Seven Smart Standards for Google Shopping

This is a guest post by Jacques van der Wilt, the founder of WordWatch and DataFeedWatch.

Google Shopping replaced the free Google Product Search in October 2012. If you look at a Product Listing Ad (PLA), you immediately see why this ad-type is much more powerful.

Results from various agencies shows that these picture-ads outperform text ads on conversion rate and cpc. American merchants are already spending up to 30% of their budget on Google Shopping.

If you are getting started with PLAs, go by the Seven Smart Standards below to get the most out of your Google Shopping campaign.

1.  The Basics: Get ’em right
Before you start bidding, make sure that you have covered the basics:

  • Export your product feed to your Google Merchant Center (GMC) and link your GMC to your AdWords account.
  • Make sure that your feed is updated on a daily basis, so your ads always reflect your current offerings.
  • The feed has to meet all Google’s requirements. If it doesn’t, Google just won’t show your ads. Check for errors in your Google Merchant Center and use a data feed optimization tool if you need to solve any. This includes assigning the proper Google Categories to your products. The more specific the sub-category, the better your conversion rate.
  • Remember to organize your sales funnel. No matter how grand your campaigns may be, you need to convert visitors to buyers on your website.
  • Have tracking code for AdWords & Analytics installed on your site.
  • Google doesn’t want you to shout and will not accept Titles in UPPER case or with exclamation marks!!!
  • Product Listing Ads on Google’s Search Engine Result Page (SERP) generate the major part of the traffic generated by Google Shopping. Only a small part originates from the Google Shopping site. So when you start optimizing your feed and your campaign, focus on the SERP!

2.  The Picture: Worth more than a 1,000 words
The pictures of the PLAs are powerful. Everyone’s eyes are drawn to it. The picture may be more important for an apparel merchant than for a shop selling widgets, but still: it is human nature to judge a book by the cover. So make every effort to get the best possible pics of your products. Also: if you have several pictures for each product, make sure that the best one is the one that is shown in your PLA.

3.  The Title: Make me beautiful
Titles may be less powerful, but remember that a PLA only has 3 components and this is the second one. So make ‘m work. Make them compelling. Include the brand if it adds value (What is ‘501’ without Levi’s). And put the most important message in the first part: Google will allow you up to 70 characters, but on the SERP, everything after approx. 30 characters is cut off.

4.  The Price: Less important than you might think
On Google Shopping, consumers will actively sort on price and if your product is not among the cheapest, it will not make the buyer’s shortlist. But on the SERP, price comparison plays a much smaller role. People see 8 products at the most and they can only sort on price visually. So don’t focus too much on competing on price: Bidding 10% more to make sure your PLA always makes it to the SERP, will probably cost you a lot less than sacrificing your gross margin. If you advertise the same products on other Comparison Shopping Engines, price is of course still important.

5.  The Bids: Follow the money
The key to setting bids is to create product targets that have a similar conversion rate. But you have to bear in mind where you make your money and apply several of the following strategies:

  • Brand & Product type: this makes sense when you get started. Products of a similar type or brand may have similar conversion rates. So set a bid for each brand or product type (or combination of the two) and then start optimizing based on the results.
  • The 80/20 rule: Most shops have a few products that generate a large part of the revenue. Each of those products should get their own product target (use the ID-attribute) so you can monitor and optimize your best selling products.
  • Gross margin: If 2 products have the same conversion rate, but a very different gross margin, you don’t want them to be in the same product target: You want to bid more on the product that makes you more money.
  • AdWords Labels: you may find that the blue shirts have a much higher conversion rate than the other colors. Or the large screens do better than the small ones. In that case, you want to increase your bid for the blue ones or the large ones. AdWords enables you to set a bid for any attribute, if you add that attribute to your data feed as an AdWords Label. So modify your feed to include your favorite attribute and use it to create a separate product target.

6.  The Losers: Take ’em out
You should not advertise all your products. Analyze your data and ask yourself: which products are really making me money? Take the losers out of your feed and stop wasting your money there. Examples:

  • Seasonal products: don’t sell winter stuff in April
  • Cheap products: the CPA often exceeds the gross margin. So you lose money every time you sell an item.
  • The Unsellables: some products just won’t sell. Maybe Google is not the right channel, maybe these products have a bad landing page, maybe you just can’t compete for these products or maybe they are sooooo 2009.

