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    32 Replies Latest reply on Jun 9, 2008 5:20 PM by SBC Team

    Event: Paid Search

    CommunityTeam Adventurer
      Community Members,

      Please join us in welcoming Michelle Conceison to your Small Business Online Community. Michelle is here to answer questions on how paid search can benefit you. Today, Michelle will be using the screen name Conceison.

      About Michelle:
      Michelle Conceison is the VP Director of Media at Digitas. She currently leads the Paid Search Marketing team in Digitas' Boston location.

      To all Community Members
      If you have questions for Michelle, post it here by simply hitting reply and then refresh your browsers often to view Michelle's responses. Michelle will try to answer as many of your questions as possible; however she may not get to all of them. You must be a registered user of the site to particpate.

      Join Now - http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/create-account.jspa

      The event will be moderated to queue the questions for our guest. After a question is posted it may be delayed and/or moved into a queue. You do not need to repost. Your question has been received but is in a queue waiting for the guest response. Please note, Michelle will first answer the pre-event questions that community members were kind enough to ask in advance.

      Remember the community guidelines; stay on topic and be professional.

      So, what's your question?
        • Re: Paid search - what can it do for me? Get answers on June 9.
          caffeinated Scout

          Hi Michelle,

          I want to capture my local market, say within a 10 mile radius of my business. Are there different levels of paid searches? Local vs state-wide vs nationally? I obviously want more bang for my buck but don't want to go overboard. Thanks in advance for your help.

          Best Regards,
          caffeinated
          • Re: Paid search - what can it do for me? Get answers on June 9.
            devaney Adventurer
            Can you explain to us how paid search works and what the pricing structure looks like?
            • Re: Paid search - what can it do for me? Get answers on June 9.
              puzzleman Tracker

              I have done paid search before and basically the clicks went out of this world with not much return. right after that is when the big click fraud thing came up with Google. That scared me away as I don't know nor can I track what I am paying for. I am ready to try again but do have couple of questions? How do you track the quality of the clicks? How can I ensure that the clicks I pay for are for real? How about the sites that have paid click and do fraudulent clicks? How can you not be scammed by them?

              Jim

              • Re: Paid search - what can it do for me? Get answers on June 9.
                puzzleman Tracker

                When determining what to pay per click, is there one spot that works as good as another for a lower price? For example, is the third spot just as effective as the first spot? Or is it the second to third? or is it second to first? What about the fourth and on down? What are the statistics to get more bang for the buck?

                Jim
                • Re: Event: Paid Search - join us @ 2PM EST
                  SBC Team Guide
                  Ok, Michelle is ready to get started. Here's our first questions from devaney:

                   

                  Can you explain to us how paid search works and what the pricing structure looks like?
                    • Re: Event: Paid Search - join us @ 2PM EST
                      Conceison Newbie

                      Absolutely. Hello everyone!

                      It occurred to me that one of the things that's most important to understand about Paid Search is which listings are paid for on a search results page and which ones are reached through engine crawling/algorithms (SEO). Generally, when you look at a search results page, the listings at top and right of page are considered Paid Search listings. These are usually in a box that is light blue or grey, depending on the engine, and somewhere nearby it says "Sponsored Listings." Ok, now we know what we're discussing...

                      Devaney poses a great question which is how does the pricing structure work...

                      "Buying" search keywords is done on a CPC (Cost Per Click) basis. That's why sometimes you'll hear folks call Paid Search Marketing "PPC Search" too. (Pay Per Click) That means, you don't pay for your ad to appear (like in a lot of traditional and online marketing), but instead you pay only when a person Clicks on the ad.

                      The part where it gets interesting is that there is no "rate card" or standard pricing for search. You actually put into Google, Yahoo, MSN or other paid search engine advertising platforms the price you want to pay for the click. This is called a "Max Bid" - the maximum you are willing to pay for a click in the system.

                      And in this way, clicks are auctioned. So it's a little like eBay, a little like the stock market.

                      Every keyword costs something different, and it changes over time - based on:
                      • INVENTORY: the number of searches people are making on the word (Impressions)
                      • DEMAND: the other advertisers in the marketplace bidding on the word (# of advertisers, their bids, their budgets all impact price in real time)

                      This is a high level explanation. Let me know if you have follow on questions about how that works...

                      MC
                    • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                      SBC Team Guide
                      Great answer Michelle!

                      Next we have littlebytes asking:

                       


                      I would like to know what new ways there are to market an online business without spending a lot of money?

                      How do you get customers to buy from you when you have to compete with big name companies?

                      Are google ads one of the best ways to market your business online?

