5 Lessons PPC Advertisers Can Learn From The Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel Wedding

Just last week, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel said “I Do” in southern Italy.  As the photos and details unfold in the media, it’s been pretty difficult to avoid the juicy gossip.  Paging through multiple articles got me to thinking how clever Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are, and how online advertisers could learn a some serious advertising strategy from their over the top, yet intimate wedding.   Here’s the list of 5 lessons PPC advertisers can learn from the Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel Wedding:



Photo Credit


1. The Pink Dress:  Whether the critics love it or hate it, nearly everyone has something to say about Jessica’s amazing pink wedding gown.  The dress is untraditional, irregular, and eccentric, but according to Justin Timberlake, “It was so Jess.”  Think about this when generating compelling ad creative.  Design your ads to be innovative, eye-catching, and the talk of the town, yet completely true to your brand.


2. The Wedding Day Accessories:  Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  Although I haven’t heard what Jessica’s something blue was, her “something new” was the pink Giambattista Valli Haute Couture gown.  To add to this, her “something old” was on her custom veil, adorned with heirloom pearls that were from her grandmother’s wedding day tiara, while her “something borrowed” was a light pink pearl bracelet loaned to her by Justin’s mother.  These added accessories complemented each other nicely and were consistent across her outfit, something online advertisers should do with their ad groups and landing pages as well.  Ensuring that the keywords in your ad are in line with the keywords or placements that you’re targeting and the keywords on your landing page will result in an overall improvement in your ad’s relevancy, impacting click-through rate and Quality Score.


3.  The Reported $6.5 Million Cost: There have been numerous rumors that the couple spent $6.5 million for their special day – sounds like a pretty amazing ad budget right?  But, as you know, that money wasn’t just spent on one thing.  There was the food, photos, entertainment, flowers, dresses, decorations, and many more elements that summed up to the total wedding budget enhancing the overall event.  This is the same way you should plan out your ad budget.  Separate your online ad campaigns into different segments, whether it’s by network, device targeting, geography or anything else that will help you increase relevancy for the audience and optimize your overall cost per acquisition.


4.  The Small & Intimate Destination Wedding:  The fancy affair took place in Southern Italy and has been described as an intimate wedding of 100 guests.  Timberlake said, “It was a lot to ask of them to travel, so we figured we’d give our guests a good party!”  This is a great example of what your landing page experience should bring to the table.  It has to be worth visiting and staying on.  If you’re shelling out $6.5 million on advertising to gain 100 new visitors, make sure you have the elements on your landing page that will give visitors a good time on your site, and convert!


5.  The Last Ones Standing: The ceremony finally concluded around 5:00am, as Justin and Jessica were the last two on the dance floor.  As an online advertiser, you can and should continually make optimization adjustments to your campaigns that will allow you to maintain a steady click-through rate or even outperform the competition. You want your ads to be the last ones standing at the end of the day, rather than miss out on any “dance floor time” or impressions share.


What are some examples of how you’ve exercised best practices from Mr. & Mrs. Timberlake’s wedding in your own ad campaigns?  Have you had an ad that really resembled the pink dress? Or maybe you’ve used some sweet optimization tips worth sharing.  Tell us in the comments below.


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New Data: Groupon Slashing Online Ad Spending in Q3

This post is the first in our AdWatch series. At MixRank, we’ve built the world’s largest database of display and contextual ads, tracking over 600,000 advertisers advertising on 100,000 publishers. We’ll be bringing you interesting insights into advertisers’ strategies and industry trends based on this data through MixRank AdWatch posts.

Is Groupon pivoting away from daily deals?

New ad data from MixRank shows that Groupon, Inc is dramatically slashing US online ad spending for its flagship daily deals product.

For every advertiser we monitor, we compute an Ad Performance score based on sampling ad impressions and other metrics. Our Ad Performance Score is an internal metric we use to estimate how much traffic an advertiser’s ads are getting. The actual number is arbitrary, but can be used to compare advertisers and correlates very strongly with impressions, clicks, and spend. A higher performance score means an advertiser’s ads are getting more traffic (generally because the advertiser is spending more).

Our ad performance data shows that Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) has cut spending on US-targeted display and contextual ads more than 80% in the past few months- a staggering cut for a company spending $100 million a month on advertising.

Here’s a chart of the MixRank Ad Performance Score for groupon.com’s contextual and display ads for the past two quarters of 2012. This data only reflects ads geotargeted at consumers in the United States.

Groupon ad performance

View more detailed data about Groupon’s ads.

