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Google’s new Offline Conversion API

Happy 2013!

It may look like we’ve been loyal to the Mayan calendar, but we’ve just been busy internally over the holidays and didn’t blog.

Google has also been busy in 2013, retiring the old Offline Conversions APIs (both the Javascript and Python versions were retired in November 2012), and beginning a new Offline Conversions import service within the DoubleClick Search brand.

This announcement has been subject to both good and bad press, typically depending on the technical skills/depth of knowledge of the story writer.

Most writers looking for the worst possible scenario chose to doubt Google’s privacy controls, and boldly suggest there will be problems due to data aggregation.

Google’s DoubleClick service explicitly states:

“Advertisers are prohibited from sending personally identifiable information using this feature, as outlined by the Terms of Service for the API.”

Further to that there are lots of assumptions being made about who can supply data, who has access, and what data is relevant. In one article they just tossed in a mention that the data could be ‘decrypted’ by 3rd parties/or government agencies with nothing to back that claim up.

To help understand the role of this service lets look at a typical use case:

  • You sell widgets.
  • Your website has online ordering.
  • You also have a physical store.
  • Clients are finding items online, but buying them in person.

So if you are basing your promotion efforts on Web based analytics, you will be in the dark as to what promotions drove the clients to come to the store and make a purchase.

Unless Google gave you an interface with which to send them transaction info on offline sales?

Lets see how that would work:

  • A Google user is searching for widgets.
  • Google puts a PPC Ad on the page promoting your widgets.
  • The user clicks on the Ad, and looks up ‘Blue Widget # 42′.
  • 2 hours later, your in-store till sells 2 ‘Blue Widget # 42′s.
  • The till sends “2 x Blue Widget # 42″ to Google as ‘sold’.

That’s it, Google now can relate the pay per click advertisement as relevant to the sale of the widget, and you have more info on how well that advertisement worked.

This also works very well with telephone based sales, especially if you are in a position to use specific phone numbers, or extensions, to narrow down how the call came about.

So while some folks are very concerned about how much companies will know about them when companies start comparing notes, that’s not the situation here at all.

Companies have been comparing notes for years, without the help of Google. Just think about the shopping trends that you reveal when you use an Air Miles card?

Google only wants to help reduce unwanted/ineffective advertising and reduce the amount of money businesses spend to reach potential clients.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:46 pm on January 3, 2013


 

Red-Handed Face-Palm

Facebook is making headlines again, but not the kind that Mark Zuckerberg would like.
Mark Zuckerberg looking unhappy
Earlier this week ‘Limited Run’, an e-commerce developer that used Facebook as part of it’s start-up media campaign, posted a report on their findings of click-through data from their Facebook ads.

The data that Limited Run shared was a bit startling. In their own words:
Facebook was charging us for clicks, yet we could only verify about 20% of them actually showing up on our site.

Since data is all about who’s looking at it or how someone looks at it, the folks at Limited Run signed into a ‘handful’ of other tracking services and found the exact same thing.

At this point you have a web developer who is very curious about something going on with their web traffic, so naturally they built an analytics system for their own site:
Here’s what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging us for, JavaScript wasn’t on … in all of our years of experience, only about 1-2% of people coming to us have JavaScript disabled, not 80% like these clicks coming from Facebook.

Limited Run is a start-up company, and the publicity from being the first to catch Facebook with it’s hand in the proverbial cookie jar of advertising money would certainly help ensure the company’s run isn’t so limited.

Even still Limited Run was VERY careful to point out that there is little to no way of proving that Facebook is behind the bot -> ad traffic.

They are however dropping Facebook’s advertising and their company page on FB because of a claim that FB was unwilling to assist them with a name change, “because they weren’t actively paying for $2k or more in campaigns”.

Plus if 80% of the traffic from an advertising source is fake, and you have to pay for 100% of it, there’s better ways to promote your company.

