20% of Searches Haven’t Been Seen in the Last Month

According to a recent study by Searchignite, the need for a business to utilize paid search ads is ever present.  The study found that 20-25% of searches have not been seen within the last 30 days.  What this means is that in order to take advantage of these new search terms your business needs to have a quick and efficient way of driving traffic to your site using certain keywords.  PPC ads are a great avenue for taking advantage of these new searches.  Paid search ads also hold an advantage over organic rankings for sale items, as PPC ads can quickly be changed to accommodate free shipping offers, close-out prices or new product launches.

Search Query Reports (SQRs) will allow your business to see new trends – before others in your market become aware that the trend even exists.   The keywords in the SQR are searches that users are searching for relative to your product and industry, and if you’re lucky you can often capture lower than average cpcs long before others jump on board.  The SQR is also a great way to find long-tail keywords for your PPC account and also for your Search Engine Optimization efforts.

There are some places where natural search is a great weapon in your PPC arsenal.  For example, if your company has a well-known brand and infrequent price or product changes – search engine optimization can be a great idea for your business.  The cost savings for not paying per click – can be enormous, but it is often a long and tedious process to ensure you have the highest rankings.  It can also be a chore to ensure your rankings stay put at the top of the list while your competition is trying to achieve the same ranking you are.

In most cases, it’s good to have a healthy mix of both paid and organic listings for your products across a multitude of products.  Giving up one before the results are really in, is not a good idea and often if you look at data after you have both PPC and SEO working well together you will see the results are very lucrative.  In the aforementioned study – it was found that 12.6% of conversions credited to natural search were preceded by a paid ad click.  Attribution management hasn’t developed a compelling enough equation to show which click carries greater importance, but through the use of both PPC and SEO many businesses are able to increase their business many times over.

Increasing conversions without increasing traffic

Traffic has been steady or maybe it’s even trending upward, but is your site greeting your visitors in a way that is conducive to their shopping or is it trying to shove content down their throat.  Keep the following in mind in order to convert more of your hard earned visitors into customers.

Keep the content fresh

We expect nothing less than fresh ingredients when we’re shopping for produce or grabbing a sandwich from the local deli but somehow leaving a site untouched for the last seven years doesn’t throw up any red flags.  Content may not be as quick to become stale as fresh bread but it definitely isn’t a set it and forget it exercise.  Keep things fresh by addressing product evolutions, bringing attention to industry news, or showing community involvement.  But why stop at freshening up the textual content?  Updating your photos or layout from time to time can payoff in big ways too.  If your site is stuck in the late ‘90s or worse, the early ‘90s, its high time for a refresh.

Be clear

Are your products or services hard to understand?  Time is a commodity and providing understandable content that gets your point and distinguishing factors across in a clear manner is important.  Displaying your content within large blocks of text is generally irresponsible no matter how technical your products may be.  Cut your content into bite size pieces and even take the time to diagram especially hard to understand or complicated information.  Digging through large chunks of content to figure out what sets your product apart from another’s is annoying and will generally result in a higher bounce rate on your site than is necessary.  Try getting a third party perspective from someone outside your industry to make sure it’s not just you who understand.

Optimize for your users

This goes hand in hand with being clear but is important enough that it deserves its own section.  If you have ever found yourself writing your content primarily for obtaining search engine rankings, you have likely failed your visitors in multiple ways.  Though sometimes difficult, it will always pay off to strike a balance between optimizing for the search engines and for your users.  Sure, if you want your page to be relevant for a particular type of product it makes sense to mention that product in your content.  But please, please, do not stuff this product name in every other sentence with every instance bolded.  It doesn’t read well and won’t magically make your site rank first.

Have clear calls to action

Do you have a sales pen full of rock stars?  Can they sell ice to Eskimos?  If your products are complicated and sales come primarily through phone calls, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have your phone number prominently displayed on every page of your site with a ‘call now’ type of call to action.  If your goal is to generate requests for more information through a form fill, make it easy to find your form and refrain from requiring too many details – especially if you haven’t earned your visitor’s trust yet.  Just because you have a contact us page in the navigation bar doesn’t mean you’re all set.  Decrease the number of clicks required to take the next action and you will likely see your conversions increase.

How does your site stack up?  You’ve likely thought about a number of these points but are you really putting these tips into practice?  Take a look for yourself and you’ll likely find opportunities for improvement that will lead to a better user experience on your site.

