Much Ado About Yahoo-Google & The 95 Character Poet
Today: thoughts on this week’s news about the Yahoo-Google Ad deal and adCenter updates; in-depth look: the 95 character poet: using variations in ad copy; and “do you hate checking boxes? ” in this week’s free tips and tools.
News from the search engines
Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing: facts about the advertising agreement
At the Google-run Yahoo-Google Facts microsite and the recent post, Myth-busting and the Yahoo!-Google agreement, by Yahoo president Susan Decker on the Yahoo! corporate blog, the two search giants provide insight into the historical deal that will allow Yahoo to start using Google AdSense on their sites.
I thought the best summary was provided by Decker in this quote from her post:
You may have heard that the agreement gives Google control over 90% of search advertising. That’s just plain wrong. It’s simply a contract that gives Yahoo! the right, but no obligation, to show Google AdSense ads on Yahoo!’s own network. It’s important to note that the agreement is non-exclusive and gives us the option to “backfill” with Google ads if and when we see fit. The reason we structured the deal this way – rather than a more typical exclusive deal with revenue commitments to us and traffic commitments to Google – was precisely to avoid the issues the critics are raising.
She goes on to explain some of the challenges Yahoo has faced and how the Google ads will fill gaps created by these issues. She continues on with:
In the past year, we have thought about these challenges very carefully and we created a strategy that we’re convinced is a “win win” for Yahoo! and advertisers. The core idea is limited use of Google ads to deliver more value from our SRPs and other inventory in circumstances where we aren’t delivering the best advertiser value today, and then to use resources gained by that strategy to accelerate our investments in the technologies and marketplaces of the future. That’s where the agreement comes in — it allows us to provide better, more valuable connections immediately.
So, it seems to me Google is entering into this deal knowing that Yahoo is going to take what they’ve learn by using Google’s inventory and build a better mousetrap [someday]. In the meantime, they’ll rake in millions (billions?) in this time period.
Obviously, for SEM pros, the questions start to fly and Google attempts to answer some these questions on their microsite such as:
- What are the facts about the deal?
- What does the deal mean for advertisers?
- Is the deal good for competition?
- What are the terms of the deal?
- What’s the deal’s impact on ad price?
These are obviously important questions for search marketers, so I urge everyone in the community to check out both Google’s microsite and the official Yahoo post to get more informed.
Microsoft: an update on recent updates
I’d like to revisit three recent Microsoft updates (from mid-August) in case they passed you by.
- Manage Your Credit Cards and Payments More Efficiently - With the latest features, you can better organize your credit card payment information and make monthly payments or settle outstanding charges on demand—no need to contact the adCenter support team.
- adCenter Keyword Research Reatures – Better optimize your campaigns with powerful keyword Research Data. The improved Research tab offers an end-to-end keyword research and optimization experience that is easy for you to use. Get suggested keywords, performance data, and cost-per-click information before adding to your ad group.
- Refresh Your Report Data and Create New Reports More Quickly – The latest reporting features help you save time and easily access the latest information on your account. Now you can quickly refresh a previously created report to get the latest data without having to create a report from scratch.
You can learn more by downloading the PDF doc US adCenter August Upgrade 2008 Feature Guide and ask questions on the adCenter community forum site.
In-depth: The 95 Character Poet, Part 1: Using Specific Variations in Ad Copy
Ninety-five characters. Sometimes on two lines, sometimes on three. Either way, that’s not much room to work with when trying to inspire a user to click your ad. But that’s all search marketing pros have to work with most of the time and, with search marketing raking in almost 40% of all online media budgets, writing successful ad copy with ninety-five characters has become its own art form.
One commonly recommended technique in search engine marketing is to use multiple creative for each ad group. As the engines rotate through the creative, they ultimately begin to show the (best) clicked ad more often. This is great for the engines as they make their money when users click ads, so of course, they want the ad with the highest click-thru rate always running…it could literally mean a difference in billions of ad revenue to them.
Many of us use SEM management solutions that allow us to optimize the rotation of search creative by the conversion rate, not just the click thru rate. Having as many creatives in the ad group as possible gives you the most variations, so that “winning combo” of click-thru plus conversion should be giving you the best results available.
