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September 03, 2008

The Perfect Interactive Marketing Solution

When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target. ~George Fisher

Don’t let your desire for perfection get in the way of your marketing goals. Being hesitant and indecisive when forming ideas for your interactive marketing strategy can waste a lot of valuable time. It can also cost you some valuable leads that you would be generating if you had just committed to getting it up and running. Time is money, and the more time you spend not having an effective online marketing solution, the less money you are going to be making.

Some people will spend months or years polishing a business plan, making sure every single detail is examined and estimated, only to find that in practice, it’s not as they imagined it. That’s way too much time wasted planning and thinking, when they should have be doing and learning.

The same is true about your Interactive Marketing Solution. You know that you need to figure something out to stay competitive. All this talk about Web 2.0, corporate blogging, and social media is pretty confusing. It’s scary knowing that you need to do something, yet having no clue on what to do. How can you identify what is right for your company?

Well, the best advice is to let someone (I suggest MasterLink) help you formulate an Interactive Marketing Action Plan. Working with a collaborative Interactive Marketing partner to identify your goals and objectives is a great way to establish what your interactive marketing solution should be. By setting goals, it is then easy to work backwards to discover ways of achieving them. Hey, it turns out you don’t need that corporate blog or the fancy 3-d flash intro after all. Nice!

Marketing is an ongoing process. You discover that your favorite campaigns are not quite as effective as you planned, or that the one you had no hopes for, surprisingly has a high conversion rate. Because the nature of marketing is so volatile, the best strategy is to get it going and just test, tweak, test, tweak, test, etc.

You can come up with millions of excuses not to get a website up, not to set up a Pay-Per-Click campaign to drive traffic to your company’s product pages, or not to start utilizing Search Engine Optimization to increase your business’ online visibility and credibility. Stop it! Quit making excuses.

Your best option is to start right now before your competition leaves you in their dust. When you spend so much time looking for the “best” choice that you never actually do anything, you are sabotaging your company.

Even if the target is moving, it still is best to shoot. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

August 27, 2008

5 Ways to Make Your Landing Page Stick

Having a landing page that sticks is imperative to online success. Your company’s landing page is the first thing visitors see when they come to your website, and it's the only thing that determines whether they hit the back button or stay to learn more.

Let’s look at five ways that will help make your landing pages stick:

  1. Highlight Keywords Earlier- If someone lands on your page after searching for "mortgage Texas," make sure those keywords show up earlier in the copy. It’s pretty annoying when you visit a website and it takes 25 minutes just to find what you were originally searching for.

  2. Have Congruent Images - Stock images that vaguely describe what you do are not going to boost conversions. Please do not put up a picture of 4 people that look like they are auditioning for next season's Apprentice if you are selling landscaping services. Testing images to see which increases conversion is key.

  3. Keep it Easy on the Eyes- This means leaving lots of white space, writing in bullet points, and putting key points in bold. Clutter on a landing page should be avoided at all costs.
  4. "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler" – Einstein

  5. Make the Most of your Header- Your header is prime real estate. Design it to create an impression. Make sure it shows off the image that you wish to project to your prospects and clients. It doesn’t have to be magnificent, but it better look clean and professional!

  6. Have Clear Contact Us Info- The main point of having a landing page is to get your visitor to perform a certain action. In most business situations, you want the prospect to call you or submit information for follow-up. In either situation, make sure that your contact information or that lead generation survey is nice and clear.

Most importantly, be sure to tweak and test your landing pages to find out what works best for your unique situation.

PS. Check out this landing page we designed for our client, TexasLending.com. and their free mortgage quote.

August 26, 2008

Google’s Motives for Banning WebPosition

Experience has taught me that corporations like to make certain that every bit of their resources are dedicated to a task. That is why I was wondering what Google had in mind when they blocked the automatic page ranking programs like WebPosition Gold.

WebPosition Gold and other similar programs consume search engine resources every time they are run. Google has threatened to block them for this very reason for years, but they have only enforced the threat recently.

Now, according to John at PPC Hero, Google is going to creating a QA Score for each individual search query for each Adwords ad that is applicable. That sounds like a massive undertaking that requires a significant amount of resources, since there are literally billions of search queries performed daily. It seems more than coincidental that the two changes are occurring at roughly the same time. What do you think?

