Monday, June 23, 2008

Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) – Do’s and Don’ts

If you are new to PPC (Pay Per Click), you may find the whole process a little daunting. You’re not alone – it can be confusing if you don’t do your research.

The way I look at it, you have 3 options:

  1. The big 3 (Yahoo, MSN and Google) have services available to help you with your campaign.
  2. You can hire a reputable firm to help you with your SEM (that can cost you a bundle).
  3. You can do the a little research and try your hand at it.

I worked for a company that practiced a couple of the options listed above as well as just blindly going at it on their own (without researching).

What happened?

When they first signed up, their CTR (Click Through Rate) was non-existent. They barely had any impressions and not one person clicked through to their website.
Result: Google canceled their campaign for them.

Next, they signed on with a high profile SEM (Search Engine Marketing) firm and paid roughly seven thousand a month for advice and management of the campaign as well as their advertising dollars that they had budgeted per month (another thirty thousand).
Result: They spent a ton of money to have many visitors to their website, but the ROI (Return on Investment) was a big bust!

Moving forward, they decided to just pay the search engine team to manage the campaign. It was cheaper than the former option, however the search engine team didn’t really manage the campaign quite as closely as they would have liked.
Result: More money spent, less than desirable outcome.

Finally, with a little research – they managed the campaign in-house, reduced the amount spent per day and cut out the middleman.
Result: Their conversion rates increased and the ROI improved.

It wasn’t the easiest route, but it certainly was the wisest. An important factor was that they paid attention to their analytics and search results, used campaign ad variations as well as landing pages and they did A/B testing.

With a little research, you too can take control of your PPC advertising. You don’t need to pay an expert. If you do decide to go with an expert, be on the lookout for a company that is bringing more traffic to your site without converting. If that’s the case, you are just paying to have more people visit your site but you aren’t making any sales. Every time someone clicks on your ad in a search result, you are being charged for that visit. If they aren’t contacting, leaving their email address or purchasing your product, you are throwing your money away!

5 Steps to taking control of your PPC advertising:

  1. Tracking. You need to track the results of your ad campaigns and find which ad groups are working for you. The search engine provides you with CTR’s, but you’ll need to check your analytics to see where they went from there. The tracking needs to be at keyword level so that you can tell which ones are working for you.
  2. Testing. You need to split test your ads. A tiny change can make a huge difference. Is your call to action producing results? You can optimize the title, copy text and url to improve your CTR.
  3. Utilizing negative keywords. Removing unnecessary words that don’t pertain to your product or service will limit the number of CTR’s that aren’t relevant – resulting in using up your ad dollars quickly.
  4. Relevant ads. If you use the same keywords for all of your ads, you won’t know which ones are working with which ads. It’s better to split them up.
  5. Geographical targeting (Geo Targeting). The big 3 allow you to target your keywords to your biggest performing areas. If you are selling sheepskin boots and your sales come from colder regions, you can target those areas for those keywords.
I’m a big fan of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in conjunction with PPC. I believe you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

You can do a Google search for some PPC tutorials and get started learning how to manage your campaigns to produce great results. If you consistently monitor your campaigns and analytics, you’ll know soon enough if this form of SEM is working for you.

Good luck!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Martin Fire in Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz County

Unfortunately we have another fire here in Santa Cruz County. They are calling it "The Martin Fire".

It's in the Bonny Doon area near Boulder Creek.
It has been a few hours and it has already grown to 50 acres and 1400 people have been evacuated.

Officials expect it to grow to 1,000 acres quickly.

The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at San Lorenzo Middle School in Felton.

I just went outside and took these pictures to share. This one is even closer than the Summit fire to us.

We've heard that Gary Meehan from Bonny Doon Farms is out with hoses trying to save his business.

For local news coverage you can check out KSBW.

I created a Google Map of the Martin Fire in Bonny Doon and I plan to update with pictures and information. Just click on the fire icon and you'll see images and updates from Scotts Valley.


Friday, June 6, 2008

What is an RSS feed?

Today’s post is for those of you who aren’t sure what an RSS feed is, how you can use one and what the advantages of RSS feeds are.

For those of you “In the Know” who regularly read (and subscribe to my RSS feed) and who are involved in businesses that revolve around the Internet, websites, blogging and articles – I’d love for you to leave your feedback or advice to newbie’s in the comments!

When I spoke at the Monterey Bay Consultants Group in April about blogging, I remember one of the questions asked from the group was, “Who has time to check and read all of these blogs?” It was a great question. I answered the question with my method of deciding which blog posts to read and that is by looking at my RSS feed. Some of the members of the group had no idea what I was talking about. I then took the opportunity to explain to them what it is and how I use it.

Let me break it down as simple as possible for you here:

RSS stands for “Real Simple Syndication” and people use “RSS feeds” to distribute and gather information from throughout the Internet. If you have content on your website or blog that you are continually updating, you can set up an RSS feed for the information. Subscribers to your RSS feed can then receive your updates via their “RSS feed reader”. That still sounds confusing doesn’t it? Let me go further into it…

Let’s say you are into celebrity gossip and you love to know what’s going on all the time (I know, it’s shallow – but the best example I could think of that the majority of readers can relate to). Every day you visit,, and many of the other celebrity gossip sites. You could spend all day sifting through the many posts and all the content to get to the information that you personally are interested in. With an RSS feed reader, you could be updated continually with the posts from all of the sites in one place and click on only the ones you would like to read.

I’m sure you’ve seen the standard orange “RSS” symbol. Usually, where you see that symbol, that’s where you’ll click to “Subscribe” to a feed. When you subscribe to a feed, you can then send the feed to your “Reader”.

Readers” are also known as “Feed Aggregator”, “Feed Reader”, “News Reader” or just “Aggregator”. These readers are web applications or software, which aggregate syndicated web content including podcasts, blogs and news headlines all in one location so you can easily view them.

I currently use Google Reader. It lets me know when the blogs that I read have new posts and I can choose which ones to click on and read the stories I am interested in. Since my work involves the Internet, industry news is of particular importance to me and I keep updated by reading several blogs daily, however – I only read the stories that pertain to my niche.

Before RSS feeds were readily available, it took hours every day to keep up with industry news. Now I can get all of my information much more quickly and skip the information that I don’t need.

As a site or blog owner, how can having an RSS feed help you? Well, if you are trying to drive traffic to your website by using content such as new articles and posts, having an RSS feed available of your new items for your visitors to subscribe to will make life easier for them (as explained above).

You can also place RSS feeds from industry related sites directly on your website or blog in order to provide your visitors with even more information.

If you are using blog software, you can automatically place an RSS feed subscription button on your site, they all come with them. If you would like to create an RSS feed from your website content (perhaps your articles section), you can easily create one and just add a snippet of code to your site to get going. Most of them have detailed instructions and tutorials for you.
In conclusion, if you’re not using RSS, it’s time you got on board – time is money!