In The Trenches is a weekly spotlight of tips, tricks, and news about the tools search engine marketing professionals use to give them a leg up on the competition. Today: News from the search engines, today’s in-depth look, The Ultimate Guide to Search Marketing Optimization Part 4: Ten Vital Tech Resources, Compete.com, and this week’s free tips and tools.
News from the search engines
Google AdWords: Trends + Keyword Tool = Insights
From the Inside AdWords blog: Announcing Google Insights for Search.
Today, we’re launching Google Insights for Search, a new product designed with the advertiser in mind. It provides more flexibility and functionality for advertisers and marketers to understand search behavior, and adds some cool new features like a world heat map to graphically display search volume and regional interest.
Like Google Trends, you can just type in a search term to see search volume patterns over time, as well as the top related and rising searches. You’ll also have the ability to compare search volume trends across multiple search terms, categories (commonly referred to as verticals), geographic regions, or specific time ranges.
Let’s take the example of entering the term apple…the majority of top related and rising searches are associated with the brand Apple. Google Insights for Search allows you to filter this query by the Food & Drink category, resulting in a dramatically different view of search volume trends and related searches of apple, the fruit. You can also use this filter to compare search terms with the category (for example, apple compared to the Food & Drink category).
First the new additions to the Google Keyword Tool and now, less than a month later, another data-rich tool from Google. I’ve only been able to scratch the surface with this tool yet so I should have more on this next week. However, from first glance, it looks to be yet another good tool for the SEM toolbox.
Yahoo Search Marketing: Change to Status Column
Last week, I reported that there were three new columns added to the Ad Performance report. There was also another feature addition last week to the status column.
From the YSM Blog:
It’s also important to know if your campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads are offline or online — and why. That’s why we’ve moved all of our ad statuses into a single column, making it easier to know the status of a campaign object and the reason for that status.
Sometimes your campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads can have multiple statuses. You may make changes to your account to get it back online but it remains offline because of other reasons.
With the new column, if an object is affected by more than one status — for example, if you’ve paused an ad and it’s been declined for editorial reasons — you’ll see the highest priority status first, and then the next-highest priority as you clear up the obstacles to getting it back online. So in this case, if you unpause your ad, you may see the “editorial declined” status next.
I love this! Why should column fields only include one data point? This is super smart and once again I applaud the efforts. I could see the possibility of more “smart” columns. For example, what about the Avg. CPC column? Why couldn’t it also show trend info such as yesterday’s Avg. CPC or the lowest and highest CPCs from the date range? Interesting…
Microsoft: adCenter Desktop Announcements
I noticed a few updates regarding the new(ish) adCenter Desktop tool. There’s a new version out which you’ll be prompted to install the next time you log in. As with the AdWords Editor release a few months ago, the best practice suggested is: “to avoid any data loss, please upload changes to your online adCenter account or save all your local account data, as instructed below, prior to downloading the new version.”
In depth: The Ultimate Guide to Search Marketing Optimization Part 4: Ten Vital Tech Resources for Optimization
In the previous columns on this subject, (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, I’ve explored why optimization is so key to search marketing (more so than almost any other medium), the basics on how it can be achieved, provided a checklist of brainstorm optimization options, and even plotted an “optimization class” of online documentation that should certainly have a positive affect on an SEM pro’s knowledge of the subject. Optimization is an important topic to this industry and there are many tools available to help implement in these strategies.
As a Media Technologist, I see technology as the backbone of what we do. A good Media Tech, with the right tools at their disposal, can efficiently master basic optimization techniques and improve conversions for their company or their clients. The top three engines, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, each provide free tools to users of their platform. Even if you don’t foresee a need for them now, it’s good to fully understand them so that you will know when to utilize them for your benefit.
Here are ten vital tech resources you can use for optimizing your accounts:
1. Conversion tracking. I, like many SEM pros, use a search management tool to handle all of my conversion tracking, but when I get the chance to, I will tag my clients’ conversion pages with the engine tracking codes as well. This gives me a backup/auditing tool for secondary data. As well, it allows me to see conversion while I’m in the engines instead of having to pull reports and compare.
Bottom line, you must track conversions. That’s the only way you can know if your SEM is working. I know for some sites, they just want traffic or it might be difficult to figure out what to track as a conversion. However, there is always something to track. I saw a webinar from analytics guru Avinash Kaushik recently where he showed his own blog and how he tracks his “about me” page as a conversion. He admitted that there may be no true monetary value in this conversion, but it does give him a good idea of how users are interacting with his site.
2. Site exclusion. No better way to optimize content then by analyzing which sites aren’t performing well and then blocking them using the engine tools. Google’s tool is great and you can check out the Yahoo traffic Quality center for YSM! At our agency, we go through all content (and Placement Targeting accounts in Google) each week to make sure we’re not running on any budget wasters.
