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Top Searches in 2007

January 25th, 2008 No comments

Sorry for not posting more, really I am, but I was in Vegas for work and had lots of catch up this week. In thought about a half-assed post, but then I decided it would be better to link to the fully baked post I wrote this week for Viator about our top travel searches in 2007. Viator had over 1.2 million searches on its website in ’07! Search data is fascinating, I love to look at it, you get to see some tiny slice of life, and some really bad spelling errors. Anyway, enjoy this post, along with my sincerest apologies for being so lazy.

Categories: Tip of My Hat, Wag of My Finger Tags:

Broad Match Can Be Really Annoying

January 17th, 2008 No comments

I’ll warn you now, this is a rant. It should be concise, but be prepared for some vitriol.

I’ve been running search query reports, and am getting really irritated by some of the broad matching on Google. For a group of keywords about Paris (and only Paris) a lot of queries about France that don’t contain the term Paris at all are matching, which is irritating, especially since I purchase these France keywords to go to a France ad and a France landing page separately. I bid higher for Paris terms, which convert better, and Google is trying to squeeze out a higher CPC by applying the France queries to Paris instead of the lower bid France adgroup. If I have specified a bid for a keyword outright, don’t you think I’d rather have the search query match there than to a more broadly extrapolated match? And isn’t that a better experience for users? The quality of my ad and landing page are more specific to the France keywords, and at a higher quality score, for the appropriate adgroup (France) as opposed to the less related one (Paris). I’m irritated that my quality score is potentially harmed by this broad matching, when I am actively breaking out dissimilar keywords to enhance my quality score, and frankly, provide a better experience for search engine users. Way to undo my work Google!

There is a solution to this problem, add negative matching to the Paris adgroup so the France keywords don’t match there (I’m using negative exact matching). Then they are compelled (fingers crossed) to match to the France adgroup. Le sigh.

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My latest functionality request – position by location

December 17th, 2007 No comments

I’d like to see the average position by location when I run a keywords report. That should be pretty easy to do.

Most of my campaigns target worldwide, or nearly so, for English language search queries. If I run a report to see how I am ranking, I get a worldwide rank for that keyword. But say I want to check up on how we are doing in the US or the UK, then I appear to be out of luck. I’ve come to realize that the overall rank is very deceptive. For example, say I have a keyword ranking 1.4, with great ROI, I am probably not going to bother increasing the bid since the position is nearly being maxed out, there’s probably no upside to gain. But that keyword in just the US could be ranking 5th, so there would be upside to raising the bid, I just can’t see it. Also, how efficient are we in the UK vs. US vs. Australia for paid search? Not sure. Is there a location we should just stop targeting for lack of sales? Not sure, though I bet if I dug around in Omniture I could figure this one out.

For an important keyword in an important market I use the ad diagnostic tool in AdWords to check on its rank. But that is hella not scalable. I could duplicate my campaigns and target them specifically to certain markets, but with twenty campaigns already, that is going to get unwieldy, as well as a maintenance hassle (Need to change a URL? Do it in six places now instead of one).

Ideally I’d like a filter so I can filter my report data by location, nothing fancy. According to my AdWords account manager, I am not the only person asking for something like that, so hope springs eternal.

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The Google Holiday Gift

December 11th, 2007 No comments

In one word: uninspired.

Who doesn’t already have some USB memory? Like maybe, the one Google sent me a year or two ago. And while the DonorsChoose.org gift certificate is sweet, it was the present Yahoo! sent last year. Whoever is working on Google’s holiday gifts seems to have phoned it in. The card was pretty, but I am pretty sure the supposed to look like recycled cardboard packaging wasn’t post consumer.

Anyway all of this is just a reminder that ’tis better to give than to receive, so check out Viator’s Charity page. Yours truly picked the charities, with some input from the Viator staff.

Categories: Industry, Wag of My Finger Tags:

Matching to Less than You Think

December 5th, 2007 No comments

This is a lesson in why you should run Search Query Reports in Google. I noticed some jumps in spend and clicks for AdGroups for general destination terms, e.g., Rome Tours, which contains keywords like: rome tours, rome sightseeing, etc. I didn’t change any keywords, but everything is set to broad match, so maybe there’s some new queries that are matching. And thus, the running of the Search Query Report, solver of mysteries such as this.

I found that our keywords, in some cases, started matching to just the city name (e.g., rome). I think marketers mainly think of broad match as having queries match to more words than specified, not less. I don’t buy any city name keyword by itself. Maybe someday we’ll test these, but my gut says they are way too general to convert well, as well as fairly expensive and difficult to maintain a good quality score. Thankfully, this is easy to fix with some negative matching. I added “-[rome]” to our AdGroup, and now we don’t match to rome by itself, and rome tours, etc are still matching just fine. Hurrah for the negative exact match! Though why exactly Google thinks these more specific terms should match to a really general one is a whole other story.

