What SEOs Must Learn from Adwords Folks

by SEOMoz

AdWords folks. They’re the traders of the online marketing world. They spend their time analyzing scoreboards, making little improvements and brainstorming their next ideas. They split-test their ideas, scale the best and ditch the best. In a world where scarce resources force them to make choices over budget, positioning and copy, they’re having to think totally differently to SEOs.

Rand posted back in 2008 about the disconnect between PPC spending and SEO spending. Despite the well documented differences in results, PPC is a science from the outset, but SEO still leaves lots to chance. AdWords folks live-and-die by the following five rules. Today, you’re going to learn how to adopt them as an SEO and win:

Perry Marshall once said that advertising is “one of the world’s most wasteful and deceptive industries” since results from campaigns are so difficult to track. In an online world with universally simple, yet sophisticated analytics available, it’s a totally different ball-game.

Sure, you understand the concept of profit and yes it is the end goal, but not in the same way as AdWords folks where not making money is an unforgivable sin from the word go. SEO and Social Media agencies can still charge $5k for a campaign that may or may not affect the client’s bottom line (spending is speculative), but an AdWords account manager can’t spend $5 without being accountable for every penny. AdWords clients can see what money is being spent on, and the results – there’s no excuse anymore.

We’re in the business of making money; whilst SEOs can be accountable, PPC folks are always accountable. We need to emulate PPC guys.

You’ve used Google Analytics, but do you really know how to apply custom filters, advanced segmentation and setup tracking. Take Google’s Conversion University course, take the exam and prove it to yourself.

Get yourself used to regular feedback. Computer games master this regular ‘pat on the back’ – get Geckoboard or some equivalent setup to feedback regular metrics that matter.

Pour through your Google Webmaster Tools, especially the ‘Search queries’ tab which gives similar statistics to what AdWords folks see on their dashboard.

Next up, rule #2…

PPC is still an investment – with each visitor (potential customer) you gain more and more user data. Direct marketers are conditioned to split-test mailings and harvest data to make continual improvements; AdWords and other PPC services make this even easier.

Tim Ferris used AdWords tests to name his book, ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, knowing he’d get more ‘instinctual’ responses than the perhaps group-influenced results from a focus group (plus, AdWords is so much more scalable).

Yes, we spend our time doing tests, but we need to experiment like AdWords guys do as well, agonizing over their campaigns titles and numbers month on month. We don’t talk about swipe files enough in SEO. When was the last time you tried editing and testing your title tags to improve your click-through rate?

Go through your bookmarks and draw together a list organized by factor of your favourite, most inspirational sites for improving your SEO. Rand’s Head-to-Head Presentation from ProSEO Boston consisted of little more than showing off his awesome swipe file and his concept mashup.

Conversion rate optimizers put together awesome guides like this to help you on your website. Use the same tips and tactics to brainstorm and implement tests on your onpage SEO.

Rule #3 next…

Use words carefully.

In the business of signup forms, calls to action, headlines, sub-headlines, and AdWords advertising copy… few words make a huge impact. As well as being the most viewed pieces content, often the content that most influences your visitors.

Joshua Porter is an interface designer you need to be aware of. His advice – “The fastest way to improve your interface is to improve your copywriting” – applies just as much to your search campaign.

Start with these basics for understanding microcopy.

Look through all your title tags via SEOmoz PRO app or by downloading them with Xenu. Can you make them more relevant to your users? Can you add more trigger words?

Phew! The last-but-one rule…

SEO is like having an unlimited AdWords budget that harvests ~85% of the clicks from a given SERP, but that’s a mixed blessing. Scarce resources, like a PPC budget force you to choose and optimize your input for maximum gain. Economics 101 in action.

Its like the difference between a funded startup and a bootstrapped startup. Jason Fried of 37signals explains the first thing a bootstrapped company has to do is turn a profit – or the owners go hungry – whereas the funded startup needs to spend the money first.

The PPC guy has to figure out and test where the money is, or they go hungry too…

Bad times. Picture via Declubz

Don’t think of SEO as an unlimited AdWords budget, but as an expanded AdWords campaign. The profit discipline has still got to be there. Although SEO doesn’t have direct costs-per-click, but it still is very expensive in terms of time. The trouble is it’s too easy to spend time like you’ve got waiting on the results later. Don’t.

37signals plan on ‘what takes two weeks’. They expect results at the end of that. If something isn’t possible in two weeks, the task is too big (cut it up instead) or focus on something that will deliver results. You need to watch this video like your next meal depends on it.

Apply some 80-20 analysis to your SEO spending (both time and money). Where’s the most money coming from? So if I cancelled 80% of next month’s SEO budget, would you still meet your numbers?

And finally…

“Revenue’s Vanity. Profit’s Sanity.” The same principles apply to search – traffic is vanity. Yes, it makes you feel good but you can’t go to the bank with traffic figures. You only need highly-targeted visitors that convert into customers.

When you’re paying for each visitor to your website, boy are you going to try to extract the most value from each visitor. Not every visitor is a “hot” lead, so gaining their permission to follow up is essential. AdWords guys recognize the power of opt-in landing pages and follow-up marketing.

Whilst landing pages used in a PPC campaign might not be the most linkable content, it is still important to build content that engages visitors in the prospecting process.

