Friday, December 30, 2005

2006 Affirmations

For all the predictions about SEO in 2006, how about some affirmations? May your 2006 be the year...

  • you have more sites come out of the sandbox than go in.
  • you see the fruit of your labor from 2005
  • you enter the black before Black Friday
  • your ROI increases
Happy New Year from the SEO team at Zunch!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ideal PPC Candidates

What factors make a client a good candidate for a PPC campaign?

The ideal client offers well-branded, discount product or service, in a wide selection, with a unique benefit… that comes with something free. For example: Nike, promoting their latest shoes with a new patented suspension system, in more colors than are available in stores, on sale – with free shipping.

No, not many of those come through the door – but each of those elements are what is needed to set a campaign apart.

1) Well-branded:
It doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it, only if the target client has heard of it. If you don’t buy widgets, you have no reason to have heard of Acme Widgets… try doing a little research. Use the internet, and ask your uncle who buys widgets for his watchamacallits. They don’t have to be the biggest name out there, but if they are a name people know – that gives you the strongest possible advantage over other advertisers.
In a PPC campaign, unless the brand name is not known, or is similar to a common non-branded search term (for example: if the company’s name was “red tomatoes” and they sold make up,) then we can expect to see click-through rates of over 10% and conversions of over 5% consistently on branded search terms. One of our clients saw click through on their brand name averaging 40%, and conversions averaging 15% on that term. This is a simple matter of making sure that the client is there, at the top of the page, when people look for them.

2) Discount:
Comparison shopping is easy online. If you offer the same or similar product as anyone else, you better be sure you are selling it cheaper – or at least for the same price. This is especially important when the competitor mentions price in the ad. This is more important in women-oriented verticals, and verticals where the product is widely available. The client doesn’t have to offer the lowest price on everything, especially if some of the other factors mentioned here are going in their favor (especially brand and uniqueness,) but they should at least appear to be competitive.

3) Wide selection:
Again, comparison shopping is easy. So is finding exactly the color/style/size or the precise service someone is looking for. If your client doesn’t carry it, chances are, someone else does. A wide selection, or variety of services, allow you to not only advertise that selection in the copy – but to use more tail terms, and get broader coverage.

4) Unique benefit:
Are your client’s widgets the shiniest? Do they come in more colors? Do they widge more effectively than any other widget on the market? Are they highly rated by critics? Bestsellers?
In short, as an advertiser, you should always be looking for what it is about this product that sets it apart. Exclusivity is almost as much of a sales driver as brand or selection – so if your client carries something that can’t be gotten from anyone else, you can capitalize on that.

5) FREE!
People love free. Whether it’s a free pair of sunglasses when you order tanning lotion, or a free night’s stay when you book at least 2 months in advance… but the best offer of all is free shipping. Free shipping is the single biggest reason why a user will click on one listing rather than another. So if it’s at all feasible, try to talk your client into having a free shipping offer of some kind, and be sure to mention it in the copy.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays !


~ The Zunch Bunch

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Is Google Setting Your PPC ROI Expectations?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying:

It shouldn't matter what Google does with their ads, he argues, so long as the received value, which advertisers can measure, is higher than the price they pay.

Shuman Ghosemajumder tried to make a similar comment on the PPC Auditing and Click fraud Issues panel at SES in Chicago that I sat with on the panel in a room with advertisers who definitely weren’t in the Google fan boy crowd.

The bottom line, as I mentioned in the panel is: "Who is Google to set that expectation?" Who is Google to tell me that the 3% conversion rate should be good enough even if it might have been 4-5% had it not been for click fraud?

Shuman also mentioned (more than once) that Google throws out more clicks then they charge for. Well great...as an advertiser how am I supposed to know that? Except for the email announcing a credit for "low quality" clicks (Google never uses the phrase "click fraud" for crediting you back funds) they hide behind the infamous form letter of how their click fraud teams dont see the activity you questioned as "click fraud".

I suggested that the PPC networks share that information with advertisers so they could see what the PPC networks were doing for them proactively. I doubt we will ever see it though as that would lay out how big of an issue click fraud is and they cant have that.

