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Scaling AdWords Campaigns to Other Search Engine Advertising Platforms

Posted on May 14, 2009 by Chad

Recently, I have come across several obstacles in my attempts to streamline a process in converting, already created, Google AdWords campaigns to both MSN and Yahoo SEM platforms.  The support I have received thus far from both MSN and Yahoo usually ends up being a call to their own respective support centers who don't offer much help other than the famous saying "we have escalated your case and will email you in due time." Sometimes within a few hours, sometimes within a few days I will receive some information asking me to search the help or FAQ on their website to find the answers that I have been waiting for. Seeing as searching the help and FAQ is a no brainer I typically email them back asking them to refer to my first e-mail and help me with my question or issue.  What’s funny is how they tout the ease of converting AdWords campaigns over to their platforms.

I don't think they understand that using their documentation is usually what gets me in trouble in the first place.  On several occasions the information in the help and FAQ has led to an increase in the number of errors, leading me to believe there was a problem with the file or the tool on the website.

Typically it takes a re-explanation before I am told that several of their other accounts are having the same issue and the technical team is working on it. Oh well, I hold no grudges toward their support staff as I am a bit of an optimist and will give people the benefit of the doubt.  What is strange though, is that throughout this whole scenario, both converting tools for MSN and Yahoo continue to be useless in actually converting Google campaigns.  Furthermore if both search engines advertise the tool as a benefit it seems that there should be more support and better upkeep of the tool so that search engine marketers aren’t forced to recreate ads over again.

Take this graph from The Rimm-Kaufman Group (it’s from last year but the numbers haven’t changed all that much, if at all):

 

Feb ‘08 Paid Search Market Share: Google Gains, Yahoo Loses, Economic Slowdown Not Observed


Given the information above I would think that MSN and Yahoo could only increase their share of the paid search market if they made it easier on marketers to not only create ads, but to transfer ads.  The focus of ad creation is going to lie in AdWords, because Google also dominates the number of searches in general.

That’s obvious by this graph courtesy of Search Engine Land:

 

Hitwise: Google Again Hits New High; Microsoft & Yahoo Again New Lows


Yahoo and MSN aren’t completely clueless.  I have used the new Microsoft Adcenter Desktop tool, Microsoft’s version of Google's Adwords Editor. The tool is great and although a bit buggy, its way better than their web interface.  I have not seen anything from Yahoo in terms of an off line or desktop interface, but their online interface is better than MSN's at the very least.  I mean it’s nice that both have the "converting third-party campaigns" functionalities, if they actually worked it would be even better.

 

 

Google Checkout Transaction Processing Fee Changes

Posted on March 25, 2009 by Zach

No doubt retailers that offer Google Checkout as a payment option are now aware Google is changing their transaction processing fees to a new tiered structure and removing the Adwords processing credits. This is a pretty large change they plan on implementing, and one that will likely be adding much higher processing fees for Google Checkout Merchants.

Old Fee structure V. New Fee Structure

Under the old model if you processed $100,000 in one month through Google Checkout which represented 1,000 orders you would be charged $2400 in processing fees, which include the per transaction fee of $0.20.  Seems legit right? But let’s say you also spent $10,000 on Google Adwords the previous month, you would get that $100,000 processed for free because they will process 10 times whatever your Adwords spend is for free and everything else at the normal rates.  Nice kicker huh, for taking on Google checkout and also using multiple Google services?

Under the new model if you processed $100,000 in one month through Google Checkout which represented 1,000 orders (this pushes merchants into the lowest tier of processing fees at 1.9%) you would be charged $2200 is processing fees, which includes the per transaction fee of $0.30.  The fees are slightly lower than the previous model, that's great right?  Maybe not, let’s say you still spent that same $10,000 on Adwords the previous month, under the new model you now owe the full $2,200 in processing fees! They are removing the Adwords processing credits.  Wha wha wha!

