AdWords campaign consists of 5 pieces.

  1. Careful selection of relevant keywords
  2. Effectively written ads
  3. Savvy bidding
  4. Effective landing page
  5. Smooth sales process

I'd like to chat briefly about #2, writing effective ads. Writing effective ads with Google, pays big. Not only do effective ads garner more click throughs, but with Google, those high click through rates also help you climb "higher up" in the ad listings, without paying more.

So here's the tip.
This should be obvious, and to some of you it will be, but I see so many AdWords ads that don't follow this rule.

When writing AdWords ads, use the keywords you are bidding on in the ad copy.

The very best is if they're included in the first line of the ad (the headline). At the very least, have the keyword in the ad copy.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. You'll be showing visitors that you have exactly what they are looking for.
  2. Google will bold any words in your ad that show up in the query. See the example search for "feather dusters" below. (No, I don't have a feather dusters campaign, this is just to illustrate a point).

Bold_1

Notice how "Feather Dusters" show up in bold in the headline, and the ad copy?

But Carson, I have so many keywords, I can't make them all appear in the ad!

Ancillary tip:
Break your campaign into as many ad groups as you need to in order to be able to adhere to the above rule.

So let's say you're selling turnip juice. You figure turnip juice might make a great gift. Don't put the "gift" stuff in your general "turnip juice" ad group. Make another ad group, devote all the keywords to variations involving "turnip juice" and "gifts." Then headline your ad with Perfect Turnip Juice Gift. So you only have 15 keywords in this ad group? So what. It'll be worth it in when you see the click through rate.

The image at the top right of this post is a snapshot I've taken from a campaign I set up last month. For the uninitiated, a 1.5% CTR (click through rate) would be considered a good performing  keyword. As you start moving up from 1.5%, you're entering holy grail land. As you can see, I'm bragging. But I do it to reinforce my tip. Each of the keywords you see a report on above is a keyword that appears in the headline of my ad. Give it a try, it works.

More on landing pages...

Link: Search engine optimization and Online marketing: Good Landing Page Design Tips.

Three things every landing page should have

I wrote about Google AdWords over on WorkHappy.net last week, this is a quick, related post.

Every AdWords landing page should do three, and only three things:

  1. Sell the benefits of what you are offering (bulleted benefits list, product or service images[1] and testimonials are great).
  2. Answer the three questions every visitor will have (How much does it cost? Will it meet my need? What does it look like?).
  3. Give them a way to act. "Buy Now" or "Add to Cart" or "Click here to fill out an application" or "click here to request/download a free sample" or "type your email address here to be added to our list" -- you get the idea.

 

More AdWords advice here and here.

[1] Screenshots, product photos, service-in-action photos, etc.

Google has been busy on the Ad* side

AdWords and AdSense both have been undergoing some great changes. AdWords is easier to use, the keyword thing which they ripped from Overture is a huge help. And today a new AdSense interface rolled out. So far, I'm digging the upgrades. Cool stuff. Less "linux dork" and more "marketing dork."

Some advice to those of you using Google AdWords

A quick refresher, here's how AdWords works.
As an AdWords subscriber you "buy" certain keywords and as a result you show up in the Google listings on the right hand side. If someone clicks your ad, you pay Google a certain amount.

It's pay per click.

You pay every time someone clicks.

Regardless of what they do when they get to your site.

So you want the after-the-click experience to be the best it can possibly be. You want it to convert to a sale. That sounds obvious, but based on my experience this morning clicking some AdWords ads with money to burn, it's not obvious enough. If you pay for that click, and then frustrate/annoy whomever lands there, you've wasted your money!

I just saw about 10 companies waste their money today. On me. With a miserable after-the-click experience. And it pained me. So here's some advice to keep you from making the same mistake.

1) Go look at everyone else buying your same keywords. Don't go nuts clicking because they are paying for it, but click through all the ads. (The best ones are usually near the top.) What do you notice about the page that results from that click? What are the best ones doing that you aren't?

2) When someone clicks, they want instant answers to these three questions:

  • Does your product meet my need?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What does it look like?

If you aren't answering every single one of those questions, in three seconds or less, you lose.

3) Do not just drop someone on your home page! Unless your home page is selling the exact product you are pitching in your AdWords, do not just send them to your site with a "keep looking, you'll find it" attitude. They won't find it! They won't look! You'll waste your money. The good AdWords ads pop me to a single page that answers all the three questions above, specific to the AdWords keyword I bought.

