• http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Great stuff, Evan. There is a great deal to learn by studying failures. A few caveats I’d throw out lest advertisers learn themselves into Chapter 7: 1) Almost any relevant keyword “works” if you can pay the right amount for the traffic — the problem may be that the market prices you off the first page. That may tell you others can afford to be there while you can’t, or it could mean they’re not watching their ROI carefully. If we learn more from the first alternative that leads us to: 2) Much more likely than page design problems: is your selection and pricing of “X” competitive with the other folks on the page; and 3) Is keyword X ambiguous in meaning such that many of the folks clicking on the ad were looking for something else.

    My point is that you’re absolutely right, there is much to learn from the poor performers, but it’s also true that not all poor performers can be “fixed.”

  • http://www.AtlantaAnalytics.com Evan LaPointe


    Great points. But here’s what I would say back:

    If someone is capable of managing a campaign so poorly they go into Chapter 7, they shouldn’t be in this industry, so I welcome it. :)

    And I would strongly debate the point you’re making. The site is the engine of conversion. While you’re right, not all bad performers can be “fixed,” it’s enabling caveats like that that make paid search marketers lazy and never look at the site-side issues. In my experience with PPC, only about 5% of paid search marketers ever bother to log into a web analytics tool for anything other than reporting. That’s pitiful.

  • http://www.AtlantaAnalytics.com Evan LaPointe

    To illustrate: here’s a link to Tim Ash’s landing page case studies. Nobody in PPC history has ever increased conversion rates 81% by changing bids…unless they eliminated everything except brand terms.

    PPC people need to get this: the media is far less responsible for performance than the site. Period.

    If you bid on silly keywords, you will always do poorly. But if you bid on an acceptable range of terms and drive qualified traffic, the sole determiner of success will be the site: landing page, information architecture, usability, cart process, etc.

  • http://www.AtlantaAnalytics.com Evan LaPointe
  • http://bhanks bhanks

    I think this article gets to the heart of the difference between PPC and SEM.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    I hear you, and I don’t think we disagree that much. There are plenty of lazy marketers out there and driving them out of business is a pleasure we both enjoy.

    Choice of landing pages is hugely important, but it’s a mistake to believe that price and selection aren’t huge factors in conversion rates as are the types of keywords. If you sell motorcycles the keyword “Yamaha” will have a low conversion rate no matter what the page looks like and no matter how much the ad copy screams: “We sell motorcycles not keyboards, or stereos, or drums or…” Moving the buttons around won’t change the fact that many of the people who got to the site were looking for something completely different.

  • http://www.AtlantaAnalytics.com Evan LaPointe

    Haha – “a pleasure we both enjoy.” Love that.

    You’re right – focusing on the site doesn’t allow you take your eyes off the ball with your marketing, and I certainly don’t mean that. When you see outliers in conversion rate, bounce rate, ROI, or whatever column(s) you’re sorting by, you need to figure out why, but nobody can dispute that the site itself is usually the last place on earth the average PPC manager looks.

    I do think that many good PPC professionals still don’t understand or fully appreciate the importance of the site, and a statement like, “moving the buttons around,” sort of illustrates that. It’s a big oversimplification, and potentially disrespectful to people like Tim who make a living making a huge difference in people’s businesses.

    You are right: choosing keywords, prices, and creative are huge influencers of success, and I’ve never said otherwise. Those decisions are the fuel. The better the fuel, the better the engine runs. But if the engine sucks, it doesn’t matter how good the fuel is, past a certain point. And that’s the point I’m making. In marketing, we tend to blame the fuel for performance. Meanwhile, we’re racing our competitors with a 4-cylinder engine under the hood. We’d get 2x the performance with a V-8, using the same fuel.

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Well said, Evan. It’s also worth pointing out that the companies we work with at RKG are primarily eCommerce firms of considerable scale who’ve been working hard at testing and improving their site for 10 years or more. The 81% conversion improvements were made long-ago in that space.