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19 posts from March 2008

March 17, 2008

Privacy & Personalization

I, {State Your Name}


In the classic 1970s movie "Animal House", the inept pledges of Delta House couldn't manage to follow directions. When asked to repeat the house pledge, the repeated it exactly as it was told to them. "I, state your name, do hereby pledge allegiance to the frat." In today's world, personalization in online advertising is becoming more and more possible and sophisticated to the point of creating legitimate privacy concerns as well as opportunities for advertisers. Recently, the NY Times asked the big search providers if they could or would insert the user's name in paid search ads. Generally, they answered that it might be possible, but they are not (currently) interested in doing it. And it would only apply to users who are already logged in or cookied so that the site recognizes you. Microsoft could do it in such a way such that there was no actual personal data stored, but the user's perception might be of a loss of privacy.

Now this raises a host of privacy issues. How would users react if they saw ads that said, "Jason! Buy Widgets Now." or "Fred, We Have the Biggest Selection of Foobars." It sounds kind of creepy. Users should rightly be concerned if this data were made available to advertisers. And the extent to which the search providers are gathering this data on each person and building a profile of his or her habits and interests is concerning as well.

But privacy issues aside, would it actually convert better for retailers? It's impossible to know for sure without getting to test it, but in paid search advertising, the more relevant the ad, the more likely it is to get clicks, and to convert. There needs to be a call to action. It also needs to attract the user's eye, and I imagine that seeing your name in the ad would be very likely to attract attention.

The search providers would have to make a feature like this available to everyone or no one. There might be a benefit for all if it pulls some clicks away from the natural search results to the paid ads, so a feature like this could increase clicks for all advertisers and increase the search providers revenue. At that point, it becomes like steroids in sports. If personalizing the ad by including the user's name improves click through, then all advertisers will quickly adopt it. If everyone else is doing it, then you have to do it too, just to be competitive. Everyone is now using 5-10 characters of their precious ad text for the user's name.

In the end, it would be worth it to advertisers if it improves the user experience. By improving the user experience, advertisers can count on more relevant ads and better conversion. "With liberty and fraternity for all. Amen."

written by Jason James -- jason.james at channeladvisor.com

March 14, 2008

Omid and the Ad


Google VP and billionaire Omid Kordestani recently donated $3M to his alma mater to endow a professorship. Listed as one of the richest people in the world with a net worth of $2.1 billion, he can afford it. However, Kordestani's big contribution to paid search is a little different. He is the man responsible for the text ad.

He headed up Google's sales department in the early days, and was a key advocate for maintaining Google's clean, text only interface. At the time, the banner ad was king. Google wanted to maintain their clean look, and chose to display paid search ads as text only. As it turns out, text ads have a higher click through and conversion rate than image ads. And users like them better because they are easy to ignore if they are not shopping, but easy to scan if they are. For retailers, it creates a level playing ground as businesses big and small can create compelling ads without an art department.

Now that Yahoo, MSN, and Ask all display paid search ads as text only, we take it for granted. But not so many years ago, it was Google's sales department, and Omid Kordestani, who changed the way paid search ads were displayed.

written by Jason James -- jason.james at channeladvisor.com

Google's "Automated Match"


As of 2/28/2008 Google rolled out an “Automated Match” beta that has been released with mixed reactions.  The new Automated Match will take your existing list of keywords and matches it to user queries that Google feels are relevant to your ads.  The goal of this feature is to help advertisers use 100% of their budgets, so the beta is being released to only a select group of advertisers who have Campaigns that are considerably underfunded.  Google does allow advertisers to opt out of this feature through the Campaign Settings option in the Adwords Interface.

We currently have a several CAManaged (ChannelAdvisor’s Full Service Search Offering) clients that were selected for this beta. We are currently running a controlled test to measure it’s effectiveness. Results for this test will be posted to this blog when they are available.

Like everything else in Paid Search, we definitely recommend testing this on your account (as it becomes available) and let the data tell you whether it helps or hurts your campaigns.

written by Andrew Belsky -- andrew.belsky at channeladvisor.com

March 11, 2008

Google Quality Score for Ad Rank

There are three ways Google calculates Ad Rank and Quality Score factors into each of them:

  1. Ad Rank for keyword-targeted ads on the search network
  2. Ad Rank for keyword-targeted ads on the content network
  3. Ad Rank for placement-targeted ads on the content network

These three formulas were pulled from Google word for word and will explain how they calculate the above three scenarios.

Ad Rank for keyword-targeted ads on the search network
With a keyword-targeted ad, a keyword’s rank on a search result page is based on the following formula:

Ad Rank = CPC bid × Quality Score

According to Google, the Quality Score in the above formula for search network is determined by:

  • The historical clickthrough rate (CTR) of the ad and of the matched keyword on Google; CTR on the Google Network is not considered
  • The relevance of the keyword and ad to the search query
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
  • Other relevance factors
  • Your landing page quality is not a factor.