You have 3 ways to deal with that:
a. Find out why they have a poor performance and fix it.
b. Put your losers in separate product targets and make sure you don’t end up losing money on them
c. Exclude them from your feed completely and focus on your winners.

7.  The Feed: Foundation of it all
Getting Google to accept your feed is just a start. But once you have figured out how to deal with the previous 6 items, it’s time to optimize your feed, so that it serves as a perfect foundation for your AdWords campaign, the product pages on Google Shopping and PLAs on Google’s result page. Applying the knowledge of the previous points to the feed, would lead to the following data feed optimizations:

  • Modify your feed to match Google’s format.
  • Assign the right Google Category to your products
  • Use your best picture as the primary image_link
  • Rewrite your Titles for maximum impact
  • Create AdWords Labels or AdWords Groups in your feed
  • Exclude your poor performers

Data feed management can be done in many different ways, but there is one guiding principle: you need to optimize your feed continuously to run a successful campaign on Google Shopping and other Shopping Channels.

About the Author
Jacques van der Wilt has worked in online media for more than 20 years. He has held leadership positions in both the US and Europe. In the past 10 years he has worked as an entrepreneur and founded several start-ups. He is also a mentor at accelerator Startupboothcamp. As founder of WordWatch (automated bid management) he became an expert in search engine marketing for medium sized advertisers and with its spin-off DataFeedWatch (a web-based tool for merchants to optimize their data feed for Google Shopping and other comparison shopping channels) he established a leadership position in managing data feeds and Product Listing Ads campaigns.

The Top Three Examples of Internet Growth Hacking

Last week, I attended the Growth Hackers Conference in San Francisco. The Keynote speaker, Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures, gave an interesting presentation about Growth vs. Growth Hacking, providing three incredible examples of growth hacking. Here’s my version summarizing his awesome presentation.

Growth and growth hacking should not be confused with one another, as they are not the same thing, nor can they be focused on at the same time within a company. They are two very separate stages in a startup, and one cannot occur without the other. Growth, is sort of like the pre-requisite to growth hacking. You can’t focus on growth hacking without having an initial phase of growth to start. And once you’ve reached a certain stage of growth, growth hacking is a strategy that grows your business exponentially without as much investment in time or money.

I’ll show you three famous examples of growth hacking and explain what Keith meant by having growth before you can focus on growth hacking.

1. LinkedIn started as a community for professional networking. They were able to grow their users from 2 million to 200 million within a few years due to this awesome growth hacking tactic: allow users to create public profiles so the search engines index their profiles and show up organically in search results. Prior to LinkedIn, it was very rare that you could find yourself within the top 5 search results, unless you were famous or written about frequently.

In order for this simple SEO concept to work successfully, LinkedIn had to grow their users from 0 to 2 million members first, which means they had to undergo some extent of growth before they could enter the growth hacking phase. Once their growth phase was to a substantial size, they could start indexing these 2 million profiles into the organic search results. By entering a search for an average working-class individual, LinkedIn URLs are now showing up as the first search result on the page (as seen below with my profile).

2. Youtube, now the second largest search engine after Google (which also owns YouTube), started out as a platform that allowed users to share their videos. So how did YouTube take advantage of growth hacking? Like LinkedIn, they had to go through a period of growth first. By reaching a certain amount of initial users with their first few thousands of users and videos, they could start focusing on growth hacking. Here’s what set YouTube apart from the rest.

The growth hacking success of YouTube was their ability to implement the nifty and easy-to-use “Embed” this video script. By making it relatively easy and painless for users to upload their videos and embed the entire video player onto any other website contributed to what it is today, having over 1 billion unique visitors each month and 72 hours of video uploaded every minute.

3. PayPal has a slightly different story, but an equally awesome growth hacking success. eBay, the leading auction site for online seller to consumer sales, allowed sellers to include their preferred forms of payment in their listings. Over time, more and more listings were accepting “PayPal,” but this wasn’t an option that was available in eBay, so sellers would write PayPal in several spots on their listings, sometimes totaling in over 10 locations on the listing.

