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Google Search Results Pages Just Changed in a Big Way

This week, Google released an update that radically changed the layout of their search results pages (SERPs). Google has eliminated the ads that ran down the right side of the page.

Over the last few years, Google has continuously been tweaking search results page layouts in an effort to test different versions for usability and profitability. Google has been running anywhere from 1 to 3 ads at the top of the page with eight ads down a separate column on the right-hand side and possibly ads at the bottom of the page. The sudden removal of all side rail ads, however, is a radical departure that goes well beyond minor layout tweaks.

Instead of a half dozen or more ads appearing “above the fold” on a SERP, the number of ads visible when the page loads is now limited to a maximum of four at the top of the page. These are often followed on local searches by Google My Business (formerly Google Places) entries.

Regardless whether your search is local or general, organic search results now appear even farther down the page than they used to.

We see the following impacts from this latest change:

  1. Competition in AdWords will grow fiercer because the number of ads available on page 1 has been reduced. You can’t bid for a position lower than 4th anymore and hope to get a significant stream of clicks. This has already been demonstrated on mobile platforms, where typically only two ads appear “above the fold.” Expect to bid higher and pay more per click in AdWords going forward.
  2. With organic listings appearing lower on the search results page, more searches will result in paid, and therefore less organic, clicks than before. This will result in more revenue for Google and less benefit from your organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

There is definitely a Darwinian element to this latest move from Google. The bar has been raised and we should expect to see less experienced users of Google AdWords weeded out over time.

If you have any questions about these changes, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Google_AdWords

Google AdWords Demystified Seminar

 

Community Room at Enterprise BankFile:Google AdWords.png

 

18 Palmer Street | Lowell, MA, 01852

October 28 @ 8:00 am – 9:30 am

Free Admission

Have you been thinking about running ads on Google’s AdWords advertising platform but not sure where to start? Are you using AdWords but you know you could do better? Do you wonder if Google AdWords is right for your business?

The Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Google AdWords seminar that will take a look into what it takes to profit with Google AdWords. AdWords is the cornerstone of Google’s $60 Billion in annual revenues. It’s the most advanced engine for targeted advertising ever created. Plus, it can also provide valuable market analysis and feedback.

This seminar will review the most important fundamentals, then explore some AdWords features that most people don’t even know exist. We’ll show you how to structure your AdWords account correctly while avoiding the expensive mistakes that 90% of AdWords advertisers make.

There’s much more to AdWords than picking some keywords, writing some ads, and deciding how much money you’re willing to spend per day on clicks. AdWords has literally hundreds of options you can configure. Some can help you dramatically. Others can drain your budget fast and give you nothing in return. And, of course, on the creative side of things, like your ad copy and image ads, the possibilities are endless.

Got questions? Bring them! The session will last 90 minutes, and the last half hour will be devoted to answering as many questions as we can.

To access the event on the Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce website, click here.

 

About the Speaker:Hans-Riemer-Headshot-214x300

Hans Riemer has over 30 years of experience in marketing and sales for technology companies, including 4 years based in Europe. He has led marketing communications and product management programs for companies like Apollo Computer, Hewlett Packard, and Novell. He served as VP of Marketing for UltiMap Corporation, and more recently as Director of Business Development and Corporate Communications for the Software Division of Hitachi Computer Products.

Hans began leveraging the Internet for marketing in 1996, when he designed and built an e-commerce website that supported secure on-line ordering for a company he co-founded. He launched his first AdWords campaigns in 2001, when clicks still cost 10 cents, which meant that getting an education was a lot cheaper than it is today.

In 2002, he founded Market Vantage and since then he and the members of his team have designed and managed hundreds of successful Internet marketing and lead generation campaigns for a wide variety of organizations.

He holds a BA degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where he studied architectural design as an undergraduate followed by graduate studies in computer science.

Bad Advice

Search Network with Display Select– Should you take Google’s recommendation?

Bad AdviceHave you seen popups in your AdWords Search account that recommend enabling a campaign setting called “Search Network with Display Select”? Clicking on “Learn More” provides a compelling business case as to why this switch will be profitable for you.

Search Network 1

 

 

 

Should you take Google’s advice and make the switch? We advise against it.

Display Network and Search advertising are completely different. They require totally different approaches including different bids, budgets and ads. Even Google, in its certification training for AdWords, recommends setting up separate campaigns for Search and Display.

The Display Network can be effective. In fact, in certain situations, it can generate leads more cost-effectively than Search. But not when it’s run from within the same Campaign.

In the 10+ years that we’ve managed AdWords accounts, a lot of the money we’ve seen wasted prior to our arrival was caused by targeting both Search and Display in the same Campaign by default. Do not make this mistake.

