Google Quality Score Myths and Truths

Myth #1 – Quality Score suffers when ads are paused.

Google does not lower an advertisers quality score when their budget settings or low bid amounts cause their ads not to show.  Intermittently turning on and off your ads can have other negative repercussions, but this will not affect an advertisers quality score.

Myth #2 – If I don’t see an ad on page one of SERPS, no one is bidding on any of the queried terms.

Google prefers to show no ads at all if the only ads that are available are low quality ads.

Myth #3 – An ads position helps determine its quality score.

Clickthrough rate (CTR) is used in determining quality score, but the positioning of an ad is not a factor in determining its quality score.  It is true that ads in higher positions often have higher CTRs, but this positive effect derived from an ad in a higher position is removed from the quality score calculation.

There are some known truths in what comprise Googles Quality Score Ratings.  The three main components in determining quality score:

ClickThrough Rate – This is what Google uses to ensure that what users click on and thus what they are interested in are rewarded through a more positive quality score.
Relevancy – Google uses relevancy to ensure advertisers don’t pay their way onto Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS).
Landing Page Quality – Google also takes into account advertisers landing pages to ensure that users are presented with a page with relevant original content that among other things loads quickly.  This helps ensure a good experience for users.

Outsourcing isn’t just for IT anymore…

This afternoon a few of us had the opportunity to hear William Hurley speak in Austin about Social Media Marketing. He had a very unique presentation style and his thoughts on crowdsourcing were quite notable. What struck me as odd about the conversation had nothing to do with the presenter, but more about the attendees. In a crowd of maybe 50 people it appeared that at least 12 had a question or a hand raised at a given time. As these people began to ask questions – I could tell they were intelligent, quite intelligent in fact, they just didn’t have anyone internally to bounce ideas off of, so this forum of sorts was a roundtable for them. Some of the questions asked seemed to divulge some of the secret ‘sauce’ that I thought marketing groups liked to keep under wraps, while some of the other questions posed a naiveté that you would hope someone heading up your marketing efforts wouldn’t have.

In-house marketing is not much of a given any more these days, with companys outsourcing marketing along with IT, Human Resources, Finance and Administration functions. For the participants at today’s seminar it appeared that working in-house kept them away from other people who worked in the online marketing trenches, and made it a best practice to keep with the latest happenings in the search marketing space. In-house staff are often generalists, and if they were once well-versed in Pay Per Click, Email Marketing, Search Engine Optimization and/or Social Media how do they stay up-to-date? Who do they ask questions? And what support do they have?

There are many advantages I receive from working here at Leverage Marketing and one of them is the people I get to speak with everyday and bounce questions and ideas off of. Another advantage I see is that we have the opportunity to go to a variety of training events and our customers marketing efforts don’t falter – because we have the staff to account for trainings, vacations and the unforeseen swine flu occurrence.

The Long-tail: Why You Need SEO and PPC to Work Hand-in-Hand PT.1

Chris Anderson defined in his 2004 book “The Long-Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” that we are moving into an area where people yearn more for very specific, unique items.  In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2007 speech at TED Talks event “What we can learn from Spaghetti Sauce” he further speaks upon the idea by stating there is no perfect spaghetti sauce, only perfect spaghetti sauces.  What this idea led to was the creation of very taste specific sauces such as Cheesy, Chunky and Hearty, and Meaty.

What We Can Learn From Spaghetti Sauce

It is clear that we are moving into an era where we are defining specific needs/preference from their services and products.  How does this relate to search and search strategy?  In search, we are now in the era of the Long-tail, in which we are seeing more specific search queries that are very specific to these wants and needs. Currently each month, 20% of all searches are unique which means they have never been searched before.  As this trend becomes more and more the norm for search trends, how do you prepare your SEM approach to maximize as much of this traffic as possible? A stroung SEO and PPC presence …

Understanding that PPC is a strategy that can lead to immediate results and allow you to show your ads for thousands of search variations through broad and phrase match terms. This immediate response of traffic and the ability to track search query terms does three things for you:

  • Allows you to capture immediate unique traffic
  • Target high-converting long-tail terms in Natural Search
  • Maximizes your presence on the page

Over the next few weeks, we will focus on each of these points in more detail and how to implement the strategy to maximize both efforts on PPC and SEO.

