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Monday, August 11, 2008

Pay Per Click Basics

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No Deep Secrets In PPC Marketing

If you're like me, you have your Google Reader set up to feed you all the latest, greatest and newest news, tips and tricks in the world of pay-per-click marketing. At the very least you're set up to receive recaps or topical news items.

I noticed that when I receive recaps from Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, SEO Roundtable and their like, their stories rarely match up with the muck and the ilk I find in my Google Reader. Why? Because respectable news sources like the sites I linked to filter out articles from zealous spam laden proprietors whose sole purpose in life is to make The Promise.

What is The Promise?

The Promise is revealing to you the deep secrets of making money with PPC. These people promise to

  • Make you filthy rich by using paid advertising
  • Teach you how to generate incredible numbers of leads
  • Give you the deep, dark insider secrets

Sound to good to be true? Well duh.

Any paid search marketer worth their salt knows there aren't any deep secrets in the world of PPC. There are no companies with special deals with the search engine that allows them to buy clicks at a lower cost per click. Nor are there secret tracking codes or back doors that allow some companies to have their ads show more often over others.

Yes, there are tips, strategies and different ideas that you can use in a PPC campaign, but these are far from being deep secrets locked in a wall safe or a one size fits all solution. If a company promises super advertising techniques or make money now, do what the everyone else does, run away. Run far far away. Run fast...faster.

How can you filter out Promise sites?

  • Look for any site summary that begins with the definition of what pay per click.
  • Look for a generic comparison like PPC vs. PPA or PPC vs. Lead Generation Services

Post like these are usually repetitive and useless, or they contain a ton of paid links or content network ads. Unless one of those links goes to a $50 credit that you can redeem on Google AdWords, run away.

  • If their main premise is traffic, run away.

Sure, they'll get you traffic all right, but the quality of that traffic will be sketchy. Unless your entire goal is sheer volume - not page views, not conversions, not sign ups or not anything specific that can lead to a stream of income or targeted promotion, run away.

In the world of PPC you get back the time and the money you invest. If you look for insider secrets, quick fixes and sneakiness, you'll wish you had run away from the bad man selling shiny candy.

Yahoo Outsources Your PPC Ads to India

Not everyone has the ability to work with Yahoo and receive the occasional free optimization help from their “experts.” If you do, carefully review the ads that come back. Several times, I sent in existing ad groups for help with ad optimization (who knows what will get a better quality index score than the search engine itself, right?) or requested help to build a new ad group to save time, only to have to tear down the ads returned.

It wasn't that the PPC advertisements were unrelated or made no sense, but they were still wrong in that the language seemed strangely off or the punctuation and grammar was askew. So we asked, what was the deal? These ads seem like they were written by someone where English is not their first language.

For the purposes of this example, the client's name is Baby Music, which offers music classes for babies.

Example ad #1
Client's name was spelled incorrectly and grammatically incorrect:
[Music Classes for Toddlers: Interactive music classes for toddlers. Try Baby Music for a free.]

Someone please tell me what [for a free] is.

Example ad #2
Incorrect punctuation
[Baby Music: Interactive music classes for kids. Try Baby Music's for free.]

Baby Music apparently owns free.

Example ad #3
Awkward wording and use of [curricula] instead of a simpler, more friendly to the audience term like [program] or [classes.]
[Preschool Music Classes: Our curricula ensures that your kids & you have a great time together.]


Sure enough, when we asked, the Yahoo representative told us the ads were written in India. If you're going to optimize an English ad for a site and search engine in the USA, shouldn't that ad follow the language, tone, culture and population of the country being advertised to?

I’ve also Google and MSN conduct optimizations. In both cases I spoke directly with the people doing the work and received a slew of usable, as-is ads. In some cases, these ads did better than ads I created myself and often employed best practice techniques that are not part of mainstream pay per click knowledge. I interpret the entire point of enlisting search engines’ ad optimization programs to be optimizing ads.

Apparently this is not the case with Yahoo. It might be free, but from the quality I have seen returned, you're much better off writing your own PPC ads, which is also free. In fact, I encourage it.

Do Not Waste PPC Display URLs

The display URL in any PPC ad is a great place to stuff additional keywords, attract attention to your ad and/or increase branding. So it is definitely not a space to be wasted or ignored. Next time instead of simply putting [] as the display URL, try some of these simple tests and see if you can't increase click through rates!

