Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Why are my Adwords CPC going up, leads going down, and position getting worse?

This question has come from a few business owners who outsource their Google Adwords management and are wondering why  their average cost-per-click (CPC) has jumped from $3 to $6 or $9.

This blog will actually address a few questions:

  • Why are my Google Adwords CPC going up?
  • At first we got a lot of leads but now it’s dropping off, why?
  • We used to be in the Top 3 paid spots for <favorite search term> but we weren’t yesterday. Why?
  • Is there something my SEM expert can be doing to improve all of this?

These actually seem like a quite broad range of questions but, in fact, they are all related.

Overview of how Google decides which ads to show.

Google Adwords is an auction market… But it’s not a PURE auction where the highest bidder wins. You see Google is in business to generate revenue so they take a bit longer term approach to their auction.

Let’s look at a very OVERSIMPLIFIED example.

WaterMan and WaterBoy are 2 different businesses that are bidding on the keyword “water filters”.

WaterMan is well established and decides to bid $4/click. WaterBoy is just getting started and decides he can only afford $2.01/click.

So which ad does Google show on top???

We don’t have enough information yet… You see, WaterBoy understands how Google works and realizes that if he invests a bit more effort in his ads, he can actually get better placement than WaterMan.

So he creates a Highly Relevant ad that 4% of Google Searchers click on for a 4% Click-Thru-Rate (CTR). WaterMan doesn’t have time to be bothered with all that, puts together a basic ad and so ends up with a 2% CTR.

So let’s do the math for Google to see which advertiser will make Google more money.

  • If Google shows WaterBoy’s add 100 times, 4 people click on it at $2.01/click for total revenue of $8.04.
  • If Google shows WaterMan’s add 100 times, 2 people click on it at $4/click for total revenue of $8.00.

In other words, Google can make more money showing an ad with a LOWER bid price.

Again, this is a vast oversimplification, but this helps us answer our first question.

Why are my Google Adwords CPC going up?

Your competition is creating ads that are more relevant (i.e. have a higher CTR) than yours or new competitors have recently entered the market resulting in more people bidding on the same words.

Ok, so let’s take this a step further…

WaterBoy started his marketing at the beginning of the year on January 1 however WaterMan is a bit slow to get on board with new technologies and didn’t get started until June 1st.

So when WaterMan’s ads start running, Google doesn’t yet know if his ads are any good because there is no history. So Google gives the new guy on the block, WaterMan, top placements for his ads until Google has enough data to do the calculations above.

Which answers our next 2 questions –

At first we got a lot of leads but now it’s dropping off, why? -

Google at first gave you the benefit of the doubt and top positions however, over time your competition developed more relevant ads that get more clicks and therefore make Google more money.

We used to always be in the Top 3 paid results for <my favorite search term> but we weren’t yesterday. Why?

  1. Your ad became less relevant compared to your competition.
  2. You competition is now willing to bid more.
  3. More competitors have entered the market to bid on the same keywords.

Keep in mind, not being in the top 3 isn’t always a bad thing and is pretty much impossible to guarantee unless you are just willing to drastically over-bid everyone else. Sometimes it’s just not cost effective to pay $10/click to get top position.

Which brings us to our final and most important question…

Is there something my SEM expert can be doing to improve all of this?

Yes.

Here’s the thing, we hired a new team member to help with copy writing, marketing, and Google Adwords. She’s been with us for about 7 weeks, has received regular training, and is probably 50% up to speed on Adwords.

Of everything we do, Search Engine Marketing is the most complicated and fastest-changing.

Granted, we’re fanatical about being the most knowledgeable around in our given area of expertise so our training and our definition of “expert” status might be a bit higher standard than most.

That being said, here are 4 of the most important things your SEM expert can (and should) do:

  1. Set Benchmarks – The most important is your cost/contact or Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). Know if it should be $10 or $500 by knowing the lifetime value of your customers. The lifetime value can vary significantly for residential, commercial, and industrial clients and so should your CPA.
  2. Become obsessed with testing – We’ve done tests where a single word in the headline of a Google ad can change the click-thru-rate nearly 300%.  If our CTR is going up 300% your CPC is going down but the only way to know which word is going to make that difference is to test.
  3. Adjust your individual keyword bids – This concept is pretty simple but rarely done in small business because it can be time intensive. The idea is that if “water filter” has a CPA of $100 and “water testing” has a CPA of $25 and your target CPA is $50 then you need to cut your “water filter” bid in half and you can afford to increase your bid on “water testing” by double. All words are not created equal and the best words vary from one locality to another.
  4. Build up Negative Keywords – This again takes a lot of work to build up but is crucial. Google allows you to block your ad from showing up when it’s not relevant. For instance, if you sell filters to remove iron from water and bid on the keyword “iron in water” you don’t want your Google Ad showing up when someone types in “can I improve anemia by drinking iron in water?” In that instance, the negative keyword would be “anemia.”

