Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Ask.com brings back Jeeves

Ask.com brings back Jeeves

askjeeves_logo

OK, so cast your mind back a number of years.  A day when Google weren’t as dominant a player in the internet space as they are now.  A time when multiple search engines were available.  Yahoo, MSN (or one of its many labels), Excite, Lycos and Ask Jeeves.  It seems odd now talking about anything outside of the “Big 3”, it is almost peculiar to use the term the “Big 3” given Google’s dominance.

It came as a reminder when trawling through industry sites this morning that other search engines do exist (and there used ot be a few of them).  Revolution magazine have highlighted that Ask.com have rebranded for the second time in 18 months.  Now this isn’t some fancy all singing affair with new Web 2.0 images and fancy bits everywhere, no its back to the olden days with our little butler pal Jeeves. 

Revolution outline the move is going back to the initial notion that people will type in questions to search.  Jeeves will now display answers and make recommendations.  In theory this sounds like the perfect solution.  Yet it probably did when AskJeeves was first formed.  However given the way people have adpated their search habits to use Google, their learned behaviour means (in my opinion) they don’t type in many questions anymore. 

I am not saying Ask have made a mistake here.  More people are now using social networks and platforms which means they are adapting their behaviour again and moving towards a different type of English (text and short-terms are common), however search hasn’t moved.  The fact that the Ask model promises to deliver more news, blogs and videos etc could be a good thing for them and people in the social spectrum.  However, if I am looking for a supplier or retailer, I am not sure typing in “Where are Halfords” and then getting some forums is really what I need.  Especially when one of the posts is how useless are Halfords from the AVForums.

I am keen to keep an eye on the developments at Ask (Jeeves) and see if their latest efforts can take advantage of the current social media wave.  It would be great to have a serious challenger to Google.  This isn’t a criticism of Google as they are still the most relevant of all the large search engines, its just as an advertiser it would be good to have a credible alternative.

Either way, good to see you back Mr Jeeves.  Just a shame when I type in “Who is Richard Clark?” – a picture of Dick Clark appears.


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Google Adwords for Dummies – Pt.2

Understanding Adwords

Google for Dummies – The ad copy

So as with any advertising campaign the quality of message , its standout, relevance and content are all drivers of success.  Adwords campaigns are no exception.  In fact due to Google’s algorithm the quality of adcopy is even more important as not only will it assist in conversion it also has an impact on the money spent.

Simple Tip 1 – Keywords

Where possible include the keyword you are bidding on in your adcopy.  If you can include it in both your title and body copy your relevance should (in theory) be higher.  If you also have it or a derivative of in the destination URL, it should be even better.  The other added benefit is that your ads should be relevant to what searchers are looking for.

Simple Tip 2 – Multiple Ad Groups

Use multiple adgroups.  This will allow maximum flexibility in terms of keyword insertion/management in addition to managing if the product/service you are promoting is open to numerous changes of availability and price.

Simple Tip 3 – Dynamic Keyword Insertion

In theory this advanced Adwords technique cannot fail.  The ads are set up to insert the keyword into the ad, defaults can also be set if the keywords exceeds body copy limits.  This technique is done by including the following {keyword:}, the deafult keyword has to appear after the colon and before the bracket.  I would advise you keep on top of any activity using this technique.  We have had inconsistent results some really good, some no better than normal.

Remember to not use this technique when you have mis-spells in your campaign.

Simple Tip 4 – Test Creative

The good thing about Google adwords is that you can test ad copy side-by-side and optimise automatically based on performance.  Subtle differences can really change ad behaviour.  I would recommend having at least a rolling stable of two ads, although I would normally run three.

Simple Tip 5 – Don’t bid for top

A common failing for PPC beginners is the desire to aim for top spot.  This is fuelled sometimes by naivity and sometimes by senior management.  You may get higher CTR from bidding top, however it is unlikely your ROI will be any greater, in fact you generally lower ROI from being in top spot.  That is a very simplistic view and if you have the budget you should test your ads by targetting different positions to see your optimum point. 

When looking at defensive campaigns, e.g. your brand with extensions (Best Buy vouchers) you may want to bid up to ensure affiliates or other competitors aren’t trumping you.  If your sector is particularly aggresive and your rivals bid on your core brand terms, you obviously need to aim for top spot, especially if their proposition is better than your own.

Remember these tips are for beginners.  I am not trying to teach PPC specialists to suck eggs.  In further parts to this series I will look at bidding strategies, budgets, tracking and content.


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Top Organic Search Terms – Helps with PPC development?

Fastest Growing Search Terms

So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that finding the top search terms can help your PPC.  You don’t have to be a Marketing guru to comprehend that allowing your PPC and SEO to work hand-in-hand enables you to create maximum efficiencies from you SEM.  But what else can this simple analysis provide?