1st Display URL


2nd Display URL


No “http”

No “www”

Capitalize first word

Capitalize first letter in all words

Adding keyword to end of URL{keyword}

Dynamic insertion

Be advised that each search engine has slightly different policies on how you can utilize this line of text. If you have any questions, check their Help Center. The most important thing to remember is that the display URL needs to accurately represent the destination URL. Don't create bad user experiences by sending people who are looking for office supplies to a site for children's toys.

Pitfalls to avoid when experimenting with display URLs:

  • Exceeding the character limit.
  • Misdirecting/misleading users with an inaccurate display URL vs destination URL.
  • Using dynamic insertion- while possible, be cautious!
  • Incorrectly typing the URL.

Get Started with the Google Content Network

When I first started in pay per click marketing the content network was considered a dark, black hole where clicks went to die and impressions soared. Nowadays there is a lot more success, a lot more transparency and a lot more of control that an advertisers can exert over their campaigns. So, when starting a pay per click account and building new campaigns and ad groups, here's a checklist of how to get a solid start on the content network.

First of all, be sure you understand what the content network is: these are websites & blogs that are run by anyone that has opted in (through Google AdSense) to include ads on their sites. These can be text and image and can be shown inside videos, content, posts, anywhere on the site.

The best practice is to set up a separate campaign for the search and content networks. This allows you to control cost on either campaign, impressions and as you will see detailed below, increase relevancy and targeting for your ads.

  1. Start a new keyword targeted campaign, be sure to name it with [content] in the title to keep things easy for you later, same with the first ad group.
  2. Keyword list: The most important thing to keep in mind when generating this list is to generate keywords based on the kinds of sites that you want your ads to appear on, which will not necessarily be the same keywords that you use in search. There may be some overlap between the two, which is OK. For example: You sell wedding favors. Your content network keywords should have to do with: wedding planning, wedding budgeting, wedding gifts for guests, wedding blogs, wedding receptions, bridal blogs. You are trying to target people who are looking for favors to purchase for their wedding guests so you wouldn't try and bid on sites that are already selling wedding favors. For more on this technique see: Advanced PPC Contextual Advertising by David Szetela.
  3. Ads: Create ads based on your product or service, using the keywords from your search campaign.
  4. Set your daily budget.
  5. Edit Settings-Networks: Uncheck the Google search and Search network check boxes, check Content network and Content bids.
    Edit Google Campaign Settings.png
  6. Set your content network bid. Best to start higher and go lower as the campaign progresses rather than vice-versa to get the ball rolling. This bid should be based on your keywords/industry.
  7. Check your location targeting. The default is set to the entire US.
  8. Check your ad scheduling. The default is set to all times on all days. If you know you have peak hours or know that the traffic on weekends is lesser quality you'll want to exclude or increase bids on those days or hours.
    Google AdWords- Ad Scheduling.png
  9. Change ad serving to [rotate,] the default setting is [optimize] which doesn't help if you're running an A/B test.
  10. Purely optional and a little more advanced: Using demographic bidding. If you know that your audience is primarily female, you can use this option to better target them. This will change the amount of your bids, based on percentages. Be advised of this if you use this option when setting your bids. You can also exclude a demographic in this option, by gender and by age. Google AdWords- Demographic Bidding.png

Be sure after a few days to start using the negative sites tool to filter out unwanted traffic from sites that don't meet your needs. Sites that often drives lots of impressions, few clicks or clicks of a lesser quality: myspace. com,, So be watching for that!

Next time we'll have more on optimizing a content network campaign, including (hopefully) more info on Google's new [Advanced Content Network Option.]

PPC FAQ - Bidding on Trademarked Terms

I answered some questions about PPC keywords last week then realized that you might find these useful.

Ask your own question in the comments. Depending on how many questions I receive I'll answer either all or the best ones in future blog posts.

What about PPC bidding on branded, trademarked or copyrighted keywords?

The fact is, that in some cases you can bid on copyrighted and trademarked terms, but pay attention to how you do it! So please keep these guidelines in mind and you will avoid

When you bid PPC bid on competitor's brand name, trademark or copyrighted term you may pay a premium.

Search engines will consider your web site less relevant simply because you’re not the competitor or the trademark holder and they will charge you a higher cost per click.

Separate branded keywords from your brand and general keywords. Place them into a separate PPC ad group or campaign.

Create a landing page that compares your products, services or prices against your competitor's. You may avoid higher click costs by demonstrating direct relevance.