8 Seconds for Your First Impression

Visitors decide within 8 seconds if they will stay on your site or if they will hit the back button.  Statistics show that 50% of users leave a website within seconds of coming to the site.  If you utilize SEO and PPC – you have either worked hard or paid to get that traffic to your site and it makes sense to try to lower your bounce rate as soon and as much as possible.

If you have a bounce rate above 70% – one of the first places you should focus on is your website.   Focusing on optimizing your site can help in lowering the rate in which customers leave your site without interacting with it.  A few ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Place important information & images above the fold.  Above the fold information is what a user can see without scrolling down the screen.  In addition, users typically scan in an F-shape, looking at information above the fold first.
  2. Is your phone number visible?  Customers may not want to call you right away or even at all, but this information is important to have readily visible.  These policies help customers have peace of mind when shopping or viewing information on your site.
  3. Clean up big blocks of text into easy-to-read statements. Make sure your sites copy is easily readable and keep paragraphs short. Bullets are a great way of sharing a great deal of information, in an easily digested format.
  4. Make sure any links are clearly links and if any text is underlined – make sure it is linked.
  5. Make sure the user can clearly determine what to do next.  Having clear ‘calls to action’ can also help to increase your conversion ratios.
  6. Include your businesses privacy and return policies, web security buttons and any client testimonials you have approval to share.

We will take a look at other important aspects of optimizing your website later this week, but keep in mind optimizing your website for increased conversions shouldn’t be an afterthought.  It can often take weeks or even months of A/B or Multi-Variate testing to get the right copy above the fold, with the right image and call to action.

Second chance at conversions: How to bring them back

Your pay-per-click campaign or your improved natural search visibility has done its job and delivered a new visitor to your site, but for any number of reasons the visitor did not result in a sale the first time around.  What can you do to avoid that visit being a complete waste?  Let’s discuss some of your options.

Have secondary conversion goals

The function of most websites is to drive more revenue through sales of some kind.  And direct sales are typically the easiest types of conversions to place a value on. However, don’t overlook other opportunities to obtain leads and build a pipeline.  Obtaining opt-ins for receiving email newsletters, form fills tied to downloading a white-paper, requests for more information or phone calls can all lead to a quality opportunity to remarket to your potential customers.  Your visitor may not have had the time to fully research your offering and purchase this time around but a well timed and well positioned email just might be enough to close the deal down the road.

Run promotions or contests

Give your users an incentive to come back with an evolving promotion or fresh contests.  A visitor may not have found what they were looking for the first time around but incentive to revisit your site could be just enough to receive a bookmark and a return visit or a mention of your site to a friend (great for link building!).

Make your page titles bookmark or “favorites” friendly

Finding the page you noted to come back to is often made more difficult than necessary by websites that do not have descriptive titles for their pages.  Too often website owners title their pages only with uninformed ‘search engine optimization’ in mind and cram as many keywords into their titles as possible – at the expense of their user’s experience.  When writing your page’s titles, consider how newspaper articles are titled to grab attention as well as to give an idea of what the content is about and take a similar approach.

bookmark example screenshot

Your website certainly will not be able to convert every visitor into a customer but by taking advantage of opportunities to obtain a second chance at converting, you can improve the value of your hard earned visitors.

Traffic Retargeting: How to Win Back Business Online

We all have had a situation in our lives where we could have a “do-over”.  Maybe we said the wrong thing, maybe we didn’t say enough, maybe we understood too little too late.  We have all been in this situation before and wished for another opportunity, another chance to really show what we can offer…well in the world of online marketing you can with retargeting.

Retargeting (aka re-marketing or re-messaging) is the process of “cookie-ing” visitors that leave your conversion funnel by serving them specific ads related to the same product, usually with a sales offer of sorts.  The use of re-targeting can be a powerful tool to bring back those visitors into your conversion funnel.  The reason that this is such a powerful tool is that you are focusing efforts on traffic that has shown a very high interest in your products, taken all the steps except purchasing.  Bringing them back with re-targeting through effective messaging and offers can result in higher conversion rates.