As PayPal noticed their growth among eBay sellers, they worked out a deal with eBay to include the PayPal logo on the listings that accepted PayPal. The logo sat side by side the other preferred forms of payment, like Visa and MasterCard logos. This growth hacking idea was successful because eBay was already well-established, so PayPal was driving growth from the success of another company’s success. As more and more sellers only accepted payment via PayPal, this forced consumers and buyers to create PayPal accounts, hence the start of growth hacking. Since then, eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5 Billion and is now the only logo that is shown on eBay listings in the payment methods section. Not too shabby in my opinion!

All in all, I really enjoyed the Growth Hackers Conference and am looking forward to the next one. It’s a great conference for start-ups and marketing professionals who are seeking insights for growing their business and learning real examples of how leading companies grew their businesses. I’ll release some other blog posts later this year with other really interesting presentations related back to growth hacking. Thanks Keith Rabois for sharing these three awesome examples of growth hacking! Have you had a great growth hacking idea you’ve tried in the past that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments section below.

Product Listing Ads: The Power of Segmentation

This is a guest post by James Kelly, Senior SEM Analyst of National Positions.

Product Listing Ads have grown immensely in popularity over the last year and many articles have been written detailing the importance of getting them live. At this point the real question is how to maximize exposure and profitability for your ecommerce marketing campaign.

Feed and bid optimization is the first place that many people look. Both of these are of critical importance, but I find that advertisers spend so much time worrying about these issues that the actual campaign structure is often ignored. The decision on how to structure and segment your PLA campaigns will dictate your ability to analyze and optimize the campaigns over time.

Google provides us with the ability to segment PLA’s by product type, condition, brand, ID or custom fields within your feed (adwords_grouping & adwords_labels). The first pitfall that many advertisers encounter is choosing conflicting segments, so that any single product could have as many as five or six bids coming from different targets. While campaigns built in this way may appear incredibly detailed, they are unwieldy and are difficult to manage effectively.


With this in mind, a good first step is choosing a primary targeting method. Each product will inevitably have multiple targets, but there should be one targeting method that you intend to use for the majority of your bid optimization that will have higher bids relative to your secondary targeting methods. The idea here is to try to remove as much of the conflicting bids as possible so that you can actually dial things up when they are converting, or down when they are not. If a single product has six bids and no rhyme or reason as to which one is highest, it will be very difficult to do something as simple as lower the bid on that product by 50% without also lowering the bid on all related products with similar targets.

My primary targeting method of choice is the adwords_labels field filled with a unique ID for each product. In this case, I have the ability to control my bid for individual products to avoid missed opportunities and wasteful spending. Targeting each product individually can allow greater levels of control, but it can be difficult to account for new products or changes in the feed, which is why additional targeting is required.

Secondary targeting methods can be thought of as catch-alls, whose main purpose is to pick up any products that have not been picked up by your primary targets. I generally use a product type or brand as the secondary targeting method depending on what makes more sense for the particular client. The secondary target must have artificially low bids so that they do not overlap any of your primary targeting. I have heard clients express concerns that the bids are too low, but with proper execution, the secondary targets should be more of a safety net than an active target. If you notice that a secondary target is receiving significant amounts of traffic, this should be a sign to take a look at your primary targets to see what is leaking through. To err on the safe side, I also use an all products target with a much lower bid (sometimes a penny bid) to ensure that I have basic coverage for new products that may not have other targets.

Campaign Structure

Once the various levels of targeting have been sorted out, the last remaining question is how to structure the targets into campaigns, ad groups and targets. With a smaller product count, I typically create a unique ad group for each product containing my primary targeting method in a single campaign. Secondary targets will also have unique ad groups so that all bids can be managed from the ad groups tab.

Accounts that have tens of thousands of products will more than likely need additional structure in place, if nothing else to avoid the 20k ad group per campaign limit. There are two approaches for breaking down these larger catalogs. The first is to create multiple campaigns (possibly broken down by product type or brand) so that you can keep your bids at the ad group level. The second option is to create ad groups for each product type/ brand with targets for each individual product within that ad group. Product level bid optimization would need to be done on the target level in this second option.

No matter how you decide to segment your PLA campaigns, it is important to have a primary targeting method in mind to avoid overlapping bids. Structure provides control over the bids, which will give you the ability to affect your positioning and profitability in the long run.

James Kelly, author of this blog post, is an Ecommerce Channel Manager and Senior SEM Analyst for National Positions, an industry leading internet marketing company with over 1,000 clients around the globe including Wal-Mart, Land Rover, Club Med and Samsung. The National Positions SEM department in particular has been experiencing rapid growth by providing significant revenue increases for many small and medium size businesses.

