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“As a consultant and a person, Nina operates with unvarnished integrity. She’s an honest communicator, knows her material, and puts the needs of her clients above all. Whether you’re a big firm or a small organization, I would give her an unqualified recommendation.” — Sam Richter, Former President James J. Hill Reference Library

Blog Archive

Archive for the ‘PPC’ Category

Why the Google AdWords Partner Certification matters

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

At this agency, we make a big deal out of being a Certified Google AdWords partner. The bar is set pretty low these days to become a certified partner, but when I first got in, you needed to manage at least $100,000 over a 90-day period, pass the certification tests, and have at least two people within the agency who were certified. These restrictions have loosened a bit now though. 

Although I’ve been managing Google AdWords accounts since 2003, and founded my agency in 2005, I first became a certified agency about 7 years ago. I was incredibly excited when I passed the $100k threshold, and have been proud of our ongoing growth ever since. (note that from $100k per 90 days when I was first certified, the latest amount is $3.2 Million in 90 days). Now we have 13 people currently working for us who are certified (it shows 16 but a few of those are employees who went to grad school or moved and haven’t disconnected themselves yet). Plus we’re one of the only Certified Women Owned Businesses (WBENC) who specializes in SEO and SEM. 

To become certified in Google AdWords you need to pass at least two tests: the Search Fundamentals, and one other test depending on the certification. This can be Advanced Search, Reporting, or Display. There is also Google Analytics Certification, which is different. We have 19 people certified in Google Analytics.

Why you should hire a Google AdWords Certified Partner:

  • It shows that the agency stresses training and mastery of the entire suite of sophisticated tools that Google AdWords is comprised of.
  • It gives a clear picture of the people within the agency who are managing PPC programs, and whether it actually is a specialty for the agency. But I’ve found recently that some agencies are cheating – they’re having some people take the exams for other people, or are taking them all as a group. You should still ask to get a list of who within the agency manages PPC on a regular basis, if they’re internal or outsourced contractors, and also if they’re certified. 

If you’re looking for a SEM agency or someone to manage paid search or Google AdWords only, consider searching for and questioning the status of a Google Certified partner. 

Cheers - 


Coming in for a LANDING page!

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Whether managing just one search engine marketing account or many, one thing that is certainly always recommended are custom landing pages.

Plane Landing

 A landing page or lead capture page is where one is directed once they have clicked on a search ad. 

Custom landing pages are always recommended and you should do whatever you can to make them available. The reasons they are so important starts with goals and conversions. Custom landing pages convert better than website pages, messaging can be more direct and controlled than website pages, they help out your paid ads by boosting quality score, and they are easier to test and optimize than a website page. The landing page will usually display sales copy that is an extension of what has been written or read in the ad copy. Depending on the goal, most marketing professionals choose to use a website homepage, ‘contact us’ page, product detail page, email capture page, pretty much whatever is available to then without going that extra step of developing a custom landing page. Most common reasons a client or search manager will go the direction of using the website vs. a landing page for search ads usually are not enough resources (developers), not enough money in the budget, not enough time, not enough communication and strategy.

With that in mind, below I have included 12 landing page recommendations for your enjoyment! 


1)      Deliver relevance

If visitors to your landing pages have clicked through from your ad, then they will have a specific goal in mind, so you need to convince them that your landing page is relevant to the goal. Give the visitor clear headlines to show that a page is relevant and encourage them to scan down the page. Make relevant messages easy to read. This means nice clear, large fonts.

2)      Make sure your page is logical

Your landing page should tie up with the ad that sent customers there in the first place, so if you have enticed visitors to your site in with an ad for a specific product then they should be seeing a picture of the product together with a clear call to action, rather than a generic category page.

3)      Give detail for decision making

You need to give customers enough detail on the landing page so that they can make an informed decision about whether to purchase the product / service or not. 

4)      Assist users with their purchase or sign-up

The next step the visitor needs to take to sign up or purchase should be made clear to them on the landing page. Every extra step taken to complete a transaction will reduce the response. If they have to go to another page to complete a purchase, then include multiple calls to action to leave them in no doubt where to click. If a multiple pages is necessary, draw people in with easier questions upfront.

5)     Keep the number of steps and effort in mind

Content should fit on one page that doesn’t require any scrolling, but a longer page may be necessary to be able to contain all the information. Provide just enough information, while ensuring that information and calls to action are placed above the fold.

6)      Images

Graphics should be consistent with the campaign and appealing to users. 