August 07, 2008

Manage Google Adwords in Any Language

I can manage Adwords campaigns in any language supported by Google. That’s right, any language. The only language I know fluently is English, although I am studying basic Russian. So, how can I manage Adwords in languages I don’t know? And why would I?

international adwords

First, let me clarify. I refuse to manage a search marketing campaign for a language I can’t translate. Even if I had the ad copy translated for me, I wouldn’t be able to understand the many distinct permutations of words or phrases, the conjugations of verbs, or the day-to-day vernacular that native speakers of a language can. While a great deal of my job is nothing more than analyzing numbers, it still requires an insite of what users are intending in any particular search.

The standard response when asked to support another language is to outsource the ad. I don’t care for the idea of someone else being responsible for my credibility. If I say I’m going to get a client results, I would rather not have to constantly explain those results to a client. Plus, I’d rather not increase the amount of money I’m asking of a client only to see most of that money go elsewhere.

For starters, the trick is not to simply choose another language while still using English ad copy. Spanish speakers might still click on an English ad, for example, but they are highly unlikely to actually convert. Quite frankly, it is bad practice to do so. I find it surprising how often I have to explain to others that Google does not translate ads for them.

The simple trick is to manage ads on the Content Network. Since Google cares more about the theme of the keywords in a Content Network ad than anything else, there is no perpetual shifting of keywords. The only difficult part is the initial setup. From that point forward it is purely a numbers game.

First, you’ll want to get the keywords and ad copy you would want as if it were an English ad. If you are also running an English ad then use that one as your starting point. You will still need to either outsource the translation to someone else or to the client specifically. Make certain to have four or five text ad copies ready. Since their translation may not sound as good as your initial text, you need to monitor the performance of the ad copy closely, and stop displaying some text accordingly. Google is mostly concerned with the keyword themes in adgroups on the Content Network, so most translations should be fine if your initial English keywords were grouped correctly.

From that point forward, you will simply monitor the Placement Performance report and block sites that perform poorly. Now, for those marketers that do not like the Content Network, you will have outsource the product.

July 24, 2008

Knol: Great for Google or Bad?

I thoroughly enjoy Wikipedia and use it frequently. I love to read information and facts, and Wikipedia makes doing so all too easy. The information is of course provided by users, so there is a lot of info on Wikipedia that is wrong, but overall it is still informative.

Google liked the idea so much that they decided to take the same idea and monetize it. Now, users can create informational articles on ‘Knol’ (www.Knol.Google.com) and create an ad to go along with the article. The articles default to allow Adsense ads to which the writer will share some of the revenue. Google says that there is very little oversight to the veracity of the ads except that users can leave reviews.

This sounds easy to take advantage of for profit. One of the problems with the idea comes down to the fact that Google is the one that gets the rest of the profit. They are also the one that controls the rankings. While, I really do believe that Google will operate with integrity and avoid unfair practices, I still think that Google is opening up a can of worms they may not be prepared for.

The other problem is directly on Google.com search results. Most search results pages are littered with at least one Wikipedia link or more. It stands to reason that Knol will do the same as long as the information within the articles is significantly different. This will create another challenge for the SEO community. Luckily, I’m just a PPC specialist. More Adsense space creates more Content Network real estate for my clients. Heck, creating an article designed for a client’s ad seems to be……..ummm…forget I said that.

Anyways, despite the way it sounds, I really do like the idea of another open source encyclopedia. I love the offerings that Google brings to the web. I think Google would have been well advised to walk away from this one. As questionable as the idea sounds for Google, Knol is going in my fav’s anyways.

July 22, 2008

Search Engine Friendly Flash

Recently Adobe, the software provider of Flash, announced it is providing optimized Adobe Flash Player technology to Google and Yahoo! The new development is said to improve search results for Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) in the Flash file format.

Adobe explained on their website:
"This will provide more relevant automatic search rankings of the millions of RIAs and other dynamic content that run in Adobe Flash Player. Moving forward, RIA developers and rich web content producers won't need to amend existing and future content to make it searchable—they can now be confident that it can be found by users around the globe."

That all sounds great, but I wouldn't go and redesign your CSS and HTML developed site for an all Flash experience just yet.