Google recently added Enhanced CPC bidding as an option on the Display Network, which automatically adjusts your bids in individual sites based on conversion rates. We view this as a positive move and recommend it for AdWords accounts that want to use the Display Network and where there is sufficient conversion volume to qualify. Of course, you must have AdWords conversion tracking in place, but you’ve already done that, right?

To take advantage of Enhanced CPC bidding in the Display Network, you don’t need to use Search Network with Display Select in a hybrid campaign as Google is suggesting. You can and should use it within a dedicated Display Network campaign, as shown below.

Search Network 2

Enterprise Center logo

Google Adwords 2.0

Enterprise Center at Salem State UniversityEnterprise Center logo

 

121 Loring Ave | Salem, MA, 01970

October 1 @ 8:00 am10:00 am

Back by popular demand!  The March workshop on the power of Google AdWords at the Enterprise Center at Salem State University by Hans Riemer was so well received, a more advanced workshop on how you can get the most of your AdWords campaigns is being offered.

Thinking about running ads on Google’s AdWords advertising platform but not sure where to start? Are you using it but you know you could do better?

AdWords is the cornerstone of Google’s $60 Billion in annual revenues. It’s the most advanced engine for targeted advertising ever created. Plus, it can also provide valuable market analysis and feedback.

But don’t be fooled. There’s much more to AdWords than picking some keywords, writing some ads, and deciding how much money you’re willing to spend per day on clicks. AdWords has literally hundreds of options you can configure. Some can help you dramatically. Others can drain your budget fast and give you nothing in return. And, of course, on the creative side of things, like your ad copy and image ads, the possibilities are endless.

This workshop will review the most important fundamentals, then explore some AdWords features that most people don’t even know exist. We’ll show you how to structure your AdWords account correctly while avoiding the expensive mistakes that 90% of AdWords advertisers make.

Got questions? Bring them! The last 20 minutes will be devoted to answering as many as we can.

For more information and to register, please visit the Enterprise Center website.

 

Hans-Riemer-Headshot-214x300

About the Speaker:

Hans Riemer has over 30 years of experience in marketing and sales for technology companies, including 4 years based in Europe. He has led marketing communications and product management programs for companies like Apollo Computer, Hewlett Packard, and Novell. He served as VP of Marketing for UltiMap Corporation, and more recently as Director of Business Development and Corporate Communications for the Software Division of Hitachi Computer Products.

Hans began leveraging the Internet for marketing in 1996, when he designed and built an e-commerce website that supported secure on-line ordering for a company he co-founded. He launched his first AdWords campaigns in 2001, when clicks still cost 10 cents, which meant that getting an education was a lot cheaper than it is today.

In 2002, he founded Market Vantage and since then he and the members of his team have designed and managed hundreds of successful Internet marketing and lead generation campaigns for a wide variety of organizations.

He holds a BA degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where he studied architectural design as an undergraduate followed by graduate studies in computer science.

what-the-pros-know

Google AdWords Workshop – What the Pros Know

Join us on Thursday, March 12th from 8-10am for a free workshop: what-the-pros-knowGoogle AdWords – What the Pros Know. The interactive presentation will be led by Hans Riemer, President of Market Vantage.

Location: East Boston Savings Bank, 67 Prospect Street, Peabody, MA.

For more information and to register, please visit the Enterprise Center website.

box-of-chocolates

Google AdWords is Like a Box of Chocolates

With apologies to Forrest Gump, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, sometimes Google AdWords is like a box of chocolates. “You never know what you’re gonna get.” Here are some examples:box-of-chocolates

How Much Should You Budget for Clicks?

How big a box of chocolates can you afford? Google provides a Keyword Planner tool inside of AdWords that can help you explore keyword ideas, and get informed on approximate search frequency and cost per click. However, as they say in the automobile business, “Your mileage will vary.” The tool provides search frequencies for Exact Match impressions only. Your Impression Share, Ad Position and Click-Through-Rate will determine how many of those Impressions can turn into Clicks, and your Quality Score and bid will have an enormous bearing on what each click will cost.

Trying to estimate a budget for clicks before turning your campaigns on is bound to be frustrating and somewhat futile. You really have to dive into the pool to see how you like the water.

Precise Targeting is a Cost Saver, Right?

Does your love prefer dark, bittersweet chocolates or something on the sweeter, lighter side? AdWords gives you an enormous array of choices when it comes to targeting your ads to the right audience. The simple, default solution is Broad Matching on keywords and allowing Google to run ads on both Search and Display Network, which is probably not a good idea. Here’s why.

