After years of a largely unchanged creative format, 2010 saw an unprecedented year for the diversification and development of Paid Search ads, with the way led – unsurprisingly – by Google’s Adwords platform.
My intention is not for this to be an Adwords ‘how to’ – you can research Adwords’ nuts and bolts on the many excellent industry blogs. Moreover, I hope to provide an overview of two of my favourite and most impactful PPC developments of the last 12 months and highlight how they can and should be having a beneficial effect on your campaigns.
In the second half of the article, drawing upon my experience of running large-scale and successful paid search campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands, I’ll share my thoughts on two of the key mind-sets and approaches required for delivering brilliant paid search.
We’ll kick things off with a look at what’s proven to be one of the most popular and successful additions to Adwords ad formats in recent years…
Countries such as Germany already have stricter privacy policies in place, brough in by Government measures based on complaints from consumer groups. This legislation has led to several high profile investigations into how companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google collect personal data. Whilst none of these investigations have led to any fines or sanctions they are openly promoting a more public discussion about what data is collected and how it is stored.
I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last week over in the US with some of my colleagues down in Arizona. Not only did this trip allow me to visit the beautiful town of Scottsdale and spend some time there, but also reinforced the fact that Charlie Sheen is indeed omnipotent as well as giving me enough time on the flight home to write this blog post.
The whirlwind that is the ‘car crash’ demise of US actor Sheen is everywhere; tv, print headlines, twitter, facebook and bar conversations on both sides of the pond. His inevitable deterioration is captivating the public’s thirst for gossip but in the greater scheme of things where does he sit? There’s plenty going on in the world at the moment; political unrest in North Africa and the much anticipated launch of Apple’s iPad 2 for example, not that you can in any way compare the two but their contrast makes them even more interesting to compare. So what if you were to look at the popularity online of the celebrity breakdown vs. the political dictator vs. the latest technology launch from Apple, who would win?
UK sentiment analysis firm, Brandwatch, have done just that in their latest Friday Fix to look at who, when pitched against each other, has the most value in social media. Stats measured from this weeks launch of the iPad 2. Let battle commence…
The February 2011 edition of Revolution covered an article looking at online brand building activity through search at the expense of display according to a recent survey carried out by communications firm Rocket.
Natural search ranked top with 32% of marketers citing it as the most effective marketing channel for online brand building. As highlighted by iCrossing’s CEO, Paul Doleman, this higher figure is no surprise as SEO offers a trusted source in online brand building with consumers trusting the natural search rankings more for research purposes than paid alternatives. Not only is this content derived from the brand but we must also consider user generated content, reviews and network contacts as key branding aspects highlighted through natural search.
Coming in second at 28%, paid search. Seen as a key response tool, paid search is increasingly being used in creative ways to compliment brand building activities – check out Ann Summers. Likewise, online PR and email marketing sitting in the middle spots at 22%, can drive brand through targeted campaigns to specific demographics with targetted messaging. What is more surprising is the position of display and social coming in at the bottom of the pack.
Much of the focus at the moment on social, everyone’s talking about it. As outlined by Rocket’s MD, Pete Hendricks, ‘social media pretty much matches search engines in terms if traffic nowadays [...] but some brands don’t see social media as such an effective medium for brand building as there is much less control.’ the age old question of ‘what is the ROI’ maybe a concern for some but surely, in branding terms, social media done well is invaluable which makes it’s low position surprising. Instant consumer reviews, interactions and improved customer service can be the instant gains from social but dedicated resources and management are required to benefit from such rewards.
In the last year Google has shifted its focus from pure link based anchor text to include other metrics. As a result greater attention is anticipated for broader ranking considerations such as user behaviour, social signals, content quality, brand authority etc.
Google is constantly fighting to curtail spam and has realised that the importance of links within its algorithm is effectively contributing to a large amount of it. Hence the growing importance of various other ranking metrics; some of which are discussed below.
User behaviour – Chrome extension to send signals to Google about search quality
Google has recently launched a Chrome web extension to allow users to block sites of their choosing in the SERPs and has indicated that it’ll use this to rank websites in search results. Not sure what effect this will have on Google’s results as the numbers of Chrome users are limited and not everyone will download the extension.
Google has previously attempted to leverage user data in the search results by means of SideWiki, Starred results etc. which signifies that Google is exploring ways to integrate user behavioural data which can be used as strong ranking signal.
Traffic from social – an important signal to Google?