                      Thanks!
                        • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                          Conceison Newbie
                          Hi Littlebytes!

                          There are many ways to market online business without overextending your budget. In some instances, competing with major brand advertisers is as difficult online as it is when you have physical/brick-and-mortar retail stores. Just like in that instance, you have to compete on the niche you fill, the unique perspective/service you provide your customers, and perhaps the community of customers you build around the wares you sell online.

                          Search is the second most utilized online channel (next to email), and it is one of the most efficient online marketing channels from an ecommerce ROI standpoint. The nice thing for the niche or small business advertiser, is it is also a media that can scale very large or be bought in small amounts to fit your budget. So you can test search without laying out a ton of dough.

                          If you really are taking on large advertisers, I would suggest you carve out a few items in particular from your store where you get many sales already, and test buying keywords related to those items first. Then grow your search program from there.

                          Good luck!

                          MC
                        • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                          SBC Team Guide
                          Perfect Michelle!

                          puzzleman would like to know...

                           

                          When determining what to pay per click, is there one spot that works as good as another for a lower price? For example, is the third spot just as effective as the first spot? Or is it the second to third? or is it second to first? What about the fourth and on down? What are the statistics to get more bang for the buck?

                          Jim
                            • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                              Conceison Newbie
                              Hi Jim,

                              Oh I wish it were so... Actually, not only does every keyword have its own best position, but it can change at any given moment, and it can be different on Google than it is on Yahoo, MSN, Ask or AOL, etc.

                              But have no fear. We do not let these details debilitate us!

                              The most important thing to consider is your end business goal. You should try to determine the amount of money you are willing to pay for an action (preferably one that can be measured and recorded on your site). So, you might be willing to pay a certain amount for a New Customer or a Sale or a Site Visit. Let's call these "Conversions" for the sake of simplicity in this forum.

                              The best way to manage search is to a target goal like that, so you're not just concerned with the price you are paying for the click but also with the end result you are achieving with search. In this way you can determine which keywords have highest potential return for you, and in which position they perform best.

                              As far as finding out the best position for a given keyword, it does take time, effort and astute measurement of your program's performance. You should pay attention to the impact bid changes and position changes have on your Average CPC and your Conversions. And you should pay attention to what your competition is doing - as their goals and offers can also dictate which positions are best for your ads.

                              MC
                            • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                              SBC Team Guide

                              Lighthouse24 is up and is asking:

                              Possible question: What specific types of businesses/products/services are most likely to get good results from a search marketing investment -- and which probably aren't?

                              It is my impression (from clients and members of the community) that some very small businesses have gotten excellent results, while others have gotten no results. The difference is often blamed on the website, the person who did the optimization, and/or on not having the correct "secret formula" -- but my perception is that search marketing simply isn't the right strategy for certain enterprises.

                              Small business owners get a lot of "one size fits all" solutions pitched to them relative to SEO and other web marketing techniques. I think it would be very beneficial if someone (who has unbiased experience and expertise) could offer some kind of criteria or categorization of the types of small businesses, products, or services that should definitely pursue search marketing -- and those that maybe shouldn't bother.

                              Thanks!
                                • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                  Conceison Newbie
                                  Well, Lighthouse24...

                                  Given your focus on Executive Managers in your business, I will provide the ultimate B-school answer first, which really does apply here. It depends. :)

                                  I will also be so bold as to say that in my career, I have seen search work as a successful marketing channel in one form or another in every major industry for both large and small marketing programs. (So those industries I speak of include Financial Services, Automotive, Travel, Consumer Packaged Goods, Apparel, Telecommunications, Consumer Electronics, Toys, Pharmaceuticals, Enterprise Software, and Entertainment)

                                  Gee, I would love to be thrown some industries to play with for discussion's sake here on the forum - are there industries you are thinking search would not work for?

                                  Here are some thoughts about your question that I think are worth considering for a small business owner thinking about Search...

                                  All search queries are created equal. Meaning, at the very beginning, a person opens a window and types a string of keywords into a search engine with one burning question in their mind. And every question deserves an answer.

                                  Being the company to provide that answer has a variable value by industry and engagement type. That value by industry/company has to be calculated based on specific business goals. The nice thing about Search is that it is possible to map action resulting from a search query back to the media. So it is possible to create benchmarks for success.

                                  There are two grounds on which one can consider your question:

                                  1) Volume of Opportunity
                                  While all queries are created equal, some queries are more popular than others. People are more likely to ask questions about certain topics more than others in a search engine, and so the Volume of opportunity (available Impressions) for a given advertiser may differ based on the popularity of questions posed about it.