Most people assume that choosing a popular, Broad Match search term consisting of one or two words will cost far more per click than an Exact Match search term that’s longer and offers more precision. You may also think that targeting your ads to the entire country will cost more per click than targeting a limited geography. Both assumptions are generally false. Therefore, you need to calculate the savings of tighter targeting (generally better quality clicks) against the additional cost per click to see which approach is most cost effective in your situation.

Testing Your Way to Success

Want to avoid those nasty, coconut-filled surprises? Apologies to our coconut fans out there, but you’re in the minority! AdWords provides a great platform for testing and trying out new ideas, such as search terms, matching options, ad copy and landing page copy & layout. Maybe your ads do better on mobile devices than desktops. Set a budget you can live with and take a few calculated shots. It shouldn’t take long to see what’s working and what isn’t, although figuring out why something isn’t working and what to do about it does take experience.

Here at Market Vantage, we don’t claim to be able to solve any problems in your romantic life. But we can help you get your online marketing to perform more effectively. Let us know how we can help.

Google-Ad-Preview

Do You Check Your Search Engine Rankings and Ad Positions?

For years, we’ve heard this refrain from business people. “We need to show up at the top of the search engines for [insert keyword].” Even though a lot more goes into online marketing success than simply being ranked at the top of the search results, it’s easy to get focused on this particular issue, Google-Ad-Preview-Toolsometimes to the exclusion of other matters that could, in fact, impact your business more.

In some cases, focusing too much on your search engine rankings can actually set you back. This is true whether you’re concerned with organic rank, or you just want to make sure your ads are showing up where and when they should. Let’s examine why this is so.

Google, Bing and the other search engines exist to connect people (users) with information. They monetize this valuable service by selling ad clicks next to the search results. Advertisers like the PPC model because they pay only when someone clicks their ad.

Unsurprisingly, search engines are very interested in making money and they make it through ad clicks. If you want proof, just look at what happens if a PPC ad you’re running has a low CTR (Click-Through-Rate, the ratio of Impressions to Clicks).   Your Quality Score plummets, CPC (Cost-Per-Click) shoots up, your ad position drops like a rock, and you soon find your ad on Page 2 or beyond no matter how much you increase your bid.

Whenever you check to see if your ad is running, you don’t click on your ad because, of course, that would cost money. But by triggering an ad impression without a click, you are lowering your CTR. Over time, this will drive up your CPC when someone really DOES click your ad.

It makes sense if you think about it because every time your ad shows up on the search results page without generating a click, it costs the search engine money. Your ad is taking up prime real estate, and perhaps preventing another, more successful ad from showing.

The search engines are keenly aware that a high volume of searches are conducted solely to check organic ranking and ad positions. Some estimates indicate that as many as 40% of searches are conducted to investigate ranking and ad positions. This places an enormous burden on the search engine’s infrastructure costs that go into delivering search results in a fraction of a second.

If enough searches are conducted from one IP address, search engines may require entering a Captcha to continue access. In cases such as the use of an automated bot, an IP address can be blocked from accessing a search engine entirely for some period of time.

Google provides a free Ad Preview Tool for checking ad positions. This tool is also useful for checking organic rankings. It provides a generic, non-personalized results page and can easily be adjusted to show search results in any geography. For example, someone in Boston can search for “pizza shops” but set the tool’s location to Boise Idaho and see results that would appear if they were actually in Boise. The search results and ads on the page are not clickable. There doesn’t seem to be a limit imposed on its use. Best of all, using the tool does not increase the ad Impression count, so you can check on things without affecting Quality Scores or CTR.

To access the tool, enter “ad preview tool” in the search box and click on the first link. You don’t need an AdWords account to use the tool. One limitation of Google’s Ad Preview Tool is that it does not display ad sitelinks, but the rest of the ad is there in the correct position.

Finally, keep in mind that search results are personalized these days. What you see when you perform a search is not necessarily what someone else will see. In an effort to make your search experience relevant and efficient, search engines have made huge strides in taking your location, your browsing history and your previous search activities into account in an effort to present you with results that are customized to your needs. Being logged in to your Google account can alter your search results on Google as well. Semantic search, where each query in a series of searches builds upon the previous queries, or where the search engine returns actual answers instead of a list of pages that might have the answers, is a new and fascinating example of this capability.

In summary, there are costs associated with checking your search rank and ad positions. Our recommendation is to play it safe and use the Ad Preview Tool when your curiosity gets the best of you.

Adwords-Management

Professional AdWords Management – Should You Hire an Expert?

Adwords-ManagementWe get letters in the mail from Google from time to time. You probably do too.

Typically, it arrives in the form of an envelope that is sized like a greeting card or invitation. There’s a card inside that starts with the headline, “How to get your business to show up on Google.”