Our wonderful checkout representative plans on calling me this week to review the changes and let us know what they plan on accomplishing with the fee changes, but still that's a pretty steep increase in fees. The fees are especially high when you take into consideration, that we made the upfront investment to take on Google checkout, pay for the development and fully integrate Google checkout. Granted, they have tossed on some awesome promotions since we implemented the feature and have successfully heavily engaged users.  It’s still a hard chunk of change to write a check for (or never see as the case may be). On top of the hard economic times, I hope that this does not affect too many merchants in an extremely negative fashion.  I could see merchants with large Adwords budgets who process a lot of dollars through Google Checkout possibly getting thrown under the bus on this one.



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Facebook Demographics Tempt Socially Conscious Marketers

Posted on March 5, 2009 by Chad

For businesses that target customers over the age of 26 and/or women over 55, you might consider Facebook.com a worthy website for your advertising campaigns.  Facebook has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, over 175 million active users, and this may just be one more hot channel to market in.

According to Media Post, 70 percent of Facebook users are above the age of 26.  Women above the age of 55 are the fastest growing user-group.  Who knew?  Here are a couple more Facebook statistics Media Post provides:

  • Women make up 56.2% of all FaceBook users
  • Women users in FaceBook over 55 nearly tripled to around 717,000 users since September 08
  • Teenagers on Facebook only make up about 12% of Facebook Users

In today's economy, utilizing as many marketing channels as you can to promote your products/services may not be a bad idea if the numbers make sense.  If you find that the ads are diminishing your brand or the return on investment does not meet your standards a simple click can end the campaign.

Remember, when using Facebook's advertising interface you will be able to target particular ages, sexes, relationship status, etc. with specific Ads.  Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t offer a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) model for ad spend, they only use CPC (Cost Per Click) or CPM (Cost Per Thousand). This is not necessarily a bad thing though. If your campaign is specific to your target audience and you know your demographic then your ads will be displayed to customers that have the highest percentage of conversions.

This however, is not an easy task.  Take the Proctor & Gamble attempt at marketing to their customers via Facebook as an example.  Both the “Crest Whitestrips Fans” and “America’s Favorite Stains” campaigns saw little to no social reactions because they failed to actually engage consumers.  While I believe Facebook could be a viable channel we also have to remember the media in which we are presenting.  Traditional ads that would be seen in magazines may not work in a social setting. If you are running a campaign via a social network the campaign has to be social in nature, even if you are looking at 175 million potential consumers.

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of January 9th, 2009

Posted on January 9, 2009 by Vanessa

Enjoy!

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of January 2nd, 2009

Posted on December 31, 2008 by Vanessa

Happy New Year all!  I am out for the rest of the week so the variety is early.  There are some new posts that I wanted to share, but in addition to that let’s take a look at some of our favorite posts, top stories, and some of the biggest developments in the industry from 2008.

  • Google Product Search up 786% in the category of shopping search.
  • The Silicon Alley Insider reports on Digg’s revenue losses and why ad targeting, or the lack there of, could be a major factor in these losses.
  • Have your 2009 wish list ready for Google?  I know Zach does and Matt Cutts’ parents do, but submissions are coming in fast so add yours soon.
  • Jennifer Laycock released her second installment of “Six Lessons from a Wooden Boy”, but I recommend starting from her first post on the subject.
  • A legend about the inventor of chess may provide insight into internet retail growth.

 

2008 In Review



Internet Retailer released their top 10 stories from 2008, here they are in ascending order:

 

I know this couldn't possibly be everything, which events in 2008 were most memorable to you?

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of December 12th, 2008

Posted on December 12, 2008 by Vanessa

If you’re in retail I doubt you’ve had time to catch up on this week’s blog highlights.  I found these particularly interesting this week:

  • Search Engine Marketers, I suggest reading Search Engine Land’s post on 9 Myths of Landing Page Quality Score.
  • It’s the giving season, and bloggers are doing their part.  Brian Smith of Comparison Shopping Engines is growing a mustache to raise money for DonorsChoose, an organization that lets teachers submit projects they need funding for, if you are interested you can go to his giving page at ComparisonEngines.com.  Joe Hall proposes linking to charities to improve their web presence.  Finally, if you Twitter give Squidoo a tweet and they will donate to charity as well.
  • Rand from SEOmoz covers the fundamentals of an SEO campaign in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.
  • As social networking becomes increasingly more popular the need for reputation management grows.  According to the London School of Economics via Denise Shiffman’s Engagement blog “Every 1% reduction in negative word of mouth correlated to .41% growth, while a 1% increase in positive word of mouth correlated to just .14% growth. In other words, reducing negative comments could grow revenue by 300% over increasing positive comments.”
  • Search Engine Guide’s, Stoney deGeyter, takes a look back at what he wanted for Christmas from the search engines in 2002.  To see if he got what he asked for click here.