There are still many issues to consider that can prevent the search engines from treating your Flash content as regular HTML text. Back when Al Gore created the internet ;-) it started as primarily text based pages. The search engine algorithms were built around analyzing that text. And that has not changed.

Search engines may now be able to access the text within a Flash file but they cannot quite process it as they do HTML text. They still look in the HTML for important meta data used to structure the HTML. This information can include the title tag, the formatting code as in H1, bolded text and lists as well as image alt tags.

In addition to the limits of processing text in Flash, the search engines will have problems with the lack of unique URLs found in Flash sites. Many times a Flash site is all contained within the homepage URL. As you navigate through the site the URL never changes. This means all of the text processed by the search engines will have to be indexed as one single page. It also means that they may not process all of the text in the site as they will not execute all of the actions within the Flash.

The indexing of Flash text may also cause less than ideal user experiences. As the search engines find text within the Flash site not contained in the first level a visitor may discover the site in the search results only to find once they click through that the text they're searching for is not there. Rather than trying to navigate though the site to find what they're looking for they'll likely click the back button to find a page that has that info right away.

Now I'm not saying all Flash is bad. We create Flash animations on many of our web site designs. And since we are also search engine optimization company our designers typically limit the Flash portion to a small animated banner at the top of a page that has images and text. The text not being that important for search engines as we make sure the sites and pages all have plenty of unique indexable HTML text content to feed to the search engines. This type of Flash use has never been a big concern for us and still isn't. The concerns would be for those sites whose entire development was done in Flash. I'm not betting on those sites magically ranking for competitive terms suddenly.

June 13, 2008

The Big Questions Surrounding the Yahoo-Google Deal

In case you haven't heard the news Yahoo will begin showing Google's Adwords ads in the next few months pending a Justice Department review. This all happened on the same day that Microsoft and Yahoo officially broke off talks about Microsoft buying Yahoo.

The big questions are:

1. What does this do for Yahoo?
The ads on Google have more competitive bids. Yahoo will receive a percentage of what Google receives from these clicks. This will actually bring more money to Yahoo than their own ads by themselves. This will also probably give Yahoo a jump-start to their bidding competitions. It remains to be seen whether the Google ads compete with the Yahoo ads on a level playing field.

2. What does this do for Google?
This will not actually improve Google's statistics for search volume. Still, it's just one more piece of real estate for Google to expand their ad network to. It also provides a way for Google to boost its click revenue.

3. What does this mean for the search industry?
Google is growing in dominance. Yahoo is being given a brief reprieve from their long slow fall from grace. Microsoft is left at the altar wondering what could have been.

June 04, 2008

5 Reasons You Lost the Deal

Your sales person has brought a potential client into the office, your team has made the stellar pitch, and the energy between everyone was electric. In the end the $20,000 a month deal went to another agency. After going through the usual check-list of reasons in your head try going through this additional list.

  1. Techie-Talk – Most search marketers that I know don’t have a marketing background. Most of them have a tech background which drove them to search. If they can’t speak money to a client the deal is probably going to be hard to get past that business’s marketing department.

  2. Condescension – Trying to prove to a potential client that you know your stuff by throwing out all the industry jargon can come off like a call to a tech-support guru. The caller walks away feeling insulted.

  3. Confusing Data – Clients only care about click-through-rate if that means more money for their company. This is like the number one issue. If they can’t understand the data then it is worthless information.

  4. Reputation – It is too easy to mislead a company, and the corporations are catching onto this fact. They are acting more and more like the sales process is an interview. They are searching the web for the name of the agencies they are talking to. Poor placement on the search engines or negative links look like your company doesn’t know what it is doing. Talk the talk. Walk the walk.

  5. Employees – This is the same as the last note, except that it applies to the employees. Any person the potential client might meet is game for being searched. Who really cares if one of your people has posts about their drunken exploits on their MySpace page? Your clients do. It smacks of a lack of professionalism.

Just because you’re in the industry doesn’t mean you can fool clients. It is just too competitive out there. Make sure your clients see the best side of you, and you will be rewarded.

June 03, 2008

SEO Seminar in Dallas - SEO Fast Start Live With Dan Thies

Dan Thies, a Dallas area SEO known as the "keyword guru" and author of the SEO Fast Start e-book is holding a seminar, SEO Fast Start Live in Dallas on June 25 & 26 at the Crowne Plaza in Addison. Dan is recognized in the industry as an SEO expert and has been practicing and teaching search engine optimization for over 10 years.