The Top 5 APIs that PPC Advertisers Use to Rapidly Scale Online Ad Campaigns

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With various advertising channels available to PPC advertisers these days, it becomes extremely time-consuming to manage and maintain ad campaigns across multiple ad networks and accounts. Growing online ads has become a real challenge in such a fiercely competitive industry. That’s why APIs are becoming more prevalent as the next big trend that allow advertisers to save time and rapidly scale campaigns. API stands for Application Programming Interface, but what does that even mean? More importantly, how can it help you rapidly scale your online campaigns?

As it turns out, more and more sophisticated advertisers are turning to automated bid management tools, whether it be proprietary or from third-party vendors, like Marin Software or AdStage. With automated bidding in place, this allows advertisers to spend more time optimizing campaigns, and taking action on the data to scale faster. To do this with ease, advertisers access the top APIs to manage and scale their ad campaigns side by side, without having to export reports from each platform and data mine. Let’s take a look at the top 5 APIs that PPC advertisers leverage to rapidly scale their online ad campaigns:

1.  AdWords API: Google has dominated the revolutionary paid search advertising market since it launched AdWords in 2000. It’s also created several innovative tools that offers marketers a more convenient work-flow for managing and scaling profitable campaigns, such as The Conversion Optimizer, AdWords Editor, and Google’s Keyword Tool. However, while there are thousands of advertisers that only invest their digital marketing budgets on Google, there are still third-party tools, like WordStream, that cater to these advertisers because of AdWords’ intimidating and difficult to use platform. The AdWords API has proven to be quite useful for those marketers who don’t find the AdWords interface user-friendly.

2.  Bing Ads API: While Google is the top dog for paid search traffic, the top advertisers are savvy enough to realize that scaling ads beyond AdWords increases reach and overall returns from ad spend. A recent report shows that there are 153 million unique searchers on the Yahoo Bing Network and that these searchers spend 8% more than Google searchers. This means that 153 million people can only be reached through Bing Ads and will never be reached if only advertising through AdWords. This is one of the most compelling reasons why advertisers sync the two search channels up with the Bing Ads API.

3.  Facebook Ads API: Since the release of the Facebook Advertising API in 2011, Facebook has opened their API up to partner with over 260 vendors in over 45 countries. With all of the Facebook updates and lack of simplicity within the Facebook Ads self-serve platform, social advertisers have been turning to third-party solutions like AdParlor and Qwaya to successfully manage and scale their Facebook ad campaigns. Facebook’s innovation with ad formats, and their access to such valuable inventory has certainly been quite valuable to advertisers, but without the Facebook API available in user-friendly partner tools, the top advertisers would not be able to grow their campaigns and ad spend as quickly as they have.

4.  Twitter Ads API: Although still in private beta, the Twitter Ads API was released earlier this year with a few select partners. Twitter Advertising is taking off with its “pay-per-engagement” pricing model and ability to reach any industry and audience. Advertisers who are actively managing social profiles and looking for more brand awareness can do so with Twitter Advertising, which lends more followers and more syndication for tweets at scale. Online advertisers have been patiently waiting for this API to open up so they can easily measure and compare campaign performance with similar digital ad channels and automate bids accordingly.

5.  MixRank API: MixRank’s leading competitive intelligence tool allows advertisers to quickly spot their competitors’ top performing ads, keywords and placements. With the unveiling of MixRank’s API last year, we’ve seen an incredible amount of interest from advertisers who are looking to leverage competitive data to profitably scale their own campaigns. MixRank’s API can be easily integrated with your home-grown bidding solution or third-party online advertising management platforms, acting as a recommendation engine to influence bids, ad copy, keywords, and/or even placements to buy traffic on. These recommendations provide significant time savings when scaling profitable campaigns, as it eliminates over 50% in research and testing time. With the world’s largest database of online ads, MixRank’s API is versatile for all industries and markets. If you’d like to gain access to the MixRank API to leverage competitive insights with your bidding solution, sign up here.