4) You better darn well offer exactly what I'm looking for. Don't buy up a bunch of peripherally related keywords in the hope that clickers will land on your site, be overcome with all your wonderful related products/services and become a customer. No one cares about you! (sorry) No one cares about your related stuff. Clickers have a very, very narrow focus - anything that distracts from that is wasted money. Buy keywords specific to your related stuff instead.

5) Let me buy!Make it brain-dead simple to buy from you the second I answer my three questions. "Add to Cart" or "Set up a call" or "Buy Now!" -- whatever fits, but let me make the purchase, let me convert!

6) Don't use AdWords to "build brand awareness" thinking that if you get clicks, and they see your logo you're getting your money's worth. You're not. You're upsetting people and wasting money.

7) Bonus if you let me sample/try you out before I buy. Get something in my hands, I'm much more likely to convert if I've seen first hand that it will work for me.

This also happens to be pretty good advice for your website in general, but that's a different post. Hope this helps you keep from wasting money.

Some Adwords Advice

So I was talking to a new friend, who happens to be an expert in online advertising (Adwords, affiliate marketing, etc) about an Adwords campaign I'm running for a client. I called on his advice because it's an unusual campaign in that the market we're appealing to is extremely niched (is that a word?). i.e. a very small market, albeit an ardent one.

He had a couple nuggets of Adwords wisdom I thought I'd share. Nothing earth shattering, but all worth considering.

Advice #1: Go broad. The typical Google wisdom is to make your keywords very specific. The more specific they are, the more likely they are to convert. And this is true - the CTR (click through rate) on very precise keywords is very good. North of 2% even. But we ran into a problem. 2.5% of  70 impressions is still only 2 clicks. Which isn't much. So his advice? Buck the Google wisdom and go broad. Reach broader in an attempt to pickup folks who are looking for the more general category your product/service fits into, then entice them into your flavor with your ad copy.

Simplified (so excuse me) example: Let's say you sell a special kind of corn seed for gardening. Let's call it whizbang corn seed. You can buy "whizbang corn seed" all you want, but you may only get 70 impressions per month. Let's shoot high with an insane 5% CTR... you might get 4 clicks. Not exactly pointing toward an IPO any time soon. But what if instead, you buy 'corn seed', 'garden corn', 'grow organic corn', or even 'gardening'... you get the idea. If you select broader keywords then make the right pitch in your ad copy, you'll get higher impressions - and hopefully higher clicks.

Advice #2: Put your offer in your ad title. Typical wisdom is to put your offer in the bottom line of your ad copy. First line does as close a match as possible to the search terms, second line sells them on it, 3rd line is a call to action, or an offer. "Free Shipping" or "Great Selection, Easy Returns" or "Free Gift with Purchase" - well if you're struggling with CTR - consider putting the offer as the opening line. I'm going to try this now with an eye to conversion rate... hopefully the clicks lead to conversion, otherwise it could be expensive to be that effective at raising the CTR.

Advice #3: Start with Overture. Yeah - that's what I said too. Here's why : Google has a convoluted algorithm for Adwords. There are several factors that affect your ranking - CPC is only one of those factors. The other big guerrilla in the room is your CTR. If it's low, Google makes less money, so they are less inclined to keep you at the top of the rankings. Overture plays no such games. It's pure capitalism over there. The highest bidder buys the highest slot, the end. Starting with them helps you better judge the effectiveness of your pitch without as many variables mucking up the works.

Anyway - there's a whole science to this Adwords game and it can really rock if you figure it out. I hope these ideas help you on your journey to mastering it all (and if you've made it this far, I have to assume you at least have a marginal interest in this or you'd have died of boredom 3 paragraphs ago.) Need a hand getting going with Adwords? Drop me a line.

I document the shopping experience at eBags.com

I'd like to document, for my own reference, and to illustrate a few points, the experience of shopping at eBags.com. The main reason I wish to do this? eBags totally gets online retail.

Think of these are steps to doing online retail right.

Leather_laptop_bag

I bought a new laptop. I decided that the old shoulder bag wasn't going to do it for me anymore. Not only is it way too stuffy, ugly, and obvious to thieves, it's quite uncomfortable, especially with the monster laptop I've got and its brick of a power supply. Way too heavy for a shoulder bag, I'd only be dragging one set of knuckles.

Here's how eBags got my money:

[1] - I knew I wanted a backpack. And like a good little online shopper I did my homework... on Google. As of this writing, and when I was looking for it  last month, eBags showed up as both the top premium sponsored search result, and the first natural listing result. No way I was going to miss them.