Using Paid Ads Only Until Organic Listings Rank Well? Think Again…

Why do some mistakenly only use paid ads until their organic listings rank well?

I get to speak with a variety of business owners across a multitude of verticals every day and a statement I’ve heard a few times is – “Now that my SEO is working well, I’m going to turn off PPC and see what happens.”

Our team can usually predict what will happen i.e. you will lose traffic and thus sales and your competition will gain market share.  Other reasons for why you shouldn’t negate paid ads in favor of organic listings are:

10-20% of the web is new each week with billions of new pages added to the internet each year.

This means that there are potentially millions of new pages competing for impressions from potential customers each month.  PPC is the quickest way of driving traffic to your site for these new searches.  In addition, PPC is highly accountable and has such transparency involved inherently that you can optimize for the highest ROAS possible.  Organic listings while robust and cost effective in their own right are not the best way to quickly target new users (unless you start using black hat techniques that can get you quickly listed as #1 on a variety of engines, but can also get you banned.)

How specific are your organic listings?

The majority of search engine marketers will tell you that any worthwhile SEM campaign must have ads that are specific and actionable.  Organic search can generate traffic for you, but traffic might not be from the most specific search terms for your products. Google stated, that “we know that people that type in specific search terms are more likely to generate a sale/conversion, and therefore we would want to place ads for you on the specific search terms most relevant to your business. Your ad text is very important. If you have the right messaging, you can get people that are interested in your products and services.  Paid Ads are the only way you can control your messaging.”  With organic ads you can control the messaging that appears, but your ad text will not be as specific as what you will find for paid ads.

Paid Ads and Organic Listings – is that the way to go?

The bottom line from Google is that “advertisers found in both paid and organic listings are more likely to generate traffic and have greater credibility with potential customers. Being in both organic and paid listings is valuable because it generates more traffic and increases your credibility. Having paid ads increases your chances of reaching your potential customers and compliments any existing organic listings for your site.”

What to Look For in an Online Marketing Agency: Customer Service Part II

Earlier this week, we covered some questions you should ask an agency before you sign on the dotted line and today we wanted to delve into a few more questions you should have answered before you make a commitment:

What types of relationships does the agency hold with its most important vendors i.e. Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.

Find out about the agency’s relationship with the top, second and third tier networks and ask if the agency will provide you with a reference of their contacts at any of the networks. It is also a good idea to find out if the agency you choose is owned by a network – will the agency benefit from putting your ads on a site that is not well suited towards your business?

What benefits does the agency have that an advertiser of your size can’t get by calling Google, Yahoo, AOL or other engines directly?

If complications arrive does the agency have the direct lines to a team that can quickly assist?

Are you able to review the work that has been done on your account? At our company we use various proprietary tools that interact with our customers accounts and in all cases our customers retain control of their accounts. Many customers have commented positively that they have learned much about search marketing through reviewing changes our team has made to their account.  In addition, our CEAM team will provide you with a report that also details the modification history on your account on a biweekly basis.

Can you log in to your account and view the work that is completed for you?

If you don’t understand a change that was made to your account – will someone explain to you in simple terms the implications of each change?

What happens to the work done on your account when you stop working together? There are many reasons why you may need or want to stop working with an agency, and in most of these cases you would still want to access your account and all of the work you have paid for.

Find out from the company what happens to the work created within your account and if any part of the account is used for other clients they may work with presently or in the future. 

If the company is vertically focused – Will your competition benefit from the lessons learned (and paid for) by your account?

Are you tied down by a contract?

What happens if something happens that changes your businesses marketing strategy?

What if performance isn’t what you thought it would be?

There are some companies that will bait you in for a 12 or even 24 month contract and 2 months into the contract; your business will find that you were just fed lines to get you in the door.  What recourse do you have to get out of the contract and how much will it cost?  Our company has a contract option, but the majority of our customers choose our no-contract option that ensures that if you don’t see the performance on your account that you desire – you can end with no penalties.

