Category Archives: Work

5 Simple Steps to Reactivate Inactive Keywords in Google AdWords

Since the recent Quality Score updates have been put in place a lot of people are seeing keywords being marked as inactive for search with a message: “increase quality or bid $X to activate” The costs to activate the keyword vary but can easily be $1, $5 or $10 per click. These costs are just not feasible for most advertisers, but getting these keywords back online is important.

Here’s my 5 step process for getting those keywords active again at the same or almost the same cost.

1) Delete the affected inactive keyword from the Ad Group.

2) Create a new Ad Group and name it something relevant to the keyword you’re working with.

3) Create a new ad which specifically targets that keyword. If you can include it in the title and description, great! If not, at least the title should be good enough. Make sure that the destination page also has that keyword present on the page if possible. If it’s an important enough keyword think about creating a dedicated landing page.

4) Add this keyword and only very close variants to the new Ad Group. For example, if the keyword you’re working with is red widget, only add phrases like red widget and red widgets. We want to keep this as focussed as possible for now, we can always add other variants later. Also be sure to add the necessary negative keywords.

5) Set the CPC way above what you’d normally bid and let it gain a few clicks, then you can back it down to the usual cost. This will give it some history and help get it established.

If your account is poorly structured, you may have a lot of inactive keywords. If this is the case, perhaps this would be a good time to hire a pay per click consultant to help you restructure the account. They should also be able to help you with writing the ad copy, analyzing the destination page and help with conversion analysis.

Google Pay Per Action Ads – Good and Bad

I’m very glad this Pay Per Action (PPA) beta test is now available and it’s definitely a smart move by Google to fill in the gap of their advertiser base. It will be running on the US content network only initially with limited ad formats, but I’m sure that will expand and grow as more advertisers sign up and publishers request more formats.

The Problem With Current Content Targeting
Many advertisers turn off content targeting (I hate that it’s turned on by default when you create a campaign) because they get poor performance and high clicks costs. It makes it doubly hard when a new or inexperienced AdWords customer wants to try the content network because it very often requires a different strategy to make it successful and when the first taste of results is sour, it’s tough to lure them back in to try it again.

Reacquiring Advertisers
PPA will provide another advertising option for those AdWords clients who opted out due to poor returns and high costs. This will be on their financial terms and is much easier for them to justify and track.

Gaining New Advertisers
There are still many companies who do not and will not trust CPC advertising, or Google’s click fraud protection, due to the huge discrepancies in reported click fraud which runs anywhere from 2% to 20%, and especially when just a year ago Google was involved in a class action lawsuit where they agreed to pay $90M settlement.

Many have misconceived ideas and notions of how CPC advertising works and will not be swayed, regardless of the numbers presented to them. For these business owners, Pay Per Action is going to be much easier for them to digest and they’ll be much more willing to give it a try. Unfortunately, these are the type of people that will really need a helping hand, since they will typically be the most inexperienced at online marketing. The biggest incentives for them will be the lack of financial commitment and easy of applying their business model.

It’s A Double Sell
One of the other issues that PPA advertisers will face is the double sell. They will obviously have to craft ads in various formats with great marketing messages to appeal to the end consumer, but they will also need to ensure that they write appealing descriptions and have a website which appears to convert well enough to have publishers run their ads.

Bye Bye MFA
If this ends up replacing the current CPC model, it will virtually eliminate Made For AdSense (MFA) websites and click fraud because the payback is on the completion of an action (newsletter signup, lead, sale etc). This is a huge step forwards and while many part time webmasters will boo and hiss at this, it will appease the more important audience, the advertisers themselves, ie the source of the revenue. This could also have performance and storage implications for crawling and the indexing processes.

Unfortunately since a lot of Google’s revenue comes from content network CPC ads, they’re going to be extremely cautious at making this type of move.

The Poor Publisher
A lot of publishers will not like this model and will probably stay away from it. Their belief is that simply displaying the ads is providing value and they would like some compensation. While that’s a fair statement in itself, the MFA sites abuse this and tarnish the reputation of good, trustworthy publishers.