7)      Consider menu options

Removing menu options can increase conversion rates since users have a smaller choice of where to click. One option is to limit the menu to top level options only.

8)      Consider ‘flow’ in design

For landing pages, a controlled, fixed design will often work best and is most common.

9)      SEO and Analytics

If your PPC strategy is linked to an offline campaign then make sure it matches the brand that people will search for in response to your ads. Set up tracking, and conversion code for optimization.

10)   Provide options 

You may have created the perfect landing page, but some people will still not respond, so give them options. Provide a clear phone number, email form or live chat option in case they prefer to purchase in this way, and links. 

11)   Review Review Review

Landing pages should be tested frequently to see if improvements can be made to increase conversion rates. The only way to be sure of what works for your audience and your market is to conduct structured tests such as usability studies, A/B testing or MVT testing.

12)   Take down old landing pages

Some landing pages are used for short term campaigns, and links to these should be removed so customers don’t see out of date offers. Using a custom 404 error page is a good way to manage this problem.


Holidays are coming up, make sure your landing pages are good to go!

Happy Searching!

Paid Search Strategy for Your Brand – Marketing in Sync

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

In a previous career in the travel industry, I was driving down the highway, and saw one of our beautiful, large billboards, directing people to learn more about a dream vacation at “”.  It made me smile – until I remembered that we were not using the same landing page in paid search – just “”.

The offline marketing team had not informed the paid search team that they were running ads directing people to “”. And why would they? What could a highway billboard ever have in common with paid search? A ton! 

A piece of “hate mail” made me realize the problem was greater than I had originally imagined.  A man had seen the billboard while driving, and when in front of a computer, had typed in “” into the Google search bar. He printed the resulting Google search page, and made large circles and exclamation points to show how it had frustrated him to not find the page. He, like lots of others, used the Search Engine search bar rather than the browser bar. 

This communication mishap necessitated a change to our overall marketing communication plan. Going forward, all internal marketing teams would notify the paid search team upon creation of fancy/fun/short (redirected) landing page URLs for magazine, TV, newspaper and highway banner advertising.  We created paid search campaigns (desktop and mobile) for these kind of promotion pages with the URLs as keywords (“” and variations). Lesson learned – all of marketing must work in sync to help your customers get to the “turquoise waters”. 

Here are some additional tips to maximize the effectiveness of paid search for your brand. 

Run your brand names in paid search
I am often asked, “Should we turn off our brand names in paid search, and see what happens to organic?” While organic results may likely see a boost, there are a few good reasons and tactics for running brand names in paid search. 

  • If you are a large brand and you have competitors bidding on your brand names, you must own that space. Run paid search ads to make sure your brand appears before the competitors.
  • Page one of the search results for your brand name is your real estate – own it! This also coincides with the reasoning for having branded social media pages and profiles. When a consumer searches your brand, all your social channels should appear, selling your brand value with robust content marketing.
  • Typically, the ROI on your brand is a pretty sure investment. Although organic is free, branded paid search is still a low cost investment, especially when you add in the competitors who may be stealing clicks. 

Optimize the brand campaign
 Instead of pausing your brand names, take them to the next level.

  • If your brand is large and diverse, people will be searching for keyword variations such as “brand + product”.  You may have product campaigns and brand campaigns, but within your brand campaign, create ad groups that include these broad match modified combinations. This allows for you to also create keyword optimized ad copy that reaches specific product landing pages, creating brand awareness and product recognition.
  • You could also create a landing page that sells your value proposition with the product. Every large brand should have a “Why Buy Us Over Them” value prop page. Large brands typically have value props not just by brand, but also by product. Why buy one of your specific products over the others, is an equally important message, and could help your paid search campaigns.

Monitor and manage your brand with a trademark program like BrandVerity  & AdGooRoo
Just typing in your name and seeing what comes up, does not work anymore with browser, engine and paid search program geo targeting and localization settings. You will not always see all the ads. Use a program that monitors these searches in all geo targets and sends you alerts on your defined infringements.  Many times, a competitor or an affiliate will be selling themselves as your brand. I have also seen entire websites and landing pages created to appear as the brand. That said, it’s also good to monitor organic results. What previous brand names did your company own? Retain and attain those URLs, bid on those keywords, and own that real estate.

Mind your reach and frequency settings
Another important display & remarketing tactic is reach and frequency settings. Keep your frequency of display ads at a reasonable measure (the number of times one person will see your ad). Brand awareness is great, but too much brand awareness can cause people to want your brand to go away “I wish they would go away and stop bugging me!” It has been recommended to set the frequency to max 20 impressions per month per person. However, I alter this depending on the brand, how aggressive the display or remarketing campaign may need to be in shorter periods of time and display campaign targeting.