Even though there are dozens of other things you can do to improve SEM, keep your CPC down, and get more leads, these 4 things are important enough that if your current SEM expert was just doing those, your CPC wouldn’t be going up.

If you don’t want to be an Adwords expert, how do you know if your hired expert is doing his job?

If your cost-per-click is going up, your leads are not, and you didn’t have an influx of new competition in your market, then your SEM expert isn’t doing his job and you should replace him or her.

Simple enough?

To your SEM success,
Bryan

Great Websites Aren’t Built, They’re Tested

Have you ever asked your web design company how they determine how to design your website?

How do they know where to put the contact form? What call-to-action will work best? Which headline will grab your visitors’ attention to generate a lead? Which graphic or video to utilize for best engagement? What about the wording they use in the menus?

Have you ever asked your mechanic to fix your car without him taking it for a test drive?

Me “testing out” my G35 at an autocross in Pittsburgh.

After all, he has decades of experience… He’s gone to school and had extensive training in fixing cars… That’s all he does all day long every day… So he should just KNOW what’s wrong with your car and be able to fix it, right?

Well that’s what a website design company is claiming if they design a website based on anything other than testing.

Tests on other, similar websites do have limited value, but, for a service-based business, every market is unique so testing in your market is what will ultimately determine if your website is sputtering along or passing people on the autobahn.

Testing is the only way to take your website “for a test drive” and learn both what does work and what doesn’t. Moreover if you want that car to keep running smoothly – or you want your website to keep generating leads – you need to maintain it.

Testing Builds Trust with Your Customers

According to Entrepreneur.com, the most trusted brand in the US is Amazon.com.

Not Coca-Cola or Nike or Procter & Gamble or Apple.

A company that is less than 2 decades old (it first hit the Internet in July 1995) has managed to build greater brand loyalty and trust than any other company.

Unlike many of the other top trusted brands, they managed to build trust with virtually no “traditional” marketing.

  1. Have you been inundated by their TV commercials? (they only have a few) Radio commercials?
  2. Did they send you a catalog with your last order?
  3. Direct-Mail postcard on your birthday?
  4. Is your inbox inundated with pithy  blogs from them?

What’s their secret?

Amazon.com is probably the most thoroughly tested website in the world.

Every button, every call to action, every step in the shopping cart, every suggestion and every screen you’ve seen on Amazon has been tested and re-tested and are again being tested as you read this. They never stop. They’re always learning.

What are they learning? What their customers want.

That was kind of anti-climactic, huh?

Amazon’s big secret to becoming the most trusted brand in the world is they watch what their customers do and respond.

Well in 1995 when they got started, they were cutting edge with this approach to business. So they sky-rocketed ahead of their competition and haven’t looked back.

Today online testing and optimization is no longer the expensive, unexplored area it was 15 years ago.

It now can be done for small businesses for as little as $399/month.

Internet testing designed to deliver exactly what your customer wants may be the most powerful way to increase your leads while strengthening your brand.

After all, it’s not about the internet or fancy websites…

It’s about YOUR customers.

So What is the Best Approach to Internet Marketing?

The simplest way to understand online lead generation is to break it into 3 pieces.

  1. Where are you getting Traffic?
  2. How are you Converting it to leads?
  3. How are you Following-up with visitors not-yet-ready-to-buy?

To get a better idea of what is involved at each of those steps here’s a breakdown:

  • For Traffic –
    • Search Engine Marketing services in the form of Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and other networks
    • Local Search Engine Optimization – focused on your local market based on what you learn from SEM
    • Online Directory Updates – their are dozens of online directories that can send high-value traffic to your website so it’s important that your contact information is up-to-date in all of them.
  • For Conversion –
    • Onsite testing and optimization to give your visitors more of what they want.
    • Online surveys to engage your visitors and provide a custom solution while learning more about their level of knowledge on your products.
    • Targeted landing pages related to online or offline marketing campaigns.
  • For Follow-up – Not all visitors are ready to buy today. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready next month so are you going to be there?
    • Email marketing is the best way to stay in touch with your target market. As a matter of fact, 77% of consumers prefer retailers to communicate with them via email. Direct mail is second at 9%.
    • Google “stalker” Marketing – Google has the ability to show your ads all over the internet to people who have visited your website. You think that might keep you at the forefront of their mind when they see your ad online several times per day?