Bonus Articles

Today is intern Justin's last day, so I asked him to put together his favorite posts from the week as well.  His choices are probably more useful than you may have thought...
  • Everyone working in the marketing department of your company, you may want to read this. The internet has made it much it easier to measure just how valuable you really are...sorry. 
  • Want a job where you work from home making videos about whatever you want while raking in thousands of dollars a month? Well look no further than Youtube. Sounds too good to be true? Well it isn't exactly as easy as it sounds. Building up a fan base on the internet big enough for companies to want to advertise through you will take a while. But here is an article about some of the success stories of Youtube.
  • Do you need to reach more people with your advertising? Well, Google has extended its AdWords products to any mobile device that has HTML browsing, such as the iPhone  or T-Mobile's G1. "This new option will now allow you to display your ads specifically on these devices, create exclusive campaigns for them, and get separate performance reporting."
  • Customer service is a big part of a computer company, and many people will purchase a certain brand over another just because of their customer service. Well, it seems that Dell did not get the memo. Dell is now "charging customers a monthly fee to have access to its United States-based customer service representatives." You can read more about it here.

 

Preparing Retailers for Economic Downturn: An Interview With eCommerce Analyst Linda Bustos

Posted on November 13, 2008 by Vanessa

We were lucky enough to catch up with Linda Bustos of Elastic Path Software and ask her a few questions that are likely on many retailers minds.  Both multi-channel and web only retailers face difficult challenges ahead, the holidays that are right around the corner, and the global economic downturn that has brought spending to a drastic halt.  The insight she provides may help many overcome this uphill battle.

Tell us a little about your blog, company, and your role at Get Elastic:

My official title is Ecommerce Analyst at Elastic Path Software, a role that involves keeping on top of all the trends in Internet marketing and retail, and translating them into actionable tips for online retailers on the Get Elastic blog in addition to ecommerce consulting for Elastic Path customers.  Get Elastic’s primary purpose is thought leadership rather than talking about our ecommerce software.  Get Elastic exists to communicate with retailers, ecommerce vendors, consultants, analysts and anyone interested in Internet marketing.

 

What is your approach to evaluating and prioritizing opportunities and aligning resources with these opportunities?

I’d divide “opportunities” into site features/functionality, marketing activities and customer service.  (Fulfillment is impacted by marketing and customer service initiatives).

For site features, first you must determine whether what you want to do is feasible with your current ecommerce platform.  Your hands may be tied until the next upgrade on certain bells and whistles.

Then you need to make sure you’re already doing the basics well.  I consider the basics to be product information, product images, intuitive navigation and good search functionality.  You have no business asking for a virtual fitting room when a customer can’t enlarge images and see multiple views.  Personalization takes a backseat to usability.

After all that, if you’re in a position to add functionality, a good idea is to find out what customers prefer on ecommerce sites.  If you can’t collect enough info surveying your own customers, subscribing to Shop.org’s Smart Brief newsletter and Internet Retailer will alert you to the latest consumer studies.  Bookmark them as you go, so when it comes time to make decisions, you can refer to them.  You may discover customers consistenly cite ratings and reviews as valuable, but they don’t care about wish lists or reading retail blogs.  Use this data to invest in what will delight your customers.

As we head into a holiday season that is projected to be the slowest in our near history what advice would you give online retailers and multi-channel retailers?  Which do you think will be impacted by the economy more (Online only or Multi-Channel retailers), why?

