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“We are spending our budget smarter with better results for all of our websites because of Nina Hale Inc.’s technical, SEO and PPC expertise. Our programs continue to achieve greater success each month we work with them.” — Heather Hayes, Interactive Marketing Supervisor, Stratasys

Blog Archive

Archive for the ‘SEM’ 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?

Zombie, Dead, & Dying SEM Tactics: A Halloween Special

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Happy Halloween everyone! Traditionally Halloween was a time to remember the dearly departed, so in the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve we take this post to honor past SEO and SEM tactics. Join us on a trip down memory lane through the graveyard of search engine marketing techniques of yore.

Dead SEM Tactics

  • Meta Keywords
    • Ah meta keywords. Once stuffing you with a vast number of keyword variables was a mighty SEO tactic. Now, although long since useful, you still linger giving false hope to SEO newbies.
  • Google Places
    • The world of localization has been rapidly changing, leaving a slew of dead tools and tactics in the wake. Most recently Google+ Local killed and replaced Google Places. This was (and in some cases still is) a confusing take-over. For more clarification about just what happened to the beloved Google Places, check out Josef’s localization articles.
  • PageRank
    • Once, long ago, PageRank was an acceptable and measurable SEO goal. However Google killed this goal with increasingly personalized search results. We’ll miss you PageRank.
  • Link Farms
    • Hello link farms. In the Wild West days of SEO you were the perfect solution to getting more “link juice” to help pages move up in ranks. Although never a sound SEO tactic, after Panda and Penguin Google updates you officially died. Well, not died per se – we all know you lurk in the outer reaches of the Internet waiting to lure out of touch SEO tacticians.
  • Wonder Wheel
    • Wonder Wheel! When still alive you were one of Google’s SEO tools, helping us identify additional related keywords for ad groups in Google AdWords. Although only alive from 2009-2011 you continue to haunt us on Google AdWords Exams. What unfinished business could you possibly have?!
  • Custom Targeting
    • Once an option in Google AdWords for targeting ads, you have since been survived by radius targeting, zip code targeting, and metro targeting.
  • Google+
    • Okay. So Google+ isn’t officially dead (yet). Consider this an anticipatory addition.

The graveyard of SEM tactics is rife with old techniques that no longer work, tools that have since been replaced, and networks that nobody uses. We remember you fondly. Rest in peace.

Targeting Expecting Parents on Facebook

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Facebook announced the other day that users are now able to choose to add “expecting a baby” as a life event on their timeline.

This raises a ton of questions, of course, and as a marketer, my first question is “which of our clients can benefit from this”?! Of course we have several that will shortly get a nice email from us detailing strategy for approaching (carefully) expecting mothers on Facebook. 

There are no doubt some glitches to be found in the system.  It IS Facebook afterall. 


One glitch was found by our very own Peter Quale, who tested this himself by announcing that he is expecting…in 15 months.


So while it is great that you can choose to tell Facebook about your gestation period, it begs the question – why are we helping Facebook do their jobs? If they were smart, they would already know these things. Take Target as an example. Remember the kerfuffle that this NYTimes article created when it came out in February?

In this case one pitfall of marketing to expecting mothers was clearly identified when Target sent coupons for maternity clothing to the home of a pregnant teenage girl. Her father was justifiably upset because he had no idea.

We need to be cautious when going down this path. Some people may be upset about getting an ad for Pampers, but then again, they don’t have to share this information, right?

Other expecting parents may really enjoy being exposed to new brands and shopping for products they don’t even know they need. Like a modern crib! Or baby portraits! Or personalized children’s books!

My one concern is the exact timing of these ads. Right now I can’t find where to drill down to target mothers expecting in 6 months, or 3 months by using the due date; a feature that will need to be added to really appeal to a wider variety of advertisers.

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).

Monetizing Goals in Google Analytics

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

As businesses continue to invest more and more into their online presence, whether it is through website development or online marketing channels, the same question often comes up about assessing value. How much are these “conversions” worth to me? If you’re operating an e-commerce site the answer is obvious – revenue!  But what about those lead generation sites that take their sales funnels offline? The answer requires a little more work but it is well worth the effort.

If the purpose of your site is to generate sales leads (of any type) then it is important that you monetize these conversions to truly understand the value. The first step is to have the tracking capabilities for this conversion setup, which requires a simple URL Destination Goal in Google Analytics. If you’re using a form that sends users to a Thank You page once they complete it – this is a piece of cake (see below for setup screen). If your site is a little more dynamic and the URL doesn’t change during the form process for some reason then things are a little more complicated but still very doable (I’ll explain these methods in my next post about Virtual Pageviews and Custom Events).

You’ll see a field during the Goal setup called “Goal Value – optional” (highlighted in the green box above). This is where Google Analytics allows you to assign a monetary value to these conversions. Once you put in a dollar amount Google Analytics will automatically start multiplying it across the number of Goal Completions. It seems simple enough, and it is, but for many lead generation sites this is something that is never implemented due to the lack of a direct value.

Here’s how we would recommend calculating this Goal value. The two variables that you need to figure out are the expected transaction value and the probability of a transaction from that form completion. So for example, let’s say I’m a company that sells commercial printers and I use my website to generate sales leads. I know that on average my company can close 25% of all leads that come in and those customers spend approximately $1,000 each. Therefore, if I multiply that $1,000 times the 25% I can assume that each lead (form completion) is worth $250. Now I just need to put that value in the Goal setup and Google Analytics will start evaluating my online success for me.

Even though this value does depend on averages, it is a data-based figure that helps you to better translate the success of your site and marketing programs to a language that everyone understands – money!

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!

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

July is SEM Awareness Month

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

We are declaring July to be SEM Awareness Month, a month dedicated to spreading the word of search marketing best practices to all corners of the web. So please, spread the word!

canonicalization problems


First, we want to be sure everyone knows to take care of canonical issues on your site. No one – especially search engines – likes multiple URLs for the same piece of content. So please, talk to your developer(s) about the canonical issues on your website.