Have you ever done a Google search, looked at the paid search advertisements on the top and right side of the search results, and thought … “What does that advertisement have anything to do with my search?”
Recently, I executed a search for the keyword “insurance”. Amongst all of the competition for top billing in these search results, I saw an ad for “Assurance Wireless” promoting a free cell phone:
Obviously, this is a poorly placed PPC advertisement. The advertiser didn’t want to appear in results for the highly competitive and highly searched term “insurance”. The obvious mistake is that the advertiser (either intentionally or not) targeted the misspelling of their brand name “Assurance”. The advertiser will not be happy when it realizes that a large percentage of their paid search budget is eaten up by clicks that come from a keyword that isn’t relevant to their business at all. Inevitably, search engine users will see this ad, click through (perhaps by mistake) to the advertiser’s site, and quickly exit, obviously with a poor user experience. The advertiser has potentially just paid $25-$30 for each click on this mistakenly placed advertisement. That is an expensive mistake.
This is an extreme example of poor ad copy construction, but it got me thinking about three common PPC ad copy mistakes that advertisers often make.
Mistake #1: Using your brand name in the ad’s headline
The “headline” in a PPC advertisement is the blue bolded line at the top of every text ad. It is the attention-grabber, the first thing that your audience sees when your ad comes up in search results. One hint: don’t waste that space on introducing your company’s name. Chances are (and I’m sorry to break the news), your small company doesn’t carry enough brand recognition to become an asset in text-based advertisements. If someone searches on the term “auto insurance quote”, they’re not necessarily looking for a specific company (like yours), they’re just looking to get a quote. So, instead of mentioning your company in the headline, why not focus on what is going to be most effective in drawing in the audience? The first thing that searchers should see is the benefits of your “product” — such as “Free Auto Insurance Quote”. Don’t waste valuable space on your company’s brand, unless you’re a company with strong brand recognition (like Geico). Besides, if someone is actually looking for your company by name, you’ll show up in search results regardless (because you ARE advertising for your company’s name … aren’t you??).
Mistake #2: Don’t be too broad in your ad copy
Make sure that your ad is as close to the search query (the term that search users choose in Google) as possible. Be as specific as possible. In keeping with the insurance example from above, imagine that you are an agency looking to attract new customers for home insurance, auto insurance, and flood insurance. Make sure that your ads for each category are specific to that search as possible. When someone searches for “flood insurance”, make sure that the ad they are served doesn’t reference a broad and generalized “insurance company”. Instead, make sure that you include language specific to “flood insurance”, otherwise your competition will have a leg up on you.
So, tailor your ad copy to each type of keyword search that you are targeting – don’t run a homogenized “insurance”-based ad copy for each type of insurance, make sure you speak to the search engine user’s intent with specific language in your ad.
Mistake #3: Target the audience that is at the end of the buying cycle
In other words, we want to attract search engine users who are ready to perform a specific action – such as “get an insurance quote” or “buy auto insurance”. These people are the most qualified audience out there, those who have signaled their intent to purchase with their keyword search. Not only do we want to show up on keywords like those I just mentioned, but we want to emphasize those behaviors in our ad copy.
Too many advertisers use broad language in their ads, with the hope of attracting as many users as possible. I’ve actually seen some ads with the headline “Curious about insurance?” – an attempt at generating visits to the advertiser’s web site, no matter what the user is looking for. Instead, make sure that you don’t waste your PPC budget on people at the top of the sales funnel (those who are just browsing, or are curious) by offering ad copy that speaks specifically to those who are close to purchasing. Use language like “Buying auto insurance?”, “Need a home insurance quote?” , or “Get a fast and free business insurance quote now”. Not only will you appeal to those who are near the end of their search, but you’ll actually dissuade those who are just browsing (and thus saving your PPC budget for more serious shoppers!).
The lesson, when constructing paid search advertisements, is to speak to your audience as specifically as possible. It will benefit your campaign by providing just the traffic that you are searching for.
It’s a question that I am often asked by my clients who are looking to launch their digital marketing strategy: should they focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Pay-Per-Click (SEM, PPC)?