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Oh Let Google Buy DoubleClick Already

November 26th, 2007 No comments

I am getting really annoyed at all the governments who didn’t say word one about Microsoft acquiring aQuantive who are now persistently giving Google a hard time about their DoubleClick acquisition. Double standards like this make me crazy, but worse I think is how poorly educated all these governments are about technology, in this case specifically online advertising. It is very apparent that they just don’t know what they are talking about, and yet, they are persistent in bumbling along to try to investigate, interview, and generally just make a nuisance of themselves around this acquisition. They should fly in Danny Sullivan, or anyone with basic competency really (me?), to do a one day seminar on what online marketing is and how it works. Clearly they don’t understand the information Google already collects, or their current reach on the internet via all their products and services. They don’t understand the competitive environment for online advertising, or who the major players are in the space. As usual bureaucracy is wasting a lot of time and tax dollars on something that is going to have no positive impact for consumers, as opposed to say, doing something useful. Mark my words the acquisition will go through, so all of this is for naught. Go make me some national health care, or at this point, I’d even settle for an airline passenger bill of rights. Sad.

Unfortunately the ineptness at any government to understand technology is nothing new. Ted Stevens famous pronouncement that the internet was a “series of tubes” (hilarously remixed here) floored me at the level of incompetence being openly flouted. We should be embarrassed. Say what you will about the Clinton administration, but at least they had some basic understanding of the internet and wanted to foster it. The United States should be blanketed in free high speed wifi by now, but of course, the telecommunications industry being what it is, and our government being what they are, that just isn’t happening. Not even San Francisco has free wifi as yet, which is fairly awful given what a tech savvy city we are, and how many offers we’ve gotten from companies like Google and Earthlink who are willing to provide it. Think about how much innovation could come out into the economy if everyone had free internet access.

Shame on us really for electing such fools (not that are choices are all that great), but really our leadership needs to step it up when it comes to understanding online technology and its role in our economy and lives.

Categories: Industry, Wag of My Finger Tags:

Yahoo! Trip Planner Should be Exploited More

October 20th, 2007 No comments

With all the talk that goes on about social media I thought anyone with a decent search engine optimization or online marketing effort going on would be exploiting just about every free avenue of the social web (forums, social networking sites, etc) they could get their marketing mitts on. Yet that’s not so. No major travel sites are taking advantage of Trip Planner on Yahoo! Travel. Over at Viator we’ve been making Yahoo! Trip Plans for a good long time now, so its surprising the major OTAs haven’t jumped all over this.

Trip plans are a great SEO tool, and the best part is that Yahoo! actively encourages travel professional to create trip plans, so you don’t even have to feel dirty about it. On Viator.com we created a series of Suggested Itineraries to inspire our customers’ travels and help them plan interesting trips to top destinations. The suggested itineraries double as keyword rich SEO content. They also happen to fit very nicely into the Trip Planner format, so we started making some. Viator Trip Plans have been given over 730 thumbs ups by the Yahoo! Trip Planner community and have been copied over 400 times.

It takes me about 30 minutes to make a Trip Plan from a Suggested Itineraries page. So for that amount of time investment we get 20 or 30 people who copy our Trip Plan and about 30 or 40 who actually read it and like it enough to give it a thumbs up. Our Trip Plans are rich with content, and also with deep links back to Viator.com, which are then copied over when a Trip Plan is copied and customized. Initially, I was wary of duplicate content issues, but most people customize the Trip Plans after they copy them, its just a nice base for some people to start their planning from. SEO link benefits aside (let’s just say they all become no follows) we also get thousands of free referrals every month (and some extra revenue) from our Trip Planner links as people who see our plans click over to visit our site.

So why don’t more travel sites take a little time to create some Trip Plans? Priceline clearly spent a small fortune on their Shatner MySpace page. Not that I want the competition, but it just seems like something tailor made for great travel SEO.

Categories: Tip of My Hat, Wag of My Finger Tags:

How is this my problem?

September 11th, 2007 No comments

 

Warning message in a big red block on my Campaign Summary page today from Google:

“The keywords in your account are nearing an unmanageable size. We recommend that you reduce the number of keywords within your account. This will ensure that your account includes the most targeted and relevant keywords possible. Use our Find and Edit Keywords Tool to identify poor performing keywords within your account (such as keywords with few or zero impressions) and delete them. Note: Be careful when deleting keywords in campaigns that are only opted in to the content network. Impressions and other statistics aren’t attributed to individual keywords when ads show on content pages, but are attributed to the ad group as a whole. Therefore, keywords in content-only campaigns will always show zero impressions.”