So as this was a smaller advertiser, not someone spending millions of ad revenue on Facebook, we took it as a one-off issue, until this morning when Forbes posted a link to an article on Macleans.ca about “blank” image advertising tests on Facebook.

The gist of the piece is that a blank image test actually netted double the clicks of a static banner style image (think a logo or some non-promotion/non-offer) and only one click in ten thousand less than the average banner ad.

Web Trends even jumped in to do some testing on the clicks to see if there was some sort of curious appeal to clicking on a blank image and by using heat maps and quizzes they confirmed that the traffic is not human.

Facebook makes %85 of it’s ~$2.2 billion revenue from advertising traffic, and 14%-19% of FB revenue is from Zynga, a company that is suddenly involved in a stock crash scandal.
Mark Pincus - Founder of Zynga Games
If you hadn’t heard, just prior to some ugly profit reports for the company, the company Founder Mark Pincus, and key members of company, cashed out over $516 million in shares!

Zynga share prices are currently at $2.83 each, way down from the $10 initial share price, and miles away from the $14.69 peak price of the company’s stock.

It would appear for now that both companies have some explaining to do, and some problems to solve. For the users/subscribers this should be a wake up call on where you are spending your time and your advertising budgets.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:28 am on August 1, 2012


 

Yahoo Axis – What the Flock?

I had a friend working on the Flock browser team right until it lost momentum and became clear that it was too much, too soon…

Amy's Winehouse - Too soon?

Here we go again with a new ‘all-in-one’ web browser concept, this time from a very big name?

**Update: Turns out that the leaks were really just rumors. This hype mill is a ‘googol‘ times more intense than it should be considering this is ‘just a plugin’ (unless you count Apple devices).

 

Paul Rudd doing the Double Take
Yahoo..? New?!?

Microsoft owns Yahoo right? So if Yahoo is releasing a new browser + a suite of browser plugins for people who refuse to switch browsers, what’s going on?

Well apparently giving people the option to ‘choose’ MSN/Bing/Yahoo wasn’t working out so well. Now you can run a browser or a plugin that removes that annoying hassle of choosing who’s search services you are using.

Y’know how Firefox and Chrome allow you to sign-in to your browser letting you seamlessly move from one location to the next? Yeah Axis is going to break ground and re-invent the web by also doing that same thing.

Y’know how Google is showing you previews of the sites you’re considering visiting within the search results? Yep Axis will finally let you do that, again.

Is this even a new browser or just IE9 with some ‘fluff’ and Yahoo branding? Tonight we will get a chance to try it hands-on and find out, but for now we have a few videos we can watch over on Yahoo Video.

One of the points my Economics teacher used to hammer home is to view each promotion as the promoter relating to their target audience.

If you have a good product with a smart client base, you can sell your product by focusing on real traits and strengths. Just demonstrate the product and avoid all pointless elements that distract the consumer from your product information.

Enjoy those videos and the clever/unique symbolism that hasn’t been copied too many times since Apple used it in 1984. :)

Does this mean Bing/Yahoo rankings will be important?

Who ever said they weren’t important? Okay, well expert opinions aside, you should never burn the Bing bridge, especially not with cell phones that default to Bing and new versions of Windows that also default to Bing.

It’s never wise to put all your eggs in one basket, and this is true of search engine placement/rankings as well as eggs.

Even if Yahoo Axis only manages a week of public attention, that’s one week of people around the planet searching Bing for a change.

If you rank really well on Google, we’re not going to suggest you intentionally tank your rankings for a short-term gain on Bing. The cost of recovering from such a move would probably be far more than simply paying for some pay-per-click coverage via Microsoft’s AdCenter.

There’s already folks worried about ‘Yahoo’ impressions vs. Bing impressions and the following advice has been posted in the AdCenter help forum:

1) You are currently bidding on broad match only, add phrase and exact match to your bidding structure.
2) Look at keywords with low quality score and optimize for those specifically.
3) Install the MAI tool and check on expected traffic for adCenter, you can also see what average bids are for specific positions.