If you’re one of the top online advertisers, you’ve probably used at least one, if not all of these APIs to manage and scale your campaigns. What makes an API highly adaptable for all of the top advertisers is when it can be leveraged in any industry for any market. These five APIs will certainly help you scale your online presence faster. And with the recommendation insights provided by MixRank’s API, you’ll be able to scale more intelligently and profitably. If you’re already leveraging a PPC bid management tool and want to scale your campaigns more intelligently by outperforming the competition, learn how with the MixRank API.  Sign up today.

10 Bargaining Chips for Negotiating a Direct Media Buy

Direct media buying is an excellent strategy to purchase ad impressions for your targeted audience. You have the luxury of buying impressions in bulk with the satisfaction of saving money, given that the impressions offered at a discounted rate. Surprisingly, more often than not, the listed rates are not always “discounted” per se. Ad impressions are priced at what the publisher wants for their inventory, not necessarily how much the inventory is worth to you. So, how do you get the publisher to give you exactly what you want, without letting on that you want to pay a lot less than their listed prices?

Here are 10 bargaining chips for negotiating direct media buys:

  1. State the “facts”: When reaching out to a publisher, it is likely that they will respond to you if you’re interested in offering them money for their ad inventory, but to guarantee a response, state your budget is $10,000 more than it actually is.
  2. Evaluate the metrics: What is the publisher’s CTR? How many impressions will they guarantee with a monthly rate? What is the page view ratio? These metrics should be considered before trying to negotiate a lower rate. If you notice something as a red flag in their metrics like an unusually low CTR or an extremely high amount of page views per visitor, you can use this data as when stating that the listed price is too high.
  3. Have a number in mind: Before you lay out all your concerns or start asking for discounts, have a plan of what you’re willing to pay for this ad inventory. If you’ve advertised on this site before through an ad network, you know what an ideal CPM is for you. If you haven’t, you can figure out how much you’d want to pay per acquisition based on their CTR and your conversion rate. When negotiating the price down, tell the publisher the price you’re willing to pay and why this is your target goal. Make sure to bring up the metrics you evaluated to prove your reasoning.
  4. Conduct a test: You’ll probably receive some resistance from the publisher with the above bargaining chip, so now is a good time to request a test with a small amount of remnant inventory or instead of a month commitment, just a week of impressions. A trial like this will help you better evaluate the performance of the publisher, and provide the publisher a chance to prove its value to you. Since the publisher thinks you have a huge budget, they’ll try to work with you on this.
  5. Measure the test and re-evaluate: How did the test perform for you? Are you impressed with the results? If not, move on to another publisher. However, if there was potential with the outcome, re-evaluate the amount you’re willing to pay for the impressions and see if you can get any discounts with the following strategies.
  6. Ask for a discount for a long term commitment: Many publishers have monthly rates. If you offer to commit to 3 months, 6 months or even 1 year up front, see if you can get a 5-20% discount. This helps the publisher out because they won’t have to worry about selling the inventory.
  7. Ask for a discount for paying in advance: Rather than getting invoiced monthly for your long-term commitment, see if you can get a discount for paying in advance. If you have the money now, and are seeing profitable returns from the media buy, why not save a little cash by paying for the impressions now? This helps you out, because you’ll get a bigger discount, and this helps the publisher out, because they don’t have to worry about invoicing you every month and collecting the funds. 
  8. Ask for specific ad units: Although this won’t result in monetary savings, it really does matter what ad units you’re purchasing with your media buy. Don’t you want your ad above the fold for every impression? Make sure you’re paying for only the best ad impressions available and ask for specific ad units.
  9. Get some add-ons: If you haven’t received the monetary savings you were hoping for yet, try asking for some other value. Ask if they could feature your ad in an email newsletter as a test. Be sure to let them know you’d be willing to pay for more promotions if it performs well.
  10. Measure everything and re-negotiate: After you’ve negotiated your ideal media buy, measure the performance with an ad server. You’ll want all of this data so you can use these metrics when re-negotiating your next media buy or negotiating another media buy with a similar publisher.  When negotiating, don’t give up all of your data at once. Turn your poker face on and stand strong in what you believe is fair.

This is a starter list of just some of the tactics you can use when negotiating a media buy.  Have you used any of these strategies in the past? How did they work out for you? As always, share with us in the comments section below what strategies you’ve tried when negotiating media buys.

Which Super Hero Would Your Online Marketing Strategy Be? The PPC Optimization Edition

Pay per click (PPC) ads aren’t successful over night, and as you know from our last post in this series, a few online advertising strategies or super heroic powers can be used to quickly optimize your campaigns to profitability. If you thought optimization strategies for PPC campaigns were boring and menial tasks think again, because you might be using these extraordinary powers in your daily routine.