How can you start a re-targeting campaign?  There are ad networks such as the Yahoo Display Network, Quigo (AOL’s platform) and Fetchback.  Each engine will have different ways of re-targeting your traffic and pricing.  If you have any questions about re-targeting or how this can help your online efforts, do not hesitate to contact our team at any time.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing is a great way to increase business and generate additional revenues from current and prospective customers. Additionally, email marketing is an excellent way to monetize traffic that went to your site in the past, but did not convert. When starting an effective email marketing campaign, you may come across the following questions:

How do I go about getting a list for my email marketing campaign?

Generating a list for your email marketing campaign can be accomplished in many ways. In a previous post we discussed ways of generating revenues from free content and other free giveaways. This is a great way of building your list. Be certain to make sure you have a way of users to opt-in to your email list. Opting in ensures your business stays in compliance with the 2003 Congress action – Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act to curb spam.

Another option for getting a list for your email marketing campaign would be buying a list. While this option is widely available – it’s not a recommended option. If you buy a list you can’t be assured that subscribers have opted in to receive your offers and it’s likely you won’t know until you start to receive complaints from your ISP. If you get too many complaints from your ISP – you may be barred from sending out emails and this can be a costly problem to have.

Some companies may offer your business the option of renting a list from them. While on the surface this may seem like a good idea – the rental company takes on most of the risk, but be wary as you may have no way of remarketing to this group. In addition, this is a very expensive way of generating a list for your email marketing program and in some cases are not the right customers you would like to be targeting.

The most obvious way of creating a list is to reach out to your past customer base. This is a great way to generate referrals for your products or repeat purchases. When customers purchase from your site or even abandon their shopping carts – as long as they are opted in you can continually advertise to them via your email marketing campaign.

How often should I send out emails to people on my list?

You should send out emails consistently to your list, but more important than timing is the quality of your email content. Your subscribers and your ISP will reward you for sending out relevant/quality emails and in the reverse penalize you for sending out junk/spam. Sending non-relevant emails to your list will also cause you to get ignored, deleted or sent to spam. It is also important to note that email addresses not sent to within the past six months may be of a lower quality. This is something that tracking can help you test. Depending on how often you send emails to your list you may build up trust and credibility with your audience. Testing will help you determine how often you should send your email (without receiving unsubscribes). We also posed this question to our pals on Twitter and I think the responses are very interesting.

What should my emails contain?

Any email that you send should include information that users find valuable. Some useful ideas include sales, discounts, how to articles, electronic magazines and the like. For any email that you send out it is important to keep your calls to action clear and you should clearly let the recipient know what you want them to do. Industry best practices suggest that your ‘call-to-actions’ should usually steer people back to your website.

Other important areas you should pay special attention to include the subject line of your email and your images. Your subject line should include your brand name and remember that only the first 40 characters often appear within most email boxes. Any images should be optimized for the preview pane and there should be alt-tags on all images. Alt-tags are HTML tags that can easily be added to show alternative text to users with images turned off within their email boxes. ALT-Tags are also great additions to your emails for users with certain disabilities and for users with slow connection speeds.

How do I know if my email marketing campaign is successful?

Testing is key to finding out if your email marketing campaign is successful. You may consider your email campaign a success if you have a 3% click-through rate to your website or if you generate revenue in excess of your costs of running the campaign. The important point to keep in mind is that through testing of set variables within your email marketing campaign you may find yourself generating additional visits to your site, higher user engagement or even higher revenues from a set of traffic that you may otherwise not have focused your efforts on.

Email marketing is and can be a great option for many businesses, if you plan your strategy and continue to test your offers on a consistent basis.

How to Track 2nd and 3rd Tier Engines in Google Analytics

One of the biggest hesitations that any advertiser has about joining 2nd and 3rd tier engines is tracking quality of traffic.  This is a valid concern as any smart advertiser will focus on traffic quality and not quantity.  While implementing the search engine’s conversion tracking is best practice, it can be very frustrating and time consuming.   This is mainly due to having multiple interfaces tracking data, no insights on engagement metrics and the fact that too much conversion tracking on a page can weigh it down.  So what is the best and quickest way for you to track 2nd and 3rd tier engines and get all the data you need to make educated decisions? Google Analytics Tracking….

