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Article Archive by Gerard Tollefsen


December 23 2008

Use Negative Keywords to Control Costs in Your Pay-Per-Click Campaign

by Gerard Tollefsen

Sometimes it pays to be negative…especially when optimizing a Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaign.  The main goal of Google and the other search engines is to deliver the most relevant paid (and natural) results to a search query when a visitor uses their search engine.  Seems pretty simple and works exceptionally well when you have a well structured PPC campaign.  If someone searches on a keyword that you feel is relevant to your business, be sure that keyword is included in your campaign.  But what happens when the search query triggers your ad and the visitor isn’t the most targeted prospect?  Well, you still have to pay for that click and if that continues over time, you could be wasting a sizeable portion of your budget on unqualified traffic.  Implement negative keywords into your campaign to help cut costs, optimize your campaign and zero-in on your target customer.

For example, if you provide a high-end product or service, utilize negative keywords like “cheap”, “low cost”, and “inexpensive”.  This will help filter out visitors who are looking for your “type” of product or service, but aren’t the target customer who can afford your product or service.  It seems like a simple idea but the savings are real and the higher your target budget, the greater the cost savings.  In addition, negative keywords will help overall campaign optimization because your ads will not be delivered to the wrong search query.  You could expect to see higher click-thru rates (CTR) and better conversions as the visitors generated by your sponsored ads become more targeted. 

Google has a keyword tool which helps campaign managers develop keyword lists.  This same tool can be used to develop negative keywords as well.  Leverage the broad match search settings within the tool and it could return thousands of possible keywords, many of which can and should be added to the campaign as negative keywords.  In addition, if you have Google Analytics tracking on your site, utilize that tool to determine your best and worst performing keywords.  By reviewing both the organic and paid traffic (and the keywords that generate that traffic) you can further expand your negative keyword list with the non-performing, budget wasting keywords.

Quite simply, by implementing negative keywords you can help optimize your campaign, drive more targeted traffic to your site and save money on your PPC costs.  That is the formula for success in search engine marketing and ensuring a favorable return on your advertising spend.

December 4 2008

Online Shopping versus Brick & Mortar Shopping. No Contest!

by Gerard Tollefsen

I visited a large retailer this weekend and spent two hours in the store shopping with my wife.  We went to buy a few specific gifts but ended up walking down multiple aisles looking at hundreds of products!  Okay, that is an exaggeration but it got me thinking about the difference between online and offline shopping.  In other words, the superiority of online shopping versus in-store shopping!

In my opinion, there is only one advantage to being in the store, which is the ability to view the product with your own eyes, touch it, hold it, and make sure it isn’t defective or broken.  But as I thought about it more, there are just so many more advantages to online shopping.  Here is my brief, unscientific list:

  1. When shopping online, you can compare hundreds (this time I’m serious) of products in such an efficient manner.  To duplicate this effort by visiting the mall for example, you would have to spend hours and hours walking all over the place, battling crowds and you are still limited to the stores located in the mall…advantage online shopping.
  2. When you are online you can compare prices for identical items at different stores with the click of a mouse.  To replicate this effort, you would have to go to one store, then walk, drive, or call another, then another and so on.  This can waste a lot of time and money just visiting the different stores to get a price that takes seconds to view online…advantage online shopping.
  3. Here is an easy one: shopping when it’s convenient for your schedule.  While most brick and mortar stores extend their hours during the holidays, few I know of are open 24 hours…advantage online shopping.
  4. I believe every state has a sales tax, but if you purchase from an online store that doesn’t have a physical location in your state, then you are not required to pay sales tax.  I look for sites where I don’t have to pay sales tax.  The devil’s advocate will say you have to pay shipping which negates your “sales tax” savings.  While this is true, most sites offer free shipping depending on what you purchase and the larger, more respected sites offer free shipping on orders as low as $25.00…advantage online shopping.

These are just a few reasons I feel shopping online shopping is better than in-store shopping.  More traditional brick and mortar stores are developing robust e-commerce websites.  People are shopping more online, and if you are a business you should be marketing to these potential customers.  It just makes good marketing sense, search engine marketing sense!

November 12 2008

Be Flexible and Get Creative to Increase Conversions

by Gerard Tollefsen

As we all know, the economy isn’t as strong as we would like. The challenges are stiff, but companies who take advantage of the flexibility of online adverting can still reap big rewards.  Most people start their search for goods and services online, and companies advertising budgets are still rising in the main search engines.  Google reported a 28% increase in online ad revenue in the third quarter, while Microsoft announced an increase of 15%, and Yahoo came in with a modest 1.2% boost.

Given these figures, its obvious advertisers recognize that search is a strong channel to attract and retain customers given a troubled economy.  But spending money online is not enough.  People are shopping more aggressively and will take the extra time to do their competitive analysis before they make a buying decision.  Because of this customer behavior, it is very important to increase your conversion rates.  More consumers shopping multiple offers can mean more traffic to your site, but also more clicks on your ads. If these clicks do not turn into conversions, then your return on ad spend (ROAS) is weakened.

Take advantage of the flexibility that online advertising allows and get creative with your message.  It would be very expensive to create 5 different TV commercials or 5 separate radio spots to communicate your message to potential customers.  However, the cost to accomplish this with a search marketing campaign is minimal compared to traditional marketing channels.  You have the ability to change ad copy every day, or every hour.  You have the flexibility to rotate different messages in your Pay-per-Click (PPC) campaigns to test which works best.  You can get creative with special offers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 15% off for example, then turn around and create a new offer on Sunday (free shipping on all orders over $50).  Online ad spending is up but that doesn’t ensure customer acquisition or retention.  You must convert that traffic for the campaign to be a success.  Be flexible, get creative and increase the chances that your message is the one that convinces a searcher that they should buy from you!

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