Only 7 Days Left!

7 DAYS LEFT!

 

Talk about old news? I mentioned this just 2 days ago?!

We still have 7 days left in our Beanstalk Minecraft Map Competition! Check it out and even if you’re not entering, please let others know it’s coming to a close and we need all submissions by the 31st!

SEO news blog post by @ 10:03 am on May 24, 2012


 

$200 In AdWords Coupons

Frequently we get sent AdWords coupons from Google.  You’ll have often seen offers for $50 in free credits (if nowhere else than from your hosting company I’m sure) but we’ve recently received 2 such coupon codes for $100 each.  We generally keep them for clients but as we’re currently not taking on clients … they’re going to be going to waste as they expire tomorrow.  Since we know a lot of our readers are doing online marketing now just might be a good time to add in AdWords if you don’t already.

The coupons are for $100 each, they expire on March 31st and I believe they’re only good on new campaigns.  I can confirm that they don’t work on campaigns where a coupon code has been entered previously.  Can’t blame us for trying Google. :)

So if you’d like to launch into a campaign feel free to use one of these coupon codes for a $100 credit:

3RXN-ETQL-9SAS-MJYM-T8G
or
KUF3-E7F8-CNG7-Q4SV-HB8

 

SEO news blog post by @ 11:08 am on March 30, 2012

Categories:adwords

 

Webcology Year In Review

For those interested in what some of the top minds of SEO, SEM, Mobile Marketing and Social Media have to say about 2011 and maybe more importantly – what they see coming in 2012 then Thursday’s Webcology is a must listen.  Hosted on WebmasterRadio.fm, Jim Hedger and I will be hosting 2 separate round-tables with 5 guests each over 2 hours covering everything from Panda to personalization; mobile growth to patent applications.  It’s going to be a fast-paced show with something for everyone.

The show will be airing live from 2PM EST until 4PM EST on Thursday December 22nd.  If you catch it live you’ll have a chance to join the chat room and ask questions of your own but if you miss it you still have an opportunity to download the podcast a couple days later.  I don’t often focus this blog on promoting the radio show I co-host but with the lineup we have including SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin, Search Engine Watch’s Jonathan Allen and Mike Grehan, search engine patent guru Bill Slawski and many more talented and entertaining Internet Marketing experts it’s definitely worth letting our valued blog visitors know about it. And if you’re worried it might just be a quiet discussion, Terry Van Horne is joining us to insure that doesn’t happen.  Perhaps I’ll ask him a question or two about his feelings about Schema.org (if you listen to the show … you’ll quickly get why this is funny). :)

So tune in tomorrow at 2PM EST at http://www2.webmasterradio.fm/webcology/, be sure to join the chat room to let us know your thoughts and enjoy.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:32 pm on December 21, 2011


 

Understanding the Adwords auction process

As online advertising continues to be a more prominent source of revenue for both big and small businesses the importance of Google’s Adwords advertising program has also increased, emerging as the premiere method of advertising on the internet. Despite this rise in useage, many businesses still lack a thorough understanding of exactly how the Adwords process works, which is to say, they are likely spending a significant amount of advertising money on something they do not completely understand. No wonder then that many campaigns are not nearly as successful as they could and should be.

Yesterday, Wordstream released a Google Adwords specific infographic in which the Adwords auction process is explained for potential clients in an easy to follow presentation. The infographic illustrates precisely how Google determines which ads will be shown and how much money the ads will cost (click image for full printable version).


While the infographic is relatively easy to follow and understand, a simple explanation of Adwords can be defined as follows: The Adwords auction process is structured so that all bidders can win; an Adwords bidder need only pay the minimum amount required to beat out the person below them.

