Category Archives: SEM

Googles Relentless Profit Motive

It’s getting harder and harder to ignore Google’s profit motive in paid search. And the constant harassment from Google’s offshore enforcers of “automatically generated opportunities” (AGOs) is becoming tiresome. Let me explain.

If you’ve been doing search marketing as long as I have, you’ve been called and emailed at least a dozen times by an “AdWords expert”. Let’s call them the AGO enforcers. AGO enforcers operate in an environment devoid of real world marketplace competition, competitive nuance, business client interaction and unique value proposition.

From this vacuum, thousands of miles away from both you and your clients (and the competitive landscape) they relentlessly attempt to convince you to conform to the best practice standards of Google’s artificial intelligence. It seems their sole purpose is to enforce the application of Google’s automatically generated opportunities.

The problem with this, is that these automatically generated opportunities (like their human enforcers) DO NOT guarantee better campaign performance (as clearly stated at the bottom of every AdWords web page).

AGOs are proof positive of Googles profit motive
Google’s Profit Motive: The A.G.O. and its Paid Enforcers

And they always seem to come with increased budget recommendations. In the rare cases in which I agree to apply them, they never work as expected.

How could they, when you consider the lack of human interaction and understanding of an effective paid search analyst? After all, AGO’s use the same “machine intelligence” that pushes horribly irrelevant keyword recommendations almost non-stop. Keywords that will get more clicks, but not more conversions – because they are all wrong for the client’s particular competitive situation.

If, as the disclaimer states, WEare always responsible for the changes” we make, then:

1) Why is Google hiring AGO enforcers to push higher spend so hard upon us?
2) Why is Google’s AGO using automated reminder terms like “Last Chance” to keep up with the competition?
3) Why is Google constantly pushing CPA bidding, which ALWAYS includes an increased budget as part of the process?
4) Why is Google’s system trying to incite bidding wars at the keyword bid level?

It would take far too long to explain in detail the evidence that Googles profit motive is dangerously close to overshadowing the golden goose of SEARCH RELEVANCE, but … we are headed in that direction.

Googles Profit Motive – Search Relevance or Search Revenue?

The role that HUMANS play in a search marketing landscape where SEARCH RELEVANCE is the core value of search – is vital. It’s why we take the certification tests, and it’s why “search relevance” is the key take away from professional certification (or at least it was).

Human search marketing strategists meet with clients to discuss unique value propositions and competitive nuance in relevant, real world markets where humans buy and sell products and services. Conversely artificial intelligence operates within marketplace models that are theoretical and behave according to the logic of completely level and artificial playing fields.

Artificial intelligence works perfectly well in a theoretical construct where intelligent machines produce goods and services to be consumed by other intelligent machines. I’m here to tell you what should be obvious – we’re not there yet.

Case in point. We had a client whose conversions suddenly flat-lined. Suspecting this was systemic, we began troubleshooting possible causes. But at the very same time, Google had  implemented one of it’s infamous bi-weekly changes – we’ll call them “improved  visual bid estimates“. This is where one of our client’s top keywords rose from $3.27 per click to over $71.00 (estimated) per click for the same relative ad-serving-position in the span of a week.

Frankly, we’ve been getting good position for ALL of our clients at well below “first page bid” estimates for many months, but the new visual bid estimates, with recommended “first page” and “above all organic results” bid estimates have clearly convinced competing businesses to bid higher. So … as we’re troubleshooting the abrupt decline in conversions, amidst these automated suggestions to bid massively higher, here  comes the call from Google’s AGO enforcer of the week for this account.

I managed to “stall the call” long enough to establish the systemic cause for the drop-off in conversions: broken linkage between Google Analytics and Adwords (where Analytics conversions were being imported into Adwords).

When I emailed her back with my findings and agreed to a call appointment only if she had recommendations for how to re-link Adwords to Analytics, there was no response (as expected). We were able to determine the cause and re-link, but there were no further recommendations from this “AdWords Expert”.  Obviously, since our solution didn’t serve Googles profit motive, Google’s AGO enforcer was no longer interested.  We definitely learned a lot from the experience.