Too many people are under the impression that their online marketing presence should be guided by one strategy or the other. I’m here to tell you that the most effective digital marketing strategies take a blended approach, using components of both tactics.
SEO and SEM strategies are complementary ways of achieving the same goal: prominent inclusion in search engine results that lead to traffic to your website. However, while each is effective and critical tools in your digital marketing arsenal, they each have unique principles that can help you reach your objectives. Let’s take a look.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the tactic of using your site’s content, linking structure, blog posts, and social media exposure (amongst other things) to help you rank organically in search engine results. Search engines take all of these cues into consideration when deciding where to rank your site in their results for a particular keyword, like “auto insurance in Rhode Island”. SEO is the critical foundation to your website’s visibility in search engine results. The things that you do to optimize your online content and relationships will have a long-lasting effect on your rankings in search engines. However, those effects, while critically important, might take a long time to take hold in the search results. Google indexes your content at its own pace, and the general rule of thumb that search engine marketers go by is that it can take between six and nine months before you begin to realize the results of your on-site optimization.
On the other hand, SEM has more of an immediate impact. Once you build a campaign that targets your specific keyword set, and you set that campaign live, you are eligible to see an instant impact on your traffic and visibility in search engines. While inclusion in organic search results are merit based, your SEM campaign can force Google (or any other search engine) to place you within the top results of some competitive keywords. With that newfound visibility, your website is bound to see traffic increase. That’s what the pay-per-click model does for marketers. However, the effects of your SEM campaign are not as long lasting as your SEO strategy – that is, unless you have an unlimited marketing budget. You see, your site is guaranteed inclusion in search engine results for only as long as your campaign is funded. As soon as your campaign has generated enough clicks to exhaust your budget, your traffic will stop. The great thing about SEM is that it is a guaranteed source of traffic – if people aren’t clicking on your ad and visiting your site, you don’t pay a cent!
Now that we’ve reviewed the different characteristics of SEO and SEM strategies, it is important to note how they work together. In fact, our best e-agencies have told us that the best performing digital marketing strategy leverages both SEM and SEO in tandem. This blended strategy has helped them appeal to a broad and comprehensive audience, and has resulted in their website being a more prominent piece of customer acquisition.
Here are three reasons why you should have SEO and SEM as part of your site’s digital marketing strategy:
- Gain visibility on all keywords, even the most competitive terms.
Your SEO campaign can help you gain inclusion in search results for a wide variety of keywords related to your business. Chances are, though, that you can’t organically rank for your most important keywords – they’re just too competitive! You’re not alone. Many of our friends in the insurance industry are running up against the same problem. They can’t rank for highly desirable keywords like “auto insurance” because that search landscape is dominated by highly reputable and voluminous competitor sites in the industry, such as Allstate, Liberty Mutual, and Progressive. However, when our clients target these competitive keywords in their paid search campaign, they’re guaranteed traffic on these critical sources of website traffic. Use SEM as a way to target even the most competitive keywords when your SEO campaign can’t!
- Target a specific audience with a customized campaign.
Want to get traffic from a very specific set of keywords, but don’t want to dedicate content on your site to optimization of those terms? Look no further than SEM. With a targeted paid search campaign, you can drive traffic to your site on keywords that don’t necessarily dominate your site’s content. Use SEM to force traffic to your website through keywords that your site hasn’t yet developed content for. This is a great testing opportunity for new areas of business.
- Use SEM data to inform your SEO strategy.
One of the biggest benefits of SEM is the sheer amount of data available to marketers in the paid search space. We can use keyword-level data to see which keywords are driving the most visits to your site, the keyword combinations that visitors are using to find your site, and even the keywords that have had the most success turning searches into traffic. While marketers use this information on a daily basis to optimize their SEM campaign’s performance, too many people fail to realize that this performance data can be used to inform your SEO tactics. Have a keyword that has shown to drive the most interest in your site? Why not target that term with enhanced content on your site? Is there a term that has shown to convert visitors in customers at a greater rate? Use that word prominently on your home page.