3. Demographic bidding. If you’re able to highly define your demographic target, using demographic bidding in Google and Microsoft is the right way to bid. Achieving first position for the age/gender that is the highest converting for you is almost a no-brainer. One of our clients is in the health care industry and I’ve seen some good success by only bidding for our key demo, which are females over 55.
4. Quality Score indicators. I’m sure everyone knows by now how important it is to keep your quality score up in the engines… lower min bids, higher positions, lower costs, etc. are all good reasons. When QS first arrived on the scene, it was very cloudy… I remember my Google rep had to explain it to me a few times for me to get it. The good news is that we now have a good level of transparency and the engines will tell you why you’re ranking low, including poor CTRs, poor relevancy between your keywords/ads/landing pages, and even landing page load time. Don’t stay in the dark! Keep an eye on your QS using the tools inside the engines.
5. Analytics tools. Google Analytics, Yahoo Search Marketing analytics, and Microsoft Analytics are very helpful to any search marketing pro. I’ve mentioned many times in this column about how important it is to analyze the click stream of the traffic you send to sites in order to optimize search. When you think of all of the ways you can segment your accounts, such as campaigns, ad groups, ad creative, keywords, etc, you can immediately dig into what parts of your campaigns are working and what are not. Remember, optimization is not about traffic, it’s about results. Google Analytics is an amazing tool for this research and you can link your AdWords account to a complementing Analytics account. Yahoo’s tool is not as robust, but Microsoft has certainly tried to make a big splash in the industry with their product.
6. Reports. If you want to be an SEM pro and master optimization, you better be great at reporting. You should understand what reports are available, what data points can be measured–basically all of the ins-and-outs of each engines’ reporting system. I’m still surprised how many times I find little tricks in the reporting systems. Also, the engines continuously add features so it’s good to stay on top of these additions and how they can help you in reporting for optimization.
8. Google Campaign Optimizer. The Campaign Optimizer is a feature for which you can let AdWords analyze a campaign and then offer optimization suggestions that include your budget, keywords, ad text, and landing page, and create a customized proposal for your campaign. You can then review the proposed changes and accept the ones you want to apply. The results certainly vary, but this is a great quick fix for campaigns that are not performing well. You can learn about it here.
9. Yahoo Campaign Optimizer. Yahoo also has a campaign optimizer but it differs from the Google one. Instead of clicking the tool to give you suggestions, the Yahoo Campaign optimizer asks you to select optimization guidelines, which help you spend your campaign monthly budget on the ads that best meet your goals and objectives. Set the value and relative importance levels for the guidelines that are relevant to your business. These settings will be used by the ad groups in this campaign unless you set custom values for them. This is an active tool that helps you manage your account. Check out the documentation for more info.
10. Microsoft adLabs. Found here, Microsoft adLabs provides a lot of optimization focused tools, including ones for keyword and content discovery audience intelligence, ad selection and relevance, social networking, and video and interactive media. It launched a few years ago with limited functionality, but it’s grown into a very feature-rich site that can certainly be of help to SEM pros looking for tech help for optimization.
Here are a few optimization tips I’d like to share:
- Split your campaigns into Content and Search. That way you can focus on one at a time and have more “levers” to pull.
- There’s Google Search and the Google Search Network (America Online, CompuServe, Netscape, AT&T Worldnet, Earthlink, and others). By default, when you create a campaign, both are turned on for serving your ads. You can turn off this setting to see if that improves your conversion rates.
- Accelerate or Spend Until Depleted feature… by default, the engines will try to “smooth” your ad serving so that you don’t get paused because of reaching your budget too early in the day. I’ve found that a good way to ramp up traffic is to turn that feature off.
- Dayparting. If you have the time to test what days of the week or times of day give you the highest conversion rates, then I urge you to do so. Maybe running ads in the morning is wasting your budget?
- Dynamic Keyword Insertion. Why not use it? It gives your ads relevancy that helps your Quality Score and also has proven to be very effective. Even if you don’t think you need it, it’s a best practice to include a few of these creative in every ad group.
- Match Types. Each keyword works best for you at a specific match type. Find out what it is and optimize towards it.
Free tool of the week: Compete.com
“Track your rivals. Then eat their lunch.” That’s the Compete motto right on their home page. You gotta love any competitive intelligence tool that is that aggressive, right? Powered by “the largest pool of online consumer behavior data in the industry,” Compete’s two million U.S. panelists provide some serious data that Compete uses to project total user behavior. Their Site Analytics and Search Analytics products are mostly free, although there is a Pro version which has more features. However, just using the free tools, you can input a keyword or site and see traffic levels. You can also compare keywords and sites from the same screen. This is helpful, for example, for watching your competitors and adjust your own media strategies if you start seeing spikes in theirs. Overall, Compete.com is a good free tool that any search marketer will find useful.
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.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.