Q and A: Which is more important, the number of clicks on each ad or the CTR of each ad?

QuestionHi Kalena

I have some questions about Google Adwords campaigns.

When evaluating ad performance in a Google Adwords campaign, which is more important: The actual number of clicks on each ad or the Click Through Rate (CTR) of each ad?

What is “% Served” and should we be paying attention to the “% Served” of our ads?

Finally, I read in the PPC101 reading material about Google’s “Average Position” but I’m a bit confused by this because the ads running in my campaign that have the lowest Average Position are not the ads that are performing the best. In fact, there seems to be no correlation between the ads that are performing best and their Average Position. The ads that are performing the best are not the ones with the lowest Average position. I don’t understand how to utilize this “Average position” if it’s not indicating how the ads are performing. So, I guess the question is: How should we utilize an ad’s “Average position” in the grand scheme of things?

Thank you,

Wendy

Hi Wendy

To answer your questions briefly:

1) The CTR and conversion rate are always the figures you should be looking at when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your ads. So ads that attract more clicks will have a high CTR, but this doesn’t mean much unless the clicks end up converting to customers / sign ups.

2) % served shows the rate each ad is served compared to other ads. So if one ad has 70% served against it, that means 70% of the time one of your ads is shown, it’s this one. The other ads make up the remaining 30% of ad displays. Google only show the best performing ads over time, so they will gradually phase out ads that don’t attract many clicks in favor of the ones with a higher CTR. That’s why the percentages seem much higher for some ads.

3) Average position relates to your ad position within the search results. So if your bid is high enough, your ad will appear in a higher average position. Ads that don’t perform well or don’t have a high enough bid rate on their trigger keywords will show in a lower average position. You don’t control this particular metric – it is controlled by your ad positions as determined by Google.

Hope this helps!

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Q and A: Why use paid advertising and not consider organic listings?

Question

Dear Kalena…

What are some of the reasons a person will continue to spend thousands of dollars a day on paid advertising and not consider Organic listings. How would you begin to approach persons like this aside from the obvious question…Why?

Willie

Hi Willie,

As you are probably aware, there has been debate for years over the Pros and Cons of  Pay Per Click (PPC) versus Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – with many people holding strong opinions for and against both.  There is way to much info on this topic to cover properly in this little old Q and A, but I’ll try an summarise the highlights and give my perspective on the issue.

Some PPC benefits

  • Fast results – can usually start seeing results within hours (or even minutes) of activating a campaign
  • Only Pay when a user clicks
  • Relatively easy to target the Keywords you want
  • Don’t necessarily have to change your site
  • Good Tracking capabilities (so can monitor, measure, adjust and improve)
  • You get to define where users go (you specify the landing page)
  • Can target Specific regions/localities for your ad to appear
  • Achieve Page 1 visibility quickly and easily (but not necessarily cheaply)

PPC can be a very effective way to promote a website (particularly a new site). However once you stop spending, your ads stop showing, and the visitors stop coming – there is no long term benefit for the expense.  PPC is relatively quick and easy to setup – but it is just as quick and easy for your competitors – if they have deeper pockets, they could ultimately win, no matter what you do.

As long as you know what a click is worth to you, and are certain that the returns are greater than the cost, PPC can be very effective.  You don’t care if it costs you $2,000 (or more) a day as long as it generates $5,000.

PPC is one of the few ways a brand new site can get found in the search results and start to generate traffic (and revenue) while the longer term SEO strategies kick in. The data generated from a PPC Campaign (such as which keywords are converting) can also be an extremely useful source of information for an SEO campaign.

About SEO

Here are some of the benefits of Search Engine Optimization:

  • Visitors from Organic Search are Free
  • The rankings a website achieves through SEO can continue for a long time after the work has been completed
  • On-page changes (which are probably necessary for SEO) can help improve conversions as well as traffic
  • Typically more searchers click the natural search engine results (88%) versus the pay per click ads (12%), so you are likely to get much more traffic from Organic results.
  • Users typically feel Organic Search Results have a higher “trust” level

Of course SEO is not free – it requires effort and investment, often over a long period.  In some competitive niches it can be very difficult (or even impossible) to achieve page 1 rankings, but in most niches it is possible to relatively easily achieve reasonable rankings and traffic. As far as I am concerned, it’s the user that should be at the heart of any SEO strategies. Pretty much whatever you do to improve the user experience is likely to improve your rankings and conversion rates (and ultimately increase sales/enquiries)

I’m actually a fan of both PPC and SEO (and I’m not just fence sitting), there are Pros and Cons to each and depending on your specific needs, one or the other (or even both) could be right for you.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (SEO Brisbane)

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Dumbass of the Week: Pay Per Click Advertisers

DuhIt’s been ages since we’ve had a Dumbass of the Week, but I saw something yesterday that prompted me to resurrect the title once more.

A staff member here sent me a screengrab from a Google search he had made and pointed out one of the Sponsored Links / AdWords ads at the top of the page (see screen grab below) . He had conducted a search for *cheap glasses new zealand* and Google displayed a range of organic and paid results on the SERP.

Here’s a screengrab of the original search page showing the top 3 sponsored results:

PPC-error2

When my colleague clicked on the 3rd Sponsored Link on the page, it took him to a 404 Error Page. Thinking that the URL was simply malformed and he could find what he needed from the home page, he stripped the tracking URL down to the top level domain and refreshed the page. Again, he was taken to a 404 Error Page.