The PPC Optimization Edition

Here are a few of our favorite X-Men characters and their powers that can be used for optimizing PPC campaigns. Tell us in the comments section below which character’s powers has given you the most performance lift when optimizing campaigns.

Wolverine: Campaign Segmentation

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The Super Power: Wolverine possesses retractable claws within each forearm. They can cut through practically any known solid material, segmenting metals, woods, and even stone into pieces. His abilities are similar to campaign segmentation, which is the process of breaking up your campaigns by network, location, or device. Wolverine’s ability to heal from any wound, disease or toxin at an accelerated rate is just another signal of proof that sharpening Wolverine’s powers of campaign segmentation can rapidly bring your poorly performing campaigns back from the dead.

How to Own It: Segmenting campaigns by network is the easiest way to exercise your inner Wolverine. Search and Display are two very different types of advertising channels, and should be measured and accounted for differently. To segment an existing campaign, you can visit the AdWords campaign settings and edit the “Type” of campaign. In Bing Ads, it’s a bit trickier to segment by network, but it absolutely can be done at the Ad group level under Advanced Settings in the “Ad distribution” field. If you’re already segmenting by network, wield your Wolverine claws with a more advanced strategy: segment by location or device. When segmenting by location or device, this allows you to create more relevant ad copy for the location or ad extensions for the particular device and gives you the control to set bids higher for strategic markets or devices with smaller screens.

Storm: Dayparting

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The Super Power: Storm is one of the most influential mutants on the planet, with the power to manipulate the weather. Her precise control over the atmosphere allows her to create special weather effects such has whirlwinds, humidity, precipitation, lighting, and atmospheric pressure. Just like the weather, your ads’ performance changes throughout the day. In order to control that performance in your favor, create a Storm moment with dayparting.

How to Own It: In order for this power to work in your favor, you’ll need to have some data from your existing ads or keywords so you can see what hours of the days are getting the most clicks or acquiring the most conversions. To analyze the hour by hour trends in AdWords, go to the Dimensions tab at the Ad group level and make sure to open the View: Hour of day report. In Bing Ads, you can view the same report by visiting the Reports tab, and selecting the Show: Hour of day report. Now that you’re equipped with the right data to control the weather of your ads, create a Storm by adjusting the Schedule settings at the Ad group level.

Morph: Dynamic Creative

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The Super Power: Morph, as his name suggests, is a shape shifter and can morph his physical appearance and voice to resemble any person or object he chooses. His ability to alter his form is similar to the way advertisers can use dynamic creatives to instantly change the ad copy for more relevancy to the audience. Morph also has limited telepathic abilities, allowing him the ability to read minds, similar to the way dynamic keyword insertion can automatically insert the keyword that’s on a person’s mind.

How to Own It: In order to perfect the powers of Morph, you’ll need to use dynamic creatives. You can either use dynamic text or dynamic keyword insertion for your ads. The way dynamic text works if you want to make changes to many of your ads without having to edit them all of them manually. Dynamic keyword insertion is when your ad automatically uses the keyword that was queried in your ad. There are many types of dynamic insertion tags you can use in your headlines, description lines, and display URLs, such as {Keyword:text}, {param1:text}, and {param2:text}. If you’re not already Morph-ing your ads and want to find out how powerful and efficient this strategy can be for your business, Morph your ads and use dynamic creatives in AdWords or Bing Ads.

Have you used these super powers when running your online ad campaigns? Let me know in the comments which character’s powers you’ve used in the past, and how you were able to own it to optimize your campaigns.

Are You Measuring the Right Metrics?

This is a guest post by Phil Frost, Co-Founder of Main Street ROI


I had a frustrating call the other day with a private client when we were reviewing his advertising campaign.  He was venting about the high cost per click for various keywords and suggesting we remove keywords solely because the cost was too high.  Similarly, he was suggesting we focus more of our budget on cheaper keywords where we would get “more bang for our buck.”

In one example, he showed me a keyword that was $11 per click versus another keyword that was only $2.98 per click.  The $11 per click keyword was generating only half as much traffic as the $2.98 per click keyword, so my client wanted to stop advertising on the more expensive keyword.