Legally protected names and trademarks cannot appear in ads without the owner's permission. When you use dynamic insertion to inject trademarked terms into your ads the holder can file a complaint or request you to cease and desist. Exceptions would be if you had permission from the holder or were a direct authorized re-seller of the holder's products. If your company is an authorized reseller or if you already have permission to use protected PPC keywords in ad copy you can usually request an exemption through the search engine bid management tool dashboard.


So that's my PPC Bidding FAQ. Ask your own PPC bidding question in the comments and I'll answer the best questions in a future Portent Interactive Blog post!

PPC FAQ - When to Stop Using PPC Keywords

I answered some questions about PPC keywords last week then realized that you might find these useful.

Ask your own question in the comments. Depending on how many questions I receive I'll answer either all or the best ones in future blog posts.

How do you know which PPC keywords to stop using?

Rolling right along in our series of often asked PPC questions, is the ever popular, should I pause it, delete it or keep it going? As with any PPC account, you're bound to find some [bleeders], those terms that just suck up clicks and money but make no conversions. It's important to go through your ad groups often, cross check against your analytics and clean those keywords out.

Start here: if the keyword is racking up a lot of impressions, but no clicks, check the match type. You may need to refine how many times it's showing up and why no one is clicking on it. Try searching on it yourself and see what comes up. If you're not as relevant, consider deleting it or turning it into a long tail keyword and add qualifiers in front of or on back of that keyword to increase the relevancy to searchers.



Whoa! Time to change this keyword up!

This also applies if the keyword is getting lots of clicks, but no sales, leads or has a high bounce rate. Check your analytics. When searchers click through to your site and leave immediately, this is telling you that they are not finding what they are looking for and therefore that keyword is not very relevant. When in doubt, pause the keyword and see what happens. See if your conversions/leads/traffic picks up. You may find that by releasing that bit of budget that it was spending; is now being allocated to other keywords that turn out to be more profitable to you.

And last, but not least, how long should you wait while the stats pile up? This is going to be a case by case decision. If you are able to garner thousands of impressions overnight, then you will be able to act on that data pretty immediately, if anything, you should, just to control the costs. Ideally a full week at minimum is best to let the keyword get a chance of being seen or searched on enough times and to factor in for the different peaks of days of the week and times of day.

Happy keyword refining!

PPC FAQ - Action Packed PPC Keyword Research

I answered a bunch of questions about PPC keywords and realized others may find these useful. I'll post them here, on the Portent Interactive Blog, over the next several days. You can also ask your own question in the comments. Depending on how many questions I receive I'll answer either all or the best ones in future blog posts.

How Do I Find Great PPC keywords?

Know what you are selling. Bid on your products and services and avoid buying keywords for products or services you do not carry.

Most search engines offer a free keyword tool to help you generate keywords. In some cases these will estimate search volume for new keywords.

You can generate additional keywords by

  • current keyword list
  • keywords you type in
  • URL submission
  • topic or category
Begin by using the Google AdWords: Keyword Tool to create a keyword universe then cut away PPC keywords with no search volume or queries that will not work for your company.

Keyword Tool

  1. Begin with an accurate, basic search query and sort the results by relevance.
  2. Take the most relevant results and run Google Search queries on them.
  3. Research the top web site results in the Google AdWords: Keyword Tool.
  4. Keep repeating the process with new search queries and new web sites until you only get repetitions.
  5. Throughout your research keep exporting the results as CSV files. Later you can merge these and sort the results to uncover the most popular, most relevant, most expensive, and bargain PPC keywords for your business.

Keep in mind that a shotgun approach will cost you dollars. You become less relevant in the eyes of the search engine algorithms, your web site will get penalized and you will pay a elevated cost per click prices.

Do not bid on every possible keyword. This creates a horrible user experience. If someone searching for [women's sandals] arrives on your web site and discovers that you only sell sneakers they will leave angry likely never return.

Finally, you may wish to use a pay service to acquire alternative spellings, related keywords and predicted search volume.

Create a Microsoft Windows Live Product Feed

As I promised last week, here are step by step instructions for creating a free MSN's Live Product Search feed.

In case you are not sure what a Live Search Product Feed is, we will prepare a list of items to include in Microsoft's product search engine.

Live Search.png

  1. First you will need an Windows Live account, which will also give you
  • A Hotmail e-mail address good for using in irritating forms when you would rather not receive Spam.
  • A Windows Live ID, required to sign into your Windows Live account.