Integrating with Offline Marketing

You are not Amazon.com.

Your market is different. Your customer’s are different. Your level of service is different. Your competition are different.

Rarely will you be able to rely on your website alone to grow your business. You need other more traditional forms of marketing.

Integrating with those other forms of marketing is crucial because who can afford to spend marketing money unless they know it can work?

You need to take the lessons you can learn cheaply and efficiently online, and integrate those offline to improve the ROI of every marketing dollar you spend.

In other words, what works in a Google Ad will most likely work on a direct-mail postcard campaign.

Studies done by Marketing Sherpa have indicated that up to 67% of a website’s traffic can be driven by TV ads so all of your marketing needs to work together.

If your website is currently the result of a “mechanic” who claims to be able to look at your car and fix it for you without taking a test drive, now you know why you might not be getting the absolute best results.

If our approach to internet marketing sounds like it might just generate some better results, enter your contact information below and one of our dedicated internet marketing team members will help you with a full Online Marketing Analysis that encompasses the 3 steps mentioned above.

Our hourly rate is $120 and your in-depth analysis will take 1-2 hours. However, I’m really curious how many people find us through these blogs so if you fill out this form, we’ll perform your analysis and then take 20 minutes to review it with you for FREE.

To a better tested website, Bryan

Get Your Free Internet Marketing Analysis

The Top 19 Myths of Internet Marketing for Small Businesses

Whether it’s SEM, SEO, or website design, there are a lot of Myths about internet marketing that just don’t hold up to testing so let’s tackle the top 19.

Keep in mind these myths are for service-based small businesses with the primary goal of generating leads. For e-commerce, current customer portals, forums, blogs and other types of websites the answers will be different.