This is just one example, and actually a fairly simple one. Overall, Google is clearly driving it’s paid search customer accounts toward a standardized “best practice” baseline where all competitors within a certain market are operating on equal terms on a level playing field. The perfect situation where a price bidding war is the only way to “get ahead”.

When Google’s system constantly makes (direct and indirect) recommendations for me to increase my client budgets to “keep up with the competition” do they really expect me to think they’re not doing the exact same thing with “the competition”? I wouldn’t give the username and password to my Adwords client center to the competition, so they could analyze my strategy. And yet Google is contacting my competition armed with that knowledge (whether they use it or not) and inviting them to “beat me” at my game.

Besides the bad taste that obvious conflict of interest leaves me with, if inciting bidding wars is the strategy, it reminds me of a pricing game where an agency keeps telling clients to lower their prices to be competitive – and both competitors are their client. Where does that lead?

Google will ultimately win the “profit” battle, but will they win the “best search engine” war? There will always be a better search engine to be built if search revenue becomes the new focal point over search relevance. Just search “Google profit motive” in Google, and then in Bing.  I think you’ll see what I mean.

Why is Search Engine Marketing So Successful?

Why is Search Engine Marketing So Successful?Well I just HAD to write this blog post because I felt that some of the top ranked articles for the query “why is search engine marketing so successful?” were clearly missing the mark.

The main reason that “search”  (organic or paid) is so successful boils down to two key differentiators:

  • You are reaching prospects who are specifically searching for what you offer, and …
  • You are reaching them at the moment of peak relevance and interest

No other form of advertising truly excels in both of these two critical areas like search marketing. And when you think about it, it’s clear that these two advantages are inherent by design.

The Shotgun Approach Versus Focused Targeting

With billboard, radio, direct mail, email, cable, and even social media, you are pushing out your message to a somewhat random audience. They may be interested in what you have to say, but it’s more likely they are not. It’s true that there are means by which demographic targeting can narrow your audience in the above formats. But despite great improvements in targeting over the years, none of these mediums hits the target squarely on the mark for these two bullet points above.

Let’s take an example business type: roofing. We can try to narrow our audience to certain age groups, certain income levels and even certain neighborhoods. But we cannot target “homes with roofs struck by trees in the last 12 hours”. We’d really need a team of “spotters” driving around the entire geographic territory looking for recent roof damage, say, after a major storm. That’s not a bad idea actually, but a bit costly.

We still wouldn’t capture the homeowner who has been saving up for a new roof and is just ready to do it. Maybe he’s ready because the roof is old, there are a few minor leaks and the timing is right. The only way we can truly target homeowners (or business owners) who are ready to replace their roof and are open to advertised offers is by creating and advertising an offer to be shown only to prospects searching for a roofer or a roofing contractor.

It’s NOT Just a Game Of Impressions

What’s even better, you don’t pay a dime to show that ad to that targeted searcher. You only pay when they actually click on your offer. Compare that with those extremely expensive display ads of years gone by in the “yellow pages” (yes, some of us still remember those days). Yellow page display ads were able to generate significant revenues for directory companies for many years prior to the newer more efficient means of “search marketing”. That’s because directories (phone books) were the original “search marketing” form of marketing.

But even back then (and still today) with directory ads, like every other form of advertising previously mentioned, you are paying for impressions. You don’t do a direct mail campaign, and only pay for people who contact you from the flyer or card. You pay for delivery and hope that there is an “impression” left (though many people will simply throw away the piece).  When you spent $2500 on a nice display ad, or $15,000 for a “back cover”, you were paying for a year’s worth of impressions – until next year’s phone book came out.

Now, to be fair, it is true that people will search online for the purpose of long term research, including “do-it-yourselfers”. This is especially true when the need is not dire or emergency event-driven (note to businesses that provide emergency event-driven services – you better be doing search marketing because your competitors definitely are).

