First off, an apology: I’ve been away for awhile and let my brand manager I am, putting my blog off to have major hip surgery. (In all seriousness, I am pretty irritated that I’ve gone this long without posting, but hey, I’m on the mend and , so it worked out).
Now, for the goods. I’ve been asked a few times lately for a primer ACLS Online to paid search. This is going to be a very basic introduction (as in, discussing what paid search is and a rudimentary explanation of how it works) so it might bore some of you, but I’d rather start at the beginning for those of you who aren’t as familiar with this sort of campaign.
Search engines have two basic kinds of listings– those that advertisers pay for, and those that they don’t. These paid listings are called sponsored listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Exhibit A:
The advertiser builds a list of keywords (and decides how loosely they want their ad to be associated with similar terms) and uploads them to the search engine. The system is an auction-based environment, meaning that the advertiser sets a maximum cost-per-click (frequently referred to as CPC). The advertiser also sets the daily budgets (either manually or through a technology called bid management) so the campaigns don’t exceed the desired spend. The search engines determine which ads myp2p show in the highest position using a combination of the advertiser’s maximum bid and something called the, which is essentially the ad’s history and rewards the most relevant advertisers. The advertiser is only charged when a user clicks on the ad
(And for the record, Google’s official stance is that the ranking of an organic search result has of any ads, and vice versa. This is a very contentious topic, however, and many people feel that there is a relationship. More to come on that in a separate post).
Although the premise is simple, there are a number of ways to optimize a paid search program. For example:
- Negative keywords: Adding negative keywords helps advertisers to focus on the right customers. If a paid recipe site, for example, wanted to bring users to its page to purchase individual recipes or become a member, it wouldn’t want someone who was looking specifically for free content. Adding “free” as a negative keyword would mean someone searching “free chocolate chip cookies recipes” wouldn’t see this particular advertiser’s ad.
- Bid adjustments: Because paid search is an auction environment, advertisers constantly monitor bids to determine what is the most profitable. Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) is a major key performance indicator in paid search, because it lets us know how a keyword is returning versus how much we’re spending on it. It’s not uncommon for bids to reach more than $10.00 a click in very competitive, high-reward categories (medical and law categories are two common examples). Ultimately the advertiser needs to decide what a click is worth to them.
- Keyword additions and pauses: As an advertiser learns more about what works, they can add or remove keywords accordingly. Tools like the and can help identify additional keywords based on volume.
If you’re interested in learning more about paid search, there are a ton of resources online (Google, specifically, has an extremely robust training program for its paid search program, Adwords. They also have a Small Business Center which explains Adwords in terms of what you can get as a small business owner which is easy to understand and pretty simple to use). And stay tuned- paid search is here to stay, so I intend to write much more about it in the coming months.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about blogs– probably pretty obvious, since I recently started this one. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what the best practices are and how one should go about it.
I’m relatively new to the corporate blogging space. There’s a number of people out what to sell on ebay there who have been in the game since it started and they’ve laid the ground for the rest of us. How frequently do you read blogs, either for business or personal use? I know I read blogs constantly, since I work in a field that literally can change from day to day. There’s no doubt that blogs can be a huge asset for a company. But how to go about it
As with most things, there is no one right answer. Different industries and niches need different things for their audiences. But so far, I’ve stumbled across some blogging best practices and I think they’re relevant for most corporate bloggers– that is, people writing on behalf of a company. Some of these seem pretty common-sense to me, but considering how frequently I stumble across people who have chosen to do the exact opposite of what I recommend, I think there’s a place for those recommendations here.
Provide interesting, valuable content. I will say this on every single recommendation list that I put together until I die (or until I think it’s a universally acceptable truth, whichever comes first). People don’t read blogs that they don’t find interesting, period. All too often, companies put the cart before the horse and plan their entire website and social media strategies on a tactical level, creating accounts all over the place, before deciding what they’re actually going to provide for their customers/readers. Really.
Don’t focus on “Return on Blogging Investment.” Ultimately, blogging is not a direct sales tool. If you try to use it as one, customers will smell it from a mile away, and stop reading. No one sits down at their computer, opens their blog reader and thinks, “I can’t wait to be obnoxiously hard sold to!” I’ve seen a number of companies look only at the number of dollars spent on their blog and, when they can’t attribute any revenue dollars to it, decide it’s not worth it. Don’t make that mistake. A blog is an invaluable tool for interacting with current and potential customers, but the only way they’ll come to secondary double glazing you- and stay with you- is if you drop the marketing talk and provide some value (see point #1)
Stay fresh. It’s important to keep a steady stream of new content coming in to your blog. Statistically, pageviews will plummet if you let the same content sit on your blog for even a few days. Don’t make the mistake of going for quantity over quality though, as balance in that regard is really important. You should constantly think about what you can write about, and don’t shy away from talking about what’s happening in the world at large and how it pertains to your industry.
Get involved and Stay Involved. If you put the effort into creating and maintaining a blog, don’t forget one enormous component: comments. Keep track of your comments and respond to them. Remember, the point of a blog is to engage with customers and start developing relationships and customers’ affinity for the brand. Alienating them or ignoring them is going to do exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to do.
