Thursday, May 28, 2009

Best of 2008: AdWords Tips and Tactics, Part 2

Where can you find the best resources to help pass the AdWords certification exam? When is it time to drop or rewrite an underperforming ad? What factors should be taken into account when developing a new AdWords campaign? How can the Google AdWords search-based keyword tool be used for competitive research?

Discover those answers and more here in the final installment of the best posts on AdWords marketing from the past year.

Top 10 Resources to Pass the Google AdWords Exam in a Week by SEOptimise

Richard Fergie provides a helpful list of resources to help with the Google AdWords certification exam from the AdWords blog, O'Reilly, seobook, PPC Hero and other sources.


AdWords Conversion Optimizer Expands Eligibility by Inside AdWords

In important news for smaller advertisers, Amanda Kelly announced that Google had expanded the availability of its AdWords Conversion Optimizer tool to any campaign using AdWords Conversion Tracking with at least 50 conversions in the last 30 days. This powerful tool automatically optimizes conversions by adjusting ad positions based on keyword match type, the searcher's geographic location and other factors. Another Inside AdWords post worth checking out is Display Ad Builder Best Practices from Emel Mutlu, which provides guidance on maximizing the performance of AdWords display ads through customizataion and careful grouping.


Measuring a Text Ad's Effectiveness by Search Engine Watch

The always insightful David Szetela demonstrates the importance of grouping keywords properly before rushing to judgement on the quality of a text ad.


Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing Flowchart by PPC Blog

One of the most bookmarkable posts ever on the topic of search engine marketing, this handy chart guides you through creating an SEM campaign from strategy and keyword research through keyword grouping and ad copy writing to measurement, analysis and optimization. Even better, each box in the chart links through to more detailed guidance on the specific topic from top search marketing blogs like Marketing Pilgrim on branding and exposure, SEO Book on competitive research tools, and Rimm-Kaufman on measurement.


Discovering New PPC Search Advertising Opportunities with the Google Search-based Keyword Tool by Internet Marketing and e-Business Review

Louise Rijk provides an in-depth look at Google's search-based keyword tools, including how to use it for developing landing page copy and competitive research.

Previous posts in this series:

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 1
Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing
Best of 2008: Web Analytics
Best of 2008: Email Marketing Tips
Best of 2008: SEO Keyword Tips & Tools
Best of 2008: Sales & Marketing Copywriting
Best of 2008: SEO Link Building
Best of 2008: Website Design
Best of 2008: WordPress Tools and Tips
Best of 2008: Web & SEO Copywriting
Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 2
Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 1
Best of 2008: AdWords Tips and Tactics, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEO Tools, Part 2
Best of 2008: SEM Landing Pages
Best of 2008: Blogging for Business, Part 1
Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 2
Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 3
Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 2

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ZoomInfo, Chris Abraham and Me - A Social Media Case Study

Sure, almost every business on the planet is now using social media in some manner, but do you ever wonder if it really works? And if so, how? I get those questions, and while I generally avoid writing about myself (preferring to stick to topics that are actually interesting), a recent post here on how to use Twitter for business was part of interesting and illustrative social media experience.

It started with a webcast on using Twitter effectively for business and advocacy hosted by Chris Abraham, social media guru and principal at social PR firm Abraham Harrison, and Anamitra Banerji of Twitter. After the presentation, Chris posted his content on SlideShare, a leading social media sharing site. I then wrote the above-mentioned blog post summaring the presentation, which was published here and also syndicated on MyVenturePad, part of the Social Media Today network. The syndicated piece caught the attention of the marketing folks at ZoomInfo.

ZoomInfo is a highly-regarded online directory of people and companies used by recruiters, sales pros and direct marketers. It's also helpful for SEO and for online reputation management. They also publish a enewsletter, the ZoomInformer, a recent issue of which linked to my blog post about using Twitter for business.

Social-Media-ConnectionThat newsletter mention produced the second-highest single day traffic ever to this blog (exceeded only by a post on the social media email signature which got some nice Twitter exposure from Guy Kawasaki of "online magazine rack" site AllTop). And that burst of traffic led to this blog post, which Chris will probably Tweet about.

The end result was increased exposure for everyone involved: Chris got his content in front of my blog readership and Twitter followers plus the ZoomInformer subscriber base; my blog was brought to the attention of Chris's SlideShare visitors and 10,000+ Twitter fans as well as ZoomInfo's newsletter readers; and the ZoomInfo newsletter article was promoted here and to followers of Chris and me on Twitter.