In this first part of a series on SEM copywriting, I’d like to present a technique that has been very successful at my agency for optimizing creative and finding great trends to use. That is utilizing multiple creative with specific variations that can be tracked and quantified. I find that in many of the search accounts we take over from our clients, they may have multiple creative in each ad group, but many of the variations are almost exactly the same; just a word or line changed here or there. What we try to do is to generate around twenty or so initial creative for each ad group but with very different directions at the heart of each ad. This way, we can easily run reports and see which elements are connecting with users (via higher click-thru rates) and which elements are bringing in the highest quality traffic (via conversion rates).
The following is a list of just some of the creative directions you can take. Remember, at some point in the inital testing, you’ll be pulling the data to see which directions work the best, so try to make each creative as different as you can from each other so the results are clear.
- Call to Action – Marketing 101. You’d think users would know to click the ad if they’re interested, but, surprisingly enough, many won’t. Creating a call to action such as “visit us to learn more” or “read here about what X can do for you” (Google frowns on “click here”), creates a subconscious connection with users that marketers have been using since modern day marketing began.
- Dynamic Keyword Insertion. DKI (I spotlighted this feature in a previous article) is still a great thing to include in creative. What better way to connect with a user than repeating back to them the keyword (highlighted in bold, adding even more impact) that triggered the ad.
- Promotions – Consumers love deals. Although promotion creative is a pain in the neck because it’s always changing, promotions are a good way to reach users who are ready to buy now. “free shipping” has been shown in various studies to have a very high impact in click-thru rates.
- Official Site. If you can do this, I highly recommend it. In just about every opportunity that I’ve had to run “official site” creative, it’s consistently come back with high click-thru and conversion rates. Many times, you are competing with other advertisers on the same product or services so if you can stand out by being the official site, then do it.
- Pricing. Obviously, if your pricing is high for the market, you may want to shy away from this direction. However, if you do have great pricing, then let the world know. As well, by listing pricing right on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), comparison shoppers can quickly see if you have value, even if you’re down in the lower positions.
- Benefits. What will the consumer gain by using your product or service? Will they become smarter? Make better decisions? Telling users upfront what they’ll gain by clicking the ad creates a call to action without being too pushy.
- Emotional Connection. One of my favorite creative directions to use, finding a way to emotionally connect to users can be very powerful. Letting them know that they’ll be safe, secure with your service or how good they’ll feel after using your products is a great strategy.
- Ask Questions. I really like this technique. It takes boring statements and gives them some life. Take the example of “We sell luxury cars” and change it to “Want to drive a luxurious car?” or even “Do luxury cars interest you?” See the difference? The user answers the question in their mind and you’ve hooked them.
- Time Sensitivity. Another Marketing 101 technique. You want to create a feeling of scarcity in the market so that if the consumer doesn’t “act now” then they’ll be out of luck. Examples of this would be “for a limited time” or “this weekend only”. There’s a reason why those phrases appear in so many ads online and off.
- Awards/Recognition. The old saying goes: “If you want to be a king, crown yourself.” Letting users know that a third party has ranked you high in your category is a no brainer for creative copywriting. It creates immediate credibility and just may interest the user enough to click your ad.
- Buying Cycle. Don’t forget…all of your users are somewhere within the Attention, Interest, Hunting, or Buying phase of the buying cycle. Hopefully, you’ve set your ad groups up this way and you should take advantage. If you’re writing ads for general “attention” words, then your ad copy should match. With tail terms, you may want more specific ads that can reach those kinds of users.
- Branded vs. Non-Branded. Name dropping is a proven way to get attention.
Once you run your tests on these creative variations, you will undoubtedly see certain ones rise to the top with regards to click-thru and conversion rates. When you identify these trends, try mixing results to generate even more effective creative. For example, if you find that “official site” and “time sensitivity” directions are working the best, try both techniques in the same ad.
Free tool of the week: do you hate checking boxes?
CheckFox is one of my all time favorite Firefox plugins. After installing, you can highlight any set of check boxes and then right click. In the menu, Checkfox lets you quickly either check all boxes or uncheck all boxes you have selected. Online marketers spend a lot of time checking boxes…I personally have spent more time than I’d care to figure out with this minor task. For example, in Google AdWords reporting, if you want to see every data point, you have to check, check, check! CheckFox gives you back that minute of your day.
Okay, this may not be the time saving tip of all time, but when you combined something like CheckFox with other efficient workarounds, you can certainly get more done in a day than before.
Well, that’s all for this week.
Josh Dreller is the Director of Media Technology for Fuor Digital, an agency concentrated in the research, planning, buying and stewardship of digital media marketing campaigns. Josh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The In The Trenches column appears Fridays at Search Engine Land.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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