SEO Fast Start is a free e-book offering step by step instructions for a process-driven method of SEO including planning, measuring, & improving your ROI. Dan will be expanding on many of the topics in his book during the live Dallas seminar.
"During this intensive 2-day training, we will discuss how SEO and PPC fit into the larger picture of your business… how to develop better strategies, tactics, and processes to maximize your return on investment from search engine marketing."
The agenda includes:
  • Understanding Your Brand
  • Keyword Strategy
  • Content Development / Copywriting
  • Link Building
  • Google AdWords - PPC
  • Social Media
It's not often that a good SEO conference comes through Dallas so if you're looking to learn about or expand your knowledge of SEO and have an opportunity to network with some of the brightest SEOs in Dallas, don't miss this event. You have until tomorrow June 4 to sign up for SEO Fast Start Live with the early bird discount for $97.

We'll be there!

June 02, 2008

Viewzi Search Engine - Dallas Men Create "Google Killer"?

While I was watching prime time tv last week a CBS 11 News teaser caught my attention with the headline "Dallas Web Designers Ready To Compete With Google".

Now I don't really watch the local news much and although my boyfriend was a bit dismayed at the fact that we'd be missing part of The Daily Show with John Stewart, I knew I had to stay tuned for this story.

These Dallas men along with several from California and Hawaii created a new search engine, Viewzi. Now Viewzi isn't exactly just like other search engines. Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN are all text based search engines. These basically show the results for web pages as text with the title, description and URL. Viewzi is much more interactive.

With Viewzi there are several options for viewing your search results. There's the Simple Text View which shows combined results from Google and Yahoo in a familiar text listing format. There's special viewing options for video, images, mp3s and Amazon books results. The Weather View is also particularly handy but not so much for it to be a daily destination for me.

There's a Everyday Shopping view which shows results from Amazon, Ebay, Target and Walmart. This could be handy depending on what you're looking for as it shows images of the actual products.

Viewzi Shopping View

The two views I found most useful, yet not so much that I'd actually use them regularly are Web Screenshot View and 4 Sources View. In the Web Screenshot View you get Yahoo search results with a nice screenshot of the website. However, there's only one result on screen at a time and you have to scroll through one by one. In addition, the screenshots seem to take some time to load (note they are still in beta, so this may be temporary slowness). As a Search Engine Optimization specialist, this is not great news unless you already have a 1st place ranking in Yahoo. If not you have to hope the Viewzi users like to scroll a few pages.

Viewzi Web View

Next up is the 4 Sources View. This one is my favorite for playing around with so far. This view provides the 8 top results for Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN all on the same page. It also shows a screenshot all of the results, unfortunately the screenshots load somewhat slowly here as well.

The 4 Sources View results can be customized to show whichever engines you are interested in. You can choose to view Google results only, or Google and Yahoo only. This feature is helpful in comparing results in the top search engines all in one place, which is handy. I like searching in this view, it's fun. But I'm not sure that it'd be that useful if I were a regular searcher and not a curious SEO. First of all it's not very intuitive, I can just picture my mom and dad trying to figure out how to use this. Secondly the ordering of the results from the 4 engines seems so random. Why is Yahoo sometimes on top, MSN other times and some spaces have results stacked up from 3 engines and others with only one? What's it all mean?

Viewzi 4 Sources View

All in all the Viewzi team did an incredible job designing the site. I love the look and feel with all of the graphics, image navigation and web site screenshots. I just don't see this as anything that Google will worry about. People use search engines to get to the information they are searching for fast. They don't want to scroll through large screenshots or mess around with reordering the 4 big search engines while searching in another. I think of Viewzi as more of a fun "alternative" search engine and not a "Google Killer". I just seriously doubt that Average Joe Surfer will be migrating to Viewzi and adding "Viewzi this" and "Viewzi that" to the internet vocabulary anytime soon.

Viewzi's public launch is scheduled for June 9th. If you'd like to try out Viewzi now check out the CBS 11 news story "Dallas Web Designers Ready To Compete With Google" for a referral code.