The massive, rapid drop occurs on July 1, the first day of the third quarter, and Groupon’s ad spend has not recovered since. The fact that this drop occurred exactly at the start of Q3 implies this was a major strategic decision with budgeting for the third quarter rather than a tactical tweak in allocating spend.

Much has been written about Groupon’s mounting customer acquisition costs standing in the way of profitability, and as data from their latest quarterly report shows, Groupon has been making deep cuts to marketing spending for a while.

Groupon ad performance

But Q3 2012 marks the biggest drop by far in Groupon’s online advertising spending for daily deals since we’ve started tracking their ads over a year ago.

This data is just one signal, and it could have several explanations. Maybe Groupon has saturated the daily deals market in the United States and is shifting spending overseas. Or maybe Groupon’s revenues for the next quarter are lower than the market’s expectations, and executives made the decision to cut marketing spending further to reach profitability.

Or maybe Groupon just isn’t that interested in daily deals anymore.

So what does this change mean? Groupon has just announced that they’re taking on Square and offering a payments and credit card processing solution to its merchants. Groupon CEO Andrew Mason has defined the company’s vision as an “operating system for small business”.

Is the shift in marketing strategy a sign Groupon is on its way to abandoning the maturing daily deals industry it created and transitioning to a B2B company? 

Such a rapid, dramatic pivot would be unprecedented for a multi billion dollar publicly traded company. Then again, Groupon has never been one for convention.


Social vs. Mobile: Where Should You Invest Your Advertising Budget

As new online advertising channels emerge like social and mobile, don’t get left behind. Keep up with the times and spend your budget where it makes most sense for your business. If your company does not have an unlimited marketing budget, you’ll want to make sure that any budget you do have is spent wisely on the most appropriate and effective advertising channel for your target market.


Whether you’re new to the online advertising world or have active campaigns running on social and mobile, this blog post will give you pointers on how to best take advantages of both channels. First thing you need to know, social and mobile analytics are simply not comparable. Although both could be used for branding, awareness, or increasing conversions, the click-through rates and conversion rates will rarely lend similarities. Why? Social ads are generally more top-of-the-funnel, similar to display ads. Users engage social channels to connect with their friends, peers, and interests rather than to purchase or shop around. On the other hand, mobile ads align with search in that they are closer to the actual purchase. Consumers query directly for keywords expecting related search results.


Given what we know, consider benchmarking your social ad performance against your display ad performance. For mobile ads, compare analytics to the search ads you are currently running. Below you’ll see some of the advantages and tips for both social and mobile platforms.


Social Ads:

With over 800 million active users on Facebook, it has become the number 2 most visited site after Google. If you’re one of those 800 million users, you’ve most likely seen the ads that are on Facebook on the right hand side when you log in. What has been your experience with the ads? For me, I rarely ever click through on the ads. However, I see do them, know they are there, and even read through them as I do with my news feed. So, we suggest running awareness and branding campaigns on Facebook to get your brand out to your target market. Remember to keep your social ads fresh by rotating the image periodically and you could even try including a “Like” button to help camouflage the ad similar to the example below:


Facebook is just one of the few social sites you can target ad campaigns on. Other social sites you can consider advertising on if it fits your market include Twitter and LinkedIn.


Mobile Ads:

Gartner predicts that the global smartphone and media tablet market will be more than 1B units by 2015, with 318M smartphones and 775M Media Tablets.


The following table is from their report, Emerging Technology Analysis: Mobile Business Intelligence, 13 July 2011, ID:G00214124 by Bhavish Sood, Andreas Bitterer, James Richardson.


According to this Google study, the length of characters in mobile queries are similar to desktop queries.


Given what we know from above, mobile isn’t going away and queries haven’t changed. So, that tells us, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If you already have successful search campaigns, you know what keywords perform well. Why not bid on the same successful keywords from your search campaigns, and use the exact same text ads? When setting this up, you’ll want to separate your mobile campaigns so you can bid higher on keywords to ensure your ad has a higher position. Since mobile handheld screens are so tiny, there is no guaranteeing that your ad is even seen if it’s position is too low.


To understand whether you should invest your online advertising efforts in Social or mobile ads, you’ll absolutely need to know and understand your target market.  Since you’re all professional marketers, it’s safe to assume you know this already. But consider this: is your target market actively on social sites or handheld devices? For example, if you’re advertising for an elderly home and your target market includes senior citizens, do you find it likely for them to be on Facebook or surfing the net on handheld mobile phones? Knowing who you’re targeting is an obvious pre-step before building any type of marketing campaign, so do your research!