His thought process was pretty straight forward: Stop advertising on the $11 per click keyword and focus more of the budget to the $2.98 per click keyword.  That way we’ll generate more traffic and spend less money.  

But this type of thinking is completely WRONG! Costs alone do not tell you anything about ad performance or return on investment (ROI).

Looking at costs alone is like comparing two investment options and picking the one that requires less capital, despite the projected ROI.  That doesn’t make much sense in investing, yet that’s how many business owners try to manage their ad campaigns.  

Here’s an important tip: there’s usually a very good reason why certain keywords and websites cost less in advertising.  In most cases this is a telltale sign the traffic does not convert to sales.  If the traffic did convert prospects to sales, then more advertisers would bid on the keyword and drive the cost up.  It’s as simple as that.

So lesson #1 here is all traffic is not equal.  Therefore, the cost per visitor is not a good metric to use when optimizing your ad campaigns.  The cost is only half of the equation.  The other half is sales conversions.

This brings us to lesson #2 – you must track conversions to optimize your ad campaigns.  A conversion should be a sale if you can measure it accurately, but it can also be a warm prospect in the form of a phone call, in-person visit, or online webform submission.  

With conversion tracking in place, you can calculate your cost per conversion (also known as cost per action, or CPA), which is really the only way to judge your advertising campaigns.  

Let’s look at our previous example again to see how this works in practice.  I explained to my client the $11 per click keyword was converting 20% of the visitors to warm leads via an online application.  That means the cost per conversion was $55.  The $2.98 per click keyword was only converting 5% of the visitors to warm leads so the cost per lead was $57.  Therefore, both keywords were generating leads for about the same cost.  In fact, the higher cost per click keyword was generating leads for LESS money.  Yet, my client was about to turn off those keywords just because the cost per keyword was higher!

See how the cost per keyword data alone is misleading?  At the end of the day, your goal with advertising is to profitably generate leads and sales.  The only way to measure the effectiveness of your ads is to compare the cost per lead or sale versus the revenue per lead or sale.  Those are the two critical metrics.

My example here was for online advertising, but this is relevant for every type of advertising you run in your business.  All media must be compared and optimized by looking at cost per sale or cost per lead.  The cost per website visitor, cost per radio airtime, cost per TV placement, cost per letter mailed, or any other cost alone tells you very little about the campaign.  Make sure you have a system to track sales and/or leads directly from the ad campaign using tracking phone numbers, unique coupon codes, or any other method.  Then, calculate the cost per conversion to make smart, educated decisions to optimize your campaigns.

About the Author
Phil Frost is the co-founder of Main Street ROI and a Google AdWords certified professional. Want more online advertising tips? Get your copy of Phil’s FREE report: 10 Steps to Dominate Google AdWords


Forging Ahead With Multichannel Competitive Intelligence In The Age Of Big Data

This is a guest blog post by Jason Warnock, Vice President Market Intelligence and Measurement of Yesmail Interactive.

Marketing is like a newborn; it demands constant attention, it manages to surprise you just when you think you’ve figured it out, and the way it changes every day is absolutely fascinating. Just think of how different the marketing landscape is today than it was a few years ago.


No matter the size, and regardless of the industry, a company without a website is unheard of. In a similar way, a company without a Facebook and Twitter accounts is becoming as rare as a non-invasive airport security check while Youtube and Google+ are turning into a necessity.  Similarly, it is an absolute anomaly for a company not to have an email program: from basic ones like Welcome and Transactional, to more strategic ones like Nurturing and Life-cycle. Meanwhile Search and Display have already earned a permanent place in a savvy marketer’s arsenal since their inherent reliance on data accounts for warmer leads and easier conversions than are achieved by many of the traditional marketing avenues.


In just one short paragraph, we have enumerated seven different channels that have become essential for an adequate marketing strategy, not to mention an outstanding one.


Needless to say, in the era of “Big Data”, it is imperative that each individual channel strategy is dictated by data-driven insights. That’s not the news here. The news is that it is no longer sufficient to develop those insights in a vacuum, i.e. only using metrics marketers have for their own marketing efforts. Instead, it is far more valuable to include industry, and even more so, competitors’ campaign data to inform marketing plans. 


As marketers give more and more attention to monitoring and analyzing industry trends and competitors’ practices, few big data analytics solutions successfully integrate the seven essential digital channels and make it possible for marketers to easily monitor trends, track their KPIs, and put the collected data to work for them. 