These are just three reasons for you use SEO and SEM in a blended strategy. Doing so will give you a well-rounded digital marketing presence, and likely drive enhanced search engine traffic as a result. Stay tuned to this space for more reasons why you should focus on a blended approach to digital marketing.
Are you looking to give your digital insurance marketing strategy a boost?
There is no better time of year to increase your search engine visibility than in January and February. One way to be sure that you are included in as many important search results as possible is with a targeted SEM campaign. With Search Engine Marketing (commonly known as “pay per click” marketing), you can target a specific set of keywords for which you’d like your agency’s ad to appear in search results. Want to target just home insurance? SEM can do that. Looking to build your commercial book in 2013? Why not run a campaign around commercial auto and property insurance? SEM is a great tool for this because we can create a customized keyword list that includes just the terms that YOU want included in your campaign.
In my admittedly biased opinion, I’m an advocate for PPC budget spending throughout the entire year. So why, you ask, is January maybe the BEST time for SEM?
The answer is simple: demand. All forms of digital marketing experience seasonality trends that show traffic ebbs and flows throughout the year. Ever notice that traffic to your site is slow during the summer months? How about those times during the year where you are getting a ton of visits? User behavior has a lot to do with that, and we call that “search demand” — the number of people using the internet varies at different points throughout the year. Summertime traffic to your site likely slowed because many people are on vacation, away from their computer, and thus unable to search. The Fall and the beginning of Winter also shows varying degrees of search demand. However, as soon as the calendar turns to January, internet searches invariably increase each year. People are back at work after the holidays. In the insurance industry, many times people are using the new year to shop for new insurance. See this chart from Google trends, which shows that search trends for the term “insurance” in the past 12 months. It shows a distinct slowing of demand for insurance-related terms in the Fall through the end of the year, before spiking as December turns to January.
What does this mean for your agency? Take advantage of this surge in insurance-related searches with an SEM campaign that can generate search engine visibility and traffic to your site. Ring in the new year with new customer acquisition from your Astonish SEM team. Email SEM@astonish.com or talk to your RFM for more information on how to get more visits to you site.
Happy New Year!
David Osowa, Director of SEM, Astonish
It’s that time again – a time when we are reminded to be thankful for what we have, and look forward to things (and gifts!) yet to come. Most people, this time of year, are asking for jewelry, clothes or video games to satisfy themselves this holiday season. But you, the savvy marketer, know better than that. What you want, what you REALLY want, is an optimized and profitable SEM campaign. This blog post is here to give you some hints as to what you should be asking for from your successful SEM campaign. If you’ve been on digital marketing’s “Nice” list, your campaign might demonstrate some of these characteristics.
Wish #1: A high conversion percentage (conversions/clicks)
Too many marketers focus on click through rate (CTR, clicks/impressions), when the more important metric is conversion percentage. With pay-per-click advertising, maximizing your visits is the key to a successful campaign. After all, the campaign that produces 100 clicks but no conversions is a very expensive branding effort, but the campaign that produces 1 click and 1 conversion provides a positive ROI.
Do these two things to maximize impact of your paid search traffic:
- Write detailed ad copy that explains exactly what the user can expect to see on your landing page
- Create a landing page that focuses on the conversion point, not content
Detailed ad copy should not only persuade search engine users to click on your ad, it should also dissuade unqualified visitors from clicking. If a user is looking for a red widget, but you only sell blue widgets, detailed ad copy will be attractive to blue widget seekers who are hit with a targeted advertisement, and red widget buyers will be directed away from your ad before they waste your money with a click on your PPC ad.
A landing page, for paid search campaigns, should focus on your conversion point. Don’t waste space (and your visitor’s attention span) with too much content or too many links pointing away from the page. They’ll have no choice but to focus on your conversion point (contact form, “purchase” button, white paper download). That focus will translate into a higher percentage of visitors who convert into potential customers.