Google Analytics has made huge strides in becoming the best FREE platform for tracking all your on-site analytics.  If you have GA implemented on your site, you can use URL parameters to segment the data from each engine, referral and email marketing effort that you are currently using.  What is great about GA is that, once parameters are in place, you are able to track all conversion numbers in one place, get engagement / e-commerce statistics from ALL online efforts and not worry about having ten different conversion tags on your thank you page.  So how do you create the URL parameters needed for tracking all these efforts? The Google URL Builder tool:


By entering in the information that is requested on Google’s URL builder, then taking the tracking parameter it generates, you can start tracking new efforts immediately.  This will save you and your web developer tons of stress and implementation time.  The main lesson is that don’t let conversion tracking prevent you from testing new engines, if you have Google Analytics in place you can get all the relevant data you need to see if new efforts are paying off…

Microsoft, Yahoo, Mergers, and You!

It has been a few weeks since the Yahoo/Microsoft deal was announced. There are definitely a lot of ins and outs to the deal, and hopefully this will help you understand how it will affect your business. You can also find out more about the deal (as we did) here at SearchEngineLand.com.

· Yahoo is leasing Microsoft’s search engine technology. Basically, Yahoo search will now be powered by MSN/Bing’s backend technology. From a user interface standpoint, nothing is going to change. However, significant changes will be made to the search engine optimization evaluation and Paid Search sides of both companies.

· This deal reflects how both Yahoo and Microsoft wish to position themselves.

1. Microsoft wants to position itself as a direct competitor to Google. Stepping up in this way to compete with Google’s search business diverts Google’s attention and dollars away from its Chrome operating system, which Google hopes will compete directly with Microsoft’ Windows platform. By forcing Google to divide its focus, Microsoft keeps its strongest product base (Windows) and also makes inroads into Google’s strongest base (search).

2. Yahoo no longer wishes to concern itself with being a search engine. Carol Bartz, Yahoo’s CEO, suggested that this deal enables Yahoo to develop a healthy revenue stream while Microsoft invests in search technology.  Interestingly, Yahoo wishes to be a portal-style site where people go to get mail, horoscopes, etc., and will make money off their display advertising network, which is fast becoming the strongest on the internet.

· Paid search technology will also be run by Microsoft. However, all Microsoft will do is provide paid listings. User interface type improvements, like Yahoo’s Search Assist feature, are up to Yahoo to provide. Basically, MSN will deliver the paid listings, then Yahoo can dress them up however they like. All larger advertisers (like Leverage Marketing) will work through Yahoo’s back-end User Interface and have a concierge team (like our Yahoo Agency Team) helping them out. Smaller advertisers, no matter which site they are advertising on, will use MSN AdCenter.

· None of this will take effect for at least a year. This is probably the most important point for advertisers wondering how this will affect them. Yahoo will not begin using MSN tech until late 2010 at the earliest, and their paid ads won’t be run by MSN tech until 2011 some time.

To stay up to date on the latest happenings – think about setting up a Google Alert so you can get all the latest breaking news as it relates to your business.

– John Veron

Need to investigate a drop in conversions?

A drop in conversions can be caused by many factors. The folks over at Google and industry best practices suggest you try at least the following to troubleshoot your account to identify the reasoning behind the drop in conversions:

Have you recently made changes to your website?

Have changes recently been made to your website? If so, a new unfamiliar or unclear design, broken links or just a lack of conversion tracking code could be causing your drop in conversions. You should check to make sure the correct tracking codes are correctly updated on each page you need to track.

Find steps to check your site’s source code here.

Have changes recently been made to your pay per click account?

Budget and bid changes, adding or removing ad text and keywords, pausing or resuming ad groups/campaigns can all cause negative changes within your sites conversion volume. Such changes can affect conversion numbers by lowering average position and ad visibility. To minimize the effects of changes and to understand what changes caused which reactions, it can be best to limit the type and number of changes you are making at once. If multiple people are working within your Pay Per Click account – Google makes it easy to run a change history report.

Find steps to check your Google change history here.

Is this a historical trend that occurs?

Run a daily account or campaign level report for the last thirty days to understand if there is a daily/weekly/monthly trend that occurs within your account. Do you find that your sales numbers usually drop historically this time of year? If you don’t have this type of information available you can also check out Google Insights for Search. It is a great tool to see trends in user generated searches – like this one I did for Ground Hog Day. Not too common of a search this time of year and just as expected the graph shows this trend.

Finally, it is important to note that conversions can take up to 24 hours to be reported within many of the search engine interfaces. Therefore, conversions may appear today for clicks that were made yesterday.