Three key points to note

Social media is valuable. The type of exposure that social media provides—third-party endorsement from a source that has high credibility with its audience—is arguably far more valuable than advertising. Yet the exchange above didn't cost any of the participants anything other than a bit of time.

Promotion wasn't the original intent. Chris's presentation, and my follow-on blog post, were aimed at helping businesses and other organizations to use Twitter more effectively. ZoomInfo linked to my post in their newsletter to share that guidance with their subscribers. None of us were focused on spreading our own "marketing message."

The spread was spontaneous. None of this was orchestrated. Social media is like that; it goes off in unpredictable directions. Spreading the word is what's important, not controlling the medium.

The bottom line is that trying to use social media as just another channel to spread your message is doomed to failure. But if you focus instead on using it to provide and promote content that helps others, your message will ultimately come through.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan : mike@digitalrdm.com

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Friday, May 22, 2009

3 More Helpful Tips for Optimizing your SEM Campaigns

SEM-Optimization-CampaignsThe previous post on this topic advised search engine marketers to bid on their own company name and branded terms, keep keyword lists clean and cross-pollinate SEO and SEM efforts. Here are three more tips for optimizing results from SEM programs such as Google AdWords.

1. Keep your content network clean. Used properly, content networks can add significantly to paid search lead generation. Though the click-through rate (CTR) is generally lower on content than on search, the cost per click is generally lower as well, and conversion rates are often quite respectable. The key, however, is to periodically check on the sites where your ad is appearing and exclude sites that are inappropriate, unproductive or spammy.

In Google AdWords, click Tools in the Campaign Management tab, then go to Site and Category Exclusion. First, click the Topics tab where you choose to preclude your ads from running on various kinds of sites such as those focused on sexually suggestive content or death and tragedy. Nest, click the Page Types tab where you can control the display of your ads on parked domains, forums and other types of sites.

Finally, you'll want to periodically look at the specific sites where your ads are running and selectively exclude sites where you don't want your ads to appear. Go to Reports...Create a New Report and run a Placement Performance report. Once the report is complete, sort it by Cost in descending order (to place the sites costing you the most money at the top of the list). Starting at the top of the list and working down, visit each website shown. When you come across a site where you don't want your ads showing, go back to Campaign Management...Tools...Site and Category Exclusion, and enter the URL in the box under Add Exclusions in the Sites tab. Be sure to save your work.

2. Establish a test schedule and stick to it. Set a testing schedule according to the volume of your campaign activity; test too often and you'll not only waste management time but also likely make decisions based on insufficient data. Test too infrequently and you'll end up wasting money.

How often should that be? Well, for example, I manage one campaign for a client with a niche product sold in a limited geographic area. Their AdWords budget is modest and produces only a few leads per month, but is very cost-effective. We test every three months; neither the budget, the management expense nor the campaign volume justify testing any more frequently.

On the other hand, a medium-volume b2b campaign may need to be checked and tweaked weekly, while a high-volume e-commerce site may test daily. The important point is to set an appropriate schedule for your program's volume, then stick to it in order to maintain efficient performance.

3. Understand the metrics and focus on ROI. Many small businesses throw a bunch of unrelated keywords into a single campaign and ad group, write one ad, and then send all traffic to their home page. Argh! Simply burning the money would be less time-consuming and almost as productive.

Keywords should be grouped logically into distinct ad groups, each with at least two different ads (for testing), with the ads pointed to a landing page with some type of conversion mechanism that can be tracked—either a purchase or, as is generally the case for b2b companies, a contact form offering some type of incentive for response (e.g., a product trial, podcast, video, white paper download or webinar registration).

Next, establish rules for when an action should be taken on a keyword, for example: 200 impressions without a click, or 100 clicks without a conversion. "Action" in this case may mean deleting underperforming keywords, or a less drastic action: rewriting ads (for low clicks) or landing pages (for low conversion rate) to better align with the keywords, adding negative keywords (one common example: ad groups should generally exclude the word "free" unless you really want to give something away), or tightening the match type for a keyword to phrase or exact match.

Ultimately, what you're looking for is keywords that produce leads below a certain cost point. For example, I have a product that sells for $400, and I don't want to pay more than 5% of that amount ($20) for a lead. So:
  • If a keyword produces leads that cost a lot more than $20, drop it.
  • If it produces leads that cost just a little more than $20, try adjusting the bid level down to get them under $20.
  • If a keyword produces leads at much less than $20—$5, for example—increase the bid to maximize the volume of these leads while keeping them with the target cost range.
Following these practices will help make Google AdWords a productive and cost-effective source of leads or sales rather than just a way to drive traffic of unknown quality.

