The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Migrating to Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools - My Favorite Features

Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools - List of Top FeaturesI think everyone agrees that managing paid search is tough and time consuming. In my opinion, you need to be chest deep in your campaigns all of the time to reap the greatest rewards. With keyword research, copywriting, building landing pages, optimizing your campaigns, etc. it takes a lot of time, to say the least. So, if you could leverage technology to make the process of managing paid search more efficient, my guess is that you would probably do it. Of course, you would need a solid tool that provides a wealth of functionality for it to make sense. You probably wouldn’t make a big change if you just added one piece of functionality…you would need a platform that helps you on several dimensions.

The Vendor UI, Spreadsheets, Text Editors, and 3rd Party Software
Paid Search Management Can Make You Crazy!If you walked into the office of someone managing paid search for their company, you would probably see a process that includes a host of products and services. This includes bulk spreadsheets, the vendor UI’s (going directly into Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. to manage campaigns), using AdWords Editor, Text Editors, and 3rd party software for bid management. Then add a web analytics package for analysis mixed with reporting from the vendor and it becomes a world of multiple touch points that can drive a search marketer insane… and can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome. ;-) So, how can you alleviate the madness of paid search management? Well, alleviate might be a strong term, since the fast and furious process of managing paid search isn’t going away, but you can definitely make it easier for yourself. Enter web analytics vendors that provide paid search management packages. Coremetrics is one of the vendors offering this type of functionality and I created this post to list some of my favorite features of the platform. Note, this post is not meant to cover all of the functionality provided by Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools, so look for future posts that expand on this topic.

Some of My Favorite Features of Coremetrics Search Tools:

1. Auto-Tagging of Keywords
Halelujah. :-) For those of you who have to tag keywords so you can accurately track them in your analytics package, you will GREATLY appreciate this feature. Whether you manually tag them or you have developed your own application to tag them (which probably isn’t that good…), you will LOVE this feature of Coremetrics Search Tools. Simply copy the keywords you want to include in an Ad Group and click “Add New Keywords”. Wow, that was tough. ;-) Compare that to the painful, vision-killing, carpal tunnel syndrome-creating, insanity of tagging the keywords yourself, and you can see why this one feature may be worth the migration to CM Search Tools. For example, I added about 300 keywords to an ad group last week in about 10 seconds…and tagged the keywords at a granular level (read below).

2. Tagging Keywords at a Granular Level
Even when you tag keywords, sometimes you want to know more about why those keywords are generating sales (or not generating sales…) With the typical tagging hierarchy, you might see something like this in your web analytics package:

Vendor -> Campaign -> AdGroup -> Keyword

Now, that’s fine and you’ll see revenue by keyword, ad group, and campaign, but what if you wanted to see more? Coremetrics Search Tools enable you to go further by seeing a multitude of additional elements. For example, keyword match type, the raw keyword entered into the search engine, the version of the creative that yielded a click through, and whether the ad was displayed on the content network or in the search listings. Having access to these additional parameters will only enhance your decision making when managing paid search.

To show you the difference, let’s take a look at a hypothetical example:

What you would traditionally see with standard tagging:
Google->Sneakers->Nike->Nike Air Zoom

What you can see using Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools:

You can see how granular your reporting can be using Coremetrics Search Tools. Just to clarify the listing, Google = Vendor, Sneakers_Nike = Campaign and Ad Group, Nike_Air_Zoom_Phrase = Keyword and Match Type, and Search_Creative_VersionA = the ad was displayed in the Search Listings along with the version of the ad creative that the visitors clicked through. Impressive, right?

--Update: I've received some questions about the difference between the vendor dynamic values and Coremetrics dynamic values when tagging keywords. To clarify, I use a mixture of both when tagging keywords for paid search reporting. This gives me the best of both worlds.

3. Finding the Raw Keywords that Visitors Used
By seeing the raw keywords that yielded visitors and revenue, you can find valuable long tail terms to add to your campaigns. For example, let’s say you had a keyword set to Broad Match and 550 people clicked through the site yesterday via that keyword. Using Coremetrics Search Tools, you could drill into that keyword to see what people really entered, which can include terms that maybe you never would have targeted. You can then copy those keywords and quickly add them to the Ad Group in question, enabling you to target high quality visitors based on actual data.

