What’s In Your Basket?

There are lots of places we can go to find advice on improving conversions for our websites. However, some of the suggestions “feel wrong” or seem counterintuitive. This is why I like to go look into other people’s research.

There’s a term used in marketing – basket recovery – that describes a somewhat counterintuitive method of grabbing at least partial contact information from your site visitor even if they don’t complete your conversion process, leaving you a little less empty-handed.

The basis of this principle is requires the insertion of an email collection field BEFORE the call to action button. For example, if you have a page that offers a link to a free trial download of software, you could just have a button that says “click here to start the download,” and hope the customer follows up with you when the free trial expires, or you can put a single form field in there requiring an email address, then the customer clicks the button to start the free download.

Of course, I can hear everyone saying “I put fake email addresses in there all the time. That won’t help.” Ok, I admit this example is simplistic – but I’m illustrating how basket recovery works at its simplest. In the real world, it’s usually a little more sophisticated. Here’s an example from a test that was run by the researchers at Marketing Experiments last year.

Control Path before Basket Recovery
Control Path before Basket Recovery

The above image illustrates a free trial offer where the customer had to fill out a 6-field form anyway in order to get the free trial. The original green button was just a link with some basic call to action text.

The Basket Recovery Process
The Basket Recovery Process

In this process, instead of the landing page only containing a link to the mid-length form that is required before the customer’s trial account can be set up, they inserted an email collection field right above the orange button. Then the second page of the process included the email address that was already provided. If the customer changes their mind after seeing the rest of the form, there’s still a chance to recover that individual as a customer later with a follow up email to find out why they didn’t complete the form, because you already have the email address.

In this particular test, the basket recovery test page had an email address conversion rate of 2.16% while the original 6-field form completion process only converted .09% of the time. That’s a 2300% increase. If you’re operating a lead-gen site, a valid email address is all you need to make a sales introduction, offer a second chance, ask if there was a technical difficulty, etc.

Keep in mind that this technique will not work for every type of conversion as it actually increases user friction by adding a form field sooner. Careful testing will be necessary before you can decide if basket recovery testing pays off for your web site, but if you already have a multiple-step conversion process, basket recovery practices might help your end conversions.

Find your adCenter ad on Live Search: “Where is my ad?” Flash tutorial

Here on the blog I've been writing about a new section of the Microsoft Advertising website that can help you find your ad in Live Search results. The Find Your Ad pages include tips for what to do when you don't see your ad in Live Search results. Last month in Finding your ad on Live Search , I spotlighted the "Where's My Ad?" Checklist . This month I want to call your attention to the Where Is My Ad? Flash tutorial . During the research the team conducted earlier this year…(read more)

Helping the Garden Grow – Published by Yahoo Seach Marketing

How our Ad Profiling Program Can Help Your Keyword Performance

Think of your Yahoo! Search Marketing account as a garden — without careful maintenance, it can grow wild. The wilder it grows, the more difficult it is to maintain. Our goal here at Yahoo! Search Marketing is to lend a hand in the garden, which is why we’ve started a program called Ad Profiling.

With Ad Profiling, we analyze high-impression keywords within an account that are performing poorly, relative to the marketplace. We then evaluate whether or not there are steps we can take to help improve their performance and the performance of the ad groups to which they belong.

What is the Ad Profiling process?

Our primary goal is to preserve the keyword by improving its performance. Just as in a garden you might try using more or less water or adding fertilizer, in Ad Profiling, we have several methods we can employ to help keep your keywords growing strong:

  • Fix faulty alt text. Sometimes alt text can do more damage than good in a creative. For example, the following alt text may make the creative more relevant, but as you can see, it also makes it a little more confusing:

Keyword: dvd burning supplies
Alt Text: burning
Title: For All Your Burning Needs
Description: We offer everything you need to burn high quality DVDs and more.

Though no doubt this site wants to fulfill their customer’s needs – this probably isn’t quite what they had in mind. However, when you tweak the alt text just a bit, it makes a lot more sense:

Keyword: dvd burning supplies
Alt Text: dvd burning
Title: For All Your DVD Burning Needs
Description: We offer everything you need to burn high quality DVDs and more.