Competitive research
Know what your competitors are doing in your markets. You may have a campaign that once did great and suddenly takes a nose dive. Look at what the competitors are doing in those markets. Then, create ads and pages about your value propositions. In a competitive environment you want to sell that “why us, not them”.

A brand has their own online real estate, and they should be the top buyer and seller in this digital market. Be aware of everything going on with your brand in the online as well as offline channels. It’s your brand, own it!  All marketing teams and tactics should embrace the ideas of synthesis, sync, cohesion, synergy and conjunction.

Do you have any additional branding tactics that have been successful?

PPC Optimization Checklist

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Sometimes as busy little PPCers we can lose sight of the simple account optimizations once we have been working on an account for a long time… or when we are busy building out new campaigns… or while we are implementing the latest beta. For those of you who are like me and need physical reminders to go into each account and do the general optimizations often—behold, the weekly PPC optimization checklist (credit due to my mentor, Rachel Price, who gave me my first weekly PPC checklist).

  • Project performance: Compare your performance week-over-week, month-over-month and year-over-year to determine if you reaching your goals. For smaller campaigns, you might want to skip the week-over-week performance check as you might not have enough data to make a solid conclusion.
  • Budgets: Are any of your campaigns limited by budget? Are any of your campaigns not reaching their budget? Maybe you want to allocate some budget from one of your poorer performing campaigns to a campaign that performs better. Check your budgets to make sure you are making good use of your or more importantly, your client’s money.
  • Bids: First filter your keywords to make sure none of them are below the first page bid. Then go through your keywords and make sure the ones that are costing you the most money are driving users to your goals. While you’re considering your bids; when was the last time you went into Analytics and ran a positions report? You might find that you have higher conversion rates or better clickthrough rates in a position above or below what you’re bidding. Adjust accordingly.
  • Negative keywords: Pull a search query report and weed through the results to find any search queries that are coming up that aren’t relevant to your product/service. Also, try to watch for trends. Maybe different variations or “cheap” and “affordable” are coming up. Pull your keywords into an excel doc and filter for these keywords. You might decide that while you think your product/service may be affordable, it isn’t what visitors are looking for and you should add these keywords as negatives.
  • Keyword expansion: While you’re in the search query report, don’t forget to look for new keyword opportunities. If you see a trend in a keyword, consider using the keyword tool to find more like it and test it in your campaign.
  • Pause underperforming keywords: If you’ve adjusted your bids and added negative keywords to your campaigns and ad groups and still aren’t getting any bang for your buck on this keyword, it’s time to pause it.
  • Ad Review: If you’re running an ad test, check the status of test. It’s also good to go in and click on a few ads to make sure the landing page URLs are still correct. If you’re waiting for ads to be approved, continue to check their status until day three. If they haven’t been approved by then, submit the form for rushed approval (it normally only takes a couple hours after filling out this form for your ads to be approved).
  • Conversion reporting: Go into the conversion tab, make sure your conversation status is reporting. 

Generally those are the optimizations I do on a week-to-week basis. Other bi-weekly optimizations and checks I make on my accounts include looking at impression share reporting, geo-targeting trends and day-parting. Even though these aren’t always the most fun tasks, it’s kinda like giving your car an oil change. It keeps things running smoothly and serves as a preventive measure against future damage. 

Essential Guide for Twitter Self-Serve ads

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

A few months ago Twitter rolled out self-serve advertising for small businesses. Using a promotion from American Express, accounts could sign up to receive  a $100 credit and be among the first to use the service. After a few months and about $500, here’s some essential tips and a quick user’s guide.

The Bottom Line: Twitter Ads for Small Business is a great way for business to grow their follower lists and get important messages in front of more people, in an easy, economical way. I like the service and am continuing it into the unforeseen future (and we’re crazy “measure the value” folks).

Best feature: It’s easy. With only about 5 features in the dashboard, launching Twitter Ads is a snap. If you have a credit card (not sure if it has to be an American Express anymore) and a Twitter account, you can be up and running in about 10 minutes. Just think of the power!