At first I thought perhaps the site was offline temporarily or simply not loading in his browser so I asked him to send me the destination URL from the ad so I could try.

Because I have the Google Toolbar installed, when I tried to view the same broken link, instead of a standard 404 error, I received a Google error page stating: “Oops! This link appears to be broken. Did you mean: www.­lessforspecs.­co.­nz?”

Aha! Mystery solved. The advertiser Less for Specs had accidently used dot com in their destination URL instead of .co.nz. Turns out, the dot com site doesn’t even exist, which is probably for the best as they would have been paying to send traffic to their competitor’s site if it did.

Normally, the AdWords system detects malformed destination URLs and either doesn’t approve the ad or sends you an alert very quickly and pauses the ad for you. However, for whatever reason (perhaps the dot com site did exist at one point), the ad was allowed to go live.

An identical search today doesn’t trigger the same ad, so perhaps the problem is resolved. Maybe Google alerted them of the problem. Perhaps the mistake was made by a 3rd party agency managing the site’s PPC campaign. But who knows how many people clicked on the link and were taken to a 404 error page before it was fixed? Who knows how many dollars the mistake cost the advertiser in click costs in the meantime?

Now, I don’t mean to single out Less For Specs. I’ve seen similar errors in Pay Per Click ads by many companies over the years, heck, I’ve made them myself. But seeing this example reminded me that we should be taking more care with our PPC campaigns in order to get the best value for money out of them.

Here’s a list of common PREVENTABLE errors I’ve seen in PPC ads:

  • Malformed destination URLs.
  • Incorrect or misleading display URLs.
  • Destination URLs leading to a *this page is under construction* placeholder.
  • Forgetting to pause a PPC campaign during a scheduled site outage (I have to admit guilt on this one!)
  • Moving a domain but forgetting to redirect PPC landing pages.
  • Not knowing about an unscheduled site outage for 48 hours.
  • Spelling or grammatical errors within ads.
  • Sexist, racist or otherwise ignorant ad wording.

Yes, some PPC systems such as AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter have built in checks to prevent dumb user errors, but they’re not bullet proof. Dumbass happens. Just don’t let it happen to you.

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Clever Use of AdWords Lands Man Top Advertising Job

What’s a job at the top of your field worth to you?

To unemployed advertising executive Alec Brownstein, it was worth around USD 6. That’s what Alec paid Google AdWords to get the attention of New York’s top advertising agencies and score himself two job offers.

Alec decided he wanted a job at one of New York’s top ad agencies. But to get an interview via the regular channels could take months. So he decided to bypass normal job application procedures and appeal to the egos of the Creative Directors instead.

How did he do it? He set up PPC ads using Dynamic Keyword Insertion that would appear whenever one of the Creative Directors Googled themselves, otherwise known as a *vanity search*. So a Google search for Gerry Graf, David Droga, Tony Granger, Ian Reichenthal or Scott Vitrone would trigger Alec’s ad to appear.

The ad read:

Hey [Director's Name]
Googling yourself is a lot of fun.
Hiring me is fun, too.

A click on the ad led to Alec’s site and contact details. According to Brownstein, nobody was bidding on the names, so he was able to achieve the top ad slots for around 10 cents per click.

The result? Alec scored interviews with 4 out of the 5 Creative Directors and job offers from both Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone of Y&R Advertising. He took one of the offers and now has a permament gig at Y&R New York.

Clever eh?

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Outdated Google Analytics Tracking Code Could be Costing You Thousands

Do you run an ecommerce site? Do you use Google Analytics code on your pages? Does your site contain secure pages that start with https? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then you’ll probably shudder in horror when you read this.

Tom Critchlow of Distilled – a search agency in the UK – has written a guest post for the Google Analytics blog that demonstrates how using outdated Google Analytics tracking code on your secure pages can be costing you THOUSANDS of dollars.

Tom explained how he noticed a glitch on the analytics report of his client’s ecommerce site that involved users of Internet Explorer 8. These users had a significantly lower conversion and revenue rate on the site, in comparison to users of other browsers and IE versions.

Turned out Tom’s client was using the old Urchin version of the Google Analytics tracking code on every page. The old code included a call to a non-secure .js file that triggers a security warning pop-up in the Internet Explorer 8 browser.

Browsers like Chrome and Firefox don’t display a security warning but Internet Explorer 8 produces the following warning when users transition from the non-secure (http) pages to secure (https) pages on a web site.

The error looks like this:

IE 8 warning

Not surprisingly, the error was causing almost all visitors browsing with Internet Explorer 8 to abandon the shopping cart process and this was costing Tom’s client an enormous amount of revenue, estimated to be in excess of USD 150K per month.

A 5 minute fix to the site saved Tom’s client an estimated 1 million dollars per year. What was the fix? Simple. Installing the new version of the Google Analytics tracking code.

The new Analytics tracking code is asynchronous, meaning that it can track a single domain, or more complex sites with multiple subdomains, database driven pages, php pages or just top level domains.

The new tracking snippet offers:

* Faster tracking code load times for your web pages due to improved browser execution
* Enhanced data collection and accuracy
* Elimination of tracking errors from dependencies when the JavaScript hasn’t fully loaded

If you are using older versions of the Analytics tracking code, Google recommends you login to your Analytics dashboard, download the new code and transition your pages over as soon as possible.

Now you have an added incentive to transition – if you run an ecommerce site, the new code might not just save you page load time but thousands of dollars too!

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