Like all fields, there’s no defined ranking system to describe the best way to advertise. It all depends! However, if you know your target market and employ the data you have from previous ad campaigns, you can precisely target the right audience on social and strategically bid on mobile to make the most out of your ad spend.  Also, in case you missed last week’s purchasing events, Facebook just bought two incredibly huge mobile products: Instagram and Tagtile. I would bet on the convergence of mobile and social ads in the near future.


Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jana_fung


How to Hire a Great Marketer for Your Company

A lot of people have been asking me for help with hiring marketing people for their company. I keep repeating the same advice, so I thought I would lay it out here. 

My usual disclaimer: This advice is mostly targeted towards startups and lead gen companies who are interested in significantly increasing their traffic and conversions. In other words, performance marketing. If you’re more interested in branding or social media marketing (whatever that is), then this post probably isn’t for you.

There are five key questions you should ask yourself about any potential marketing hire.

Anyone with a good answer to all five is worth his weight in gold- hire him immediately. Hitting three or four of these points can make for a very good hire, as long as you have support staff in place and are willing to spend some time training and getting this person up to speed. And unless you already have a very strong marketing system in place and are bringing this person in at a junior level, I would be careful about expecting much out of someone possessing two or less of these qualities.

Does he have a strong track record of driving traffic?

This is probably the biggest predictor of success in internet marketing. If there’s any way for you to snag someone with deep operational experience, who has the experience of getting his hands dirty and actually building effective campaigns from the ground up, do it.

A low-level, detailed understanding of things like SEO factors and AdWords Quality Score means that you’ll be able to get properly structured campaigns up and running very quickly.

Ideally, your hire has experience driving traffic to his own startup or marketing business, or has managed campaigns for a large e-commerce advertiser.

Is he obsessive and meticulous about metrics?

Internet marketing in 2011 is a lot more about analytics than creativity. You can’t afford to hire someone who will be sloppy about metrics or optimization.

Ask your prospective hire to build a small sample campaign or marketing plan. Is he tracking everything throughout the funnel down to the specific traffic source or creative? Is he going to write four versions of every ad and landing page and split test relentlessly? 

Some of the most effective marketers I know are not Mad-Men style hustlers but rather quiet analytics nerds who love digging around in spreadsheets and building mathematical models.

Is he a strong and prolific communicator?

After targeting, the most important factor in any campaign’s success is the strength of the copy. A good writer, even without specific copywriting experience will eventually be able to produce good copy, but a great salesman who can’t write well will be bogged down by the process.

Your marketer is in charge of every point at which you interact with customers, from the headline on your landing page to registration emails. Someone who can quickly produce compelling and well-written content will have a direct and material impact on your conversion rate. 

A good proxy for identifying a good writer is finding a good reader. Ask everyone you interview about the last book they read.

Does he have experience managing both small and large budgets?

A small marketing budget demands certain constraints that a large budget does not. Specifically, every dollar has to return results, and you can’t afford to bid against large national or go on too many branding adventures.

“Scrappy” is the word that comes to mind here. Again, someone with experience spending his own money on marketing campaigns is most valuable here.

You should find someone who knows how to work within the constraints of a startup budget but also has experience quickly scaling campaigns once you find product-market fit.

Does he have the makings of a competent salesman?

Claude Hopkins famously said that marketing is salesmanship in print, and that couldn’t be more true today. Many sales tactics, like identifying a customer’s deepest needs and desires, addressing objections, and closing the sale are directly relevant for one-to-many marketing campaigns. 

Your marketing hire doesn’t necessarily need the same aggressive, outgoing personality as a top tier sales guy. But he should be able to develop a deep understanding of the customer and know how to build a relationship with customers.

I’ll admit I based this list at least in part on myself and successful marketers I know well, so it’s far from comprehensive. Are there any other qualities a great marketer possesses? Leave a comment!

By the way, we built MixRank to automate many of the research and analytics tasks you would need to hire a marketer for. We think anyone can use MixRank to build successful campaigns. Try it out today (we have a free version).

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Traffic Triage

Chasing down profitable traffic sources can be a black hole consuming all of your time and money. The problem is that almost all paid traffic campaigns start off losing money; to build a campaign, you need to spend money collecting data on what works, and then optimize towards profitability from there.But not all campaigns end up profitable either, no matter how much you optimize them. So, one of the marketer’s biggest challenges is figuring out which traffic sources are actually worth pursuing, and which ones will never become profitable and will only consume your time and money. You have a limited budget, and you need to make sure you’re making it count and not spending it on a wild goose chase. Here’s how.

