Article Archive by April Nelson

April 21 2009

Using Demographic Exclusions to Improve Click-through-Rates

by April Nelson

If concentrated visibility in front of a segmented demographic is one of your PPC goals, Demographic Exclusion is the vehicle that can help get you there.  Age and gender segment exclusions are just one of the tactics that the top search engines are providing advertisers with to help refine their PPC campaigns.  Options for targeting vary by engine.  Check out Katherine Bennett’s recent post for more on the details.

Google has been rolling out similar features at a higher rate since their acquisition of DoubleClick was solidified.  With more demographic data available form a higher volume of publishers, Google is able to offer smaller advertisers (budget-wise) the opportunity to target their core demographic with a minimal cost of entry.  While higher budgets will get you more visibility, it is possible to be effective with modest budgets as well.

Demographic exclusions can be implemented quickly and easily, from a technical perspective.  However, it is important to know your audience and even to have solid evidence to support your exclusion choices prior to implementation.  Have you profiled your customer base?  Reviewed demographics for the websites you are advertising on? Be sure to do your due diligence before testing.


To adjust your demographic settings in AdWords, select the campaign (available for content only at this time) and click “Edit Campaign Settings”.  On the Edit Campaign Settings Page, Demographics are located within the Networks and Bidding section.  In the example below, we have excluded all known users up through age 34.


After two weeks, we saw Click through Rate increase by 175%. See below for a comparison as shown in AdWords Account Snapshot report.


Although ads within this campaign received fewer impressions, we have eliminated known unqualified users from clicking our ads.  From here, we can refine our Click through Rates even further by segmenting into gender-based ad copy.  One option is to set up a duplicate campaign, each targeting either Male or Female users.  Ad copy should reflect the audience being targeted.  For example, an ad targeted toward Males for Mother’s Day gifts could be:

Browse Thoughtful Gifts
Get Your Wife What She Really
Wants For Mother’s Day This Year!

A Similar approach should be taken with display ads.  Use male-themed images to attract your male audience and female-themed images to attract your female audience. 

If you have not checked it out already, I highly recommend taking Demographic Exclusions for a test drive.

April 20 2009

Twitter vs. Facebook: The Social Media Popularity Contest

by April Nelson

Both Twitter and Facebook have been gaining popularity with internet users over the last 12 months.  While their growth rate is phenomenal, the question is whether their magnetism will be a fleeting presence or a permanent fixture with the online community.

By digging into Google Insights for Search, I spotted a few interesting quirks between these two search queries. 

  • Facebook appears to have a more mainstream and global appeal
  • Google categorizes these two search queries differently
  • Related search queries vary radically

Although several approximations are employed to arrive at this data, Google’s tool is awesome for providing insights into “broad search patterns”.  The popularity of search queries “facebook” and “twitter” over the last 12 months is illustrated below. 

Google Insights – All Categories

When comparing the popularity of these single word queries against all other queries during the same timeframe, Facebook appears to be the clear winner.  Twitter shows a slight bump in late 2008 but nothing close to the awareness of Facebook.  Over time, Facebook has steadily increased in overall popularity with an impressive growth rate over Q1 of 2009. 

In reviewing “Regional Interest” for the 2 queries, Facebook seemed to have a wider appeal globally.   

Note that Twitter does not index well when compared to the popularity of Facebook.  The United States does not even make the list of top 10 regions for Facebook; however it is #2 on the list for Twitter. 

A deeper dive into specific categories (brand new feature) lets us look at the growth rate of each search query.  Google suggests the most popular category classifications based on the keyword(s) you are researching in Google Insights. 

To my surprise, Google suggested “Online Communities” as the top category for Facebook, but “Telecommunications” as the top category for Twitter.  Aren’t they BOTH Online Communities AND Communication tools?  Taking several steps back and looking at the core components of each channel, the categorization logic makes perfect sense.

While you can certainly communicate and socialize on both networks, each has distinct differences that make a direct comparison difficult if not impossible to make.  We are not comparing apples to apples.  Facebook looks like more of a portal and has a social/personal feel….people go there to “connect” with their friends and family, make new friends, socialize, etc.  Twitter looks clean and simple and has a research/news characteristic. 

Twitter has a user base of over 1,000,000 (company will not disclose actual numbers), in comparison to Facebook’s recent 200 million mark. Regardless of the number of users, both networks’ growth has been explosive over the last two years.