In February 2010 we took a look at the state of the mobile web and how various platforms were performing by country. 12 months have now passed so we thought it would be interesting to take another look at the this space and see how things have changed. Additionally with the recent events that have taken place across North Africa and the emergence of social media and mobile internet as tools of the revolution we thought it would be interesting to take a look at those countries and see what the predominant platforms in use are.
Google has announced a significant change to its algorithm which promises to go further in separating the online wheat from the chaff – and in making sure good content wins out over the bad.
High quality sites are now given greater visibility by the search engine over poorer quality offerings from sources such as the so-called content farms, which typically provide weak writing tailored to ride high in the rankings based on search queries alone – not on the inherent usefulness of their offering.
This means that sites which copy content wholesale from others – or are just straight-up not useful to their readers – will lose out to those which the algorithm identifies as having original content and information, “such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis, and so on”.
Breaking the news on the search giant’s official blog, Google fellow Amit Singhal and principle engineer Matt Cutts admitted that the fruits of their constant tinkering are sometimes too subtle for the average person to notice. However, they promise that this is one change which is sure to make an immediate impact.
A month after the launch of Bing I made a quick analysis of its transition from its previous incarnation as Live Search to its rebranding as Bing in this blog post. The initial reaction was generally positive with retail clients benefitting from an improved conversion rate despite the higher cost-per-click.
Since then Bing has had a year and a half to prove its worth and, with the ‘Search Alliance’ on its way to the UK this year, now seems a good time to revisit the stats and ponder whether Bing can make the next step up and seriously position itself as an alternative if not a threat to Google.
This time I’ll compare MSN PPC data for a whole year before the Bing launch with the 18 months following Bing’s launch in June 2009. Add to this some help from our industry peers and trusted partners and we are able to draw some interesting conclusions.
(I should first acknowledge that product lines, strategies, competitiveness, inflation, the economy and other factors all change over time so this should not be considered as gospel, more of a guide)
Looking first at the retail sector –
- We have noticed a sizeable increase in CPC, up to 61% more depending on the product with only one area experiencing a drop – of 11%.
- This leads us to cost per order (CPO) which is up on the whole, due to the higher CPC and a similar conversion rate.
Now to travel –
When searching on logged into Google and searching on www.google.com I have started to see preview now being made available to paid Ads. See below:
Google announced their new content subscription service One Pass yesterday. The timing was interesting – it came the day after Apple announced new rules for publishers selling subscriptions on its iOS platform. Essentially, the Google approach looks more attractive to publishers because Google will only take 10% off the top, while Apple will take 30%. And if you’re using the Apple iOS platform for your content then you now have to offer access to users via iTunes – this wasn’t compulsory before.
Commentary is generally running along the lines that Google’s offering is a more open, fairer and more flexible system than Apple’s.
The Guardian sum this attitude up, saying “Google’s One Pass [...] allows more freedom to publishers than Apple’s subscription model. Newspapers including the Financial Times, the Economist and New York Times have said they are presently unclear how Apple’s new model affects their iPhone and iPad charging strategy.”
Rhapsody, who offer a subscription based music service in the US came out with a critical appraisal of Apple’s changes, saying “an Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 percent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable” according to a report in Engadget. And PaidContent report that LastFM’s co-founder Richard Jones went much further arguing that: “Apple just f****d over online music subs for the iPhone.”
Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple’s action “could draw anti-trust scrutiny according to law professors”.
PaidContent also point out that the Google announcement came alongside news that two US newspaper chains have announced “plans to use One Pass to charge users who access [the] 180,000-plus circulation Richmond Times Dispatch, while midwest newspaper chain Rust Communications will soon charge some users at three of its newspaper sites.” And rumours are growing louder that both the Telegraph and Daily Mail are now seriously exploring subscription models here in the UK and will be charging online users by the end of the year.
Brad McCarthy has done a quick summary of the pros and cons of the two new systems in the Next Web and concludes: “So who wins? [...] From how we’re reading the information available, One Pass is a highly viable alternative to hosting your own system or relying solely on Apple’s greedy cut.”
- Connect – iCrossing U.K.
- Conecta2 – iCrossing LATAM & Spain
- Greatfinds – iCrossing U.S.
- Talblick – iCrossing Germany
- The Content Lab
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Other Blogs We Recommend
- Core Audience
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- Google Plus Blog
- iMedia Connection
- Media Monkey
- Mobile, Social, Ambient by Rachel Pasqua
- Online Marketing Blog by Tristán Elósegui
- Search Engine Land
- The Content Lab
- The Facebook Blog
- The Official Google Blog
- Twitter Blog
- Wired Sussex
- WSJ Digits