Rather than increasing spending on PPC or shopping engines (buying traffic), work on optimizing landing pages to squeeze more profit out of the traffic you’re already getting (including “free” customers like repeat, type-in visitors and organic search referrals).  Not to mention your email campaigns would also be more profitable, which is a nice segue into…

Market to your existing customers (provided they have granted you permission) and those who have subscribed to your email list and segment, segment, segment.  It’s still true that it costs much more to attract new customers than keep existing ones, and segmentation is key to effectively delivering relevant offers.  If you throw random offers at your entire list, you’ll likely lose subscribers.

Jeanne Jennings’ Really Simple Segmentation Framework is a great resource for segmenting by behavior, but you should also allow customers to self-segment by indicating their preferences.  Disney Shopping and GAP are examples of retailers who do this really well. 

So change your email signup form to allow self-selection of what kind of offers or products the customer wants to receive, and how often they want to hear from you and ask existing subscribers to update their preferences.

It’s also important to have a strong value proposition that is clearly communicated on your site.  Not a slogan, not a tagline, but a clear statement that answers the question: “why should I buy from you and not your competitor.”  If you don’t have a clear value proposition (most retailers don’t) make sure you read up on value propositions at Marketing Experiments’ blog.

To answer the second part of your question, I don’t think one or the other will be better or worse off.  Because we know many people will use the Internet only to research purchases they prefer to make offline, the online retailer with a local store can offer free ship-to-store, inventory lookup and free returns to store – multi-channel retailers have an advantage -- while the pure-play has a small chance of converting that customer, and may even be paying high CPCs to provide the research service to a non-buyer.

But retail stores carry overhead that pure plays don’t have.  Also, multi-channel retailers may treat ecommerce as a separate operation, and the online channel may have to fight to prove itself and win human and financial resources.  Pure plays give their all to their online business and may be more advanced in efficiency and effectiveness.

What are some of your best and worst marketing channels?  What are the best ways you have found to increase performance for a given channel?

In terms of ecommerce marketing channels, it really depends on your market, your strategy, your investment and your execution which channel is going to perform the best for you.  Email might be the top channel for a retailer, but is that because they are sloppy with PPC and have an ecommerce platform that prevents them from maximizing their SEO?  Do they have an outsourced affiliate manager that’s doing a poor job? 

Also, there may be channels that perform better for one category vs another.  If there is much competition in PPC and shopping engines, click costs inflate and it’s harder to remain visible. 

You can even get more granular and say that some products will do better through PPC and others through email.  Again, when you focus on improving landing pages, your performance goes up across all channels.

If retailers are cutting back on spend where do you think costs can be cut or dollars can be saved? Is there any “must have” that retailers should only cut back on if it’s a last resort?

The first area I’d look at is your fulfillment – shipping costs, damage in transit, returns management, where can you improve?  Have a read through every blog post on ecommerce fulfillment, by expert Maxim Mironov on his blog Optimalogica.  Then I would suggest landing page optimization rather than “buying traffic.” 

An interesting thing that may happen is, as advertising spend is expected to go down, it will result in lower prices and less competition.  Since consumers are not flocking away from the internet, you may find PPC and shopping engine marketing is less expensive than it was in healthy economic times.

As we enter into 2009 what do you think will be the next big change in eCommerce (similar to the affects of “web 2.0”, social networking…)

I think video will be important from here on out.  It’s not cheap, so you might not want to offer it on every product you sell, but video can really ease a customer’s fears, uncertainties and doubts about a product when they can see a 360 degree view or see it in use.  Retailers that embrace it early will have an advantage over those who don’t.

Again, first things first.  Product copy and images are more important, get those right, then explore video.

What are some of your favorite online stores, and why?

This is the number one question I get asked Smile I can’t say one store does everything perfectly.  I like bits and pieces of stores like AE.com’s navigation and product pages, Endless.com’s filtering options and Crutchfield’s product finders and informative content.  But if I had to pick an overall favorite online retailer – I’d choose Threadless because of its unique business model, it’s fresh design and it’s active, passionate community.  It’s just all-around fun.

Special thanks Linda!

 



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Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of October 31st, 2008

Posted on October 31, 2008 by Vanessa

Happy Halloween!