To give another hypothetical example:
Let's say you have a broad match keyword like computer for gaming. Maybe you received 100 visitors yesterday from the keyword. Using Coremetrics, you can drill into that keyword and see what people really entered like What’s the best computer for gaming? or Tricking out your computer for gaming. These long tail keywords can be extremely valuable and can help you target prospects at a more granular level. Think about it, you can target what everyone else is targeting or target long tail keywords that your competitors might not even be aware of? I’d go with the latter almost every time. ;-)

4. It’s directly tied to your analytics program!
To quote Hyundai, Duh. :-) This bullet will cover several reporting elements, but having revenue, cost data, click through rate, bounce rate, average position, cpc data, etc. right in your web analytics program makes your life a lot easier. You don’t need to bounce around (no pun intended) to find the data you need. In addition, having Coremetrics Attribution Windows handy enables you to see first click, last click, and average click data all in one interface alongside your paid search statistics. Nice.

So that’s my first crack at letting you know what I like best about Coremetrics Search Tools. Definitely check back soon as I plan to write more about managing paid search using the platform. For example, I didn’t cover bid management functionality, which can really help you automate some time consuming tasks. Actually, that’s probably a large enough topic to warrant its own post!

In closing, if you are looking to increase your efficiency while expanding your paid search efforts, all while decreasing your chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome and having to wear glasses for the rest of your life, check out Coremetrics Search Marketing Tools. Wow, heck of a tagline for their product, huh? ;-)


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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Buying Your Brand Keywords in Paid Search When You Already Rank in Natural Search Might Actually Make Sense

Should You Run Paid Search Ads For Your Brand Keywords?I love that in web marketing you can test ideas and receive almost immediate feedback. When it comes to search marketing, I focus heavily on both paid search and organic search and although I’m a bigger advocate of organic search, I definitely see the value in running paid search campaigns. For those of you running paid search purely for branding purposes, my paid search philosophy may sound strange to you. I focus on a crazy thing called Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) which means I’m not happy with just visitors…my goal is to generate conversions. ;-)

Formula for Return on Ad Spend (ROAS):
Revenue - Ad Spend / Ad Spend * 100

To Run Brand Terms or Not To Run Brand Terms…
Since organic search and paid search are two very different animals, it’s often hard for marketers to determine whether or not they should run paid search for their brand keywords. Logic tells us that if you dominate the top listing in organic search for your brand terms, then why would you need to run paid search?? It just doesn’t make sense, right? People trust the organic listings, they will see you ranking #1 and immediately click that link and buy from your site, right? For the most part, that’s been my philosophy. Well, the web marketing world changes at light speed and I never thumb my nose at test results (which brings me to the point of this post.)

Offermatica’s Paid Search Test
I recently read an article by Offermatica explaining a test they ran with one of their online retail clients. They basically wanted to test the effect of running paid search for brand keywords when the company in question owns the top spot in the organic listings. Would it matter? They tracked 30 brand keywords over a 2 week period, one week with the paid search ads turned on and the other week with them off. You can read more in the article, but the test showed that although the site received fewer visitors during the week that the paid search ads were turned on, conversions were up almost 23% and revenue per visitor was up 22%. Now, it wasn’t a perfect test…but it did show the value in running paid search for brand terms.

So I said to myself, what the heck…I’m also going to try it out (although not as elaborate as Offermatica’s test.) I performed keyword research for our brand name and found about 40 keywords that we should target. Then I quickly set up the campaigns in both Google and Yahoo. That was a month ago. Then I waited for the data to come in…

What were the results?
Again, I didn’t go to the extent that Offermatica did, but I saw our brand keywords generate sales that far outweighed their cost. The ROAS so far has been 5900%. In addition, during the test, we saw registrations up 31% from paid search and even natural search revenue went up 41%. Go figure. Now, it definitely wasn’t a perfect test, but if you look at the Return on Ad Spend for the brand terms, it makes a lot of sense to keep the ads running (to say the least). Think about it, if I told you that you could net $59 for every $1 of ad spend, would you run the ads? You bet you would! :-) I’m becoming a believer. I rarely argue with data.

Should You Run Paid Search for Your Brand?
Every business is different so you should evaluate this paid search strategy based on your unique situation. However, it’s definitely worth a test. Simply allocate some ad spend for a month to run paid search for brand terms and see how they perform. Then compare the results to a similar month for your business. In my opinion, it’s well worth it. Remember, 5900% ROAS. :-) Worst case scenario, you turn off the ads.