                                  2) Likelihood to Convert (ie translate into a Conversion - see earlier posting)
                                  This is the element that should really matter to any manager considering Search for a small business. Likelihood to convert does not just depend on the industry in which one plays, but also the competition you are up against (within and without of search), the offers you are bringing to market, how your web site works, how people convert (online, in stores, by phone), etc.

                                  Further study of this, and benchmarking certainly is worthwhile...

                                  MC
                                • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                  SBC Team Guide

                                  Wow Michelle!

                                  Ok, we have puzzleman with:

                                  I have done paid search before and basically the clicks went out of this world with not much return. right after that is when the big click fraud thing came up with Google. That scared me away as I don't know nor can I track what I am paying for. I am ready to try again but do have couple of questions? How do you track the quality of the clicks? How can I ensure that the clicks I pay for are for real? How about the sites that have paid click and do fraudulent clicks? How can you not be scammed by them?

                                  Jim
                                    • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                      Conceison Newbie
                                      Sure, Jim.

                                      The two best ways to be sure you are getting what you pay for:

                                      - Manage your program with "back end tracking" in place. So tying your clicks back to conversions or particular actions on your web site. Reporting on this frequently enables you to audit the efficacy of your search campaigns on a sale basis, not just on clicks.

                                      • Review search query reports in Google. This is a report that has only been available about a year - but it is really handy way to make sure that your ads are not getting clicked on for keywords that you think are irrelevent to your offering. If you see keywords in there that you think are misaligned to your goals, add them to your "Negative Match" keyword list. Then Google will know not to show your ads when that word is queried.

                                      I encourage you to remain optimistic. Google isn't out to get you. They want to make sure that the people searching are getting relevant information. So the more relevant your ads are to the keywords they are appearing on, the better for them, too. That's why Google also audits for click fraud, and automatically discounts clicks on their end if they think they are suspect, too.

                                      Hope that helps!

                                      MC
                                    • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                      SBC Team Guide
                                      Thanks Michelle!\

                                      Bridge is asking:

                                      Are there any programs available where the advertiser can pay for actual results (sales) versus clicks?

                                      I am always very happy to pay for results, but I view a result as a sale, not a click.
                                        • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                          Conceison Newbie
                                          Hi Bridge,

                                          It is possible, and in fact best practice, to effectively manage your program based on results.

                                          You can use third party tracking/bid management tools to facilitate this, and the engines also have tracking systems to help you achieve this directly in their interfaces (if you are willing to let them know your sales data). However, as of right now the engines are not selling search clicks on a cost per sale basis - only on a CPC basis.

                                          There are search and affiliate marketing companies that will help you do this, if you do not wish to or do not have the time/resources to do it yourself.

                                          There are also affiliate marketing networks based on this premise. This is where others advertise on your behalf and you pay them on a CPA (cost per acquisition) or POS (percentage of sale) basis.

                                          Just remember when you enter these relationships, you have less control over the particulars of how they are marketing your brand and your products. So those programs do require your time and attention.

                                          MC
                                        • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                          SBC Team Guide
                                          Community,

                                          There's still plenty of time left to pose your questions to Michelle. She's here until 5PM EST. So keep them coming!

                                          Thanks,
                                          The SBOC Team
                                          • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                            SBC Team Guide
                                            startup is asking:

                                             


                                            If you have a relatively new sight, which has not started showing up on natural search yet a) will paid search help you start showing up on natural search and *b*) does paid search have a good return if you don't also show up in the natural searches.
                                              • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                Conceison Newbie
                                                Nice name, Startup. :)

                                                If you have a new site, it is a good idea to use paid search to give your site's visibility a boost.

                                                a) Can't say precisely what impact it would have directly on your indexing in natural search results. The engines usually have separate systems for these. However, you can be sure your site's traffic and unique visitors are key indicators of relevance. So generating traffic and visitors through paid search is a great way to get your site started off with good data for the algorithms to consider when you are indexed.

                                                b) I have worked with many clients who have seen positive results when appearing in the sponsored listings areas, even if they were not appearing in the Natural results on the page. However, studies have shown, and I have also seen, that it helps the performance of your natural listings to appear in Paid and vice versa. (So it's best to appear in both places.) This is a topic we search geeks are always studying, and finding new ways to explore. So your question is a good one we continue to consider as search matures...

                                                I also suggest you visit Google's Webmaster area on their site - as they have tools for creating site maps and to monitor the frequency with which your site is being indexed.