[2] - When I clicked the Google link, I went right to the page showing laptop backpacks (seems obvious I know, but so many AdWords users link to the their front page from a specialized word buy like that).

[3] - I immediately starting comparing laptop bags. Looking at them, sniffing around. I had about 8 tabs open in FireFox, one for each bag I liked. Then I noticed something... eBags will let me view them all side-by-side in a comparison. Wow. Exactly what I want. Because it's my thing, I tried to break this and the functionality of the site was smart enough to keep me from messing it up. The comparison chart is very well done showing me all the features I care about, in a side-by-side way. Extremely intuitive.
Only suggestion:
make this page with a special URL once I've made my comparison group so I could copy the link and send it to a friend.

[4] - Each product page has a link for me to send that page to a friend. I didn't use this at this time, but that's something that is used for sure, and is a great way to market.

[5] - The big question I had was "Is this going to fit my monster laptop" - eBags read my mind. Each page answers that question specifically. I clicked the link "Will my laptop fit" and up popped a list - I found my laptop, good to go.

[6] - The last question in my mind - is this laptop as cool as it looks? So I started reading customer reviews. Right on the product page! One guy has my exact laptop, and loves it. Read most of the reviews - enough that any last shred of anxiety was gone. I wanted to buy.

[7] - FREE Shipping. 'Nuff said. This bag was a great deal to begin with, and they'll ship it for free. Any last shred of restraint I had was gone. Do they build shipping into the cost of the bag? Of course! Who cares? I felt like I got free shipping.

[8] - The checkout process was standard - well done, fairly easy to understand, mostly clear, nothing I haven't seen elsewhere (which is good - no learning curve).
These things did stand out:
- I didn't like the way they made me set up an address first. That was weird - and at the bottom of this (and EVERY page) was a box asking for my feedback. I send them a message saying that stunk. I don't know if they read it, or even care - but I felt better having expressed my frustration.
- At the conclusion of the checkout process - there was a link to cancel my order. I've done this before - order something, and 5 min later regret it. Realize you messed up - have second thoughts, etc. Having that right there was a very nice touch.

[9] - I got an email confirming my order. It was clean, easy to read, it told me when they thought my bag would arrive, and another link to cancel my order if I wished. They assured me another email was coming when it shipped.

[10] -  When it shipped I got my shipping confirmation, with tracking link to track my order. It shipped sooner than they promised (and arrived sooner too).

Laptop_backpack[11] - The bag itself actually exceeded my expectations. Really quite a good bag.

[12] - They started spamming me. But not really. Every week or so I get an email from them offering me some great deal on another bag purchase. I probably won't buy one any time soon, but I feel like these emails are hooking me up with something valuable, so I'm not unsubscribing.

Ok - here's where they won me over from a business standpoint.

Remember back on step [6]? It was reading the customer reviews that sealed the deal. I hardly ever submit those myself. And even though I'm happy with this bag, and my shopping experience, I wasn't about to submit a review. I'm too selfish.

[13] - Today I got an email. It was from eBags. They offered me 20% off any future purchase if I submit a review of my new laptop backpack. Hmmm.... the 20% off is cool - but what made this supreme was that they had one simple link. I clicked the link, and up came the review form. No logging in, no remembering what bag I ordered, no hassle at all. The review was a simple wizard-like process. It was 3 simple steps. I clicked the radio buttons, filling in my feedback and submitted it. I gave a great, lengthy review too! Why is this so brilliant? Precisely because my review is what they need - and they got it. This will help the next poor sap that hits step [6] seal a sale. Reviews are huge, eBags knows that, and they take all the friction out of submitting one.

[14] - When I finished filling out the form - they offered to let me redeem my 20% off right then by purchasing something now, or they offered to email the certificate to me. I opted for the latter, but I bet they get some good impulse buys right then too.

That is a masterful ecommerce execution.

A laptop bag is a nothing purchase. It's not like I'm buying a computer, or a car, or even a book. The likelihood of regular repeat business from me is small. But I can tell you this - if I ever need a bag for anything, I won't be shopping around. They've completely gained my trust, and I'm a customer for life.

Things eBags didn't do:
No popups.
No big bold red flashing swishing swooping. No flash, no animated gifs.
No hype.
No empty promises.
No confusing shopping experience.

Note: Putting together an ecommerce experience like eBags is not inexpensive. In fact it's a whole bunch of money. But if you are going to do retail online - you owe it to your investment to do it right.