But again, to be objective, you are marketing to the same proportion of researchers as any other form of advertising. So there’s no real disadvantage to search marketing other than the ease with which to compare other advertisers within the same search related category.

Search Marketing: Then and NOW

Search engine marketing is successful for many of the same reasons that directory advertising was so successful in years past. It has the same main drawback (many competitors in the same search category) but search engine marketing has several awesome advantages.

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) costs a fraction of the price
  • YOU create the ads so there is a real creative advantage
  • you can turn SEM up, down, on or off as business conditions warrant
  • you can test, tweak or change your SEM message in real time, at any time
  • SEM supplies valuable metrics that help you gauge your ROI
  • SEM still hasn’t caught on to the degree of directory advertising when the Yellow Pages were still “King” in the  marketplace
  • The most widely used search engine in the world derives most of it’s revenue from SEM – so success is more or less “baked in”

Let’s take this last advantage seriously, because Google is a serious company, and ultimately it wants SEM to work well (so it can make money). And there’s no doubt it can more than help to bring this about.

We have quite a few website clients who are VERY well positioned organically (and have been for years) and they continue to get about 10 to 20 relevant clicks per month organically. These same companies have easily gotten 40 to 60 additional clicks when we create SEM campaigns for them.

Remember SEM is a marketing format (within search) whereas search in general is more of an information gathering format. Clearly it makes more sense to achieve better marketing results in a marketing format on a platform that makes the platform provider money. And without a doubt, a greater share of marketing success has been driven to SEM from SEO over the last 15 years as the marketing capabilities within search engines has improved. I saved this one for last since it is the most compelling, obvious and persuasive reason as to why search engine marketing is so successful. Google’s share price should be a good indicator of that success.

There’s still time to take advantage of the relative “newness” of search marketing, especially for small local businesses in smaller to medium sized cities.

In many cases, there is little search marketing competition, and what does exist can be outranked and outperformed by a good search marketing strategist. These are some of the most compelling answers to the question: “Why is search engine marketing is so successful?”

SEM is likely to remain the most successful means of advertising for years to come in terms of ROI, but the advantages of “first to market” are still available in some markets, which gives advertisers an amazing ROI boost.

To learn more about the advantages of a well run search marketing campaign, gives us a call or shoot us a message.

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Tallahassee Search Engine Marketing Success

Anatomy of a Successful Tallahassee Search Engine Marketing Campaign

Let’s look at some metrics from one of our top Tallahassee Search Engine Marketing (SEM) clients. Their success illustrates what one can expect in a well designed search marketing campaign.

First we’ll review their share of mobile vs. desktop search.

Tallahassee Search Engine Marketing
Mobile Search Exceeds Desktop Search

As with most campaigns today, mobile search exceeds desktop search. In some cases we see 60/40 mobile or higher, depending on certain factors. So it’s important to have responsive landing pages and call extensions. Call extensions are especially important if your lead generation strategy calls for it.

In the case above, our advertiser favors phone calls over web mail or email contact. Again this varies by business type and advertiser preference. Call extensions allow for mobile click-to-call, which is easily tracked by click type segmentation.

Mobile Search
Mobile Clicks to Call Can Have High Conversion Rates

This client receives about 12 mobile click-to-calls every month in addition to about 10-15 other non-mobile contact types (including non-mobile calls). These metrics translate to about one contact per business day, at a cost of about $300 per month.

If we break this down to a conversion average we get some pretty exciting results. At 24 qualified contact leads (conversions) divided by $300 our leads cost $12.50 each. Our Advertiser has a popular service and is competitive, so they close about 22% of these leads (they also know how to engage and sell).

Their profit margin is about $250 per sale on average. With 5 leads closed per month this equates to $1250 profit per month for a $300 investment. This gives us a 410% return on investment for search engine marketing. Again this is an actual local Tallahassee search engine marketing customer – one of our top three.