Some background, for those of you either not in Chicago or those who live here and somehow never take public transit: a new billboard/poster campaign has been showing up around the city (especially on trains and buses) that alludes to a “Kidnapped Chicagoan“, a ransom note and hints about where to find this guy. (Nowhere does it say anything about who created the campaign or what it’s pushing). It also lists the URL, KidnappedChicagoan.com.
I like the campaign a lot. Why?
It’s different. It’s intriguing because you don’t know who the actual campaign is for, and there’s very little information on the ads themselves (just a URL). There’s something appealing about ads that have some mystery behind them, for a couple of reasons: first, you want to know what is actually going on, because it might be cool, and second (what most people might be a little embarrassed to admit to, but it is nonetheless very real!), you want to be a member of whatever club knows about what “it” is and have the power to decide who you will share this information with. Being behind the figurative velvet rope in a viral marketing campaign is what marketers hope appeals to people, and in this case, I think it’s spot on.
It’s integrated. I like the fact that the website has non-awkward integration of various social media outlets. There’s a foursquare module, Twitter feed and a Google map with various places the kidnapped Chicagoan has been mapped out. Because this campaign is about tracking someone, it makes sense to use those items. When companies force those sorts of initiatives into a campaign, it’s not only weird and off-putting– it screams, “We don’t get it!”
It’s customized. The kidnapped Chicagoan lists his interests as: “thick mustaches, thicker pizza, oversized softballs, tweeting, beer, neon green relish, Da Bears, parking permit stickers, above-ground subways, trixies.” Little elements like that make the site fun to use.
And last but not least- it’s not obnoxious. (Spoiler alert!) The Chicagoan has been taken to St. Louis and the website details his travels there (very robust information with links and reviews of the various places he goes). The campaign itself was created by Hoffman Lewis for the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. Sure beats the boring “Pure Michigan” tourism ads, no?
An unexpected move, especially for a tourism organization. There’s word that they might be doing similar campaigns for other cities, and I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for any information on them. Kudos!
There are many lessons that we can learn from the oil spill quickly spreading from the Gulf of Mexico towards Louisiana and Florida, but the most relevant one I’d like to look at today concerns brand integrity and authenticity.
In 1999, British Petroleum began a massive re-branding, illustrating how it could transcend the oil sector by delivering top-line growth while remaining “innovative, progressive, environmentally responsible and performance-driven.” With the ‘Beyond Petroleum’ tagline, BP’s message to consumers was clear: we aim to navigate our complex world by combining energy and environmental concerns, going above what is expected of us to deliver longterm and innovative solutions. And that’s a pretty heavy promise to make to consumers.
It soon became clear that the marketing message and BP’s business practices just didn’t match up. As disasters caused by their refineries and pipelines continued to make headlines, the company continued to insist that it was responding- not only in a legal sense, but out of moral obligation. In 2006, CEO Robert Malone said that “what happened may not have broken the law, but it broke our values.”
And then the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico happened.
BP was talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Branding begins and ends with operations. And because they have made such a strident effort to be seen by consumers as environmentally friendly, responsible and trustworthy, their current response is all the more devastating– and alienating– to the public. This isn’t about condemning BP’s actions during or following the disaster– I think that argument speaks for itself. It is about companies living their own brands.
In some cases, it’s appropriate to alter operations to match a brand perception (I’d say that’s the pretty obvious preferable choice here– if BP took more environmental precautions, their usage of the yellow and green sun wouldn’t be as jarring and laughable). But if you’re comfortable with how your business operates, take a hard look at your brand. Is it authentic? Do the day-to-day happenings behind the scenes of your company fit within the larger picture? If they don’t, it’s either time to re-brand or start changing processes.
Good news, nerds! Remember when I mentioned that one of the reasons you need to claim your listing on Google Maps is because shady characters could hijack your listing? Google has now decided to end community editing, which means that in order to make any changes to a local business ad, you have to be the business’s verified owner. They announced this change in their blog last week:
We recently made a change to Google Maps to require all community edits to be reviewed before they are shown. In the past, some “pending” edits were shown immediately on Maps and only moderated (and sometimes denied) later on.
We’re taking this step to ensure that changes to Google Maps pass the high quality bar our users expect, while preventing SPAM and other problems from showing up before being reviewed first.
It’s late-coming, but a very welcome change, nonetheless. Some marketers are dubious about the new process, which requires a manual review time on Google’s part (because, well, it’s manual and might be more time consuming than anyone would like). I personally would choose a slightly longer review period over instant free-for-all editing any day.
And of course, it doesn’t change one very important best practice: if you haven’t claimed your listing, you need to do it!
I recently took a trip to Las Vegas (for the first time) for an extended weekend with some friends. While wandering amongst the madness that is the Vegas strip, I had the opportunity to visit a number of casinos/hotels and look around. And because I’m a big enough marketing nerd, I started thinking about the differences between the venues.