Worst feature: It thinks everything is relevant. It says it uses a “uses a variety of signals” to determine relevancy and then “Promoted Tweets also appear to users similar to an advertising account’s followers. Promoted Tweets will only appear in the timeline of a non-follower if the Tweet is likely to be interesting and relevant to that user.” That’s a lot a control I’ve given up. In short:

1.   It decides who to show it to

2.   It decides what is interesting

But it’s an easy judge. I complained about my hotel: Promoted! I tweeted about a thriller I read: Promoted! I tweeted about kittens: Promoted! I’m tweeting a lot less, now that anything I write could be promoted. Many might argue that it’s a good thing I’m tweeting less, but kittens are just so adorable that I need to talk about them sometimes.

How to use the Twitter ads dashboard.

1.   Choose your location. This allows you to choose the location of people who might see your tweets, You can choose city, state, or country. In the self-serve dashboard there isn’t a feature yet to determine this on a tweet-by-tweet basis, which will be very handy when it arrives.

2.   Choose your objective: clicks or followers. You can choose either or both, and set a cost per click that you’re willing to pay for each one. You can also set a daily limit. The suggested CPC changes, and sometimes ranges pretty high. As with all CPC, if you’re willing to pay more, it will show more often, more prominently, and you’ll thus achieve a higher click-through-rate. 

3.   Override the promoted Tweets. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT. As mentioned above, Twitter is still somewhat indiscriminate in choosing what’s important. So you should to go in and tell it what not to show. Every time you tweet something that you don’t want to be promoted, you should go to the ad dashboard and tell it not to promote that tweet. 

4.   Detailed Stats. Use the dashboard to see which tweets have received the most impressions and clicks. If you turn one off quickly it might show very few impressions. 

10 Essential Tips for using Twitter Ads.

1.   Determine your objectives. Like any good marketing plan, determine what you want to get out of it. If you can measure the value of each action, that’s even better because then you have a hard number of whether it’s worth it.

2.   Localize. Choose the location of users most likely to meet your objectives. Promoting a local restaurant? Choose your city only. Are you a national business? Target the US.

3.   Set budgets. Choose a daily budget and a cost per click. Is it really worth $5 for each new follower? If you’re a manufacturer trying to show industry leadership in your field, it might be worth that much to get a new follower who could turn into a lead. We post a lot of job openings and a higher cost per click is worth it to us to get in front of a new crowd.

4.   You don’t have to follow their budget guidelines. If they suggest $14 cost per click, you might decide it’s only worth $1.05. That’s ok, but be ready for lower clickthrough rates and that your account or tweet won’t show as often. It’s likely based on competition, so someone is getting value from it.

5.   Use caution with hashtags. If you’re promoting a tweet and use a hashtag, you’ll be charged if people click on the hashtag. My “#greenmnms” hashtag that refers to “reading the fine print” got 10 clicks, spending about $1 per click. 

6.    Link to your site. You’re trying to promote a special offer, or deeper content that shows your industry knowledge. Ask yourself “will someone want to hire me or buy my product if they read this?”

7.   Don’t link to other sites. You get charged for clicks (which include favorites, replies, retweets), so if you put a link in there, you’re going to get charged for clicking on that link. 

 8.   Make a good landing page. The standard eMarketing mantra holds true. Have a call to action on your landing page, and make sure that the page is a good first impression for visitors who have never been to your website before.

9.   Encode your links. Add a campaign ID or a Google UTM code to each link. This allows you to separate tweets, topics, and campaigns so you can measure and continuously improve.

10.   Don’t “set it and forget it”! Every time you post a tweet, go into the dashboard and make sure you disallow that tweet unless it’s one that will further your objectives. Twitter says that “our algorithms will automatically select your most engaging content and broadcast it to the people you’re trying to reach.” But it’s hard for any algorithm to understand relevancy and nuance.


SEM Awareness Month, pt. 5 – Google Display Network

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

For the 5th installment of SEM Awareness Month, you should be warned about PPC. It’s a gateway to display. ppc advertising

Seriously, though, if you’re doing pay-per-click, you may find yourself starting to dally in the Google Display Network. This can be scary and daunting if you’re new to the search marketing game, so do yourself a favor and ease into it! Place remarketing code on your site, and start a new remarketing campaign. Once you’ve been running that for several weeks or a month, go to your Display Network tab and look at Automatic Placements.

automatic placements

Try sorting by conversions and by clicks. See any patterns? Relevant domains where your ads definitely belong? If not, give yourself some more time. If you do, create yet another new Display campaign with Managed Placements, and select these domains. Now you’ve just increased your reach without casting a big scary wide net on automatic placements (though those can be effective, too, let’s not forget).