Factors That Increase Your SEM Success

Obviously there are a HUGE number of factors involved in building a successful campaign that gets the highest quality scores, best click-through rates, lowest cost per click and highest conversion rates. So what do our top three performing campaigns all have in common?

  1. We handle their web page development
  2. We handle their organic SEO (search engine optimization)
  3.  We handle their paid SEM (search engine marketing)

When one competent provider handles all three items above, your chances of a high ROI are much more likely. This is because each of these items is connected to one another. And optimum relevance is the binding connection.

We see plenty of poorly performing campaigns where the measure of success is number of clicks only. Low performing campaigns can easily generate lots of irrelevant and expensive clicks that never convert into a sale.  Most of the spam you receive with unsubstantiated claims and promises about SEO and SEM depend on cheap clicks that never convert.

We prefer not to bore visitors with industry jargon regarding our specific methodology and execution. But we do want to point out the increasing importance of mobile search. And we wanted to show you some actual success results. Here are some more. After all, this is what clients pay us for – world class results.

We understand that business owners don’t really have the time to focus on how exactly we do what we do – they are too busy handling the leads we generate for them. And we believe that’s the way it should be.

To schedule an onsite consultation, give us a call or drop us a line at 850.766.2711 or

Inbound Marketing – 4 Keys To Success

Bruce Sutter's Split Finger Fastball
An Effective Inbound Pitch

I recently read an article that questioned the validity of Inbound marketing based on the financials of a company that is probably considered the “poster child” of inbound.

Without getting into that discussion at all, let me just say that the validity of inbound marketing success rests upon one of the most solid foundations of our information age, namely that:

“Prospects are findng your solution at the peak moment of interest – when they are actually searching for it.”

It’s pretty hard to seriously question the logic of that premise, both from a common sense standpoint, and from a financial one.

To truly comprehend the superiority of search engine marketing (SEM) and other forms of inbound over the outbound “spray and pray” methodology of times past, it helps to be a sales veteran of the pre-digital era.

Those experiences will help to inform an effective “digital sales strategy” for today. But we still have to fully embrace and understand inbound marketing to leverage its superiority.
Part of that understanding is that:

  •  not everyone searches the web for solutions
  •  not everyone searches the web for solutions very well
  •  not everyone who searches for YOUR solution finds you
  •  those who do find you, may not like what they find

These are “givens” within the realm of inbound. Once you address them in your strategy, your success will probably increase on an order of magnitude relative to improvements you make in each of these areas. Let’s take them one at a time.

Not everyone searches the web for solutions

That’s why email marketing is still considered a viable component of any inbound strategy  – to convert non-searching email users (a big number to factor into your “sales numbers game”) into potential customers – by directing them to your landing page through a relatively effective means other than search..

Not everyone searches the web for solutions very well

Here’s where it really gets sticky – and where SEO expertise comes in handy.  In my last linkedIn article I covered this in some detail. Of course it’s all about relevance, but it’s about perception too – your prospect’s perceptions – you have to capture those perceptions on their terms , yet relevant to you  (set your expectations accordingly).

Not everyone who searches for YOUR solution finds you

Another given, yet you can minimize this factor in several ways. Email marketing , as mentioned, is one. You may also want to engage in display network advertising if it’s the right venue for you. With display networks, people are not “searching for your solution at their peak moment of interest”. Ratherthey are being “served your message while doing something else online” … based on certain online behaviors which profile an interest in your solution type.

 Those who do find you, may not like what they find

And why should they (after all ) unless you’re rewarding them for being  smart enough to engage your least expensive sales channel (in a very price – sensitive and competitive environment) ?

You owe it to your inbound prospect to at least acknowledge their expedience in the form of a tangible reward of some type – exclusive to customers acquired online.

And if you do, you’ll gain a competititve edge over those who do not. Creativity usually earns dividends here.

Cover these 4 key strategies if you aren’t today, and I would expect your inbound success to grow accordingly. Just measure and monitor to continually reach higher.