Friday, December 16, 2005

AOL flirted with MS, but remains faithful to Google

At least that's the latest report from the Wall Street Journal. I think Microsoft really missed an opportunity here. All year we've heard how they are pumping money into search. First it was the huge ad campaign, then the API, and this and that...but the market share has remained stable, if not dropped a bit. I really hope Microsoft is not just banking on IE7 and Vista alone.

Yahoo resolves to trim down SERPs in 06

Yahoo announced last night a decision to trim down the size of its paid listings beginning January 18. Paid ads will be "automatically shortened" for the change, but advertisers are encouraged to optimize ads by bringing inportant information inside of the 70 character count. See the full announcement from YahooSarah at the SEW forums.

Yahoo says to expect an increase in click-thrus, but I'm not so sure. For many users who browse with an 800x600 resolution, sponsored listings currently make up the majority (if not all) of the real estate. Smaller sponsored listings would obviously provide more impressions for organic listings, unless Yahoo decided to increase the number of paid listings at the top of the SERPs. But surely they wouldn't...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Linkin' Love

Link Love. We all need it and we all want it.

If you could sell it on TV it would be like the commercial for 'male enhancement' where the guy has a smile surgically fixed on his face or like the commercial for men's body spray that has women chasing them (and their mom, and their mom's friends, and their friends, or any other combination of 'mom' and 'friends' that I may have forgot to mention) . Basically, once you've got it you 'have arrived'.

Unfortunately, whether your trying to sell or buy links through any medium, Google doesn't like it. Google doesn't like it because they have relied so heavily on linking that strategic link buying or buying links en masse can affect their rankings.

Several good points were made in a thread going on at the SEW forums about Google's reliance on links:

1. If Google favors aged sites with a mass amount of relevant link that have been built naturally (ie: no one asked for or bought a link) how are newer or smaller business going to compete against the 900lb gorillas?

2. How detrimental is it if a site about widgets sells a link to a site about red widgets and the link helps the red widget site rank for red widget related terms?

3. Since the buying of links pre-dates Google, rather than Google affecting the link architecture of the web (again) by trying to direct webmasters on how to link to other sites that they evolve their algorithm to take into account this ancient (by the web's timeline) marketing vehicle?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

When to Say No

Not everyone is a good candidate for PPC. It can be hard to learn when to turn a potential client away.

Reasons to tell a potential client not to do PPC:

1. They don’t have a completed website.

You can’t develop a decent PPC campaign without a website. If you are building the website internally, then you may be able to work with the developers on it and actually tailor the site to make a smoother PPC campaign. However, if all you have to go on are the client’s descriptions of products, it’s difficult to assess the feasibility of PPC. The client’s descriptions may be overly optimistic. They may describe something as a “gourmet gift basket” when it’s just sausage and cheese.

2. The product is a commodity, or otherwise not well differentiated or branded.

If there’s nothing outstanding about the product – whether it’s better or cheaper – it’s damn hard to sell it through any advertising medium. But if you have Acme Little Guy selling Acme way-cool widgets – and they are up against Big Guy Widgets, who is one of the names everyone thinks of for widgets, and up against Discount Widgets who are cheaper, and Universe of Widgets that has more kinds of widgets than have any sense existing - well, the chances of diverting some of that traffic to Acme are slim. You have to have something unique. This is a problem many internet retailers have. They see that there are many companies doing well in a vertical and think that they can jump in the market, without finding their own niche.

3. The site has no focus.

Any business needs to have a clear focus. People want to know that they are at a hardware site, or a gourmet food site. They don’t like to go to a site looking for widgets and also see caviar. The widgets and the caviar might both be quite good, but it throws people off. They don’t have confidence in the product. Yes, some big names out there have a broad focus, but they almost all started small, with a narrow product line in a brick and mortar store and built a name for themselves.

4. It’s a poorly branded product where the competitors are well branded, or in a vertical where people are looking for a brand-name.

This is partly the issue of commodification – as in the case with Big Guy Widgets in #2, but also a case of brand loyalty. Women, especially, are brand-loyal, and will rarely jump to an unknown brand. Things that are tied to traditions, as well, such as holiday or religious items can also face this issue. You are unlikely to get people to try a new brand of summer sausage for Christmas, when most of them buy one from Hickory Farms for their dad every year. To change people’s buying habits requires a strong branding campaign. PPC can have a role in this, but it’s not going to be a big money-maker at the outset.