Wish #2: A decreasing cost per lead
Digital marketers are often focused on a revenue (or potential revenue)-based metric. Cost per lead (CPL) is often a great way to measure your campaign’s performance. Often, CPLs are at their highest at the inception of your SEM campaign, but gradually decrease with constant monitoring and optimization. Generally, the longer your campaign runs, the lower your cost per lead (ideally!). Keep in mind that clicks (and subsequently, conversions) are more expensive during certain parts of the year (lower search volume during the summer leads to greater competition amongst advertisers), so it is best to take a year-over-year view of your campaign’s performance. But in general, you should see some efficiencies in your campaign as time goes by.
Constant improvement of your CPL (which is directly impacted by your cost per click) is dependent on constant monitoring of your campaign’s keywords (and groups of keywords, called Ad Groups). Make sure that you change your keyword bids to reflect the performance of each keyword – increase your bids for those terms that have produced conversions at a tolerable CPL, decrease bids for those keywords that are driving traffic (and eating up budget!) with little return. Be sure to give your campaign enough of a sample size before making decisions, I usually like to wait for at least 100 clicks before I have enough data to make an informed decision.
Wish #3: More budget!
Okay, I get it. Every marketer has limited budgets, except, apparently, for these guys. And one of the beautiful things about SEM is that you can set your marketing budget to whatever you are comfortable with. But if you DO find yourself with some extra marketing budget at the end of 2011, be sure to put it in the right places. SEM campaigns will give you a detailed view of which pieces of your campaign are working most successfully, and you’re digital marketing team can help you allocate that budget in the right places. After all, it might be useful to put more budget to search marketing during a potentially slow time of year.
2011 has been a great year, as Search Engine Marketing Continues to be a vital part of your digital marketing strategy. Here’s hoping that, when you open your SEM stocking this Holiday season, you find more candy (conversions and customers) than coal (high CPC’s and no traffic!).
As a Search Engine Marketer, one of the questions that I get asked most by clients is “What determines my position in Google search results?”
It is a popular point of confusion — clients have a separate SEO team establishing the importance of using keywords on their website in order to gain visibility in search results while their SEM team touts the ability to use marketing budgets to force Google to place their advertisement in search results on important keyword searches. While SEO (search engine optimization) is a merit-based system of ranking, SEM (pay-per-click) is an auction-based system that allows advertisers to gain visibility based on keyword-specific bids. Let me explain!
PPC results, as we all know, appear at the top and right side of Google search results. There are ten available positions on each search result page (normally three at the top and seven on the side). On the surface, Google uses a simple formula to determine how these results stack up against each other.
PPC ads are ranked using this formula:
Ad rank = keyword bid ($) x quality score
Keyword bid (or CPC bid) is the maximum dollar amount that you are willing to pay for each click on your ad for that specific keyword (“car insurance”, in this instance). Quality score is a Google metric that determines how relevant and useful your ad is to the search engine user. The higher your quality score, the better. Google actually assigns a quality score for each keyword that you wish to advertise for (1-10 scale).
Quality score measures “relevancy” by looking at two things: your PPC advertisement and the page to which you are directing traffic after the click (the “landing page”). Both must be directly related to the keyword on which you have placed a bid, or else Google will assign you a poor quality score.
For example, if your PPC campaign contains insurance related keywords Google will:
- Review your ad copy to be sure that you are promoting insurance-related information, and
- Evaluate your landing page to be sure that visitors are being directed to an insurance-related site
What happens if you have a poor quality score? Good question. In most instances, this poor quality score will be reflected in a higher required cost per click or in a lower ad rank (if you do not compensate by increasing your keyword bid). In other examples of ads that are not remotely relevant to their associated keywords, Google will simply not show the ad in search results in an effort to improve their user experience. Remember, Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the exact information that it believes its user is looking for.