Once you sign-up and navigate to Product Search, you can set your contact e-mail to an Alternate ID e-mail address.

  1. Next you wil have to re-format your Google Products Feed document that you made last week into Microsoft's preferred format.
    MS actually has a terrific section in their Help Center on accomplishing this.
  • Open your Google Products Excel document (not the txt). Change the category headings to the following:


  • Make sure your columns are organized with  these headdings (no spaces or special characters) in this exact order:
  1. offername
  2. actionurl
  3. regularprice
  4. referenceimageurl
  5. offerdescription.

Live Excel.PNG

  • Save as a (.txt) file.
  1. Go to your Product Upload page.
  • On the Catalogs page click "create new."
  • Fill in all required fields- catalog title, select category and select file type (Product Search Text)

The file type Google Base compatible format (.txt) has yet to work for me, I always select the Product Search txt and "Tab" as the delimiter, despite that the document is exactly a Google Base document. You're welcome to try and see if it'll work for you!

 Live Product Upload - Catalog Setup.png

  • Select "upload through browser" Enter a catalog description (1000 characters or less).
  • Save.


  1. Next you will upload your file.
  • Click "Upload Now."
  • Choose the txt file you created.
  • Click "Upload"
  • Click "Done."
  • Go back to the main catalogs tab where you will see your new feed under the status of "Processing." Processing can take anywhere from 5mins to 36hrs.
  •  Once you see "Published" in the status, you're done!
  1. Check your Windows Live Feed for errors.
  • After your file is published to re-visit the catalog details in case of errors.
  • Click on the catalog name from the main menu.
  • If there are any "Catalog Upload Errors" you'll see them towards the bottom.


Once the file is published you may find that some listings get thrown back for various errors. Microsoft is smart enough to segment out the error ridden entries and leave the good entries intact and searchable. Windows Live will list each specific error and suggest how to remedy the situation.

That's all for now!

Create a Google Product Search Feed

Google Products are listed on the search engine result pages of Google's Shopping category.

Google Shopping Search

Each listing is a product that was submitted by a merchant. Listing your own products is free, so why not try it out?

Here's how to set up your very own Google Product Feed.

  • Go to, click on "Data Feed" and login with your Google Account login.
  • Click on "create another account to manage" enter the name of your site, display URL and optional description.

Next we'll create the feed.

  • Create a new Excel spreadsheet with these headings:
    1. Title
    2. Description
    3. Price
    4. Image link
    5. Link

Google Product Search Setup

These are the required attributes. After you get comfortable with product feeds you'll be able to choose from many optional attributes too as well as additional information such as brand names, condition, ISBN or UPC codes.

  • If you USE Google Analytics, add a UTM code on the back end of all of the destination URLs. Otherwise, GA will attribute all sales and visits to Google organic search results.

I suggest using &utm_source=google+products. You can create your own tag if you prefer. This tag will also pick up the keywords that the user used while searching Google Shopping.

The easiest wat to add this code is to create a simple Excel formula.

  1. Go to a cell in your URL + Code column. (I'm using F17)
  2. Type = and the cell of the destination URL (=E17)
  3. Add  &"&utm_source=google+products"
  4. Your finished formula will be =E17&"&utm_source=google+products

  5. Copy the cell with your formula and paste in into to the rest of the cells in the same column.
  6. You should now have two columns of destination URLs, one without the code and one with the code.
  7. Select cells in the the column of new destination URLs, copy them then paste special as values on top of the original destination URLs.
  8. Delete the column with the formulas you just made.
  9. Save, using File - Save As, your document as a tab delimited text (.txt) file.

Voila! Your product feed is ready to upload into Google Shopping Search.

  • Return to your new Google Base account.
    1. Click New Data Feed.
    2. Create a name for your file.
    3. Select the appropriate category for your products.
    4. Click Register data feed and continue to formatting instructions
  • Now that you have registered your feed you are ready to upload your list of products!
    1. Click on Manual: upload file.
    2. Select your .txt file on your computer.
    3. Click "upload".

    Google will now upload and process your list of products. It can take as little as 5 minutes or as long as 48 hours depending on the size and complexity of your file. Wait at least a day before you search for your products and store.

    • Troubleshooting If your file is rejected, there will be an error message as to why. One thing to check is your settings. If you followed the above instructions, these should be what your settings look like if you click on "edit" next to the file name:

    Next Time: Taking this same file and making it work for MSN Live Search Products!