What to Look For in an Online Marketing Agency: Customer Service

What to Look For in an Online Marketing Agency:  Customer Service

There are many great agencies that businesses can choose to work with, but there are also a few that leave much to be desired.  This week our team is covering what to look for when choosing an agency and there are a few questions you should have answered before making the big decision.

How are communications handled? Your online agency may be making all of the right moves within your account, but if they don’t keep you updated – you will never know.  Ask the prospective company:

How often they will contact you?
Will the contact be via phone or via email or a combination of both?
When you contact the agency, how quickly should you expect to receive a reply?

For our company – we have service level agreements that all employees adhere to.  Before you commit to a service provider, find out the answers to the questions above or you could be stuck with a company that offers 48 hour turnaround on any communications you forward their way.

Who is responsible for keeping you updated on your account? At our company, each client is assigned a dedicated Customer Experience Account Manager (CEAM) and a team of Paid Search Specialists and/or Natural Search Specialists.  The CEAM will meet with you on at least a weekly basis to discuss your account and any particulars that should be addressed.   You will also receive periodic emails and trends via email from your CEAM team keeping you abreast of any changes within your account.  In addition, my main function as the Leader of the Customer Experience Team is to ensure each of our customers receive best in class service – which includes being prompt and accurate in our replies to you.  Make sure you have someone assigned to help you and that the hours they are available is conducive to your working schedule.

What type of ongoing education does the agency offer to its employees and what certifications do they currently hold? Apart from the expensive proprietary tools that an agency must acquire – barriers to entry for an online marketing agency are low.  It is therefore of utmost importance that the team you choose to lead your marketing efforts has the experience and education that is needed to carry out your online marketing tasks.

Ask what qualifications their teams hold and the percent of employees with this certification?
How often do they attend training on the latest developments in the online marketing space?
Who is policing the education and ensures everyone has expert level knowledge of their trade?

Later this week we will discuss a bit more on what to look for when choosing an agency – including why you should care what happens to your account when you stop working with an agency.

Search Queries and Landing Pages

One of the biggest problems in any SEM account is overlooking the relationship of keywords and landing pages.  Some of the smallest differences in a search query can make the biggest differences in landing pages.  An example of this that I recently came across was for an e-commerce client who has see a dip in performance during the recession.  A recent trend in searches alerted our team to the problem that was occurring and how it was causing account performance issues.

In reviewing the search query data, our team found that the newest trend in searches were all price-related, a new trend for a seller of premium products.  Now while it would make sense to pause the terms causing the issues and add all the appropriate negatives: cheap, discounted, sale

Our team looked into the analytical data and found some very interesting pieces of information.  First, the keywords themselves were landing on a page that was sorted by “popular items”, not by price from lowest to cheapest.  Second, the visitors didn’t have poor engagement metrics on the site, in fact we found the average time on site, page views and bounce rates were better than the site average.  What this told our staff is that the traffic itself isn’t unqualified, seen in the engagement that was occurring, however they weren’t finding what was relevant immediately. The change we made next was to land traffic on pages that were sorted by pricing which immediately improved the conversion rates for these “price-related” terms.

Another case we recently came across was with a client who was selling items that are “i-mac” compatible.  We found that this ad group of terms was not converting well for the client and again our team reviewed the landing pages and analytics before pausing the terms.  Based on the engagement metrics and the click path, we found that most of the traffic was bouncing from the landing page and those that remained had average page views that we much higher than the site average. This was a sign that visitors were not finding the landing page relevant which caused them to either leave the site or search extensively to find it.  When reviewing the landing page, we found the issue to be that the landing page itself did not highlight the fact the products were “i-mac” compatiable. Our immediate recommendations were to create headers that pointed this information out to the visitors as this is what the search intention was.

In closing, search query data will tell you the intent of the search visitors coming to your site.  By overlooking this information, you can run the risk of moving away from qualified traffic by shutting down the terms rather than meet the needs of your visitors.  It is always good to evaluate the search query, the landing page and the analytical data between the two.  This will point you in the direction of what landing pages are needed to further your success online….