Google will determine your specific click cost on a keyword-by-keyword basis, using the formula above. But remember this when wondering how your cost per click is calculated in Google: just because you have bid $4.00 per click for a particular keyword doesn’t mean that you will pay that much. It is the maximum that you will pay for that keyword. All things being equal, the advertiser will pay will pay the minimum amount for their ad’s position as possible. If the quality score is the same for two advertisers competing for the same keyword, the high bidder will pay only $0.01 more per click than the next highest bidder and be placed one rank higher in search results. Confused? Don’t be. Let’s look at an example:
Advertiser 1 has a maximum keyword bid of $10.00 for the term “boise auto insurance”, more than any other competitor. They have a quality score of 8/10. Advertiser 2 has a maximum keyword bid of $8.00 for the same keyword, with a quality score of 8/10. They are the second highest bidder. Advertiser 1 will be in position 1 in search results, with a cost per click of $8.01.
You won’t always pay a per-click cost equal to your maximum bid, which is pretty cool! You can further improve your cost efficiency by doing things to raise your quality score, but that’s a different blog post for a different day.
There you have it – a quick explanation of how Google determines your position and cost in Paid Search results.
By Megan Donaldson
Internet Marketing can seem complicated enough without the confusion of industry jargon.
Every industry has its own language – the Internet Marketing world is no different. For those of us who work in the industry, it can be so easy to get swept up in the jargon that we forget not everyone uses these terms on a daily basis. At Astonish Results, we’re constantly communicating with clients who do not have backgrounds in Internet Marketing, so it’s important that we stay away from the lingo we’ve become accustomed to and speak in plain English.
My goal for this post is to translate some of the terms we throw around most often into basic English. Here we go…
The practice of marketing products or services over the internet. It is also referred to as online marketing, web marketing, or digital marketing. Internet marketing includes websites, email marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and social media.
Search Engine Optimization – The practice of helping a website show up in the search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search engine optimization is an internet marketing strategy that analyzes web searches – from determining how the search engines are ranking websites in the search results to figuring out what people are searching for and what specific terms (or keywords) are being used.
Search Engine Marketing – also known as Paid Search – is the practice of increasing a website’s exposure through paid search tactics such as PPC (pay per click). In a very general overview, SEM involves paying to have a search result appear when a search is done for a certain keyword term. If someone clicks on your ad, you pay an agreed upon price. The goals are in line with those of an SEO strategy, but SEO involves organic results and SEM involves paid results.
Link building is the practice of getting other websites to link to your site in order to boost rankings in the search engines. Having a relevant, quality website link to your site is like getting a vote. If the search engines see that other websites want to share your information and promote your website, then they are more likely to deem your site worthy of a higher search ranking.
When we refer to search spiders, or web crawlers, we’re referring to the computer program that can browse the web to find search results. The search engines use search spiders to come up with a quick, up-to-date, organized list of what’s available on the web so the search engine can then determine how relevant the content is – this turns into the search results you see on Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
We all know about plagiarism and the negative consequences associated with it – providing unique content for your website and blog will keep you out of trouble. The search engines love fresh, honest, helpful content – doing so will make your site seem more useful. Every page on your website and every blog post should say something different. You cannot copy content from your website and post it on your blog – the search engines will recognize this as duplicate content and you could be punished. The best way to stay in the search engines’ good graces is to create unique content every time you write.
Search volume is the number of times a certain term is typed into the search engines on a monthly basis. When we decide which keywords should be used in your SEO strategy, we are comparing the search volume for hundreds of terms to determine which are the best fit. In addition to the search volume, we need to look at a term’s search competition before we decide to select it as one of your keywords.
A term’s search competition lets us know how many other sites are trying to be found for the term. If we find that a term has a search competition of 100% then we know it will be very difficult to rank for that keyword because a lot of other sites are also trying to rank for it. We want to find a term that has a high search volume and a low search competition when we are selecting your keywords.
There is much more internet jargon that we use on a daily basis, this was a peak at the topics we reference most often. What are some of the Internet Marketing terms you hear on a regular basis? Let us know if there are any terms you need clarification on and we can feature them in a future post!
About the Author
Megan is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Astonish, spending most of her professional time fine-tuning inbound strategies, evaluating websites, and researching, researching, researching. After studying Marketing Communications in Western Massachusetts she dedicated herself to the online world through online retailing, web design and search engine optimization. Megan is a native Rhode Islander who loves baking crazy confections in her spare time. Have you ever tried an 8 layer cookie cake? YUM.