Next time, we’ll cover the follow-up outbound call strategy (you’ll eventually have to call about 90% of inbound leads at some point anyway). Here’s where the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing BUT the Truth actually pays off in your outreach approach.

Bruce Sutter image source

SEM: The Challenge of Technical Keywords

In our increasingly complex and technical world, we take for granted many new technologies and related terms that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Because searchers on the web have varying degrees of familiarity with these terms, their ability to find what they are looking for varies as well. To say that technical keywords present a challenge in digital marketing would be something of an understatement.

As technical terms and keywords grow continually, so grows the necessity to distinguish the nuances of our technical lexicon.

PPC, SEM and SEO - the challenge of technical keywordsEven in the practice of SEM / SEO , we have growing permutations of technical jargon. So when we market a client’s technical product or service, we should be equally sensitive to the many variations of terms that could  veer quality searchers away from our content. We should also be on the lookout for close match searches that bring the wrong kind of searcher to our online destinations – because we can be paying dearly for “clickers” who bounce away (leave our destination) quickly – which has negative consequences beyond just an irrelevant visit.

With SEO, we look at webmaster tools and analytics to determine what search terms are attracting visits, and we make a judgement call about the value of those terms – and based on that, we adjust.

With SEM, we use AdWords Dimensions to track terms that trigger paid clicks, and fine tune with negative keywords and keyword matching options. Let’s talk about that for a moment, and try to close the gap between what we think Google is supposed to do, and what we observe it actually doing in practice.

If you’ll look at the link above, at the way Google defines phrase match and exact match, I think you’ll find that in practice, query matches tend to be much less restrictive than those simple explanations provide. And this tendency is greatly magnified in the realm of technical jargon, due to the burgeoning of technical terms that correspond to similar (in the mind of the searcher) yet irrelevant (in the mind of the advertiser) offerings.

Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of high tensile strength coated fibers that are superior to steel cable in bridge suspension applications for the construction engineering industry.  You may need to avoid being confused with fiber optic cable manufacturers who supply a completely different product to the telecommunications industry.

Or you could be a service bureau who provides optical scanning services to convert contracts and invoices into digital format for a line of business workflow database – and somehow be confused with providers of digital converters for analog television sets.

I know it sounds absurd, but I’ve seen both, and I’ve seen searchers click on Ad text that has NOTHING to do with what they are searching for. In fact, I’ve literally seen them do this in droves (to my complete dismay) partly for the reasons cited above.

Clearly, as the complexity of your offerings increases, variations of exact matches will need to increase as well.

We have to remember that in our technical world, there are many levels of acumen and understanding. These levels range from novice searchers just beginning to learn how to effectively find their target destinations on the web, to advanced searchers who are far more likely to search more narrowly and click more precisely.

And keep in mind also that search perspectives can vary by measures beyond intellect or sophistication alone. A CFO will not search using the same terms as a CIO – but both can be influential in a complex enterprise technology sale.

Objective: Quanitity of Clicks or Quality of Searcher?

In our Adwords campaigns, when we see a keyword beginning to dominate impressions and clicks, it’s generally a good indication that the term is too broad. That’s when we peer into the Adwords Dimensions tool and look at the keywords that are generating clicks.

When we do that, we begin to see a whole new dimension of what is being searched for, relative to our marketing intent. And as with any other metrics tool, we adjust accordingly. Then we begin to ask ourselves, “Who are these searchers?” Are they decision makers, influencers, or even obstructionists? Are they employees of our target accounts, or are they our own competitors, or perhaps industry analysts?

They could even be potential partners searching for ways to support their clients, who in turn support our efforts (as partners – which sometimes occurs) in our high-dollar complex technology sale.

The term “Dimensions” is quite fitting for this AdWords feature tab. I highly recommend exploring it, along with each of the 12 drop down views below, especially “search terms”. Using Dimensions, you’ll be able to fine tune your matching and decide where exact matches need to be used.

But you’ll gain more than that – you’ll begin to gain the perspective of your searchers as they arrive at your content. And that perspective is invaluable.