5. There are no good, specific keywords which designate the product.

That is, the product is hard to describe, or not quite what people usually mean when typing in the relevant keywords. A good example of this kind of thing is gift baskets. A gift basket contains so many different items, that to get specific with search terms can be quite difficult. People who are looking for “smoked gouda” are unlikely to want to purchase a gift basket in which gouda is one small component. Another example is new technology. A combo widget-thingamabob might be a fabulous idea, but if few people know they exist yet, then few people are searching for them. People searching for “widgets” and people searching for “thingamabobs” are going to be difficult to convince to buy a combination item.

What is a good candidate for PPC? A well-branded, discount product with a unique benefit… that comes with something free. People love free.

OK, so not many of those come through the door. I’ll go into more detail about good candidates next week.

Monday, December 12, 2005

SEO: Voodoo or Parlor Trick?

It's been awhile since we had a news article about the mysteriousness of search engine optimization (SEO) and how SEOs are either voodoo witch doctors or masters of deception or slight of hand. The latest Newsweek article "Hotwiring Your Search Engine" strays close like most general media outlets do.

Some tidbits:
1. The Tag Line: " Google a topic, and the results are based on popularity, right? Wrong. Inside the shadowy world of 'SEOs.' "

2. "...an obscure procedure called a "search-engine optimization."

3. "Their goal is to boost their clients' (and in some cases their own) sites to the top of unpaid search-engine rankings—even if their true popularity doesn't warrant that elevated status."

The article does point out that search engines are reaching out to SEOs and forming a relationship:
"[Search engines] are increasingly tolerant of ethical or "white hat" SEOs like Fishkin, who primarily help their clients knock down the virtual walls that prevent search engines from fully indexing their site. Earlier this year Google engineer Matt Cutts started a blog directed at the SEO community, dispensing tips on how to make sites more visible to the automated software "spiders" that catalog the Web. It's good for Google and SEOs: better-organized sites increase the amount of content in Google's index, while improving SEO rankings."

At Zunch, SEO isn't voodo or a parlor trick. Zunch's established SEO process consists of best practices for:
  • web development
  • information architecture
  • content writing
  • web server administration
  • public relations

While there is no magic at play, what is being used is tried and true methods for eliminating technical barriers that prevent a site from being indexed properly, arranging, clarifying and specifying what a page's content is about and gathering supportive links that support the purposes of the web site.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Windows Local Live

Just for the holidays...WINDOWS LIVE LOCAL!

May give it a spin but doubt that I will use it much. Still like Google for information gathering and Yahoo! for shopping...that's just me though.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Zunch Communications, Inc. Sponsors Search Engine Optimization Show: Award-Winning Interactive Agency Team Heads to Chicago for SES

The Zunch Communications, Inc. (http://www.zunch.com) team arrived in Chicago today to participate as a Premier Plus sponsor of JupiterMedia’s Search Engine Strategies conference. As a sponsor and exhibitor, the Zunch team will be available in booth 305 for consulting and information regarding agency services. Jeff Martin, Director of PPC Auditing and Fraud Detection Services for Zunch will be serving on Thursday’s panel entitled, “Auditing Paid Listings and Click Fraud Issues.” MORE

Monday, December 05, 2005

Zunchified Panel SES Chicago: Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues

I'll be at SES Chicago and looking forward to your questions on pay per click (PPC) auditing and click fraud. The panel is Thursday, December 8th from 12:30-1:45pm.

Auditing Paid Listings & Click Fraud Issues
Did you really get that much traffic from paid listings last month or is something funny going on? Reviewing your paid traffic is an essential task any serious search engine marketer should undertake. Discover how to spot abnormalities and follow-up with search engines if you suspect a competitor or someone else is creating clicks just to drive up your costs. Also discover the proactive things paid listing providers already do to protect advertisers.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Zunch SEO Rock Star in Shanghai

Terrence Ou Checks in From Shanghai

Our APAC Business Director for Zunch, Terrence Ou, has continued to keep us updated of his adventures in Shanghai following Ad:Tech on his blog. While we know he's working hard, we're glad to see that he's still having fun!