Well the 2008 Search Reviews from the major players, gives us some fascinating yet simple views.

Search as Navigation

Of the Top 10 search terms in Google in 2008, only three could be described as non-navigational.  This could be the output of lazy typing or perhaps a result of Google toolbar being installed on more regular internet users.   Does Google’s feeling lucky help make it quicker than typing a full URL in the address bar?  Maybe it is a consequence of the new generation of surfers typing addresses in the toolbar and thinking it is the navigational tool.  (I know people that do that).

Aside from the obvious trend of people typing in simple websites that need little investigation, e.g. BBC – it also uncovers a growing influence of Social Media.

Has it evolved?

In 2006 there were different terms, however navigational searches still dominated, as did “Web 2.0” – a major sporting event also dominated with World Cup being in position 3.  Interestingly the word video was number 7.  No sign of YouTube at the time.

The Difference Between Engines

The Top 10 UK Searches on Google in 2008

facebook

1. Facebook

2. BBC

3. YouTube

4. eBay

5. Games

6. News

7. Hotmail

8. Bebo

9. Yahoo

10. Jobs

Compare this to Yahoo

britney-spears1

1. Britney Spears

2. Big Brother

3. X Factor

4. Oasis

5. High School Musical 3

6. US Election

7. Amy Winehouse

8. Heath Ledger

9. Kate Moss

10. Eastenders

The comparison would clearly indicate a difference in behaviour between the two main search engines in the UK.  Google Top 10 contains more navigational and generic searches (possibly related to toolbar), whilst Yahoo contains more celebrity based enquiries.  The queries also centre more around topics with potential scandal or gossip attached.

What does this mean?

Well whilst it could be argued that this comparison can be taken with a pinch of salt, there is an indication of searchers.  If I was responsible for a Finance brand, I would feel more alliance with the Google base.  If however, I was running PPC for a DVD or music retailer, I would push more towards maximising my presence on  Yahoo.  Whilst this is easy to push in pure black and white, one must remember that Google dominates the search market spectrum in the UK.  No matter what sector, who your audience is or what you are trying to say, unless you are very specific in your targets or operate in a niche, you must always use Google.

The findings in the comparison may however help you to adapt your ad copy to a certain degree.  Depending on your brand you may wish to adapt your tone of voice as well.

As a quick bonus tip, use a site called GrabAll, this tool allows you to see the search results of the major search engines side by side.  Not great for complex research or reviews, but very useful for quick snapshots.


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Meerkat PPC – Confused?

Compare the Meerkat PPC – Confused?

 

OK so I have referenced that I think Compare the meerkat has to be one of the top TV ads of the moment. 

Compare the Market are obviously bidding on their own campaign in Google, but hats off to Confused.com – they are also bidding on the terms.  As their ad copy also features the word meerkat, their ad is normally higher in the Google rankings.  Whilst we can’t be sure of the conversion off such terms or the ROI it is a good nudge to the team at Compare the Market.  Maybe its a little jealousy as Confused.com ads aren’t particularly inspiring.

Confused bidding on Compare the Meerkats

So the fact Confused.com is bidding on Compare the Meerkat, is amusing and slightly annoying to Comparethemarket.com and their Comparethemeerkat.com campaign.  However notice the top ranking on natural search – hardly inspiring, this is something that should have been spotted by either the creative agency or Compare the market.

Call me old fashioned but Copyright 2009 BISL Limited is not the most engaging opening to a search description I have ever heard.


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Google Adwords for Dummies

PPC – Guide to Google Dummies?

As I have mentioned previously, during these slow economic times people are striving to master the really transparent channels.  The ones that can be tracked.  The channels that produce a positive ROI.

When you think PPC, these days the majority of us think Google.  Even though I have called this a dummies guide, I could have easily said a guide to Google dummies.  Those marketeers that know they need to be on Google, but don’t have the first clue.  So what do they do?  Do they invest in learning? Do they invest in tools to make things easier?  Generally no!  These marketeers generally pump thousands, sometimes millions of pounds to an agency, with very little control or understanding of what is or isn’t possible.

Obviously there are some good agencies out there.  Even some very good agencies that add real value.  In certain sectors it also makes more sense to partner with an agency rather than invest internally.  This isn’t an attack on agencies, just an expression of thought that says before employing an agency you need to understand the basics yourself.

How long do things take?

Getting a campaign live – agencies often say it takes weeks.  In the main this isn’t true.  The basics can be live within minutes.  Obviously complex campaigns can take a period of time to set-up from scratch, but not weeks.