 

  • Andy Beal reports on the Google AdWords changes that we should be seeing soon.  Interesting changes to say the least, and I love the fact that he referenced Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.
  • Facebook is top choice for socially engaged retailers according to recent studies.
  • A Harvard Professor is suing Google for typo-squatting, the practice of registering web sites addresses that are spelled similarly to the legitimate site but with small variances like an extra letter or a letter out of place.  Benjamin Edelman, the professor, alleges that Google is costing advertisers between $30-$50 million dollars per year.
  • The economy is affecting all of us and hopefully we are all working for companies that are preparing for it.  If for some reason you’re not quite sure if the company you work for is heading in the right direction, you may want to look over this checklist.
  • This story wasn’t from this week, but I just caught wind of it so I thought I would share.  Take a look at the decision set forth below and decide which of the two options you would choose to invest in:

    Innovation A enjoyed blockbuster first-year revenues of $200 million thanks to "a clear value proposition, clever positioning, and a strong distribution network."

    Innovation B, meanwhile, had on a muddled business model and generated only $220,000 during its first year.

    Most people would probably choose option A without considering the numerous other factors that should be taken into consideration.  This is the point that Scott Anthony is trying to get across in this article, because as it turns out option A was Vanilla Coke which was discontinued three years later, and option B was Google.  Google’s “muddled business model” was enormously successful once they settled on an ad-based business model.

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of October 17th, 2008

Posted on October 17, 2008 by Vanessa

Today is a sad day, Ryan, our online marketing team leader, blogger, and friend is moving to Northern California to broaden his career in the world of eCommerce.  We are sad to see him go, especially those of us that have worked alongside him for so long, but we are also happy for him and wishing him the best of luck.  I asked him what he was going to miss most about working here at Gordian Project and am happy to report that this was his response “If I had to boil it down to just one thing that I will miss it would be working with my friends. Yes, my friends. It really is hard to leave a place where the people you work with are your friends, not just some geeky, weird folks you work with and share the same cramped 'Nerdery' with but would never ever want to see outside of the office. I have had the privilege of spending time with many of my coworkers in a classroom prior to us all joining PlumberSurplus. Sharing the experience of walking off the graduation stage and into the doors at Gordian Project together was priceless.

I will miss:

  • Watching the company grow and need to find more office space again
  • Seeing new faces come through the door, eager to join the team
  • All the snacks in the kitchen
  • Basketball and BBQ Fridays
  • My kitchen table (enjoy execs!)
  • Going with everyone to get BOGO ham sandwiches on Tuesdays
  • Themed office dress up days and Flying Saucer Pizzas (can you tell I like food?)
  • Nights out for TGIF

Thank you for the support and encouragement as I start a new chapter in life."

I am sure that Ryan will post on this blog in the near future, but for now please wish him well.

The week in eCommerce:

  • You may not be able to get the WebAward Judges to review your website, but you can take the criticisms given the current presidential candidates and see if you are making the same mistakes.  After the review the judges announced that Barack Obama’s website was the better of the two in their opinion.  You can judge for yourself but their commentary is actually interesting.
  • Google AdWords now has the ability to break out search traffic from Google as well as its partners, as opposed to the previous solution which only allowed search engine marketers to separate search from content.
  • Matt Cutts reports on another new feature from Google, and he is surprised it isn’t getting more attention.  I think he is surprised for a few reasons as this tool can assist in creating better 404 pages, and “converts already-existing links to your site into much higher quality links, for free.”  For the Google post on this tool click here
  • YoungEntrepreneur details the results of their Entrepreneur Poll “The Best Way For a Startup To Earn Revenue”.
  • I love it when blogs publish tips and tricks for popular products, and this is no exception, check out “The Ultimate Google Analytics Plugins, Hacks & Tricks Collection”.
  • A lot of blogs reported on Google’s quarter three earnings, but I like the fact that Bruce Clay took the results and analyzed what they could mean for the search industry as a whole.