  • Add alt text when keyword insertion is being used with no alt text in place, leading to a confusing ad. For example, the following creative is a little bit confusing:

    Free Shipping on Stephen King
    Browse our huge collection of Stephen King at great prices.

Since the site in question clearly doesn’t ship Stephen King himself but rather his books, alt text that simply reads, “Stephen King,” doesn’t quite work. However, when you add “books” to that alt text, you get:

    Free Shipping on Stephen King Books
    Browse our huge collection of Stephen King books at great prices.

  • Replace the ad when the existing one just isn’t working. A new creative written with the entire ad group in mind can usually help improve an ad group’s performance. In cases where the suggested creative uses keyword insertion, alt text is added for the other keywords in the account. That new creative is then uploaded with an “offline” status and only turned “online” when the advertiser approves it.
  • Remove underperforming keywords. In some cases, the best thing for the ad group may be to take the underperforming keywords offline. Removing underperforming keywords can potentially improve the ad group’s quality index score, which could lead to better ranking and lower cost per click.

When would keywords be turned off?

Here are some reasons why we would take the underperforming keywords offline:

  • Relevance: if the keyword is not clearly relevant to the site’s offer.
  • Ad group impact: if after reviewing the ad group it is determined that a new creative wouldn’t help the majority of the attached keywords, then the underperforming keywords are turned off.
  • User intent: when keyword-to-site relevance is present, but the offer simply isn’t what the majority of users are looking for when searching on the keyword.

A good example of a user-intent issue would be someone in the market for a new car searching on the keyword “cars” and finding the following listing:

Cars Movie on DVD
Visit electronics-planet.com to find Cars and all your favorite movies.

Though the content is relevant to the keyword, it’s clearly not what the user is looking for. People searching on “cars” are usually looking for actual cars, not a DVD, so a listing offering DVDs will probably not get clicked.

Another user-intent issue would be scope, when it’s just too difficult to understand what the user is looking for. For example, someone searching on “electronics” could be looking for just about anything, so the following listing might not appeal to them:

Best TV Wall Mounts
Strong Flat Screen Wall Mounts Low Prices Always In Stock.

If you would like to keep the keyword, you may turn the keyword back on so long as it is relevant. Please keep in mind that the keyword’s performance may be dragging down the performance of the ad group. Instead of simply bringing it back online, we recommend you create a new ad group with titles and descriptions that are clearly tailored to the keyword.

What don’t we do with Ad Profiling?

  • Change your bid. While one of the effects of Ad Profiling might be a performance-driven reduction of cost per click for impacted terms, one thing we would never do is adjust your bid
  • Turn a new ad online without your approval. We upload new ads to your account, but leave them offline until you tell us otherwise
  • Turn a keyword offline without first reviewing other options.

What impact have we seen so far?

  • Increased marketplace quality.
  • Increased clickthrough rates.
  • Reduced costs for clicks.

The basic idea behind Ad Profiling is to help advertisers improve their account by trimming back the “weeds” so that the healthy plants can grow — not to mention trying to determine which weeds are actually flowers that just need a little more water in order to flourish. We want to help people transform their accounts from window boxes into beautiful gardens and Ad Profiling is just one way that we help you, the gardener, to accomplish that task.

— The Ad Quality Team

The Smart Way To See Your Own Ads In Google AdWords

Users of AdWords almost all universally suffer from the drive to see their own ads – just to make sure they’re there. However, “googling” yourself can actually damage the performance of your account over time because it gives Google the wrong idea about your ads. Imagine if everyone in a small company with 15 employees looked their own company up in Google three times daily as a part of their discussions with their customers. They never click on those ads but they have caused 45 impressions a day, plus any impressions the customers themselves might have caused (which also did not get clicked on). At the end of a month, this number becomes large enough to cause problems.


This decreases your CTR – click through rate – which is a major component used by Google in determining your quality score. What this looks like to Google is that a lot of people are looking up the terms you use but not clicking your ads, so your ads must not be as good in quality as other ads which are getting clicked on. {editor’s note: this is also a very good reason not to “google” your own keywords and then click on your competitors ads. This makes Google think their ads look better than yours. – michelle} Once you start suffering poor quality scores, you end up with higher costs per click and you’ve made it harder on yourself to raise the quality score back up to an acceptable level.