When you use Adwords, your ad will appear along the very top or along the right hand side of the organic Google search engine results. The rank of your ad is directly related to your traffic and your traffic is related to a number of relevant factors:

Quality Score – Rating that search engines assign to each keyword chosen by an advertiser
Click Through Rate (or CTR) – Percentage which expresses how many people are seeing your ad and then clicking it
Bid Price – the price per keyword an advertiser is willing to spend to gain a click
Ad Relevance – Relevance of the text in an ad in relation to keyword

Also in direct relation to the factors shown above is the landing page. It makes very little sense to go through the time necessary to set up an Adwords account and attain and drive traffic that ultimately takes a user through to a page that is not relevant to the ad they’ve just clicked on – you’ve wasted their time, and worse, you’ve wasted a part of your budget. The landing page is often the ‘Achilles Heel’ of many Adwords campaigns – a sensible course of action would be to have these pages built around the following criteria:

- Easy to navigate
- Load quickly
- Keyword enriched content relevant to the searched word

Landing page relevance factors heavily into Quality Score; quality score affects cost per click (CPC) as well as eligibility in the keyword auction process.

Each step of the Google Adwords auction process informs the the next step required to build and maintain a successful Adwords campaign. If you are an advertiser considering using Adwords to expand revenue, get up to speed and ensure you have a thorough understanding of how the entire process works before you spend any time or money on a campaign. Understanding the auction process is the first step towards success.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:36 pm on November 17, 2011

Categories:adwords,Articles

 

Google Category Interest Targeting – A Powerful new tool for SEM

As an extension of online advertising, pay-per-click marketing is invaluable. While there will always be naysayers with regard to very notion of ppc campaigns being useful, the truth is, it’s an effective method for targeting the people whom you wish to see your ads, and it continues to be refined in an effort to deliver ads with exacting precision to intended and targeted traffic. A potentially very powerful update to the Google pay per click arsenal arrived recently in the form of Google Interest Category Targeting.

Interest Category Targeting means you now have the ability to reach beyond the constraints of relying on related content as a means of reaching a target audience. Before, you could rest easy knowing your ads were showing to intended target viewers on sites with content that was related to the user’s interests. But that’s where the relationship ended – when the user moved on to another unrelated page, you would no longer be able to have your ads shown unless the page they went to was somehow related in terms of content. Interest Category Targeting circumvents this issue.

Google posts that they look at the types of pages a user visits and take into account how recently those pages have been visited, as well as how frequently, and then associates that information to their browser with relevant interest categories. Using these categories, you can now show ads to the users most likely to purchase your products or services – only now you can also reach them across all types of sites in the Google Display Network, regardless of content relevance, in addition to contextually relevant sites.

Google continues to refine their profile data in an effort to make AdWords more effective, browsing habits have been researched to this end also and there are now 1700 separate categories into which a user’s relevant interests will fall. You can see for yourself how this works by visiting Google Ad Preferences (www.google.com/ads/preferences). You may be surprised at just how accurate their profiling is in regards to your likes and tastes and interests.

The feature itself is easily accessible in your Ad Words campaign by selecting the Audience tab, once you click the tab you’ll be offered the ability to add audiences – you can search, browse and select categories of interest for your ads. Especially interesting is the added feature of custom combinations, this will allow you to use an and/or/not style functionality to create behavioral opportunities for your targeting on the display network.

There are over 500 million users interested in these categories who visit the Google Display Network every day. Search engine marketers now have a very powerful and advanced tool to reach these users on an almost one to one basis with highly relevant ads. This will undoubtedly have a very noticeable and positive impact on paid search ROI.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:22 am on July 12, 2011

Categories:adwords

 

Make Your Site More Legitimate…or “PROPER!”

I came across a great post on Michael Gray’s blog (aka “GrayWolf”) where he gives some great advice on how to make your website appear more professional and legitimate by instilling visitors with confidence in your brand. I would like to expand upon some of his points and offer some other techniques for you to consider in order to bring your website to a whole new level of professionalism.