Brainstorm alternative methods to maximize the value of your current search traffic. How can you capture their email address, and lead them to a sale? Is the offer not right for them? How can you link in alternative offers?

Closing Thoughts

AdWords is not expensive search marketing. It’s direct marketing on steroids, and direct marketers appear to be the smartest guys in the business. It’s a no-brainer to study them and apply what they know to SEO. So I may have accidentally, on purpose, published my public to-do list for getting good at SEO. And it’s not like enough homework has been set already…!

The beauty of SEO is it combines the creative, artistic side of marketing with the rigorous, science that is online marketing; what do you think? Is it worth peaking over the shoulders of our comrades in paid search?

5 Simple Ways to Improve Your AdWords Performance

Posted by Dan Friedman, Inside AdWords crew

With the recent international launches of the Ad Innovations site, we want to take a minute to call out a few simple things you can do to quickly improve the performance of your AdWords ads. Give the tips below a try and see how our Ad Innovations can improve your performance.

  1. Enable Ad Sitelinks
  2. Ad Sitelinks allow you to extend the value of your existing AdWords ads by providing additional links to specific, relevant content deeper within your site. Rather than sending all users to the same landing page, Ad Sitelinks will display up to four additional destination URLs for users to choose from. On average, advertisers see a 30% increase in clickthrough rate (CTR) for the same ads with Ad Sitelinks.

  3. Optimize your ad text for longer headlines
  4. We recently made a change to top ads that allows you to display more information where it’s most likely to be noticed–in the headline. By taking information from the first description line and moving it to the headline, we found that we’re able to create a better user experience and improve advertiser performance. In fact, ads with longer headlines receive a 6% average increase in CTR compared to the same ads with a standard headline and description. To increase the chances that your ad will appear with the longer headline, make sure that description line 1 is a complete phrase or sentence and ends in punctuation (e.g., a period or question mark). Before: After:

  5. Link a Google Places account to a campaign to show location extensions
  6. Location extensions allow you to extend your AdWords campaigns by dynamically attaching your business address to your ads. In addition to the description lines and URL that appear in your ad text, your ad can also display your business name, address, and phone number. This helps promote your business brand, products, and services and associates your business with a specific location of interest to the user.

    By linking a Google Places account to your AdWords ads, you can quickly and easily make sure all your location information is available when it’s most relevant.

  7. Get reviewed to show Seller Rating Extensions
  8. Seller rating extensions make it easier for potential customers to identify highly-rated merchants when they’re searching on Google.com by attaching your merchant star rating from Google Product Search to your AdWords ads. These star ratings, aggregated from review sites all around the web, allow people to find merchants that are highly recommended by online shoppers like them. On average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17% higher CTR than the same ads without ratings.

    If your online store is rated in Google Product Search, you have four or more stars, and you have at least thirty reviews, you’ll automatically get seller ratings with your ads. If you have high customer satisfaction, then make sure we know about it:

  • Regularly ask your users for reviews (e.g., in confirmation emails after purchases)
  • Make it easy for users to review you–include links to your site’s page on the third-party review sites used by Seller Rating Extensions.

  • Link a Merchant Center account to a campaign to show product extensions
  • Product extensions are a way for you to enrich your existing AdWords ads with more relevant and specific information about your retail merchandise. Product extensions allow you to use your existing Google Merchant Center account to highlight your products directly in your search ads.

    With product extensions, you’re charged the same cost-per-click (CPC) whether a user clicks on your main text ad or any of the offers within the product extensions plusbox.
    Of course, you can always learn about the many additional AdWords innovations by visiting the Ad Innovations website and subscribing for the latest updates.

    Introducing free phone support for Google AdWords advertisers

    Posted by Francoise Brougher, VP, Global Advertising and Product Operations

    We’ve worked hard to keep in touch with our AdWords customers and we’re always looking for new ways to support you. Currently we offer email and online support, and today we’re launching free phone support for all of our U.S. and Canada-based AdWords customers. When you have a question about your account or advertising campaigns, you can now call an AdWords specialist if you prefer.

    We’re adding phone support for a simple reason: you asked for it! You told us that while you appreciate online resources like our AdWords Help Center, you also want the option to get live, expert support when you need it. We heard you, and got to work assembling a team of AdWords experts to answer your calls.

    The new phone option is one of many tools that can help you succeed with AdWords—and (most importantly!) find even more customers. You can also email us, or learn from other advertisers in the AdWords Help Forum. Our AdWords Online Classroom offers free online courses on a wide variety of AdWords topics, from the basics to great tips to take your account to the next level.

    To speak to one of our specialists, give us a call at 1-866-2-Google between Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm Eastern Time. This number is for current AdWords advertisers only, so please make sure you have your customer ID ready. We look forward to speaking to you and learning more about your business.

    We will roll phone support out to international advertisers in the coming months.

    Minor Changes in Google Adwords

    AdWords Updates: Search Ad Display URL Changes; Negative Keywords Lists
    By Danny Goodwin on Tuesday, Jan 11 2:06 PM

    The domain portion of your display URL for all ads appearing on Google’s search results pages will begin appearing in all lowercase letters within the next week, Google announced yesterday. Standardizing the look of the URLs improved click-through rates, according to Google’s Lisa Shieh.

    Read more…