New features and applications, privacy policies, monetization tactics, and more will dictate the user base for these networks as well as others in the space.  Users (zealots) are going to be loyal to 1 primary channel….but there is also a ton of crossover since each network offers distinguishing qualities.  Only time will tell which will be THE 800 Pound Gorilla of the space.  Who knows?  It could even be MySpace.

November 5 2008

An Online Marketer’s Take on the Direct Marketing Association’s Global Event

by April Nelson

Touted as the “global event for integrated marketing”, the DMA’s annual conference had many promises to deliver on.  This year, DMA08 was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

It was interesting to get exposed to such a wide variety of exhibitors and relate their services to the diverse client base that we work with on a daily basis.  The gamut ran from promotional / incentive marketing vendors, list brokers, database analysis houses, mailing services, catalog consultants, content providers, print services, fulfillment services, market research, lead generation companies, and more!  The analytical side of me was attracted to the database analysis vendors and market research providers.  I also had the chance to see just how far schwag (trade show giveaways) has come in the last 5 years.  What used to be the standard disposable pen imprinted with a company name has made way for creative games, bottled water, digital photo frames, Starbucks gift cards, and even a free music download printed on a biodegradable card that can be planted and watered.  I will have to test the card for its presenter’s promise that it would grow into a beautiful plant to brighten up my desk. 

Monday brought a day packed with sessions beginning with the Opening General Session.  The tone was set by a Las Vegas style singer warming up the crowd for John Greco, DMA President.  An added bonus was an appearance from Senator Harry Reid, who welcomed the packed hall of attendees and thanked us for our patronage.  He talked about the diverse (mountainous) terrain of Nevada and encouraged visitors to get out and explore the 1 million + acres of wildlife across the state.  Senator Reid wrapped up his comments after quoting Mark Twain, who described Lake Tahoe in one if his writings as “the fairest picture the whole world affords”.

John Greco and DMA08 posed the question, “r u connected?”  His opening presentation was focused on answering this question with segments addressing connecting to the consumer, the community, and connecting all channels (reiterating that DMA IS multichannel).  He recapped the advertising spend trends and strong ROI that direct advertising yields.  Some notable topics included:

– DMEF — Direct Marketing Educational Foundation — DMA’s program to educate and place new marketing talent
– Education — Search Marketing Certification Program;  industry-specific, multichannel research
– DMA08 Mobile Concierge — Example of how DMA is connecting the channels via mobile
– New Mobile Advisory Board — DMA’s new board to help establish appropriate use of the emerging mobile channels
New DMA Choice website — Announcement of the launch of DMA’s new website for consumers to manage their mail preferences

Another session I attended was titled “Online Survival Skills in an Uncertain Economy”.  With a name like that, how could I resist?  Moderated by David Hallerman, Senior Analyst, eMarketer and “thought leaders” Adam Gerber of Quantcast and Ted McConnell of Proctor & Gamble, this session drew a standing room only crowd.  The panel discussed how many brand marketers are going “back to basics” in this challenging economy.  For some categories of marketers, this means dropping out of online “brand” advertising (banner and video ads) and reinvesting in proven channels with measured targeting and ROI.  As a result of a segment of advertisers dropping out, this frees up inventory for some new advertisers to expand their reach.  Direct marketers can now afford dedicated categories where they may have previously only been able to secure remnant inventory.  The topic of accountability came up and all agreed that online marketing is easy to measure results, but not easy to plan and target as it is delivered so differently than print or TV.  Since you are not getting the entire audience (unlike TV), there is only a loose connection between demographic targeting and who the ad actually reaches.  Another key point is that behavioral advertising doesn’t scale well due to the limited number of segments and the volume within each.  To recap:

– Work smarter
– Work with Less Waste
– Reduce the Clutter

As we all know, Analytics is an effective avenue for reducing waste.  Beyond click stream data, many marketers are integrating database analysis and demographic clustering to help maximize their face time in front of customers and prospects.  This was the theme of another great session, “Using Segmentation to Drive more Relevant Online Communication”.  Experian and Sirius-XM (where have I been that I did not know they merged?) teamed up to present about a pilot program they are working on.  The merger of Sirius and XM presented a new challenge — marketing to a broad demographic.  XM brings an older female audience, powered by their relationship with GM and Oprah programming.  On the flip side, Sirius brings a younger male (Howard Stern) demographic.  In short, every visitor to the website matters and they should serve the most relevant content possible. 

While I packed a lot of info into 3 days, there are several sessions I would loved to have attended.  Fortunately, online content is offered as a bonus for registrations for DMA09 made by the end of the year.

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