  1. You need to be #1 on Google. In reality, the cost/click to be #1 for all pertinent keywords is generally not cost-effective. My recent blog on Adwords Marketing addresses this in detail.
  2. The goal of a website is to get people to spend time on it. For a service business the goal is to generate a lead and you have about 90 seconds to do that. Sites that get paid based on the ads they show have different goals and lots of time on site is one of them. But you’re not Facebook.
  3. You can save money by putting a phone number in your Google Ad. There’s plenty of proof that this a myth. Google only makes money when you CLICK on an ad so why would they let you put a phone number in an ad if that meant they were going to lose money? They wouldn’t because they test these things.[Edit: In June 2013 Google banned ads with phone numbers so, like all internet marketing, never stop testing. The results may change.]
  4. Google Adwords and SEM is easy. Of every topic I mention in this post, without reservation I would claim that GREAT Google Adwords marketing is the most complicated and time-consuming thing you can do. Not only do you have to choose keywords, you have 5 different types of keywords to work with and 4 different ad types. You have to choose where to market, who to market to, what sites to market on, what problem a customer typing in a certain keyword is actually trying to solve. Dr. Glenn Livingston did studies showing a person searching for “guinea pig”, “guinea pigs”, and “guinea pig care” are all looking for vastly different things and are at different levels in the buying cycle. Then of course you have to understand how to setup scientifically sound tests to actually determine what’s working and what’s not. That’s just the beginning…
  5. You need to invest in more traffic (SEO and SEM). For most websites you first need to invest in converting more visitors to leads. For instance, if your current website converts 3% and you bump that up to 4.5% that’s the equivalent of getting 50% more traffic at no extra cost. (Our best sites in 2013 were converting over 25% in their target market.)
  6. The best way to increase conversion is with a better offer. This could be true however our testing indicates that this is rarely the case. When we create a site with multiple calls-to-action such as “contact us”, “schedule an appointment” and “special offers” almost always the “special offers” gets the least traffic. Your site could perform differently, though.
  7. A video on your website will increase conversion. Generally this is true, however a company that helps people organize their closet space did tests on a lead-capture page with and without a video and found a 439% increase in conversion WITHOUT a video. Does this mean video is bad? Of course not. It just means that there are a lot of other factors to consider.
  8. I need to let my web designer know what to update. That’s like your accountant saying, “hey just let me know how much tax you have to pay this year and then I’ll fill out the forms.” Huh? Your web designer should be saying, “Hey Bob, we just found out that <this> performs better than <that> so add <this> to your next postcard campaign.
  9. You need to follow “best practices” to get the highest conversion. Bottom line is that there’s no such thing. I’ve used the exact same website in the exact same industry in multiple areas in the US and got vastly different results. Sure there are things you absolutely don’t want to do (like riddle your page with typos), but overall, you don’t know until you test.
  10. A great website is all about great content. If you are Wikipedia, of course this is true. If you’re Bob’s Plumbing, then a great website is about giving the customer what he wants; his plumbing fixed quickly and at a fair price. He doesn’t need a video and step-by-step tutorial about how you’re going to do it. Remember, you only have 90 seconds.
  11. A website is going to cost me a lot of money up-front. This is an idea I seriously disagree with. Since great websites can’t be built, they have to be tested, then what in the world are you paying for up-front? A designer’s guess at what your visitors might want to see? Is that really a good investment?
  12. What works in one market for an industry will work in another. In other words, buying a pre-made website for your business doesn’t guarantee the best performance. Every market is unique because you have different income levels, education levels and competition. This basically falls under the category of “best practices” in #9 and they don’t exist.
  13. My website will some day be “done.” If by done you mean it’s now done improving so we’ll leave it alone and watch it’s performance decrease, then I guess it can be done. Otherwise it’s about as done as regular maintenance on your service trucks. Stop servicing your trucks and they stop working. Same thing with your website.
  14. Testing and optimizing for a small business is just too costly. Our plans start at $399/month. That’s dirt cheap for the value you get.
  15. You’ll never be able to fully track or understand how your marketing generates leads. This is what I like to call the “we don’t want to be held accountable” sales pitch. The human mind is indeed a wonderfully complicated thing that we are just barely beginning to understand. However it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out more visitors prefer Graphic A over Graphic B so chances are pretty darn good we’ll get a better response with our offline marketing if we also go with Graphic A.
  16. My business needs to be on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Pinterest. It only needs to be on social media if your customers are there and you know how to engage them regularly and professionally. It’s not easy. If you think your business could benefit from social media hire a professional.
  17. The best way to increase online leads is to improve my website and get more traffic. If you’re like most small businesses the absolute best way to increase sales is to do effective email marketing. A survey by Marketing Sherpa of over 1600 marketers agree with me on this one and your prospects are begging you to communicate via email.
  18. My web designer should be able to understand what I’m saying. Do you have a well thought out Marketing System including a clear understanding of your target customer, her problems, and your solutions? Ok, then yes, he should get it. If not, make a Marketing RoadMap first.
  19. A website will grow your business faster than any other marketing. Of course this CAN be true. However all different types of marketing work and what works for your business in your market will require some testing and measuring. One study by Marketing Sherpa demonstrated that up to 67% of a website’s traffic can be driven from TV. A well laid out marketing plan, with your website at the core, is often your most powerful approach to lead generation as a service-based small business.

Am I missing any other common myths? If so, comment below or contact me.

To your internet marketing success, Bryan

P.S. If you are working with a website designer, print this out and use it as a cheat sheet when you interview him. Or just Contact Us for a comprehensive online marketing analysis.

Would you prefer 1 lead for $35 or 5 leads for $500? Your Google Adwords Strategy

If you watch what’s going on in the SEM and Google Adwords world you hear some interesting things… Like…

You need to be #1 on Google…Google Search Engine Optimization can be as fun as building legos

I can get you contacts for $34 per contact…

Our Click-Thru-Rate is 5%…

So what? What exactly does any of that mean to your business?

In online marketing, numbers like that can easily be manipulated, tweaked, and adjusted to basically make you hear what you want to hear… Gasp! I know. Shocking, isn’t it?

So how do you get down to the brass tacks and know which marketer is actually going to perform the best for your business? Well, you need a bit of an online plan and strategy for Google Adwords and SEM. You also need to understand a bit about how Google Adwords marketing, bidding, and prices work…

[Read more...]

Optimize your Small Business Website for SEO, SEM, and Google Places in 4 Easy Steps

As a small business owner or marketer, keeping up with all the changes in online marketing, SEO, SEM, PPC, and social media can be a daunting task. However if you focus on the most important parts, and hire an expert for the rest, it’s actually pretty straight-forward. Be wary of anyone who says we don’t know how SEO works or it’s just too complicated to explain.