May 23, 2008

4 Easy Stats to Watch for in Analytics

Analytics is a dirty word to many web users. The word depicts tons of boring stats that only a select few individuals can make heads or tails of. Goal conversions, funnels, filters, and traffic sources make a user's head spin. Don't stop reading just yet. There are actually some easier stats to understand that will directly affect how your web site design.

Here's the good news - Most of the information is easy to find and easy to read

Here's the bad news - It requires actually exploring a few minutes to find these things. *gasp*

I know. I said this was going to be easy. It is easy once you know what to look for. I'm not going to walk you through the steps to find this information. That's your job, and I'd have to list the steps for each analytics. So, here are the 4 easy stats to watch for in Analytics and why they're important.

1 - Flash support - If your website uses any amount of flash at all, it is important to know if your users have flash and that they have the version you are using. If 10 percent of them do not then you have a problem. See? That was easy, right?

2 - Broadband - If you have a high percentage of dial-up users, and your site loads slow on dial-up, you'll want to address this fact. A previous client of mine had the opposite effect. Their dial-up users converted better than their broadband users. The assumption was that once a page loaded, any page at all, the users were committed.

3. Version of OS - No matter how much you love Linux or Mac, the majority of users are using Windows. All of your website's details should be PC friendly above all else.

4. Browser type - Every last detail of your site must work when using Internet Explorer. Over 90% of internet users are using it, so your page must be designed with IE in mind.

May 21, 2008

Make Sure Your Business Is In Front Of Your Customers Faces When They Want You

Last week I found 2 copies of the Yellow Pages, yes 2 delivered on different days, on my doorstep . You remember Yellow Pages, right? Those huge, thick old style books printed on real paper from trees that you used to have to flip through endlessly trying to find a location or phone number. Antiques, I know. I threw them away, or rather recycled them of course, not knowing I may actually need one one day. I can't remember the last time I did need one. With a world of information at my fingertips anytime I need or want it why would I need this relic? After all, all I need to do is type a few words into Google and they'll do the searching for me and present me with the best, most relevant information. Right? Well, not if your business isn't optimized on the web.

So last night I was looking for dinner. My boyfriend unfortunately got to pick dinner for the night, which of course was fried chicken, my least favorite. Well, I thought we must find a chicken joint that serves macaroni and cheese. If I'm forced to eat fried chicken there better be some cheese involved because, being from Wisconsin I know that it's not really food if it doesn't have cheese on it. But I digress. My boyfriend and I both knew there was a fast food chicken joint up the road from us but we couldn't agree on which one it was.

So, my search began. My boyfriend thought it was a Popeye's Chicken. So, I Googled Popeye's Chicken. The URL for the first result looked promising enough, www.popeyeschicken.com, but in the search results the title only said "WELCOME TO POPEYES!" Woah! First of all quit screaming at me (using all caps can give that impression on your users) and second of all where's the "fried chicken"? I guess they don't want people to find them when searching for fried chicken. I clicked through to the site and found the entire site is in flash so the search engines have know idea what this site is about. I navigate my way through the flash and find the menu. No mac & cheese. Bummer.

Okay, on to Church's Chicken. Googling Churchs Chicken, the search results show www.churchs.com, good. The title is simply "Church's Chicken", at least we know they have chicken. Now, this site is all flash too. Except more annoying as it has all these fancy effects and sounds. I navigate to the menu and wait for the animations to load and find - no mac & cheese!

Okay, obviously I'm not going to get my cheese with dinner. So, while still on the Church's Chicken site I decide to check the locator to determine if it's a Church's up the street. I type in Dallas, TX and the website tells me there are no restaurants in Dallas, TX. Come on now, it's Texas! Of course there are Church's Chicken...and many at that.

Frustrated now, I search for Churchs Chicken Dallas. Google results display a map at the top of the page and 10 links for various Church's locations all linking to churchs.com where the locator did not work. I click though to the map and see there's no restaurant indicated in my area. Okay, maybe that was a Popeye's after all. I Google Popeyes Chicken Dallas and I get the map results where they are all linking to www.popeyes.com instead of popeyeschicken.com. I opt for avoiding yet another dead end site and click through to the Google map. But there's no Popeye's Chicken near me anywhere!