                                                MC
                                              • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                SBC Team Guide
                                                mominbiz would like to know:

                                                 

                                                Do you have a point of view as to what kind of message works best in paid search? As an example, is it best to promote a special offer or just a general description of your products and services. I'd like to know if you feel that it should be treated as a way to market your business overall or should you use it to market a a specific offer you are making at the time. Can it be cost effective to do both?
                                                  • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                    Conceison Newbie
                                                    Hi mominbiz,

                                                    It really depends on what you're trying to do. But I will say, if you are trying to sell a product or service, offers generally garner higher Click Thru Rates (CTR%) than general messaging. This is important because CTR% impacts both your CPC price and your rank position. The search engines want to put the most relevant ads at the forefront, and they look at CTR% as one of the metrics they consider when determining which ads are most relevant.

                                                    Generally $ Off, % Off and Coupon offers garner strong CTRs. In some industries, price point and unique service offerings can get you just as much response. So if you offer something your competitors do not, test it in your ad copy and see if it pulls.

                                                    Suggestion... Take a look at some search queries on the keywords you wish to appear on. Look at what offers your competitors are showing in their Ad Text. What you see there should give you a good sense of what type of messging will help you compete on those terms.

                                                    Good luck!

                                                    MC
                                                  • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                    SBC Team Guide
                                                    Michelle, on behalf of the community, we can't thank you enough for your thoughtful answers!

                                                    Ok, NatOnline joins us again and asks:

                                                     

                                                    I don't beleive in paid search because of fraud. For example long ago I set up an adwords account then cancelled, next day regarding my statistics, I had more click for adwords, which give me an indication that fraud was up.

                                                    What do you think about that? and how to avoid fraud?

                                                    Thank you
                                                      • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                        Conceison Newbie

                                                        Hi NatOnline,

                                                         


                                                        I encourage you to avoid the urge to throw the baby out with the bathwater... Afterall, 84% of Internet traffic starts with a search.

                                                        Take a gander at the earlier post about ensuring the quality of the clicks you are receiving. The best way to avoid fraud is to monitor your program closely and to hold clicks accountable for actions. Frequent reporting is your ally. And make sure you are using Match Type settings properly as well, as that can further refine the quality of your traffic in some instances.

                                                         


                                                        As for setting up an AdWords account one day and cancelling the next day, it is possible that your account registered clicks after midnight. There are many possibilities for why your account would register clicks - hard to tell from here. It would be a great idea to pose this question to Google when they are appearing on this forum next week...

                                                        MC
                                                      • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                        SBC Team Guide
                                                        Great! We have an interesting question from amspcs

                                                        I have tried PPC...some success but not worth the effort yet. Thankfully I don't give up easily. When keywords are chosen for my ad group, Google PPC rates them as either GREAT!, OK, or POOR. When I first begin the campaign, invariable I get several GREAT!'s and a few OK.s As time goes on, in an attempt to raise my positon, I gradually increase my bid in an effort to find 'just the right' bid. It seems the higher I go in my bid, the worse my keyword rankings get. Now, I'm up to $2.25 bid (from original $.50, and instead of GREAT!'s and OK's, every single one of my keywords is rated POOR. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah PLEASE explain.
                                                          • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                            Conceison Newbie
                                                            Hi amspcs,

                                                            Curious... How strong is your CTR% from keyword to keyword? Are you in High Avg Position? Might want to take a look at how those correlate to your ratings from Google - not just your Max Bids.

                                                            Bid is only one element of your Quality Score (Google) or Quality Index (Yahoo). The rating you get from the engines depends heavily on CTR% (which is impacted most by your position and your ad text/offer) and on the number of people who have found your ads helpful (indicted primarily in Clicks - but also can be indicated by the rate at which these people returned to search again, or also clicked on other links on the page, etc.)

                                                            The engines don't tell us definitively how Quality Score is computed.

                                                            I suggest you review:
                                                            • your Ad Text to make sure your listings are as relevant to the keywords in your Ad Groups as can be
                                                            • your Ad Groups to make sure your keywords are sufficiently broken out by topic in there
                                                            • your Match Types to be sure you are targeting your ads effectively and not wasting any Impressions

                                                            One other idea...
                                                            Do you notice a topical correlation between which keywords start at Great, which at OK and which at Poor? You might learn something about how Google sees your site, account, and/or keyword lists from that trend.

                                                            Hopefully that helps you get more Greats and Oks!

                                                            And don't feel bad - greats aren't easy to get... Keep at it...

                                                            MC
                                                          • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                            SBC Team Guide
                                                            Looks like we have time for one more, maybe two more questions.

                                                            This one comes from caffeinated.

                                                             

                                                            Hi Michelle,

                                                            I want to capture my local market, say within a 10 mile radius of my business. Are there different levels of paid searches? Local vs state-wide vs nationally? I obviously want more bang for my buck but don't want to go overboard. Thanks in advance for your help.