Firstly, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is also referred to as Organic or Free search.   These organic search results show up in the center of the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). In the graphic on the right, the SEO results are highlighted in blue.

The Paid ads (or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) results) are generally the top 3 on the SERP and the ads along the right-hand side of Google. In the example to the right, the Paid Ads are highlighted in red.

The third type of result is a Google Places listing which is Google’s own version of an online Yellow Pages directory. Those results are highlighted in yellow.

SEO is important to a small business for a few reasons:

  1. You don’t have to pay per click. Once you’ve optimized your site and got to the top of the search results, you can get a thousand clicks per day and you don’t have to pay a penny extra.
  2. Studies show only about 25% of people click on Paid Ads. Those numbers are even more skewed when you take into account the searchers level of education. Individuals with a Phd only click on paid ads 1-2% of the time so keep that in mind if your target market is highly educated.

For this article we’re going to focus primarily on local SEO. That means instead of someone typing in “plumbers” they’ll be searching for “plumbers in Pittsburgh.” In the screenshot above, I searched for “plumbers in pittsburgh.”

Google and other search engines are getting much better at determining the location of the web searcher and therefore assume that for a search like “plumber” you are looking for someone local and so will tailor the search results to provide you with local information. Nonetheless, the results page is still going to be much different with and without the city. Currently, about 20% of searches on Google are locally focused and that trend has been increasing over the last few years.

So here’s the 4-step process to search engine optimizing your small business’ website:

  1. Get in as many online directories as possible. This includes Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yellowpages.com, Manta.com and others. The more directories you are in, the better off you’ll be. Notice in the screenshot above that both organic results (highlighted in blue) are actually for online directories eLocalPlumbers.com and SuperPages.com. Make sure that each online directory has your correct website address! This is crucial to optimizing your website for search engines. Also, make sure that you take full advantage of the “Description” section of each directory listing focusing on the keyword terms that people looking for your product or service are most likely to use. For instance our plumber wouldn’t say, “Providing plumbing services in and around Pittsburgh for homes and businesses.” Instead he would say, “Bonded and Insured expert residential and commercial plumbers providing plumbing repairs, plumbing service, emergency plumbing, new home plumbing, hot water heater installation, and fixture replacement.” See how I used keywords throughout the description that someone might be searching for?
  2. Have other people link to your page. – Are you running radio or TV ads also? Have those TV and Radio stations put a link on their website to yours. Every link to your page from another page (with a few exceptions like Twitter) is seen by Google as a vote that your page is useful. The more “votes” you have the better Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will treat your site and the higher it will be listed.
  3. Focus your page titles and web page text locally. If you’re a plumber in Pittsburgh, make sure all of your pages list out the cities you serve. Generally this can be done inconspicuously in the footer of a page. Just make sure the text is visible. It’s against Google’s policies to have “hidden text” that is, for instance, white text with a white background so the visitor can’t see it. If you are buying a “pre-made” website for your industry make sure that you have the ability to add information for your local market. Also weave the names of cities into the copy on your site. A great way to do that is with a list of testimonials that include the city and state of each person providing the testimonial.
  4. Fill-in the blanks with a strong SEM campaign. Since 20% of online searches are locally focused, that means that 80% are not. So don’t ignore those 80%. Target them with SEM which is also called Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Paid Search. Notice in the screenshot above that without scrolling down the searcher will see 2 organic results, 2 Google Places results and 9 paid results! In other words, SEM is a significant part of your online marketing plan. One of the great benefits of SEM is that you can get tons of information on what terms are most popular in your local area and then use that information to better optimize your site in step #3 and your descriptions in step #1. My recommendation for this is to work with experts like my team.

In reality, to be a guru at online marketing is a lot more complicated than just 4 steps. However, like hiring a lawyer, accountant, or IT specialist, it’s beneficial to understand the basics even though you will most likely want to work with an expert in small business online lead generation.

Now that you understand these 4 points, you can work on optimizing your own web presence very quickly and cheaply with a few of the suggestions above. At the very least, you now know the right questions to ask and what answers to listen for when soliciting the help of an online marketing expert.

If you’re a small business owner or leader and have any questions, feel free to comment on this blog or contact me directly. This is a crucial area of your marketing plan where you are losing leads daily so don’t wait to address it!

To your Search Engine Optimization and Marketing success, Bryan