Here are some factors to consider when evaluating whether to run paid search for your brand (even when you own the top spot in organic search):

1. How unique is your brand name?
2. How much competition do you have for your brand name in search marketing (both paid and organic)? You might be surprised to see paid search ads running when you enter your own company name! Yikes.
3. How much revenue do you currently generate from your brand keywords in organic search?
4. You should perform keyword research to see how popular your brand terms are in both organic search and paid search.
5. Are you running any other marketing campaigns where running brand terms in Paid Search would help your efforts?
6. Structure your test so you can pull key data from your analytics package (you will get a lot of questions from senior management regarding your test, especially if senior management leans one way versus another with regard to paid search.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, Paid Search is a tough and gritty online marketing channel, but if you keep a close eye on your campaigns and constantly refine them, Paid Search can be a profitable channel. Testing is the name of the game, so as the Royal Bank of Scotland says, "Make it happen". --Hold on a minute! I just searched for the Royal Bank of Scotland and see they are running paid search for their brand keywords. Do you think that they also read the Offermatica article? Then I quickly searched for the tagline that’s been in all of their TV commercials "Make It Happen", and I didn’t see one ad…ok, maybe they should read the article! :-)


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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bounce Rate and Exit Rate, What is the Difference and Why You Should Care

The Difference Between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate in Web AnalyticsOver the past year, I’ve received more and more questions about two important metrics in web marketing, Bounce Rate and Exit Rate. It seems there is some confusion about differences between the two, why they are important, what they tell you, and how to improve them. So, I decided to write this post to demystify them a bit.

The Definition of Bounce Rate and Exit Rate
Let’s start with some definitions. The definition of Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors that hit your website on a given page and don’t visit any other pages on your site. For example, John views an organic search listing, clicks through to your site, and then leaves your site without visiting any other pages. He bounced. You can learn more about lowering your bounce rate here.

The definition of Exit Rate is the percentage of visitors that leave your site from a given page based on the number of visits to that page (or pageviews in some cases). Sounds similar to Bounce Rate, doesn’t it? There’s a difference, though. The visitor who exits might have visited other pages on your site, but just exited on that specific page. For example, John views an organic search listing, clicks through your site, reads a blog post, then clicks the About Us link. After finding out more about your company, John clicks the contact us link and fills out a contact form. He then exits your site. The contact us page is where he exited. In contrast, if he simply visited the site via organic search and left without visiting any other page, it would have been a bounce. Make sense?

Why are Bounce Rate and Exit Rate Important?
Both metrics are important and can help web marketing people glean insights from the data, but they are definitely used differently. Bounce Rate is extremely important for determining how your landing pages perform as compared to visitor expectations. For example, if you run paid search campaigns, then you know the importance of testing a landing page (optimizing the landing page). I find that bounce rate at the aggregate level doesn’t tell you very much (site level bounce rate), but I find that bounce rate at the page level is extremely useful. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. For example, if you are driving paid search visitors to your landing page selling Coffee Makers {OK, it’s 5AM and I’m tired :-)}, and you have a 70% Bounce Rate on that page, you’ve got a problem. Why are that many visitors bouncing after clicking through your paid search ad and landing on a page that theoretically should be highly targeted? This is actually the fun part…digging into the data, optimizing the page, and using multivariate testing to lower your bounce rate and to increase conversion. As you can see, bounce rate can help you determine how well your landing pages perform (which directly affects revenue and ROAS).

In my opinion, Exit Rate is more important for determining which page in a process isn’t performing up to expectations. For example, if you have mapped out scent trails on your site (ala Persuasion Architecture), and you find visitors are exiting the site on a webpage that clearly is a stepping stone to a more important page, then you should probably take a hard look at that page’s content. Are the calls to action not compelling enough? Does the page provide content that throws off visitors? Is there a technical issue with the page? Does it take too long to load? So on and so forth. Note, that for specific processes like cart checkout, you should use funnel analysis, but analyzing exit rate for more open ended processes works well (like targeting a type of buyer and providing a scent trail for them to get to a registration form.)

Different Yet Important
As you can see, both metrics are very different, but both are important. My recommendation is to start analyzing Bounce Rate and Exit Rate for key pages and processes on your site. I would begin with a focused effort, like a landing page that receives a lot of paid search traffic (for Bounce Rate) and possibly a lead generation process on the site for Exit Rate (if you have one). I won’t cover the process of optimizing your content in this post, but you can read an introduction to multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer to learn more about website testing. I believe multivariate testing is a critical component to increasing conversion and lowering bounce rate for your key landing pages. It can help you increase revenue without adding one more new visitor to your site. Intriguing, isn’t it? :-)

In closing, who thought that bouncing and exiting would be an interesting topic in marketing? ;-) Addressing Bounce Rate and Exit Rate can help you meet customer expectations, which can lead to higher conversion rates (whether that means sales, registrations, RSS subscriptions, etc.) There is one more point worth mentioning… although you can learn a lot from both Bounce Rate and Exit Rate, don’t forget about qualitative data. During your optimization process, ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS AND VISITORS about your key landing pages via surveys, focus groups, phone calls, etc. You may be too close to the content to see what’s wrong and you would be amazed to read and hear what actual visitors have to say.


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