About ready to give up on this whole internet thing (yes, I know that would leave me jobless), I give popeyes.com a chance. What do you know, another flash site. Yippee! This site is different from the first so I check the previous site and finally notice that popeyeschicken.com is only for the Washington DC area, yet it ranks for Popeyes Chicken above the main Popeye's Chicken site which I didn't even notice in my search. Oy! Moving on, I find a link to a locator on popeyes.com in the flash menu. This prompts my browser's pop up blocker to bleep at me. Oh boy, here we go. I go back and this time opt to click on the text link in the footer (yay! at least they have this!). Finally, popeyes.com gets something right and I am taken to a locator that when Dallas, TX is entered it returns results. And there it was, a fried chicken joint up the street. I decided to check the menu on this Popeye's site and low and behold - mac & cheese. Glorious!!!

So, yeah about 30 minutes or more later I got what I was looking for, or so I thought. I think I might have found it faster in the old Yellow Pages. I'm obviously a very experienced internet user and searcher and I had all these problems. I'm sure I would've given up had I not been a curious SEO but a "normal" person.

What I learned from this is that no matter how big your business is, no matter whether you are local or international you absolutely need to use internet marketing services to position yourself to be in front of your customers faces when they are actively looking for you. If you have a business with multiple locations, make sure your business and all physical addresses are verified with Google Maps. If I was an average internet user looking for fried chicken and mac & cheese in Dallas I would've just gone to the nearest KFC and skipped all the hassle I went through.

Finally, it's also important to make sure your website accurately reflects your products and services. If you discontinue or no longer carry an item, take it off the website. Nobody likes to get excited about finding you have mac & cheese on your online menu only to go to your store and find no such thing.

Yes, I was eventually successful at locating a chicken joint with mac & cheese near me, but did I accomplish what I set out to do? Sadly, no. I was like a mouse racing for the cheese at the end of an obstacle course only to have it removed just as I arrived. My local Popeyes had no mac & cheese on the menu when we got there. So after all my searching I had clearly wasted my time and am not going to be interested in fried chicken again any time soon.

May 15, 2008

5 Common Mistakes People Make in Google Adwords

All too often I am horrified while reviewing a Google Adwords account. I run into bad campaign settings, large numbers of keywords with poor quality scores, and unappealing ad copy. Even the most studious of novices make what seem to be blatant errors.

Google originally created the Adwords interface as a user-friendly way for new advertisers and old-school veterans alike to be able to immediately jump into the wonderful world of online pay-per-click advertising. The tools that Google has provided are very helpful, and spending money has never been easier.

The idea of turning money into traffic has become extremely palatable to modern business users, but very simple mistakes can destroy any potential success an ad might generate. I thought a quick run-down of the common errors and a couple extra tips thrown into the mix would be helpful.

1. Language Preference Settings – This is accessible through the campaign settings. It is not good practice to select a campaign to display in all languages when the ad is written in English. Google will permit this circumstance to occur, but Google does not translate the ad. Non-English speakers will still see an English ad!

2. Display URL’s are part of the ad copy – A user’s eyes have a hard time distinguishing the words in www.myfavoritebusinesswebsite.com. The words in the URL all run together making it a non-selling point in an ad. The more effective solution is to type www.MyFavoriteBusinessWebsite.com. Now, it jumps out to users’ eyes and encourages them to click.

3. Keyword Relevancy - Including a bunch of keywords in one adgroup and writing an ad that sounds general enough to apply to all keywords is not an effective short-cut. All keywords must be closely related to each other in nature to be successful. Ex. Hammers may be used to put a crib together. They may also both be retail products. The may even be sold by the same manufacturer. Still, hammers and cribs don’t belong in the same adgroup.

4. “Free” keywords do not sell – If you’re trying to sell something, going after keywords with the word “free” is the easiest way to get a good click-through-rate and a terrible conversion rate. When users are searching for something free they are not looking to buy something.

5. The Content Network works – I frequently hear that the Content Network just doesn’t convert. That is simply not true, but the conversion rates are usually lower than search. The bids are usually lower though which frequently makes for an effective cost-per-conversion. My suggestion is to opt your search campaigns out of the Content Network and create a separate “Content Network only” campaign (credit my friend and sensei Brandy Eddings) This makes it easier to eyeball the general stats on the campaign summary screens, and to manage them separately (as they should be). It’s good to test different bidding on the Content Network by raising and lowering the bids until you find the optimum cost-per-conversion amount. I frequently find Google’s help sections inadequate, but their info on this subject is superb. Google Help

May 06, 2008

Web Analytics Madness

Yahoo jumped at the opportunity to purchase Index Tools; an analytics provider that charges a relatively small fee to each client to track the hits and conversions going their sites. Yahoo has announced that they will start providing Index Tools free of charge to some users.