Other recent posts on search engine marketing:
Best of 2008: Search Engine Marketing
Best of 2008: AdWords Tips and Tactics, Part 1
Best of 2008: SEM Landing Pages

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Make Sure Your Logo Can Handle the Job at Any Size

Note: This is the third in a four-part series of guest posts on B2B branding strategy and website design from Rebekah E. Donaldson ("Red") and Cris Rominger of B2B Communications.

Today, logos must work well at 2 pixels wide or stretching the full length of a trade show banner.

Size matters

One of the big laughs in the film “Spinal Tap” came when the band took to the stage to sing of Stonehenge. The set was supposed to feature a replica of a section of Stonehenge standing an imposing 18 feet tall. Due to a miscommunication problem with the designer, it shows up at a ridiculous 18 inches tall.

When it comes to your logo, you want something that works no matter what size. Sticking with the music theme for a bit, consider how graphic designers have had to adapt as the 12-inch LP jacket gave way to the 5-inch CD cover, and finally to the tiny icon that shows up on an iPod. The February 2009 issue of Wired magazine gives examples.

Today your logo has to work as tiny square icon in a browser address (see our website for example) to 50-foot long banner hanging from the ceiling of the Cow Palace… and also on business cards and in email marketing…

We all need reminders

I’ll use myself as an example of what doesn’t work. I was moving super fast when redoing our company’s logo in 2007. We considered lots of things before signing off on a final pick, but I didn’t test it in all contexts. And I got burned. When we applied the logo to our website, it didn’t work well and we had to tweak it. To use the logo in reverse (white on blue site header) we had to nearly double the letters’ width. Doh! I should have followed the same process we use with our clients.

Lesson: vet all choices against the basics:

• Does it clearly differentiate our company?
• Is it memorable?
• Is it attractive?

Even pros have room to improve

Because of the diversity of contexts, you have to:

• Know what you must convey vs what you want to convey, and
• Beware of certain kinds of logos
• Beware of incongruity between your brand identity and your written positioning statements

Compare these five examples of companies trying to position themselves as on the leading edge of their fields. All logos are shown at 1.5 inches wide. Three to four of them need updates to make them work in a Web 2.0 world.


Bulldog Solutions’ logo is so memorable that it wins in my book. The tag line is small (it reads “Lead Generation Unleashed”), but short and powerful like a bulldog. The dog can be shrunk to icon size and still convey just the right tone: tenacious, fierce, and loyal… with a wink of humor. The company actually uses a blue paw print for their browser icon.

Bluewolf's logo is clean and scales down well. I’m partial to the blue. I think the brand identity would be stronger with the addition of a clear and concise tag line and a unique mark to use when confined to a tiny space. Indeed, I don’t see an browser bar icon when I visit their site.

Rubicon Marketing Group’s logo is interesting. The deep red color stands out -- in a good way. The gray is a great compliment to it. The roughly 2x1 proportions of the mark are useful. The tag line makes me want to learn more. The serif font seems old school for a company competing as a leader in modern marketing. In the browser bar they use a red capital “R” for their mark. I wonder about incorporating a unique mark to use when confined to a tiny space.

Verticurl’s logo could use several updates. A white background and 2x1 dimensions will be more versatile. I would consider a different type treatment to convey the distinction between the first and second parts of the word. The tag line could move below and expand if it is compelling. Also there’s the need for a distinguishing mark.

Pedowitz Group’s logo is most troubling. The graphic to the left of the words says to me “blue pizza!” while the tag line text says: “The Leader in Web 2.0 Marketing.” The blue pizza is in the browser bar when I visit their site. Look at it more closely, in their services brief PDF. Could it be a blue sales funnel with blobs in it? Mysterious.

Note: I started by pointing out my own weaknesses – I and we are not perfect! And again, it is these companies’ positioning statements (i.e. “The Leader in Web 2.0 Marketing”) that drew my attention to their brand identities. Still, let me make a peace-offering: 1) Feel the link love from this executive brief promoted on our site and blog – both currently PageRank 5 – and a brand identity consulting phone consultation for any of the above companies, on me.

Testing ... testing

There’s only one way to know whether a logo works in oodles of contexts: Test it. Then test it some more. Test it on business cards, banners, Web pages, letterhead, coffee mugs, name tags, anywhere you can imagine that it might show up some day.