In a PPA or CPA model, the advertiser/vendor relationship is self regulating. If a publisher does not see good returns, they will simply swap out the ads.

Competing With Affiliate Networks
The PPA model, (a.k.a. Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)) is competing with the affiliate networks like Commission Junction, and they’re not going to like it at all. With Google’s offering, there’s no monthly service fee, which is much friendlier to the vendor. According to Andy Beal’s post where he questioned Rob Kniaz, product manager for Google’s advertising products, Kniaz did not feel that this was direct competition. Although they may not intend that to to be so, the similarities are striking.

More Coverage
Official Google Announcement: Pay-per-action beta test
SEORefugee: Overcoming Objections for Google’s Pay-Per-Action
SearchEngineLand: Google Launches Pay Per Action Ads
Barrons: Google Launches “Pay-Per-Action” Ad Beta

Basic Ecommerce SEO Tips

Ecommerce websites are usually database driven and use templates to generate the website. There are usually 3 or 4 levels to the site structure, as well as informational and miscellaneous pages. If you’re not careful, your website can quickly disappear into the supplemental index and you will have a hard time getting anything other than a few of your pages ranked. I’ve outlined some basic search engine optimization tips for a typical small to medium sized ecommerce website.

1) Homepage

Optimize for your most important and broadest phrases – stick to your top sellers, or your most profitable items. If you’re a brick and mortar store, also ensure that you publish your store’s physical location or mailing address and local phone number for local search. If you’re a local supplier of dog food in Dallas, then you could use:

ACME Company - Dog Food Supplier Dallas, TX

This is your shop window, so just like the big department stores do in real life, make sure you include small windows into the various departments within the website. Provide text links directly into those categories surrounded by appropriate text. Writing in short paragraphs with embedded text links is more effective than just a list of links.

2) Main Category Page

Target the brand names and plural versions of products. Make sure you describe the products that can be found in this department or category and include text links to them, and/or their subcategories within the first few paragraphs.

3) Subcategory Page

Here you can go into more detail about the products in your target keywords. Include size or material options to go for those valuable 3, 4 and 5 word search phrases.

4) Product Detail Page

These are some of the most important pages on your website because they’re typically the start of the funnel or shopping cart and users entering your website on these specific pages tend to convert very well since they will have entered very specific search criteria.

Since the category pages are targeting the plural versions, use these pages to target the singular of the product and if appropriate include specific model numbers. If there are related products or accessories (even in different departments) feel free to link to those pages too.

Make sure your internal linking structure is both hierarchical and lateral. Make sure that the programmers don’t trap you into a site with only a hierarchical linking structure.

Variable Substitution
In many cases there will be one template used to generate all the product detail pages. If your CMS or programming team allows, use variables to populate these HTML elements, for example:

{brand} {model} - {model number}

If your company differentiates itself by price, then you can use:

Cheap {brand} {model} - {model number}

The meta description tag can also be written out with variable substitution in the same way. This is a really effective way of optimizing thousands of product detail pages with unique tags in one go and certainly beats writing each one by hand. The most important page elements you’ll want to address using this method are the title, meta description and H1 tags.

Crafting the H1 tag.
Keep it short and concise with the product name and model number. Resist the urge to include calls to action – this is not the place, there’s plenty of opportunity elsewhere on the page to entice users onto the next step.

Unique Product Descriptions
If you take a data feed from a manufacturer or supplier, try to rewrite the product descriptions. If you haven’t already do this, then take your top 10 products and rewrite those, then move on down the line. Sometimes the manufacturer’s product descriptions are filled with so much technical specification information and technical jargon that the keywords containing the product name, or type/category of product are missing completely!

Try to be verbose in your descriptions. It’s important to ensure that the copy to html ratio is in the right proportion. Search engines do not like pages with lots of template HTML code and a very short descriptions. Wherever possible, try to ensure that your product descriptions and body copy definitely outweighs the template HTML code.

By doing these few things you will ensure that every product detail page is unique, which will help to avoid those pages dropping into the supplemental index.