How to Allocate Marketing Spend

The trick to allocating your marketing effectively is implementing some kind of traffic source triage system. When encountering a new traffic source, you want to be able to quickly and consistently categorize it into a low, medium, or high priority group, before spending any time or money testing it. You don’t have to be 100% correct for this process. After all, you never know how something is going to work until you test it. You just have to be good enough to set priorities and build up a bankroll from stable, profitable traffic sources that you can use to offset your losses from testing riskier, lower priority ones.A lot of the skills needed to accurately identify traffic sources will only come with experience. But you can get 80% of the way there and avoid the more egregious mistakes by following a few simple rules.

Three Questions You Need to Ask Yourself About Any Traffic Source

When evaluating a potential traffic source, I always ask three questions that let me easily determine how much time and money I want to apply towards mastering it.

  1. Is there enough volume?
  2. Is the traffic cheap enough?
  3. Does the traffic convert well enough?

It’s important to remember that the answers to these questions are not binary. They fall on a continuum. They’re intentionally vague. There are no hard and fast rules until you test, just guesses. Let’s look at each one of them in more detail.

Is there enough volume?

This question is fairly straightforward to answer. Your rep at the ad network should be able to tell you how much daily traffic you can expect from the average campaign. But you should always do your own research too.Look at the Alexa/Quantcast/Compete rank of both their homepage and their tracking URLs to get a sense how much traffic passes through the network. Do the same for any domains you see advertised on the network. Are there mostly new, low traffic advertisers(bad) or established, successful advertisers(good) on this network?If you’re evaluating an ad network, take a look at some of the publishers running with this ad network. Are this ad network’s banners the only ads on the page(good), or are you competing for attention with a cluttered field of many different ads(bad)? What’s the traffic volume of some of the publishers that seem most relevant to your product?Remember, you’re only looking to estimate volume for traffic that has at least some chance of converting for you. So if you only sell to the US, inquire about US traffic volume only.

Is the traffic cheap enough?

This question is a bit more fluid, but in general some traffic sources, keywords, and verticals are much less expensive than others.Take a look at who’s buying traffic on this network currently. What are they selling? Low margin products like commodity physical goods, or high margin financial products? How much do you think they can afford to pay for traffic? Put their domains into the Google Keyword Tool and take a look at the bids they would need to pay on search to get this kind of traffic.How competitive is this traffic source? That may mean this traffic is higher converting and more desirable, but also more expensive.

Does the traffic convert well enough?

This is the big one. If the traffic converts well enough, it really doesn’t matter how expensive it is(as long as you’re paying less per click than your CLV). Even the volume doesn’t matter as much, because you can use a very relevant, highly profitable but low volume traffic source as a laboratory to test new ideas for creatives and landing pages without fear of losing money. You can then replicate the successes to higher volume but lower margin traffic sources.You may think that it’s impossible to answer this question without actually spending money testing, but it’s actually easier than you think. You can’t answer it precisely without significant data, but you can make some pretty good guesses based on experience and past performance. Think of this a comprehensive due diligence process. To answer this question, you need to start from a broad overview and move to specific details about the competitive landscape.Have you advertised on this traffic source before? What is this ad network’s reputation on blogs and forums? Has anyone written a case study about this traffic source? Does the majority of their traffic come from wealthy countries(good) or third world countries(bad)? How do they get their traffic? Are their users incentivized to view ads(bad) or click on them(VERY bad) or do they have other quality content(good)?Then you can move to studying specifics. Who is advertising here currently, big brands(bad) or direct response advertisers(good)? Is the same advertiser buying traffic on here consistently(good) or are new advertisers constantly showing up and disappearing(bad)? Do you see the same creatives used consistently(good), or are advertisers constantly trying new creatives because they aren’t getting clicks(bad)?Check the demographics of the ad network and advertisers’ domains. Do they match the demographics of your customers? Are there any advertisers with the same business model as you(e.g. sale of physical goods, freemium, etc) running on this network? Any advertisers in the same industry? Any direct competitors?

Decide Fast

This may seem like an unnecessarily lengthy process when the key to traffic triage is making snap decisions. But spending a couple hours studying a traffic source is well worth it compared to the months of pain chasing low quality traffic will cause you. Besides, with experience, you will come to internalize this process, and it will become second nature. That’s when you can start raking in the big bucks as a marketing consultant 🙂By the way, we’re working on software to automate answering many of the questions above. Leave your email below and you’ll be the first to get an invite to our private beta.