                                                            Best Regards,
                                                            caffeinated
                                                              • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                                Conceison Newbie
                                                                Hi Caffeinated!

                                                                There are indeed multiple ways to buy locally targeted search.

                                                                In most of the major search engines, you are able to "geo-target" your search listings so your ads only appear when the keywords of your choosing are searched in the geographic region you define. Geo-targeting can be done by Country, State, DMA, City, and in some cases even by a given radius around a pinpoint latitude/longitude location. In your case, 10 miles around your computer screen... :)

                                                                Just remember, the more you target your ads, the more you reduce the number of searches on which your ads appear. You might also want to consider running on keywords that include the names of towns/neighborhoods in the area you are targeting. Or even keywords that are frequently searched in the area in general, because it is a local "hot topic." That might help you gain additional "reach" - impressions.

                                                                As for bang for your buck and not going overboard, well...
                                                                It really depends on what type of keywords you want to appear on. Some of the most expensive keywords on the internet are local, but those are usually for lawyer's offices believe it or not. Restaurants are highly competitive in the Boston market, so you can expect to see some other folks bidding against you.

                                                                I would suggest you also explore Local Business Ads on Google - and make sure your restaurant is listed in Google Maps - that will help your local search campaigns on these types of keywords in particular. If you participate in any local printed or digital Yellow Pages marketing programs, also be sure to ask them who they partner with online, as many of these folks syndicate their listings to other online local content sites and maps properties. So you may gain exposure that way in search listings as well.

                                                                Hope this is helpful.

                                                                Cheers,
                                                                Michelle
                                                              • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                                SBC Team Guide

                                                                jeffhoyer asks:

                                                                How does a small business get their listings "correct" on the Internet? There seems to be a lot of bad information out there.
                                                                  • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                                    Conceison Newbie
                                                                    Hi jeffhoyer,

                                                                    As noted above, many local listing companies syndicate their information, so you should make sure you local listing with then engines are up-to-date, but also update information with local yellow pages and phone companies. Sometimes that information appears in search engine results. And on some engines more than others.

                                                                    If you are looking to update your Natural listings, take a look at the meta tags on your web pages. Could be you have some old info burried in there to remove.

                                                                    Good info is what the engines want. What you want. And what customers want. So folks are eager to help get that cleared up...

                                                                    Cheers,
                                                                    MC
                                                                  • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                                    SBC Team Guide
                                                                    Michelle, as we wrap up, are there any resources that you could direct users to for additional help?
                                                                      • Thank You Bank of America Small Business Online Community!
                                                                        Conceison Newbie
                                                                        Well, it's been an honor to participate in this online forum. Hope it's been helpful.

                                                                        There are a lot of handy online resources you can check out regarding paid search for further reading. Thought I'd share some of my favorite links...

                                                                        Interpreter - you asked about where you can go to find out how much search volume is available on a given keyword or group of keywords. Try out Google, Yahoo and MSN all have Trends tools you should try on for size. Really fun tools that show changes in popularity of keywords. For more practical application, all the engines also have Traffic Estimator tools that help you plan your keyword budgets and plans.

                                                                        Here are these two tools for Google, since you will have a Google person handy next week should you have follow up questions about how to use them...

                                                                        TRENDS http://www.google.com/trends
                                                                        TRAFFIC ESTIMATOR http://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficE
                                                                        stimatorSandbox

                                                                        Search Engine Watch is a great aggregator of search marketing industry information, opinions and events. From 101 to 505, it's there. And there's even a lot of history of search content, that we search folk love to geek out about. http://www.searchenginewatch.com

                                                                        Finally, while there are a lot of sophisticated competitive firms like HitWise, ComScore and Compete out there in the marketplace that you should also review (and I consult with religiously), I have always found the folks at MarketingSherpa to have relevant things to say about all sorts of topics that are pertinent to small business. They are thoughtful, relevant, realistic, and straightforward. You might want to check them out, too. http://www.marketingsherpa.com

                                                                        Happy Searching!

                                                                        Cheers,
                                                                        Michelle
                                                                      • Re: Live Now - Event: Paid Search
                                                                        SBC Team Guide
                                                                        Michelle,

                                                                        On behalf of the SBOC Team and the members of the Small Business Online Community, we wanted to say we truly appreciated your time today and your professional responses to user questions.

                                                                        Community members, while our session with Michelle has now concluded, please feel free to discuss today's session and the questions answered. Again, if you'd like more information about Michelle and Digitas, visit:

                                                                        http://www.digitas.com

                                                                        Thanks again,
                                                                        The SBOC Team