Getting a campaign up to full pace – agencies sometimes say it takes months to get a campaign fully up to speed.  Its no denying most campaigns don’t get up to full speed within the first couple of weeks.  However, there are quick wins.  Don’t accept ongoing claims of missing targets due to optimisation and unrealistic objectives.  A decent agency will challenge your objectives and targets it they aren’t achievable.  You should be able to get close to your targets within at least the first couple of weeks

Broadcast Vs Targetted

Don’t accept any old clicks.  Match type is incredibly important to quality score.  Your quality score is apparently reviewed after every 1000 impressions.  Broad match means your keywords and ads will be called on much less relevant content.  For instance, if I was bidding on desktop computer, my ad may appear when people search for desktop diaries, computer engineers, computer assisted design.  None of these keywords are related to our search term.  This means that in theory our quality score could go down and if people do click, chances are we will pay and it won’t convert.  Broad match is the defauly setting on adwords, great for Google to get away your budegt, not so good if you are on a tight budget or tight ROI KPIs.

I would personally recommend using broad match sparingly and concentrate primarily on Phrase and Exact match.  This controls both relevancy and costs and in-turn should improve quality score.  What this will obviously do is lower your potential traffic volumes, but it should all be more qualified traffic.

Be Negative

This isn’t asking you to be cynical of Google or PPC.  This is outlining that you must use negative keywords in your campaigns.  If bidding on Dixons, my negative keywords could include estate agency, this would ensure that when people are looking for Dixons.co.uk they don’t end up at Dixons Estate Agency.

Other things to look for

There are many other things the PPC beginner needs to look out for.  Consider your overall budget, your daily budget, how your campaign is structures, your ad copy, bidding strategy, landing pages, URLs.  I will cover these areas with tips for beginners in future posts.

Working with agencies

As I commented when I opened this post.  There is no problem working with agencies.  But you must adopt a challenging relationship.  You must challenge them to optimise to the fullest and you must encourage them to challenge you.  Above all learn yourself.  Even if you learn the very basics such as the points I have highlighted.  It gives you a better understanding and can help manage expectations.

Don’t forget

There are other search engines (Yahoo, MSN and Miva) that offer PPC, although they are much smaller they also offer good traffic.  It is also worth searching around if you are setting up an account from scratch, most of the major engines often run promotions for new customers giving sign-up bounties with Free credit.


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Recession Resistant?

Can online marketing escape the recession?

With any economic downturn/credit crunch/recession comes the usual questions at the board rooms of most organisations. 

How effective is our marketing? 

Could we do without our advertising?

Is our strategy a luxury?

It had been thought that in this current recession, online would escape the questions or criticisms.  However as a lot of organisations are facing tougher times, including several high profile victims, online is being asked to be even more accountable than ever.  Is that such a bad thing?

Well that depends.  If you have all the data to hand and have tried every potential opportunity for your brand, then it can only be a good thing.  You should be able to pin-point the exact levers to pull in order to produce the desired results.  Unfortunately, very few organisations have or are in that situation. 

So what is next? 

Well it makes sense if your organisation is able to invest in acquisitional activities it should do so.  And if possible increase that investment.  Channels that offer high levels of transparency, low costs or better still low risk (CPA or Hybrid deals).  Even with these options you still need to understand the customer journey and have an effective method of de-duping (I am amazed at how many organisations still don’t have that cracked).  Are these methods recession proof? I’m not entirely convinced.  Marketeers experienced in working with Google will have noticed bids and ROI change over the past 9-12 months.  Also, Google are experimenting with a number of tools or models to help maintain their revenue.  Including dropping their previous stance of no Gambling advertising.  It all depends on your sector, Finance in the main is seeing a dramatic fall-off – largely driven by sub-prime advertisers pulling back on their investment.  One thing is for sure, Google will probably be making more sales visits than they have in recent years.

What about display?

Display obviously pays a role in most campaign mixes or strategies.  However the traditional CPM model is a risky one, unless your brand can afford the luxury of brand advertising or if you aren’t responsible for a transactional website.  One point that is neglected or overlooked is the multiplier effect.  Most advertisers still look at last click wins.  This is why in a number of sectors display loses out.  Recent investigations by ComScore in the US indicates a genuine effect on search from display.  However is that enough?  The main benefit of display in my opinion is that it can not only drive awareness, it can also put more people in your sales funnel.  This is something search isn’t particularly good at.  Most people in search mode already have an intent, whether latent or active.  Would I start to invest millions of my budget in traditional display advertising?  In short – No.  However, with the market in its current state, new technologies are constantly evolving.  With the growing maturity of behavioural and re-targetting technology, an increasing number of media owners are willing to undertake activity on a CPA activity. 

 

Remember, although CPA presents far fewer risks, it sometimes can be more expensive than CPM or CPC and volumes are likely to be lower.