  1. Get a Real Address
  2. Get yourself a real world address and phone number and use it everywhere. Invest in a real world mailing address. Indications show that Google does give a ranking bonus to websites that have real world addresses that match their WHOis information. If you work from home and are concerned about privacy, you can obtain a mailbox rental at a local mailbox rental service such as the Mailboxes Etc. or similar.

  3. Get a Real Domain Name
  4. Nothing says “unprofessionall” like a url that is linked to your ISP. Anyone trying to promote themselves as a legitimate business with an address such as: http://members.shaw.ca/username, is not going to be successful in portraying themselves as a legitimate business. For only a few dollars a year, invest in a real domain name that accurately reflects your business.

    It is worthwhile to enlist the help of a qualified SEO to do some preliminary keyword research to ensure you are choosing an appropriate address. You can change it later, but it is always best to leave it as is from the beginning.

  5. Use Your Domain Email Addresses
  6. Once you have a real domain name, stop using you ISP email address. mycompanysales@yourisp.com is wholly unprofessional and does absolutely nothing to instill confidence in the person viewing your site. It also shows a lack of understanding of basic web hosting principles. Most people that do this are usually not aware that emails can be forwarded from you ISP to your domain email address.

    By using sale@mydomain.com or contact@mydomain.com not only makes you look more legitimate, but allows you to track incoming volumes of mail and to change the routing to recipients. It also allows for distribution lists so that multiple users can receive the same emails. For instance, you can add/remove recipients to staff@mycompany.com as employees change.

  7. Use Boiler Plate Pages
  8. It is vitally important to have pages on your website for the areas that people expect to see when visiting a business’s website. Ensure that you have an about us, contact, privacy policy, terms of service, disclaimers and similar pages where necessary. These “boilerplate” pages go a long way in proving that your site is legitimate. It is also important to make sure that you have sufficient content on these pages and clearly show you company name and logo.

  9. Brand Marketing
  10. When you factor in the value of instant product recognition that a well designed logo provides and the amount of advertising opportunities it can offer, the cost of hiring a professional designer to develop a quality logo become less of a financial concern. Once you have a professional looking logo, use it consistently in your favicon, your social media profiles and in all of your communications. You should make it easy for others to use and share your logo, but at the same time take steps to protect against trademark infringement and reputation management.

    Your company logo is a graphical representation and a declaration of who you are, what your company provides and can reflect your company’s values. It is without a doubt the single most important form of social recognition that you can employ. Even if you can say or spell McDonald’s, almost every man, woman and child understand what the golden arches represent.

  11. Use Quality Content
  12. If the content on your site does not win over your visitors, it is all for naught. You can have a great website, a winning logo and a great domain name, but well written content is still of paramount importance and by far the most effective method of instilling your customers with a sense of your company’s legitimacy.

    Develop well written content and make sure to place it on appropriate pages. Information about the company’s history and mission statement go on the “About Us” page, contact information goes under the “Contact Us” section, etc. Good content is even more crucial after the Panda algorithm update from Google. Regardless of whether or not you think your viewers read the content, nothing drives away a potentially converting client faster than poorly written copy.

  13. Update Your Website
  14. By engaging in updates to the content of your site, it shows visitors that you are an active participant and that you are committed to providing an interactive customer experience. Actively engaging your audience through company blogs and other site content gives life to an otherwise static environment. This reassures the viewer that there is an actually organic and human component to the website and that it is not being run by a faceless corporation.

  15. Clear Navigation
  16. This may not seem like a significant factor to make your site look legitimate, but having shoddy navigation will not only infuriate and frustrate your viewers, but it will cause them to leave as well. Make the site’s navigation easy to follow and ensure that customers do not get confused. If you are selling products on line be sure not to hid access to your shopping cart section. It is also important that you do not bury your critical content five levels down. Anything that you want a customer to see or experience should be up front and no more than two clicks away.

  17. Press Releases and Media Kits
  18. Inform the public about the things that your company engages in that are "press-worthy." This helps to attract people to your site and can help to build links back to your site which is helpful for search engine ranking purposes. Incorporate press releases into your ongoing marketing campaign. Submit these press releases to a select number of high-quality, relevant news websites.