SEM Awareness Month, pt 4. – Retargeting

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Welcome to part 4 of SEM Awareness Month! Today we want to warn you (not really) about retargeting – an effective tool to get potential shoppers (or leads or site visitors) back to your website for a second, third, fourth look and eventually convert.


There are all kinds of fantastic retargeting strategies to effectively increase leads. A few of my favorites:

  • Build brand awareness
    • Place retargeting code on all relevant site pages
    • Anyone who visits those pages gets cookied
    • Your ads follow those users around the web, encouraging them to come back to your site
  • Guide potential leads down a sales funnel
    • Make a remarketing list of people who have taken an action – downloaded a white paper, for example
    • Anyone who took that action gets cookied
    • Your ads follow those users around the web, encouraging them to take the next step and contact you
  • Get past purchasers back on your site to purchase more
    • Make a remarketing list of purchasers, and set a 30 day membership duration
    • Create a second remarketing list of purchasers using the same tag, with a 90 day duration
    • Create a custom combination that includes all people in the 90 day window, and none of the people in the 30 day window
    • Voila, one month after purchase, your customers will see your ads inviting them back to your site

Neat, huh? Now get to retargeting!

Mobile App Targeting with AdMob

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Last month Google incorporated its mobile app ad network, AdMob, into Google AdWords. This was especially exciting for me since I work on an account that sells mobile device screen protectors.  Not only does Google allow you to target your campaigns by app categories, but you can also target your campaigns by specific devices. Additionally, AdMob provides ad space on both the Google Play Andriod Apps and the iTunes App Store which allows you to target a greater audience.

Since launching the mobile app campaigns on our screen protectors account, we have more than doubled our clicks while significantly cutting down our CPCs. The average CPCs on our mobile app campaigns have been around 28% of the CPCs on the other campaigns within the account. With CPCs so low I recommend trying app targeting on your accounts before the competition gets greater.

I wouldn’t recommend mobile app targeting for everyone – especially not B2B clients. The best opportunities would lie with B2C clients who have mobile sites and can segment their consumers by their interests or by their mobile device (example: screen protectors for specific mobile devices or targeting fitness clubs on health and fitness apps).

Setting up a mobile app targeted campaign is easy. First, create your campaign by clicking the New Campaign button from the Campaigns tab. Then choose the campaign type Display Network only and select Mobile apps (see below).

 Google Display Network Mobile App Targeting In the device targeting settings you can choose whether you want to target mobile devices and/or tablets. You can either choose to target specific operating systems, device models or carriers. In this case I chose to only target iPhone 3G users.

 Google Display Network Mobile Device Targeting

Finally you can choose what type of app categories you want to target. In the case of the of the fitness club, we would target health and fitness apps (see below). Remember, that if you are only targeting on select devices to choose the right app store to target through, like targeting iTunes App Store apps when targeting iPhones.

Mobile App Category Placements

Good luck from your #1 mobile advocate!

Google Analytics Metrics in Adwords

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Optimizing a pay per click account without conversion tracking is a mistake. Because after the click: Adwords leaves you in the dark, making it nearly impossible to improve. This is why it is invaluable to have both conversion tracking set up and to assess paid traffic in Google Analytics. It gives the data dimension, enabling advertisers to make optimizations based on favorable user interactions.

PPC enthusiasts should be excited to know that Google has released a beta that imports a few Google Analytics metrics directly into the Adwords interface. Giving a piece of the Google Analytics perspective right inside the Adwords interface.

New Metric Columns for Adwords

This will make the job of PPC specialists easier by enabling quick analysis in Adwords. The beta allows Adwords to import three new metrics as columns: Bounce Rate, Pages /Visit, and Avg. visit Duration (seconds). These columns are available for the Campaign, Ad Group, Ad and Keyword level. Advertisers will be able to compare the PPC performance metrics directly to important post-click metrics. This change offers advertisers a more holistic perspective from within the Adwords interface.

New Rule Automation Opportunities

Another exciting aspect of this beta is rule automation. Google Analytics metrics in Adwords opens up opportunities for automated rules. For example: Perhaps you want to add a rule that pauses keywords that have had a comparatively high bounce rate over the last testing period. Now you can easily do that, right from Adwords.

I’m hopeful that this beta will be rolled out to more users soon, as it’s a great update for advertisers.

Watch Your Negative Keywords – SEM Awareness Month, pt 2

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

As part two of SEM Awareness Month, Kelsey Grammer wants to remind us all to closely monitor search query reports in paid search accounts, and manage negative keyword lists. Would you cross Kelsey? I think not.

negative keyword management