 

Ryan and Vanessa as Ryan leaves the Gordian Project
 
 

Searching for SEM Sanctuary: How to Tell When You've Outgrown Your SEM Solution, and What to Consider in a New One

Posted on October 16, 2008 by Archives

We recently made the decision to switch SEM bid management partners. It's not that something went awry with our previous partner, we just outgrew their product and it didn't make sense for us to make the switch to their product that would have fit our size. Fortunately an existing partner in another channel had a solution that leveraged bid technology that we were already familiar with. As we reviewed what worked, what didn't work, and what was missing, I put together the following list of items that were important to us in the decision making process.

 

  1. Budget - This is probably the largest factor to consider when looking for new solutions, or when reevaluating your current solution. If you aren't looking for a different tool and are content with current performance, perhaps you can negotiate a lower rate or fee if you've been with a particular partner for a certain period of time. As we researched alternative solutions, we had to clearly define what our budget was. With a set budget, we could quickly eliminate the solutions we could not afford. No one can tell you that your organization can afford to spend more (this can also be a good bargaining point). Surely, there are some amazing partners in the SEM bid management arena, but with better tools typically comes higher prices. Our past partner had a flat monthly fee which was favorable, as we prefer fixed costs over variable costs and other pricing models. We could not afford to step up to our old partner's top product mainly due to price, and the new solution that we ultimately chose has a pricing model that is based on a revenue share instead of percent of ad spend.
  2. Optimization Settings - If you are a sophisticated organization you will need the ability to optimize SEM campaigns against multiple objectives. Maximizing or optimizing just one variable won't scale or be as sufficient as your organization grows and matures. Also, look for a solution that will let you set targets at account, campaign and ad group levels. We previously used a portfolio based approach to target one goal for our account.  This was great at the beginning, but may not work well for some merchants, and eventually did not scale with our growth. Different product groups in our campaigns (with different margins and sales velocities) need different targets and our SEM tool needed to support this. 
  3. Automation & Integration - If you add our growing product offering, multiple websites (and more planned), continuously changing product stock levels, and my lack of time (which is always diminishing) you find yourself with the need to have automated solutions to do the grunt work.  Not only do these solutions need to be automated, but they need to be easy to implement. The new solution offers automated URL tagging which is great because I shouldn't spend my time tagging tens of thousands of keyword URLs. This solution also offers tools to generate new keywords which aren't in your current inventory. How sweet is that! While I'm sleeping in on Saturday morning the system is finding new keywords for me that users are actually using. Another helpful feature we found to be extremely helpful was the ability to pause and resume keywords automatically based on actual inventory levels. Before, with the old system, I had to login and pause keywords and ad groups manually when we ran out of stock.  Often times the system wouldn’t update until a day or two after we actually ran out of the product. This meant we were potentially still spending dollars on products we couldn't sell because we didn't have them in stock. When the product came back in stock, I had to resume the paused keywords, and again there was often a delay until this update could be processed.
  4. Monitoring Conversion Assists - With separate tools for CSEs and SEM, we had no visibility of conversions that came from multiple touch points. We would pause a keyword because it wasn’t profitable.  We would target different objectives for our CSE efforts but could not tie these efforts together for the best outcome. It's not that we were naive to this idea in the past; we just didn't have the resources to track this effectively. Now with CSE and SEM under the same roof, we can identify when users interact with our ads across multiple channels and sites. We won't kill a keyword because it doesn't convert by its lonesome, because we've observed this keyword as being an integral part of the conversion funnel. If you pull out a keyword in that funnel, the whole conversion path could fall apart.
  5. Agility & Growth - The world of eCommere changes daily. Our business continually faces new and unique challenges. We need a partner who can grow with us and who can develop solutions to overcome newly discovered obstacles. As our business moves toward the next level in both sales and sophistication it was imperative that our partners can grow with us. Ask the SEM tool provider what their development and product release approach is?  Do they roll out releases every few weeks, or wait months before new features are released and bugs are corrected? Will this partnership grow stale before the length of your contract is up, or will it be a lasting relationship that goes for many years?

 

As we bid adieu to one partner, we welcome the other and look forward to success together. This is just our experience, limited as it may be, but I'd still like to hear what other aspects are important to you so comments are welcome...