Ad Rank for keyword-targeted ads on the content network
A keyword-targeted ad's position on a content page is based on the ad group's content bid and Quality Score. If you don't set a content bid, we'll set an automatic bid using an average of all your ad group's keyword- and ad group-level CPCs.

Ad Rank = content bid X Quality Score

The Quality Score related to Ad Rank on the content network is determined by:

  • The ad's past performance on the site in question, as well as on similar sites
  • Your landing page quality
  • Other relevance factors

Ad Rank for placement-targeted ads on the content network
If a placement-targeted ad wins a position on a content page, it uses up all the available ad space so no other ads can show on that page. (Certain content pages may have more than one block of space reserved for AdWords ads. In those cases, a single placement-targeted ad or multiple keyword-targeted ads can occupy each block.)

To determine if your placement-targeted ad will show, our system considers the bid you have made for that ad group or for the individual placement, along with the ad group's Quality Score.

Ad Rank = Bid × Quality Score

The Quality Score related to Ad Rank for placement-targeted ads with CPM bidding is derived solely from landing page quality. For placement-targeted ads with CPC bidding, the clickthrough rate is also considered, just as it is with keyword-targeted ads.

Learn how placement-targeted ads and keyword-targeted ads compete for positioning on a content page.

“How-to” improve your Ad Rank?
There is no silver bullet to improving your Quality Score. We recommend doing any or all of the following:

  1. Define your advertising goals- how you define your campaigns depends on your strategy. Figure out whether you are going after ROI, CTR, and or traffic and then develop keywords and placement to achieve these goals.
  2. Critique account structure for maximum effectiveness- set your account up for relevancy and ease of management. This means organizing your Campaigns and Adgroups based on product lines, resources, or brands.
  3. Choose relevant keywords and placements- keyword selection is the most important piece to running an effective campaign. Make sure you take advantage of matching options and keyword negatives to improve click quality.
  4. Create straightforward, targeted ads- you should create simple, enticing ads with strong call to action and test impact on placement and performance.
  5. Optimize your website for conversions- use correct or most relevant landing page, test site content, improve user experience, etc.
  6. Track your account performance- review data on a regular basis to make sure you’re targeting relevant, converting traffic based on your advertising goals from #1 above.
  7. Test and modify your campaigns to get the results you want- take action on your findings from #6 above. Paid search management is an iterative process that demands continual actions.

At ChannelAdvisor, we suggest looking at keyword assists to determine if you are evaluating all possible conversion opportunities before bidding keywords down. There are situations where keywords may not appear to be performing because they are toward the beginning of the buying cycle. These keywords usually get low revenue attributed to them and eventually get bid down for under performance. But if bid down, your traffic and overall conversions will suffer. Look for keyword assists data to provide actionable insight to improve your campaigns. Look for more to follow regarding this topic.

written by Greg Ives-- greg.ives at channeladvisor.com

Google Quality Score for Minimum Bid

What is minimum bid?
According to Google a keyword's minimum bid is the lowest amount that you can pay in order for that keyword to trigger your ads. If you assign that keyword a cost-per-click (CPC) bid lower than this amount, the keyword will become inactive for search.

How is minimum bid calculated?

  • The keyword's historical clickthrough rate (CTR) on Google; CTR on the Google Network is not considered The relevance of the keyword to the ads in its ad group
  • The quality of your landing page
  • Landing page load time
  • Your account history, which is measured by the CTR of all the ads and keywords in your account
  • Other relevance factors

“How-to” decrease minimum bid?

  • Create organized and well-structured account: 1) Organize your campaigns by topic- Create separate campaigns for each of your product lines, resources, or brands. This allows for ease of management and control of budget and settings. 2) Create highly specific ad groups- Similar to your campaigns, each ad group should focus on a single product or category to ensure your ads reach the most qualified users.
  • Create a high quality landing page: You can improve your landing page quality by optimizing your website per Google’s guidelines. Their guidelines emphasize: 1) Relevant and original content, 2)Transparency into the nature of your business, how your site interacts with a visitor's computer, and how you intend to use a visitor's personal information, 3) Navigability, i.e., providing a short and easy path for a user to purchase or receive the product or offer in your ad, and to view Google’s  full landing page quality guidelines.

written by Greg Ives-- greg.ives at channeladvisor.com

Do You Understand Google Quality Score?

With all of the recent changes in Quality Score (QS), including the new landing page load time piece, I thought it would be a good time to review all the pieces of how Google AdWords Quality Score is perceived to work.