Ask to see multiple examples of all design mockups – you’ll need different resolutions for different media, different sizes for potentially different uses, and at least one black & white and one color version. Today’s logos appear in browser bars, online ads, in print and display advertising, and more. I recommend requesting all of these as deliverables, in at least .png and .jpg file formats so you are ready to hand over whatever logo version is requested down the road. If something looks strong in all sizes, at all resolutions, in all contexts, you’ve got a real winner.

Contact: Red(at)b2bcommunications.com

Previous: Cut B2B Branding Guesswork With a Methodical 5 Step System
Next: The 9 must-have qualities of a user-focused B2B website design

*****

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cut B2B Branding Guesswork With a Methodical 5 Step System

Note: This is the second in a four-part series of guest posts on B2B branding strategy and website design from Rebekah E. Donaldson ("Red") and Cris Rominger of B2B Communications.
An intuitive, user-focused web site begins with an intuitive, user-focused brand. To arrive at such a brand, be systematic.

Branding is about building a perception, and B2B buyers expect a strong business brand. Indeed, business decision makers are a special audience when it comes to branding.

As mentioned earlier, when a purchase affects a company’s operations, productivity and bottom line, the risk of a wrong decision is high. Often, the selling proposition is complex and there are multiple influencers – each one sizing you up from a different angle.

B2B-Branding-Five-Step-Process
Five step system

These five steps can help you get to the right endpoint, for the right reasons:

Understanding current perceptions

The first step in B2B branding is to identify any gap between your current and desired market positioning.

Scoping out competitors with relevant positioning

Usually, clients need to take into account other companies with relevant market positioning. This is true even if a company is a startup trying to create a new category.

Stating the difference

Building on the info you gathered about competitors, you can compare your desired positioning with current perceptions among clients and others. I’ve found it can be a painful process for some clients. The upside is that making a matrix to compare current and desired perceptions should help highlight your perceived strengths along with opportunities to improve.

The next part, succinctly stating your difference, may be tricky. The point is to make a short statement about the value you bring, one that is clear and compelling for your specific audience.

Symbolizing

This is key: Identify a name, tag line, concept, shape, and color that can symbolize your top differentiator. In my experience, literal, descriptive names are better than odd ones.

Examples:
• “Eco-Friendly Packing and Storage” tells me what you do and what’s different about it.
• “Z-32 Cromulescense” doesn’t give me a clue.

(In fact, often when I encounter company names like the one in the second example, my reaction is, “Skip it. If you’ve picked a name that’s obscure versus erring on the side of clarity, that doesn’t bode well for other communications with your firm.”)

There are exceptions, of course. But if you’re a small company, think of how you’ll appear at a glance, in the context of a directory listing or list of conference sponsors. Prospects need to understand instantly the type of service you offer, to become interested enough to learn more. And to be reassured, often subconsciously, that your firm thinks about things from the customer perspective.

Testing

Test the name, tag, value prop, logo with your clients and partners. Test them again. And again.


Contact: Red(at)b2bcommunications.com

Previous: B2C Versus B2B - Is There Really Any Difference?
Next: Make sure your logo can handle the job at any size

*****

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

B2C Versus B2B – Is There Really Any Difference?

Note: This is the first in a four-part series of guest posts on B2B branding strategy and website design from Rebekah E. Donaldson ("Red") and Cris Rominger of B2B Communications.

Shopping-CartIt’s a question we hear a lot. And for good reason. Either way, you’re still marketing to a human being – right?

Yes and no. We wrote an e-book that covers how B2B marketing differs from consumer marketing, called What Marketing Directors Need in a B2B Marketing Consultant. But here is a short version.

Perceived risk is generally higher for B2B buyers

In business to business (B2B) marketing, a purchase of professional services may impact the company’s customer service, productivity, operations, legal issues, reputation, sales, and/or the bottom line. The perceived risk of a wrong decision is high. In B2C decision making the level of perceived risk is typically low, because most consumer purchases can be returned or exchanged.

Buying committees look to Google and service providers’ websites for information first and repeatedly, according to Enquiro. After all, B2B purchasers are buying the supplier along with the product or service.

Enquiro surveyed 1,000 B2B buyers to learn what the top influencers are in the purchase decision. They found that “respondents across all phases indicated that the website of the vendor” was the top influence on buying decisions. The upshot: if you’re a B2B company, get it right when it comes to your online presence.