5) Informational Pages

For certain types of products you can target “how to” type phrases or maintenance tips. Ensure that whenever you talk about a product type, or a specific model, that you link to the appropriate category or product detail page using the model name as the link text.

6) Misc Pages

The 4 most important pages here are:

a) About Us
Talk about your company history, perhaps some customer testimonials and benefits of using your company. Perhaps you have some experts on your payroll that you want to show off.

b) Contact Us
Use your company name or primary product/service and your physical location again in the title tag and meta description. Include as much contact info as you can, the full mailing address, toll free and local telephone numbers are especially important. Make sure you write out the address in a simple text format so it’s easy for the search engine to decipher. For instance use line breaks or commas as word separators not fancy blob or circle characters. It may look cool, but the object here is to ensure that the search engine can recognise the address for local search.

You may also want to include payment methods accepted and hours of operation. If you have multiple locations, be sure to list them all. You may also want to link to one of the popular mapping services for driving directions.

c) Privacy Policy
If you want to become a member of the Better Business Bureau or TRUSTe, you will need a privacy policy. Make sure you include the date it was last updated and contact information specifically for questions regarding privacy.

d) Sitemap
Most often this is one page which lists every page on your website, but if you have a large shopping cart with hundreds or thousands of products, it’s not practical to list them all. In this case, list the main categories and use sub pages for each section. Try to limit the number of links to 100 or less per sitemap page.

Other pages will cover topics such as ordering info, customer service, shipping and return policies, sizing charts, privacy policy and frequently asked questions. There’s not much effective optimization that can be done on these pages, so make the title and meta description tags functional and concise.

Where To Put Your Company Name

If you have a fairly new website, then you’ll need to include the company name in the title tag of the homepage. Never put your company name in the title tag on every page, it’s simply a waste of characters. Most search engines only display up to approximately 60 words in the results, so if you have a long company name, you may inadvertently have your juicy model names and numbers truncated.

If your website is well established, then you may not even need to have the company name listed in any title tags, as there will be enough links pointing to your website with your company name in the anchor text to offset the need to place it within the title tag. And since your website is established, users will recognize your company in the website address after the snippet.

SEO Is An Investment Not A Cost

When I first start working with a company, many of them classify their website as a cost. It’s something that they have to have, like an 800 number, a phone system with voicemail capability, or an annual equipment service and calibration. A website should not be classified as an expense, but an asset, just in the same way as if you built your own office building, or purchased a new piece of machinery. These items are considered assets because they have some monetary value if resold and help build the business. Your website is exactly the same.

In the same way that adding more tools and machines to a workshop enhances its value through productivity, investing in search engine optimization adds value to your website through better rankings, more qualified traffic and leads or sales.

So eventhough the funds may be taken from an overall marketing department’s annual budget to pay for SEO services, it must not be grouped together with the other advertising costs. Typically most advertising is short lived – once the ad campaign is over, sales decline. This is totally opposite with professional SEO services.

With good optimization, your website’s rankings will actually improve over time. Sure, there may be a few bumps in the road as search engines revise their algorithms, but overall you will see more traffic as a result of increased visibility.

I’ve worked with a few websites which have had very few changes after the optimization process has been completed and yet they continue to gain rankings and see increased traffic as time goes by.

Google AdWords Quality Score – Serious Algo Flaw Discovered

Announced today, by the Inside AdWords crew:

Today, we began rolling out improvements to the Quality Score algorithm, which will update the Quality Score for keywords in your account over the next 3 to 4 days.

The goal is to improve the quality of the ads, which is great and I applaud their efforts to try and combat arbitrage and low quality ads, unfortunately, I’ve uncovered another side to the story of the AdWords system which isn’t so great.

The main factors in calculating quality score are click through rate, the relevance of the ad and landing page, but there are many other minor factors at play, which are not disclosed. After talking to my rep the other day, one issue which I’m not happy about at all, is the fact that a quality score is applied to the keyword, but not per account, but just the keyword itself. All advertisers are then subject to this generic keyword level quality score.