Fortunately, Google understands that sometimes you need to see how your ads look and to make sure they’re showing. There are two tools that assist with this – the Ad Diagnostic Tool and the Ad Preview Tool.

They’re both accessible from the Tools tab in the Google Interface. If you have regionally targeted your ads, you must select the correct region – and be sure to also select a specific city if you’re using City, Metro or Map Area targeting – and then type in the keyword to see your ads. The Ad Preview tools will show you an actual Google page layout with your ads in their proper position, as long as they’re showing on page one. The Ad Diagnostic tool will give you more detailed information about how many possible ads that term might have triggered and which ones may not be showing, along with the possible reasons (like budget restraints or ad schedule limits).

Some points to keep in mind when using these tools:

  • you need to be aware of the regional targeting settings, if there are any, as any sort of city, metro or map area form of targeting will require that you enter in the target country, the target state, and the target city. If your ads are only nationally or state-level targeted, you can get away without entering a city for testing.
  • you need to be aware of ad scheduling, and make sure you’re testing your ad appearance during times when your ads are supposed to be running.
  • you need to be aware of your budget – your ads may not show if you’ve hit your budget for the day.
  • you need to be aware that these tools only pertain to ads that are on page one SERPs – if your ad position fluctuates at some point to position 11 or 12, you won’t be able to see your ad consistently in these tools until your CPC allows it.

Remember, Google has one of the most sophisticated algorithms in the world, and it’s all based on statistics – anything you do to cause a metric to be inconsistent or even wrong will adversely affect your PPC accounts in the long run. The best practice is to fight the urge to “google” yourself, and train yourself and your staff to use the tools provided to check on your ads.

Upcoming Google AdWords Feature Changes

Two features that you may have used in Google AdWords are being phased out this summer. Google has been running a pay-per-action (PPA) feature as a beta test for several months now, but Google announced that it’s being phased out. Since Google acquired DoubleClick, the PPA feature was deemed redundant. It also lacked certain features that could be more effectively presented in robust affiliate program. The Google Affiliate Network (which used to be DoubleClick Performics Affiliate) is the designated replacement for the pay-per-action campaigns.

Google is also doing away with its Cross-Channel Tracking feature, which gave you a means to track ad campaigns from other engines. This function can be handled more smoothly using Google Analytics. Most used found the cross-channel tracking too cumbersome to use correctly. With the recent beef-up of Google Analytics, Google’s giving away a lot of very stout features for free in this package, which now includes the ability to separate out and track all your paid ad traffic.

Bringing Home the Bacon – Yahoo Search Marketing

Three tips to muster, monitor and maintain your conversions

In the offline world, a “conversion” could happen in the metric system, the adoption of a new religion or an exchange of currency. But for search marketing advertisers, a conversion is a completed transaction event on a website. Apart from the most obvious conversion—a customer completes a sale—conversions can include a visitor registering at your site, requesting a price quote, or participating in some other lead-generating activity.

The battle to improve your conversion rates should never truly end. Let us arm you with the following three tips.

Optimizing your Landing Page
First impressions count, and your landing page is the first web page a user will see after clicking your ad. So don’t be generic or confusing. Whenever possible, we recommend using a “deep link” to a specific product on your site as your landing page. Tips for good landing pages include:
• Offer multiple ways for customers to contact you.
• Make sure that your online shopping engine and shopping cart, if applicable, are safe and easy to use.
• Maintain good server availability and remove any broken links from your site.

Try to see your web site through the eyes of your visitor. If it’s too confusing and messy, users may get turned off by the bad experience and leave your site. So, keep it clean and clear. Other tips include:
• Create an obvious pathway to the product or service the customer was looking for.
• Avoid too many navigation layers between the landing page and what the user is looking for—they should be two clicks away at most.
• If a sale is your primary objective, move any non-commercial content or information “below the fold” (on the lower part of the page).

Track Your Results
Tracking the performance of your online marketing will help you analyze your results and make adjustments, if needed. Our free conversion-only analytics tool is designed to show you how many conversions result from clicks on specific ads. By turning it on in your account, you can learn which ads work and which may need a little TLC. Some of the other benefits of conversion-only analytics include:
• You can track conversion data at the account, campaign, ad group and keyword levels.
• As you learn which keywords drive the most conversions, you can make informed decisions about your account, including how to allocate your budget and how to improve under-performing ads.
• Decisions like these can help you optimize the overall performance of your account, and ultimately drive more sales.