As you unfold the card, you discover the pitch in just a few steps:

  • Run an ad. An easy-to-create Google ad that we’ll only show to people who are actively searching your area for exactly what you have to offer.
  • How? Simply pick a business category, write your ad and set a budget.
  • The details. How it works. What it costs.
  • Why? Prospective customers search by topic, and you are missing out.

Each panel contains just one or two dozen words. The take-aways are:

  • AdWords is extremely simple. If you need help, call our toll-free support. We’ll even set the whole thing up for you if you like.
  • AdWords is risk-free. You only pay when someone clicks your ad. Plus, you can set a budget as high or as low as you wish. There’s even a discount coupon.

The message is clean and simple – lots of white space. Very compelling. Doesn’t every business want to show up at the top of Google searches?

Run-An-AdThose of you who have managed AdWords accounts or have been reading our blog know that AdWords is a fascinating, but complex online advertising platform. If you follow the defaults, your account will contain a large number of broad matched keywords which seems appropriate until you see what people actually typed. Your ads will appear on search results, where you expect them to, but they will also appear in that immense parallel dimension called the Display Network.

Somehow, like magic, your daily budget will be consumed, which means your site will be getting visitors. But most likely, very little of that traffic will turn into business.

The simple explanation is a mismatch of objectives.

Google’s objectives are to sell you clicks, as many as you’re willing to pay for. That’s why they send you notices from time to time with suggestions on how to get more clicks. Of course, more clicks will require increasing your budget.

Your objective is to attract focused, quality prospects — ideally decision makers with an appropriate budget — to your website.

One of these things is not like the other. If you go the easy route and let Google set up your account for you, whose objectives do you think will come first?

I recently attended a three-day seminar with over 100 of the sharpest minds in the AdWords universe. These were A-players with years of experience and thousands of campaigns under their belts. Someone asked, “What percentage of AdWords campaigns you come across are losing money?” In other words, the money that is spent on clicks in non-professionally managed accounts is more than the profit that’s generated. The consensus in the room pointed somewhere above 80%. Further discussion revealed that many AdWords users don’t even know whether their account is generating a profit or not. That’s really inexcusable.

Our own experience over ten years, looking at thousands of campaigns other people have set up, tracks pretty closely to those numbers. We’ve seen maybe two where we congratulated the person and told them they didn’t need to change a thing. The rest ranged from wasting some money to being completely egregious.

Look, we’re not saying that AdWords is bad. Quite the opposite. It’s the most flexible, configurable, trackable lead generation engine ever invented. But it certainly isn’t simple. Under its placid surface lies an almost endless array of choices and configuration settings, most of which are set by default to benefit Google, not you, the advertiser.

Hiring experienced, professional PPC management costs money on top of what you’re already paying for clicks. But depending on your skill level and the competition in your niche, it may save you money.

Ad-Preview

Google Ad Preview Tool

 

If you advertise using Google AdWords, you want to know where your ad will be positioned and how itPreview looks on the search results page.  Typing your keyword into Google Search will allow you to do this. However there is a “cost” associated with this action, even when you don’t click on your ad.  If you look at the page showing your ad, you generate an impression for your ad. When impressions go up but the number of clicks doesn’t, it reduces your Click-Through-Rate (CTR). A reduced CTR negatively impacts your Quality Score, which can cause Google to raise your Cost Per Click. But if you click on your ad, in order to improve your CTR, then you will have to pay for that click.

As an advertiser, you also may want to see how your ads appear in different locations, such as other parts of the country, or even in a different country.

In either situation, the best way to see your ad is to use a free tool that Google provides; an online tool aptly named the Google Ad Preview Tool. This tool allows you to “search for your ad just like you would on a regular Google search results page, without accruing any impressions.”

The Ad Preview tool is very simple to use. For instance, if your keyword is ski poles and you sell them in the Denver, CO, area, then you type the keyword and the location. Below are screenshots of the search page and the results displayed.

Click here to access the tool.

Search Page

Google-Ad-Preview-Tool-search-page1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Results Page

Google-Ad-Preview-Tool-results-page

 

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Important New Google AdWords Privacy Requirements

Google-Adwords-Secure100X100Google has announced a new set of requirements for AdWords advertisers that go into effect on May 17, 2011. If you use AdWords to drive clicks to your website and you collect any kind of personal or financial information on your website, then these rules will apply to you.

Google will require AdWords advertisers to disclose the following before a person is asked to enter information on the site:

  1. How personal or financial information will be used.
  2. How users can opt-out later.
  3. That you use SSL security for collecting certain personal or financial data.

Google provides examples of what they mean by personal and financial information here.

You can read Google’s announcement, dated May 4, 2011, regarding the new policy here.