What this means is that if you have a great campaign with high click through rates, perfectly relevant ads and are seen as an authority of a topic, your minimum bid may increase because the keyword quality score overall was dragged down by arbitrage, junk sites and other accounts which, perhaps through inexperience, are bidding on the wrong keywords.

Let me reword that slightly different – your minimum bids may be raised based on the actions of other accounts, which are totally beyond your control.

This is absolutely horrendous!

The end result is that good performing accounts are effectively penalized and in one of my cases, the minimum bid was raised to a level, where there are NO advertisers willing to bid for that term, and it wasn’t one of those $1, $5 or $10 minimum bid raises either.

It seems Google has shot themselves in the foot on this issue and I know there are going to a lot of similar complaints with this new quality score system.

It doesn’t matter how much Google stresses the quality aspect of this update, advertisers are only going to see the issue that affects them the most, how much it’s going to raise their prices.

Comparing Google Local and Acxiom Categories

The Google Local Business Center offers advertisers a way to geographically authenticate themselves and then select an appropriate category for their business listing.

Google Maps takes data from various sources including Acxiom which provides data for many of the phone directory type websites.

Taking a look at the categories available categories on (which is powered by the Acxiom database), it’s immediately obvious that there’s more than the 520 listed in Google Maps. After looking 3 levels deep (many main categories go 4 levels deep), for the Pittsburgh region, I came up with just under 1,800 categories.

Some of the Acxiom categories do not map well, or are completely missing from what’s in the Google Local Business Center (LBC). Let’s look at a few examples:

GLBC is completely missing the entire main Agriculture category, which consists of at least 35, some of which include:

Agriculture – Agricultural-Crops
Agriculture – Agricultural-Crops – Agricultural-Chemicals-Pesticides
Agriculture – Animals
Agriculture – Animals – Birds
Agriculture – Animals – Specialty-Animal-Services
Agriculture – Farm-Equipment
Agriculture – Farm-Equipment – Dairy-Farm-Equipment
Agriculture – Farm-Equipment – Feeders-Automatic-Animal-Fish
Agriculture – Farm-Equipment – Irrigation-Systems-Equipment
Agriculture – Farm-Equipment – Tractors-Equipment-Supplies
Agriculture – Farms

The Business section is structured differently with GLBC having a Business To Business and Services main categories, while Acxiom has a more extensive Business Services category.

GLBC has 8 categories for Real Estate, while Acxiom has at least 26:

Real Estate
Real Estate – Agents & Realtors
Real Estate – Apartment Buildings & Complexes
Real Estate – Appraisers
Real Estate – Commercial
Real Estate – Home Inspection
Real Estate – Property Management
Real Estate – Surveyors

Real-Estate – Commercial-Industrial
Real-Estate – Commercial-Industrial – Buildings
Real-Estate – Commercial-Industrial – Commercial-Industrial-Real-Estate-Companies
Real-Estate – Commercial-Industrial – Commercial-Industrial-Rental-Leasing
Real-Estate – Commercial-Industrial – Real-Property-Lessors
Real-Estate – General
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Apartment-Building-Operators
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Cemetery-Subdividers-Developers
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Land-Subdividers-Developers
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Mortgage-Companies
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Nonresidential-Building-Operators
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Operators-Of-Residential-Mobile-Home-Sites
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Professional-Relocation-Services
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Property-Maintenance-Services
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Property-Management
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Property-Operation-Retail-Establishments
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Real-Estate-Agents-Brokers
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Real-Estate-Appraisers-Consulting-Services
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Real-Estate-Managers
Real-Estate – Real-Estate-Services – Title-Abstract-Companies
Real-Estate – Residential
Real-Estate – Residential – Modular-Mobile-Homes-Sales-Service
Real-Estate – Residential – Residential-Apartments
Real-Estate – Residential – Residential-Real-Estate-Companies

I believe that to provide the best overall experience for the user and advertiser, the two (and possibly other) systems need to be merged and use one set of categories. I don’t mind which one Google prefers, but from an advertiser point of view, I want to be consistent in how I present my company within Google AdWords local ads, Google Local Business Center and listings on Maps. Just give me one place where I can edit my company name, description and other relevant information.