Yesmail Market Intelligence is the first of its kind to successfully house data from social media networks, email providers, company websites and, now, display advertising made possible by a partnership with MixRank, the leading provider of digital display ad data. The integration between MixRank’s innovative crawler technology and Yesmail’s leading platform for competitive intelligence brings to market a seamlessly integrated multichannel tool that provides digital data across seven channels in one centralized and easy-to-use dashboard. This breakthrough allows marketers to spend fewer resources on researching and testing and, instead, invest in developing profitable and informed marketing campaigns. Yesmail is thrilled to partner with MixRank to deliver a solution that saves marketers both time and money as it allows them to develop profitable and informed marketing campaigns that can outperform the competition. 


It’s Big Data, at its finest.


About the Author


Jason Warnock is a seasoned veteran of email deliverability and digital marketing. After creating successful email applications for Canadian bank CIBC, Jason initiated and managed Deliverability Operations for Digital Connexxions (2006) implementing several key strategies for major publishing clients. After a successful acquisition of Digital Connexxions in 2006 by infoUSA, Jason proceeded to become Director of Deliverability for Yesmail (2007) followed by VP of Deliverability Services for Infogroup (2011). Jason has transformed Infogroup Deliverability into an industry leading solution through enhanced offerings of technology and client services. Jason has designed successful technical and business strategies for several large Fortune 500 companies including: HP, Coke, Kodak, Facebook, eBay,, and United Airlines. Jason is also a recognized industry leader in digital marketing intelligence and competitive marketing intelligence through his work in co-creating Yesmail’s Market Intelligence platform with Andrew Ferraccioli and Jeff Hulshof.


Live Webinar: The PPC Advertiser’s Guide to Creative Testing



We recently partnered with ReTargeter, one of the most popular retargeting and audience targeting solutions, for a free webinar next week.  As online advertising is becoming fiercely competitive, it’s never too early or too late to start testing new ad creative that will generate more clicks, traffic, and conversions.


The live event takes place on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 11am PT / 2pm ET.


Join this live webinar, as MixRank’s Ilya Lichtenstein and ReTargeter’s Caroline Watts walk you though how to implement this optimization strategy and how the the top advertisers use it to enhance performance with any campaign.


In this webinar you’ll learn:


Why your current campaigns are losing money and how to bring them back to life.

The elements that the top advertisers test to drive 3x more clicks from their campaigns

The most commobn mistake when split testing ad creative that will waste thousands of dollars on unprofitable impressions

How to instantly find case studies of real ad creative split tests from your top competitors

Examples of the top advertisers’ ad creative tests and how to learn from their successes

How to execute a methodical & statistically significant creative test: know when to pause the losing creative


After the presentation, there will be a live Q&A session in which our presenters will answer the attendees’ questions.


Space is limited, so make sure to register now!


Monitor The Competition With A Real-Time Dashboard

Here at MixRank, we’re excited to announce our recent partnership with Ducksboard, a real-time dashboard that allows online marketers to visualize and monitor data in one single location.  Ducksboard has implemented nine MixRank widgets that can help you monitor the campaign trends from your top competitors.  With the integration, MixRank and Ducksboard users can now:


  • Visualize competitor campaign growth or decline down to the banner oir text ad level.  Ducksboard’s MixRank graph widget shows a trend of your competitor’s new ads over time, including the number of new text or banner ads and the total number of text or banner ads.
  • Track the reach of an advertiser’s campaigns that shows the count of active publishers for a specific advertiser.  The active publisher widget gives you an idea of how viral a competitor’s campaigns are, providing precedence for your budget and campaign structure.
  • Identify contextual keyword-targeting strategies with the active keywords widget.   Learn how many active contextual keywords your competitors are bidding on, and benchmark that with your own AdWords account to see if you can scale beyond.


There are nine new monitoring widgets that allow users to track competitors’ campaign trends. Here’s a look at just a few of the widgets you can build and customize within Ducksboard:



As you can see, Ducksboard’s simple and customizable design makes it easy for online marketers to stay updated on the company performance in real time.  Without having to wait for weekly or monthly reports, Ducksboard allows marketing and business professionals to conveniently access and share valuable data that impacts decision-making.  Claim your 30-day free trial now.