Each of the different venues has a very distinct personality, environment and decor– each of them has a clear brand. Some of the themes are more explicit (I’m thinking specifically of the Excalibur and the Luxor, which are meticulously styled as medieval castles and Egyptian scenes, respectively) where some are more nebulous (if asked to sum up the Wynn’s brand, one might use words like classy, chic or luxurious).
The more memorable places in Las Vegas have real personalities and unique features. Drawing on what I noticed in Las Vegas – that each brand is meticulously planned so customers can identify and resonate with the brand both immediately and in the long term- I started asking myself either-or questions regarding some of my favorite brands to see if they were distinct in the same way.
For example- is the brand’s target customer:
- seeking luxury or seeking value?
- interested more in tradition or innovation?
- spontaneous or methodical in their purchasing habits?
Too often, marketers get detroitmetrotransport.com so caught up in casting the widest net possible and looking at numbers without giving some real thought to the brand itself. Try this exercise yourself with your (and your competitors’) brands. Do they hold up? If you find yourself unable to answer these sorts of questions, it’s seriously worth considering going back to the drawing board and carving out a personality for your brand
I’m starting a new series where I ask subject matter experts 5 questions that I think are pertinant to small business owners. This week, I’ve spoken with Matt Ballek (that handsome devil pictured here)- a coworker of mine at Resolution Media where he drives video search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and execution.
First off– what is video optimization?
I was surprised to see that there aren’t any standard definitions of video SEO. Not even Wikipedia has one, so it must not be common knowledge.
I see video optimization in general as a process to help your video content reach the largest interested audience online. I think SEO should be a part of the video creation process (before anything is filmed) all the way to the upload and promotion stages.
Why is video optimization important?
Video optimization is important for a number or reasons. You may have heard that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine behind Google. Well, that is true. YouTube also has a full day’s worth of video being uploaded every minute. Every minute! If you aren’t optimizing your video content before uploading it, you can easily get buried by the influx of new content.
How much technical knowledge is required to do SEO for videos?
If you were able to open this article in a web browser, you can optimize videos. It must be the word ‘optimization’ that makes SEO sound difficult or like something a team of robots would do, but optimizing any content is about aligning your content with what people are already searching for.
What are some major mistakes (or the biggest one) that a small business can make with their videos?
I recently made a list of 21 video marketing mistakes, but I think many of them stem from having the wrong focus. Focusing solely on views and “going viral” will only frustrate you while not advancing your video marketing strategy. A good place to start would be to focus on engagement and interaction. How much of your video are viewers watching ? Are viewers leaving comments, rating, or sharing your video ? These are real areas of success and not just a number.
What is the number one most important thing that a business can do with their video content?
Have a personality. You don’t need to be wacky, zany, or unprofessional in any way, but if the video content you create doesn’t have some personality it just won’t resonate with people.
Matt Ballek has over 10 years of video production and SEO experience. He offers his guidance, advice and commentary on his video marketing blog at vidiSEO.com, and creates educational video content at YouTube.com/vidiseo
One of the topics I get the most questions about has to be website tracking and analytics. A lot of business owners I know are pretty savvy about online marketing– they know they need to be tracking their website and don’t need any convincing. But I’ve also run into a fair number of event photography people who are rather intimidated by website analytics or don’t see the need to invest time or money into it. So far, the most common questions/concerns from this contingent are
- What is this “analytics” thing I keep hearing about?
- Why is tracking important?
- What can I do with this information once I have it?
- Is it easy to implement and maintain?
- How much does it cost?
This is a really enormous topic, and there are subject matter experts in the field that are better equipped to handle the technical questions than I am (stay tuned– there are interviews coming soon!). This post is meant to address those introductory concerns.
Why do restaurants run business card lunch giveaways? Why do retail stores ask for customers’ zip codes? Why do telemarketing customer surveys exist? The one purpose they all serve is to track customer behavior. These examples aren’t perfect metaphors for website tracking, though, because they leave plenty of customers or behaviors out of the equation. In the restaurant example, a customer can choose to walk past the business card box; in retail stores, customers can choose not to respond; on the phone, it’s easy to end the conversation before the marketer gets any data.
With website analytics, a business can easily see how many people have visited, but that’s only the beginning. With simple reporting enabled, there are multiple data points to look at: how many people have been to the site before, where they came from, how long they stayed on the site, what they liked the most there. Website analytics can help assign value to all the work you put into on a website. In short, without tracking, your website won’t be worth much to you at all.
Here are just a few ideas (that you might not have considered) of how businesses can use web analytics data:
- Use geographically identifying information about customers to decide where to open new franchises or branches.
- Track which content customers find most compelling on the website by page views and time on site. Use this information to build out entirely new sections of the website to drive traffic.
- Monitor traffic sources. If a high number of users are coming from one particular source, consider additional advertising opportunities there (i.e. if many users come from Facebook, consider implementing an ad campaign there).
- Identify what browser or device the audience is using to access your site. Then check out what the site renders like on each one, making sure to fix any errors that could ruin user experience.
So what are you waiting for? Get some analytics up on your site today. I recommend Google Analytics for beginners for two reasons: it’s free and it’s pretty user-friendly. I’m working on an introduction to that specific tool to help, but in the meantime, their start guide is pretty comprehensive.