The Help Center features more information on how to use conversion-only analytics.

Optimizing your landing page, using clear and clean site navigation and tracking your results can go a long way toward achieving your conversion goals. And it’s really not that hard to keep these tips in mind and use. With just a little maintenance, hindsight and monitoring, you can more consistently turn your web site visitors into actual customers.

— Roger Park, Manager, Marketing Communications, Yahoo SM


Where’d My Ad Go? – Yahoo Search Marketing

Why your ads may disappear, and how to give them more time in the spotlight

You’ve probably felt a certain thump of pride when you do a search on your product and see your ad pop up in the Sponsored Results.

But at other times, you might have experienced a “where did it go?” moment. This occurs when your ad is nowhere to be found, and yet you know there’s still money in your budget. One answer to the question might be what we refer to as “budget smoothing.”

Here’s what’s going on: Our system is designed to check your click charges to see how close you are to your spending limit, and adjusts the display of your ads to ration your spending throughout the day. That way, your whole budget isn’t blown in the first few hours that the ad is online.

Female marathon runnerA good comparison is a marathon runner. If she uses all of her energy by sprinting full speed from the get-go, she’ll quickly run out of gas and never make it to the finish line. We want to help you keep your ads available around the clock for searchers to find, no matter whether they’re jumping on the web before they go to work, during the day, or in the wee hours of the night. So we developed a way to pace those ads like a marathon runner, without you having to use one extra ounce of energy to get the most out of your budget.

How to Compete With the Big Boys

If your ads are not being displayed as often as you like, it may be time to take a look at how your spending limits and bids are set. To help get your ads displayed more often, consider increasing your spending limits. If that’s not possible, there are ways to work within your means and still compete with the deep-pocket competition.

While you may not have the advertising budget to maintain round-the-clock ads in top positions, there are ways to help get your ads in front of searcher eyes more often at lower cost. First, go for specifics. Consider selecting keywords that have lower minimum bids and are targeted for a specific service or product that a searcher may specifically type in. Not only are these “tail” terms likely to be more affordable than general terms, they are less liable to blow your budget.

With a few smooth moves of your own, you can keep your ads online and break the tape at the marathon finish line—without breaking the bank.

— Kastle Waserman, Communications Manager, Yahoo SM

Photo courtesy of Shannon Bullard, Go Boston Card Blog

Making Lemonade Out of Lemons

High gas prices could pump up your site traffic and sales

Pumping gasWith the cost of gas climbing and consumers looking to save money by driving less, introducing new targeted ads could not only save consumers some gas but also fuel a lot of additional sales for online advertisers this summer.

More and more consumers are looking to take the pedal off the metal and avoid getting behind the wheel when possible. According to a recent study by the National Retail Federation, 40% of Americans say they’re driving less due to high gas prices, and only one in ten respondents said they planned to travel for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.

Where You—and Your Ads—Come in
Decreased fuel consumption may make gas station owners frown, but it could bring a smile to the faces of online business owners, whose products all of a sudden may have greater appeal to consumers looking to eliminate unnecessary shopping trips during the current gas crunch. To reach these frustrated drivers, consider creating new campaigns with ads that specifically point out where you have the gas-guzzling alternatives beat.

For example, sites that sell home theater equipment or cooking supplies might consider writing ads that stress the savings and ease of watching movies or eating meals at home, as opposed to in theaters or restaurants.

Additionally, sites for local attractions, such as hotels, festivals or fun vacation spots, should consider geo-targeted campaigns that display their listings to users searching from within the city or state of the business. A resort in Palm Springs, California might want to target users in Southern California who would normally drive hundreds of miles to their vacation destination. By presenting themselves as an affordable alternative to expensive drives or flights, advertisers can court a local audience that they may not have been able to tap into previously.

Even non-local sites can appeal to price-conscious consumers: Rental car companies can create ads that tout gas-conserving cars to appeal to travelers who want to hit the open road without getting slapped at the pump.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to fill up your campaigns with some high-octane ads.

— Noah Belson, Content Quality Analyst, Yahoo SM

Photo courtesy of futureatlas.com via Flickr