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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Worst Summary of AdWords You Will Ever Read

Earlier today I came across what I will describe as the most uninformed, embarrassingly inaccurate description of AdWords I've ever seen that wasn't written as a joke.

The title of the article linked to above is Tech Solutions Your Small Biz' Can't Use by Gene Marks. Based on the content of the article (among other ridiculous comments Mr. Marks states small businesses shouldn't use anti virus software) I'm going assume that Mr. Marks doesn't own a small business, know anyone that does, or has even been in the presence of a small business owner. Even though he has a website that states otherwise I refuse to believe it.

This post will focus on the number 8 thing a small business doesn't need according to Mr. Marks, AdWords (or paid search in general). Here are Gene's comments relating to the use of AdWords by a small business:

"John's a pretty smart guy. He runs a company that sells specialty pet foods. He manages his own investments. He keeps an eye on his taxes. But I've found a way to turn John into a blithering idiot. I've asked him to figure out how to use Google's (GOOG) AdSense profitably. Are you interested in a mind-numbing exercise? Give AdSense a shot. Or Yahoo SM or MSN AdCenter. Don't you know how much to budget for "clicks" on your ad? Are you just a little suspicious as to who exactly is counting these "clicks" that conveniently turn into revenue for these companies? Like John, you've just entered the alternate universe of Internet advertising! Here's a word of wisdom: Leave the mass-market advertising to Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP). Small business owners should stick to less mystifying forms of promotion."

Ouch. Let's take a look at that opinion a few chunks at a time.

"John's a pretty smart guy. He runs a company that sells specialty pet foods. He manages his own investments. He keeps an eye on his taxes. But I've found a way to turn John into a blithering idiot"

Maybe Gene made John read this 100 times?

"I've asked him to figure out how to use Google's (GOOG) AdSense profitably. Are you interested in a mind-numbing exercise? Give AdSense a shot. Or Yahoo SM or MSN AdCenter."

Gene Gene Gene...even my 14 year old neighbor knows the difference between AdWords and Adsense. Glaring error in using the right term for what you're talking about aside, in order to AdWords in a cost effective manor you follow the same basic marketing principles you do when using other more traditional forms of media. The goal is to spend less than you earn...you know, make a profit.

"Don't you know how much to budget for "clicks" on your ad?"

You budget for AdWords just like you budget for any other marketing initiative. Use data.

"are you just a little suspicious as to who exactly is counting these "clicks" that conveniently turn into revenue for these companies?"

The company counting the clicks would be the company that you signed up with. In the case of AdWords, that company is Google. There are plenty of tools and services available that can also assist in auditing clicks if you are concerned.

Try auditing magazine circulation, direct mail deliveries and billboard exposure. The amount of information you can get about the people who clicked on one of your ads far exceeds the amount of information you can get about the person who saw your ad in a magazine.

"Like John, you've just entered the alternate universe of Internet advertising!"

Alternate universe? Are you kidding me?

"Here's a word of wisdom:"

I scanned the entire article and couldn't find it.

"Leave the mass-market advertising to Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP). Small business owners should stick to less mystifying forms of promotion."

Yea, because highly targeted relevant ads on search engines and content matched pages is exactly what I would consider "mass-market" advertising....

I personally know more than dozen small business owners that use AdWords to promote their business. Most have increased their spend with AdWords (and paid search in general) over the past few years as they watched the results speak for themselves. In terms of performance, most if not all of the small business owners I know would say paid search is the most effective form of advertising they do. It's more effective than Yellow Pages, television, radio, direct mail and print. Small business owners should without a doubt look into paid search as a form of promotion for their business. If they don't have the time to do it themselves (and most won't) they should consider hiring a professional to manage it for them. When done right the increased revenue will more than offset the campaign management costs.

I am actually astonished that the article being discussed was ever even published. The advice Mr. Marks is giving isn't just wrong, following it could actually harm (not using anti virus...I could tell you some small business horror stories...) a small business. While not using AdWords surely won't harm your business it could put you at a disadvantage and limit your growth potential. AdWords is marketing and marketing is a critical component to the overall successfulness of a small business.

My advice for small business owners would be to look into the viability of a paid search program now, don't take the advice of someone (*cough* Gene Marks *cough*) who doesn't even know the name of the advertising method he's telling you not to use.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

The AdWords Content Network - Better Than Ever

If you've been in the paid search game for awhile you no doubt have an opinion of the AdWords Content Network. If you haven't used the content network in the past 12 months that opinion probably is something along the lines of "it sucks". I know a few years back, almost without exception, that was my opinion. One of the first things I told folks new to AdWords to do was to make sure they were opted out of the content network.

Fast forward to 2007 - 2008.

The content network works, and it works well. I've been working with an account that throughout 2007 generated a number of conversions both in the search and content networks. While search produced (and continues to produce) more overall volume the content network is producing conversions at 25% of the cost per conversion that I see in the search network and the volume is continuing to increase...without much in the way of additions/changes. I see similar trends across a number of accounts in a number of different industries.

Looking back over 2007 I think there were some significant changes and program additions that took place that are assisting in making the network more effective for AdWords advertisers.

1. A mid year purging of poor performing sites from the content network. Out with the bad, in with the good....or at least slightly better. Many assumed this was timed in order to reduce any potential outcry once Google decided it was time be a little more transparent...which leads to item 2.

2. Transparency for all advertisers via the placement performance report. This new level of transparency allowed all advertisers, not just those with sophisticated tracking, to monitor activity on the content network and filter out poor performing sites.

3. More formats including gadget ads.

4. Overall growth. While I don't have access to Google's internal numbers campaigns I've managed that have a presence in the content network, without the addition of additional keywords, continued to see more impressions (and therefore more clicks & conversions) as 2007 progressed. I'm sure this is not a universal truth and some markets did not see the same but overall my assumption is the content network as a whole grew significantly in 2007.

5. Consistency in pricing. We've all seen major (and sometimes overnight) price increases on the Search Network. I've seen actual CPC's increase %500 in a month on the search network. While I'm sure it could, I've yet to see massive, overnight price increases on the content network.

6. Publishers (AdSense users) got smarter. Generally speaking (exceptions of course) when evaluating the content network sites I've been more and more impressed with ad placement and integration into publisher sites.

7. Higher quality sites are joining the content network. The days of the content network being primarily made of small, relatively unknown sites is over. The list of sites that joined the content network in 2007 is impressive to say the least.

8. Introduction of the content network quality score. Simply put a better ad & user experience leads to more of everything we as advertisers are after; impressions, clicks and sales. More info on the content network quality score here.

9. Better fraudulent click filtering.

10. They changed what counts as a click which helps eliminate accidental or inadvertent clicks.

(yes that's a "10" list but if I see another "top 10/10 reasons blah blah blah" headline in the search blogs I will puke)


If you have been out of the content network for awhile because of poor results in the past now might be the time to give it another go. The AdWords blog has a few helpful posts that talk about making the best use of the content network:

Content Network Tips Part 1
Content Network Tips Part 2
Content Network Tips Part 3

Other content network info that's worth a read:

How to Optimize Your AdWords Content Optimization ~ PPC Hero
How to Optimize A Contextual Search Advertising Campaign ~ Brad Geddes at SEL.
Tips for Success on the Content Network ~ AdWords Help Center
Content Network Strategies ~ Gordon Choi
Monitoring and Optimizing the Content Network ~ MoreVisibility
Experts - Content Advertising ~ David Szetela at SEW.

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