I am going to be presenting Paid Search 101 to a college class this week and prepping for these kinds of presentations always brings to my mind the lessons I can teach them from experience (the big no-no’s of PPC). One of the lessons that comes with experience is having made an error a time or two to learn what you should, and shouldn’t, do when setting up a paid search campaign. Sometimes you discover a few settings that may or may not kill your budget quite quickly…

Online marketing is one huge experiment, you are always testing and you can never say that you officially know everything because the landscape could change next week (like Google’s first huge revamp of the entire AdWords system that they now call Enhanced Campaigns).

Here are some ways a newbie (and sometimes a really experienced person) could spend all of their budget in the wrong place in a paid search campaign:

1. Not Breaking up Your Display and Search Campaigns

The default is a mixed campaign. Google has made the split much more obvious in recent changes in the interface. Not breaking those two apart could cost you or your client loads of money. The targeting is completely different and the bidding is definitely different. If you end up accidentally bidding aggressively on the content network (even though it is a different bidding setting, it happens…) you could find your budget maxed pretty quickly (which is why it is good to have a max set, in case something goes wonky and you have to drill down to figure out where you are getting more traffic than expected).

2. Not Narrowing Down Your Geotargeting

Should your keywords really be available globally? The default is typically the United States and Canada, but I have ended up with a campaign going live globally that was not supposed to be global. Where are your potential customers? Are they 10 blocks away, are they worldwide, do you ship to Canada? Limit the reach of your campaigns to where your customers are.

3. Not Understanding Match Types

There is no faster way to blow through your budget than having some really broad terms that go rampant. Make sure you understand your match types and how to build a negative keyword list. This will help you focus on only targeting terms that are likely to drive business for you. I have a basic tutorial on keyword match types here.

There are many more lessons learned over the years, but these are the top 3 budget busters in paid search..

I spent some time last month  at the Web 2.0 conference attending sessions about UI, design, user testing and I was focusing on the overall user experience on the web. I am prepping myself mentally for a major overhaul of the websites I am responsible for (luckily I do not need to adjust taxonomy or copy, so this completes part of what could be a major overhaul).

Recently I had a landing page split A/B test set up that checked only one thing. Link color.

The designer created this beautiful landing page. I thought the design was so great I didn’t notice that the links were designed as maroon rather than the standard blue. I noticed it when the page had been and I went to click on the links. This really piqued my curiosity as I have always run under the general assumption that it is best to keep links the standard blue that people have come to expect and know that when they look at it the think “Hey! That is a link, I will click on it.” Thus a click isn’t a bounce and you caught their interest and sent them on their merry way with hopefully there is a conversion to come.

The test showed that the blue links converted over 29% higher than the maroon ones.
In usability it can be the fine details of the design that can hurt or help. It really can make a difference to your bottom line (but some things you never know for sure until you have the data sitting on your glowing computer screen). This is why I test EVERYTHING!.

Everyone wants to see photos of my dog right?

I hate the rants and raves about every new social media channel being the FACEBOOK killer, whether it was Google Wave or some other network or another (I think many people even called Twitter the “Facebook killer.”) I don’t necessarily think that Facebook will always have the pull that it does (look at Myspace). It seems that when a network seems to get too cluttered it starts to lose its appeal to users (I know my mother and my grandmother haven’t exactly figured out how to manage their privacy settings on Facebook because it is a bit confusing. They also do not know how to hide items in their feed, thus it is a bunch of noise to them these days vs. pictures of their grand baby and information about a family get together that they would normally be looking for. I have heard them get frustrated when they miss a message they were looking for because it was drowned in a sea of irrelevant messages).

The immediate big win is that you organize contacts by social “circles” the moment you add a contact. This is done in a user friendly and obvious way. How this is applicable is immediately apparent when you add content for your social network or update your feed. Google knows that not everyone in your web of contacts is a friend that is very interested in photos of your dog sleeping (ok… maybe I share photos of my dog sleeping, but I don’t have any babies, so this is the closest thing I have to compete with all of the baby photos. 🙂 ).

Working in online marketing requires that I explore any new social media channel. I look at whether or not it is relevant to the company that I represent and whether or not the time it will take to nurture the network will show the value to the business and its customers. Although it isn’t open for business integration just yet, rumor has it that it will be in the next couple of weeks, at least that is what @scottcowley says and he is one smart cookie).

  • You can segment your customers for social media messaging (I like how this Search Engine Land article describes it).  You should be doing this with email, this may become the best way to segment your customers and your social messaging for that segment. I am always touting that you should not overwhelm your businesses social media audience with just self-serving “buy this” types of messages. You create too much clutter and eventually get ignored. You need to interact with your customers with messaging that they want to see, segmenting on Google+ allows for an even more granular approach to your social media messaging.
  • Google+ will hopefully allow an even more in-depth way of segmenting people you advertise to. Facebook already allows you to really drill down into niche audiences that I have not been able to duplicate elsewhere (I wish LinkedIn would figure out how to get their advertising program up to par). For many businesses this type of niche marketing is incredibly beneficial and cost-effective.

It will be interesting to watch the growth and evolution of the product. It seems to be catching on at a bit more rapid of a pace than any other social media channel I have seen thus far, but my mom and grandma aren’t on it yet, nor is my company, so it definitely has some growing to do before I will deem it mainstream.