Prospects are looking to educate themselves, do their own comparisons, and create their own short lists. Charts comparing solutions, suggested decision criteria, ROI calculator tools, case studies, testimonials, certifications, awards, affiliations, and executive profiles all help diffuse fear of making a wrong decision.

Contact: Red(at)b2bcommunications.com

Next: Cut B2B branding guesswork with a methodical 5 step system

*****

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Best of 2008: SEO Guidance, Part 3

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: SEO Guidance on the Webbiquity blog.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How to Use Twitter for Business

I sat in last week on an excellent webcast presented by Chris Abraham of social PR firm Abraham Harrison and Anamitra Banerji, product manager at Twitter, on using Twitter for business. If you've got an hour, check out the slides and presentation video; if you only have a few minutes, the highlights from the presentation are below.



What Twitter is Useful For

1) sharing real-time news, such as what was happening, while it was happening, during the terrorist attack on Mumbai;

2) monitoring what people are saying about your company, brand, industry, hobby, favorite charity, cause, or anything else; and

3) business.

The primary business use of Twitter is for listening to and carefully communicating with customers and prospects. However, there are multiple examples of companies finding other interesting uses for Twitter:

CRMJetBlue, Comcast Cares, Starbucks, Ford

BrandingiStock, Whole Foods

Product promotionDirecTV, DealUniversity

How to Prospect for an Audience

1) Mine your email accounts for people that you know / have interacted with, and search for them in Twitter.

2) Follow suggested people from Twitter (these are usually high-profile Tweeters).

3) Follow the people who the top influencers follow.

4) Find people to follow on WeFollow.

5) Use Twollow to find new tweeters to follow based on keywords.

6) As you meet new people online or offline, search for them and Twitter and follow if they are there.

7) Use the #followfriday tag (only on Fridays) to recommend your favorite tweeters to others, and you'll likely in turn get recommended to their followers.

It's okay to take a "shotgun" approach to outbound following; those who are interested will follow back.

Recommended Twitter Tools

SocialToo
—catch up on your Twitter followers and selectively unfollow people who don't follow you back.

Ping.fm—update multiple social media accounts at once.

HootSuite—send a single tweet through multiple Twitter accounts, preschedule tweets and manage multiple Twitter profiles.

Seesmic Desktop—**5 STARS**—manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single interface, share photos and video, and organize your social contacts into logical groups. Chris highly recommends this tool.

TweetLater—great for automating repetitive tasks.

Best Times of Day to Tweet

Most people check their Twitter streams in the early morning, at lunch time, and/or in the early evening. If you typically tweet twice per day, shoot for noon and 3:00 p.m. eastern. If you often tweet four or more times per day, aim for 9:00 a.m. / noon / 3:00 p.m. / 6:00 p/m/ EST.

Other Advice and Twitter Best Practices

Avoid auto-responses! They are obnxious, easily spotted and likely to lose you followers.

Twitter is not broadcast. Your tweet stream should ideally contain a mix of general tweets to all of your follows, messages sent to one or a few specific followers but publicly viewable, and conversations.

When someone tweets something you've written, or retweets something you've linked always thank them in a personal, friendly manner.

Community-building takes time—it's a marathon, not a sprint. Avoid spammy "get 10,000 followers in 36 hours!" techniques.

When retweeting, make sure the link works first.

It's often advisable to have both an official company Twitter account as well as personal accounts for anyone who tweets on behalf of the organization.

Make your profile background attactive, professional and informative. It's the key branding element for your Twitter presence.

Trivia

The #, RT and @ conventions weren't developed by Twitter; these were all community-generated enhancements.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Chapeau Blog Awards - Congratulations to ViralBlog

Viral-Blog-LogoCongratulations to ViralBlog, named Best Marketing & Advertising Blog in the 2009 Chapeau Blog Awards. ViralBlog is written by a "collaborative team of viral bloggers (who) haunt the globe for great viral and social media cases every day...(the) ViralBlog team aims to inspire CMO’s, advertising and media agencies in creating the best social media strategies and viral campaigns ever." ViralBlog's team includes Igor Beuker, Paul van Veenendaal, Matthijs Roumen and Niels BellaarNiels Bellaar.

This means of course that WebMarketCentral...took second place. But it was a great honor to be nominated, and to everyone who took the time to vote for this blog—thank you! Let me know if I can help you at some point.

*****
ontact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Best of 2008: Interactive PR, Part 2

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Interactive PR on the Webbiquity blog.

*****


Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

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