How is this my problem exactly? I count 54,497 keywords in my account, which doesn’t seem like much to me. Is this really all you can handle big G? Really? I’m not having any problems managing these, but it sounds like you might be….I wonder if its related to limits in Excel or the AdWords Editor.

 

 

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MSN AdCenter Hears from Me

August 29th, 2007 No comments

Funny, shortly after the post below I got contacted for a survey by MSN, which I completed. Then a follow up email came that they may contact me by phone. Good luck to them!

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5 Reasons Why I Hate MSN AdCenter

July 30th, 2007 No comments

I don’t expect any account management interface for SEM to be perfect. They all could use a little work, but when MSN AdCenter came out, I was appalled at how bad it was. Its a little better now, but still, you get the feeling that no one at MSN has ever run a medium to large size SEM campaign, or even considered what that might entail. Here’s my current list of MSN woes:

  1. It should not take over five clicks to change a bid from when I login. Partially this is because you have to click into the ad group and then another tab to look at bids (and more clicks to change them) and that process could be streamlined, but its also because you can’t display all campaigns or ad groups on one page so you have to hunt down the page with the campaign you want, then the ad group you’re looking for. It takes over three times as long as it would on Google AdWords or Yahoo. And you can’t change more than one ad group bid at a time, you have to click into each individual group. Tedious.
  2. Stability of AdCenter sucks. Its better now, but the amount of errors, random logouts, incredible slowness or incomplete actions I’ve gotten is massive compared to other systems. And frustrating.
  3. Stop the editorial approval emails. I get an ungodly amount of emails about things that are flagged for editorial approval, or disapproved. These are useful when say you get one every now and then and its actually an issue. They are not useful when you get hundreds and they are in error and have to be manually escalated to your account manager for correction. Every time a bulk change has been made on my accounts, the hundreds of emails situation happens and once there were so many it slowed down our office mailserver. I actually have a gmail account set up to just get these notices because MSN can’t stop them from mailing, even though they acknowledge they are useless and I should ignore them. Profuse apologies are no substitute for actually fixing the problem.
  4. Bulk upload is weak. You can’t upload ad groups (campaigns, yes, but ad groups to an existing campaign, seems not). You can’t upload bulk URL changes or bid changes.
  5. Change management is poor. This is more about MSN not having the greatest account management. When they added content targeting functionality you had to actively opt out each ad group from the new targeting. Having the targeting at the ad group level is a nice idea, so you can have ad groups in one campaign, but only the ones in content with good ROI. I am a fan of not having to change account structure to opt an ad group out (ahem, Google AdWords, I am looking in your direction). We have over one thousand ad groups, so that means a lot of clicks to opt everything out (of course, you couldn’t bulk upload the fix). Automatically opting everyone in and then having the onus on them to opt out was lame, suddenly we were hit with potentially days of work to manage this change. Basically, if you were a big advertiser, you were screwed. To MSN’s credit, once I discussed these concerns with them, they magically somehow opted all our ad groups out (maybe you want to share that functionality with your advertisers?). Sadly this process triggered #3 again…

I was going to leave out the fact that not supporting their interface in any browser but MSN is fairly client unfriendly, but that bears mentioning too. Especially when their competition supports most browsers.

I guess none of this shouldn’t surprise me. When AdCenter was in development (and I was at Hotwire) two people from MSN came to visit me to chat about advertiser needs for search listings management, wishlists for functionality, etc. One of the visitors was not feeling so great and not only left the meeting three times to use the bathroom, but also threw up on a temp office worker. I kid you not. We had to send the temp home. I am not going to mention the name of the visitor, but the next time I saw this person was in a bathroom at Search Engine Strategies, and I have to say, I wanted to hightail it out of there asap. A word of advice, if you are feeling unwell, and you are in a meeting, and the person you are meeting offers to reschedule or postpone things because you seem pretty sick, its time to leave, preferably before you gack on one of their coworkers. Its not your fault you are sick, people get sick, it happens, but it is your fault if you won’t leave when you should.

Back to the point, MSN AdCenter needs some work. At the end of the day I spend as little time as possible using it, which means MSN does not get much of my budget. The easier an interface is to use and the more ways I can optimize and expand my campaigns, the more money gets spent there (provided there’s traffic, which is a whole separate issue for MSN). I’d love to pore over those campaigns and add a ton of the keywords in my Google and Yahoo campaigns but frankly, I just don’t have the time to deal with them given their tools, and if I spent that same time on Google or Yahoo I’d get better incremental results.

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