From Google’s point of view, I would expect them to push all businesses through AdWords for the local ads. This would give them the chance to upsell the business to use national cpc advertising, as well as content targeting, mobile and offline ads. I think we’re going to see some interesting things happen with local in 2007.

Superpages Joining AdWords and Panama is also changing from a bid only tactic to a system which will take into account “many facets of your campaign”. I have yet to use the new system, but I have several accounts which do, so it’s just a matter of time before I get my hands on it.

Just a quick post, since I have to run off to a meeting.

Edit (2/21/2007): I had forgotten that was spun off from Verizon last fall – thanks to Idearc for contacting me – I’ve amended the title of the post.

Google AdWords Quality Update

The Google Inside AdWords blog just announced some more changes to the Quality Score which are going to be quite interesting. The first is going to be an improvement on Transparency – in other words, giving advertisers more information about the inner workings. In this case they’ll be providing indications on Quality Score at the keyword level, indicating whether it’s: Great, OK, or Poor. The other change is also providing the minimum bid for each keyword.

Looking at what has happened in the past I think it’s going to have a big impact on many AdWords customers. Smaller accounts with just a couple of campaigns will need to restructure their Ad Groups and be even more granular in grouping keywords together. While the same is also true for bigger accounts, they will also need to watch those big costly keywords very carefully. Those expensive 1 or 2 word phrases could be getting a whole lot more expensive.

For certain niche advertisers, where their strategy is not to get the highest CTR, may also suffer and see minimum bids rise, although they may not be too badly affected since they’re typically not near the bottom of the bid range anyway.

Google recommends implementing the Quality Score column, which although is not available right now, could mean using the new “customize columns” feature in the Campaign/Ad Group management tabs. This will allow you to monitor any minimum bid changes.

I hesitantly welcome this change – I’m sure Google is hoping this will get rid of a lot of PPC ads going to YPN sites, I just hope they don’t affect the “real” companies’ accounts.

One thing I know for sure, I’ll be doing a lot of monitoring/adjusting/optimizing again in the next few weeks.

Andy Beal and Search Engine Land also wrote about this issue.

Google thinks I’m Google

Because I work for an SEO company in Pittsburgh, I tend to do quite a lot of local searches in and around the Pittsburgh metro area. At work we’ve been receiving some phone calls from people who think we’re Google – the latest was an event planner wanting to check up on conference plans. I hope whoever at Google was attending the conference got in touch with their planner, because apparently they didn’t already have your number – and I hope you consider using a different planner.

So I download the logfiles for our company website and take a look at the referrers – great, some traffic from Google maps. Then I find that we’re listed #1 for Google Pittsburgh PA

This coincides with a post Google just put out about local search: Find and compare local businesses, which I thought was quite amusing indeed!

So for any future planners or others wanting to find Google Pittsburgh they’re at:

Pittsburgh Engineering Office
4720 Forbes Avenue
Lower Level
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Incase this gets manually altered somehow… I’ve saved a screenshots for prosperity.

We’re also listed under the regular web search with an authoritative onebox listing:

Disclaimer: My company has never pretended to be Google or optimized/paid to be listed this way, this is just an example of Google’s own local search ranking algo, not quite getting it right.

Google PageRank update underway

Matt just posted that the latest Google PageRank update is now underway as well as updates for the link: and site: commands. PR values are fluctuating wildly during this time, but as with previous updates, should settle down in the next 48hrs.
He also reiterated about how Google is treating certain types of links and that the lack of link quality could be causing some pages to go into supplemental.

“If you used to have pages in our main web index and now they’re in the supplemental results, a good hypothesis is that we might not be counting links to your pages with the same weight as we have in the past.”

The major determining factor of a page going into supplemental is its PageRank value. So if some pages are identified as being a bit spammy, they aren’t assigned any (or maybe only a tiny bit of) PageRank. This means that the PR calculation has a new dynamic element to it, which may be part of the dampening value in what we know as the standard PR formula.