    Press Kits, often referred to as a Media Kits are pre-packaged sets of promotional materials for your business that can be distributed to members of the media for promotional usage. They are often distributed in conjunction with a press release or news conference. Create a professional looking media kit and embed links to your web content. Have a media kit comprised of PDFs; promotional materials, logos, company information and affiliate programs. Press Kits help to increase your company’s profile to media, businesses and the public.

  19. Social Media Profiles
  20. Having a company website alone is insufficient. You need to be actively engaging you viewers and customers. Using social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook are not meant to replace your website, but are used to promote your company. Learn about different social networks and use only the ones that are most relevant to you and your business. Use a select few social networking sites and syndicate great content among them. It is not worth the expenditure of your resources to spread yourself too thin across too many. Good syndicated content will propogate itself.

    Specialize in your area of expertise and promote your strengths as a business. Try to keep your focus on what you know. This portrays you and your business as an area of expertise. A business that neglects the importance of social media will not be realizing their full marketing potential.

  21. Ads and PPC Campaigns
  22. There is a large temptation by online businesses to try and subsidize their revenue by engaging in sponsored ad campaigns. Use these tactics with caution. They may generate some extra income, but they look tacky and do little to portray the legitimacy of your site. If you decide to use ads, make sure the not obtrusive, are relevant to your site or products and do not any cause confusion in navigation or design.

A great site with a strong design that provides a great customer experience, not only instills confidence and trust in you and your product, but makes your visitors want to tell everyone else about the great site they have discovered! You can also read this post for further tips on surviving the Panda update. As M.C. Hammer would say, make your site:PROPER!

SEO news blog post by @ 6:57 pm on April 29, 2011


 

Google Instant Analysis

I’ve just completed my initial analysis of Google Instant and written up an article on how it affects searchers, Google and SEO’s/website owners. I will be continuing to monitor the changes in search and user patterns over the coming months and am very much looking forward to keep you, our valued visitors, updated on how this technological change affects business and SEO’s.

You can read the analysis on our site here. And while you’re reading the article you can listen to SEO Jim Hedger and me having an hour long discussion on just this topic on Webmaster Radio at http://www2.webmasterradio.fm/webcology/2010/google-instant-good-or-bad-for-seo/.

SEO news blog post by @ 7:07 pm on September 12, 2010

Categories:adwords,Google,Google

 

Google AdWords

And so the test begins.

I sent over a couple screenshots to the Google AdWords team showing that a ton of clicks were staying for only 0 seconds and yet I was being charged for them.  Here is what I got back:

Please be assured that our system identifies invalid clicks and filters them so you are not charged for those clicks. Therefore, the charges that you have accrued are for legitimate clicks.

Whew. I feel better now. :)

They went on …

Dave, please understand that zero second visits do not indicate invalid click activity. Analytics calculates time spent on one page by looking at two time stamps: one from the request for the first page and one from the request of the second page. If your users have visited only one page then time on page will be zero regardless if he has actually spent time on that page. This is because Analytics does not have a reference point of another page to calculate Time on Page. Therefore, you may be seeing zero second visits even though users may have been on your site for some time. However, I will not be able to recommend any third tracking software for you.

OK – so now I’ve learned something. I’d made the mistake of thinking Google knew the time to exit, perhaps assuming they really are Big Brother and know everything – Analytics is more limited than I first thought. As I’m fundamentally an organic SEO who dabbles in PPC and I went off on this project all on my own. There are definitely phrases that would result in visitors who hit the site, read a review and head off to another site (hopefully via an affiliate link). So stay tuned, I’m going to be placing some redirect pages rather than direct link in to see if this affects the stats. If so – my apologies to the Google AdWords team for a few of the words I’ve used over the past 48 hours. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 5:51 pm on August 27, 2010

Categories:adwords

 

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