Google bought an analytics company, Urchin, several years ago in order to provide this sort of tracking. By offering it free they were able to attract more advertisers. Google Adwords Conversion Tracking, while distinct from Google Analytics, has seen recent improvements as well.

Index Tools and Google Analytics are worlds apart in appearance and user-interface, but as far as functionality, there is very little difference between the two. Google presents more aesthetic looking graphs, while Index Tools makes it easier to cross more data variables on user charts, but the virtually all the same information is accessible through either one.

Acquiring a comparable analytics provider will make them much more attractive for the future, but Google’s upgrades will make it tough still. Google Adwords Conversion Tracking is now able to track more than one type of conversion for the same client. This is phenomenal step forward. Many advertisers want to track when users fill out a standard form or a form for information, but the ability to track both was limited. Each user could only be counted once, but each form was counted as a transaction. Using that format an advertiser could determine how many users had completed both forms, they could not determine which form had been filled out if they were individual form conversions. Google Analytics could be used for this purpose, but the process to do so was time consuming and cumbersome.

Google Analytics has recently started beta testing the ability to track information by different time periods as well; hourly/daily/weekly. While the daily and weekly will save time when creating a report, the hourly reports are the best advancement out of the lot. Previously, one could track all kinds of data for the different times of the day such as clicks, but the conversions weren’t displayed hourly. That means that it was difficult to tell the conversion rates at different times of the day. For a PPC Specialist, the conversion rates are crucial. Let’s hope this offering comes out of beta-testing ASAP.

April 30, 2008

Why I’m Still a Fan of Microsoft

The downpour of negativity towards Microsoft is beginning to wear on me. I feel the need to stand up and voice my reasons why I still believe in Microsoft. After all, weren’t they the darling of the media just 10 years ago? Bill Gates was a capitalist icon. He was the geek that proved everyone wrong. He was the one that made being a nerd "cool".

Let me take you down a trip to memory lane. Apple was the big boy, with Steve Jobs at the top. Macintosh and its powerful word processor were destined to replace the typewriter. It was a far better platform than those of us that played around on the old Apple IIe. Its GUI interface was mind-blowing, and floppy disks were rumored to hold entire megabytes someday. Any office place worthy of being in business had to have one.

A decade later, Apple was faltering, and almost half the homes in America had a PC. Microsoft was innovative, and above all else it was cheap. Mac lovers were either dinosaurs or were working on graphic designing at the universities. Billions of dollars were spent on hardware upgrades for PC’s, while Mac’s had a hard time being upgraded. It really didn’t matter that Mac’s didn’t need to upgrade much, since they were top-of-the-line to begin with. Computer geeks were able to fiddle with IRQ’s for hours, while Mac users rarely knew what an IRQ was. Working on a broken PC made a geek seem smart in the eyes’ of others.
Working on a broken Mac was short and simple. It was no coincidence that Steve Jobs’ tenure at Apple was also short at the time. Steve Jobs has only achieved great success since he came back to Apple because he learned one valuable lesson; don’t challenge Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop market.

All of the major failings of PC’s became huge selling points, while Apple struggled to market to a small percentage of the population. Why was that? Simple: It was the price of the Mac. Apple was determined to make the Macintosh the Mercedes Benz of the computing world. Microsoft wanted their computers in the home of every home. Here’s a simple fact: the Volkswagen Beetle (Bug) was the most sold car in the history of cars. It was also one of the cheapest, and easiest to fix.

I might own a Mercedes Benz, but I will probably buy numerous cheap cars in the meantime. I don’t have to search for parts for cheap cars, just like I don’t have to search for PC software. It is the exact opposite for Macintosh and Mercedes Benz. If most people used a Mac, most viruses would target Macintosh computers. Is my point becoming clear? For the many awful mistakes that Microsoft has made through the years, there is a reason why they dominate the computing market. Without Microsoft, most homes in America would not have a computer at all.