What benefits do you see for your business or company?. saut à ce site

Why Should I Set up a User Testing Experience?

An important stage in website development is to have users test your website. The greatest designers and UI experts can always learn a thing or two about how people really use your website by watching users in action. Most websites have a goal related to  how they want to guide a website user’s behavior. For a retail website you want someone to make a purchase, in fact you want them to buy multiple items from you want them to come back and buy more things. If you are a hairstylist you want people to book appointments with you. If your website makes money on advertising you want them to read more pages and be more active on your website. If you are an affiliate site you want the website visitor to click on the affiliate link and buy from your affiliate. If your website is frustrating to the user, they will leave your site and most likely never come back.

User testing can be very helpful in the decision making process for an established website, the early stages of website development, or if you are exploring redeveloping a website. Sometimes the quickest and easiest method to try to figure out how to improve your website is to have a few friends or family members navigate through your website trying to complete the main task that you want them to complete on your website (make a purchase, find your phone number, locate your business address etc.).

How to Set up a Basic User Testing Experience

I have set up user tests a variety of ways. You will want to prepare a set of questions for the user related to what you discover about the functionality of your website. In addition you will want to record the user experience so that you can come back to it if you decide to redesign or develop a new website. Make sure that use a reasonable number of users, I have usually had a decent amount of ideas from testing at least 5 people.

You want to try to set up an environment where you have the website user test your website without your interference. If you are in the room, a user will typically try to ask you questions to help them get where they need to go whether or not they could have found it on their own. They may also change their opinion or thoughts of the website so as not to displease you. Some ideas on how to set up a website user test include:

  • Set up a computer that has a microphone and use recording software such as Write down what you want the user to explore on your website or questions that you want them to find an answer to. Have the users talk their way through the website experience, why they are clicking on what and what they notice along the way.
  • You can also use fairly inexpensive paid user tests like those available to

When selecting users to test your site, make sure you have users that are fairly close to your target demographic. If your website is for children, make sure you have some children actively using your site. Different demographics can have a tendency to use websites differently. You should also look for savvy internet users and beginners so that you know your website makes sense to both audiences.

What Questions Should I Ask a User When Testing My Website?

Typically you want to get an initial reaction to your website. In order to get the reaction, don’t already have the website pulled up, make them type in the URL (this also may show issues with your URL choice if developing a new site…). People judge your website in the first few seconds after they get there, they make the decision on whether or not they want to stay. Ask questions about their immediate reaction:

  • What is your initial reaction?
  • What pops out on the page once you load the site?
  • When you get to the website, what does it make you want to do?

Ask questions that force the user to find specific information on your website without giving away where it is. Of your site sells furniture, describe a piece of furniture for them to find. Give them generic directions such as selecting a new dining table and watch how they look for the information. If you have a store location ask them to find out how to get to your store and how they could contact you.

Ask questions related to guiding them through the user through your goal process. These questions must be specific your goal funnel, have them go through and buy an item, fill out your lead form or do what you want your website users to do.

A Recap

The most important goal in user testing is to make sure that your website navigation is clear and intuitive and that your users are able to find what they are looking for. You want to make sure that you have not created unintentional barriers for your website user. User testing is a very helpful and valuable step in your website development process. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but setting up a basic user testing experience will certainly pay off..

Keywords are the key component to success in organic and paid search. Keywords may seem simple enough to those of us that live and breath search queries everyday, but the reality is that it really does take a moment to step back and do some keyword research.

Sometimes how we assume someone searches isn’t necessarily the truth and search behaviors change over time (based on searchers getting savvier or the engines guiding them to search differently – Google instant being an example of an engine modifying search behavior). Sometimes the keywords that convert for your business are keywords that you may not even want in your web copy.

The goal of searching and search engines is that the person typing in keywords is asking a question and they are looking for an answer. Your goal in keyword research is to locate the keywords that your website or product can answer. The better you match your keyword to your website, the more likely you are to succeed in generating business using that keyword in SEO or paid search.

Playing with keyword research tools can really start to help you get to know the types of keywords people use when looking for items related to your business. There are a lot of keyword research tools out there, and the Google Adwords one tends to push you towards a broad match rather than exact match list of terms, so you want to make sure you use the exact match option for more accurate results.

When selecting keywords for SEO you want to be pretty specific about exact keyword searches as you don’t have the immediate luxury of testing a large variety of keyword searches like you do with paid search. With paid search you have the option to start broad and hone in on the best keywords for your business or start conservative with exact matches and expand your keyword lists over time (more information about Google Adwords keyword match types).

I typically suggest that you use paid search results to guide SEO keyword decisions as you have the opportunity to cast a wider net, and hone in on what keywords will be the most successful for your business. A successful keyword if measure by what drives business to the website that the keyword is sending traffic to. The better keywords result in a sale, form filled out, direct contact or a visit to your store.

If you are just getting to  know keywords for your business your best bet is to go ahead and get started testing types of queries in a keyword research tool (such as Google Adwords free tool). Try different using the words in a different order, synonyms, and you can use a competitive research tool to see what your competitors may be using. I tend to build my lists in a spreadsheet so that I can start to organize keywords that I like into columns of similar terms and continue sorting them out until the sit in groups of very tight knit terms.

The only way to get good at selecting keywords through keyword research is to start practicing! Surprise yourself, find out what people are looking for related to your business..

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