What is my Google AdWords 'Quality Score' and how is it calculated?

According to Google, Quality Score is a dynamic variable assigned to each of your keywords. It's calculated using a variety of factors and measures how relevant your keyword is to your ad text and to a user's search query.

Two kinds of Quality Score

  1. Quality Score for Minimum Bid: Quality Score also partly determines your keywords' minimum bids.
  2. Quality Score for Ad Rank: Quality Score influences your ads' position on Google and the Google Network.
    In general, the higher your Quality Score, the better your ad position and the lower your minimum bids.

In-depth look at Quality Score Formulas
The QS formula used varies depending on whether it's calculating for minimum bids or for assigning ad rank. In addition, it varies depending on whether it's affecting

  • a keyword-targeted ad on the search network
  • a keyword-targeted ad on the content network
  • or a placement-targeted ad
    Google will continue to improve these formulas, but the core components will remain more or less the same.

Take a closer look at each type and our recommendations on how a retailer can improve:
Quality Score for Minimum Bid
Quality Score for Ad Rank

written by Greg Ives-- greg.ives at channeladvisor.com

March 10, 2008

10 Popular Paid Search Myths

  • Myth #1. Launching on new search engines is easy because the same strategy can be used across all engines.
  • Myth #2. Paid search delivers immediate results.
  • Myth #3. The more keywords in a paid search account the better.
  • Myth #4. Using the same root keyword with various stem keywords is an effective way to increase clicks.
  • Myth #5. Paid search advertising will improve organic search rankings.
  • Myth #6. Bidding is the best way to a better quality score.
  • Myth #7. You don’t need to bid on your brand name.
  • Myth #8. Advertising on the search engine content networks works for everyone.
  • Myth #9. Using generic ad copy is sufficient.
  • Myth #10: Paid search works for everyone.

Download the "10 Popular Paid Search Myths" Whitepaper

written by Erin Gordon-- erin.gordon at channeladvisor.com

Separating the Fact from Fiction for Online Retailers

Often, theories or ideas are published within our industry making claims that are counter-intuitive and not grounded in factual data.  As search marketing professionals, we spend most of our time monitoring search engines, optimizing natural search results and auction marketplaces and managing pay-per-click search marketing campaigns. We also must consistently stay on top of changing factors, rules and perceptions.  When it comes to paid search myths and misunderstandings, it is our job to separate fact from fiction.

Throughout 2007, ChannelAdvisor managed over 22 million paid search keywords in numerous retail verticals ranging from electronics, to toys to jewelry.  Using the data gathered from our work, we can test the accuracy of these claims, offer proven, expert guidance and more accurately forecast future trends for our customers in 2008. The tried-and-true facts below will not only help you with keyword generation, bidding, brand awareness ad copy design, but also with effective strategies to fully capitalize on the paid search marketing opportunities in front of you.

Can the Google User Experience Get Better?

The answer is yes and here is how:

Google recently announced that they will soon be taking page load times into consideration when assigning Quality Score for keyword minimum bids.  This is the next logical step in enhancing Quality Score, as we have seen in report after report that users (site visitors) have little to no patience once they click through on an AdWords ad.  If they land on a page and it takes too long to load, they abandon.  If they land on a page and do not see a connection between their keyword > the ad displayed > the landing page, they will abandon within seconds.

In the next several weeks, Google will be adding load time evaluations to the Keyword Analysis Page (the magnifying glass next to your keywords in the AdWords Interface) and then you will have one month to review your site and make necessary adjustments. This isn’t really that much time if you need to do some overhauling, but at least they are giving some sort of lead time.

SearchAdvisor Clients: The redirect that is used in SearchAdvisor was built with speed in mind and utilizes very powerful hardware with high availability so it has a very minimal impact on page load times.

Read more here.

written by Andrew Belsky -- andrew.belsky at channeladvisor.com

March 07, 2008

Big Changes at ASK.com

ASK.com has decided to switch directions and focus on answering questions around recipes, hobbies, health and entertainment. It appears that ASK.com no longer cares to battle Google for market share and is repositioning to better target the 65% of their user base that are women.

This will impact some customers running on ChannelAdvisor's Paid Search Software, SearchAdvisor since it does support the latest version of the ASK.com API. If you are currently running a campaign on ASK.com, we recommend running status quo, but monitor trends on a weekly basis.

The end result of this move could mean good things for verticals that cater to ASK.com's demographic (beauty, family, home & garden, clothing/apparel, gifts & flowers, games & toys, sports & fitness and food/drinks). On the other hand, this most likely will mean even less traffic and relevancy for large verticals such as computer & electronics and automotive.

Read more here.

written by Andrew Belsky -- andrew.belsky at channeladvisor.com