Acquisio Interview Part II – PPC Trends in 2009

In this second installment of our interview with Acquisio founder, Marc Poirier, we chat about PPC trends in 2009. After all, Acquisio crunches PPC data all day long, so I thought that Marc might have some insight. What he shared with us was Acquisio’s first-hand experience with the PPC market place over the course of 2009, including how it’s beginning to shape up.

Live Blogging SES Toronto 2009: Quality Score: “201, 301”

Anne Kennedy, SES Advisory Board & Managing Partner and Founder, Beyond Ink

Andrew Goodman, SES Advisory Board & Principal, Page Zero Media
David Sprinkle, Director of Paid Search, Acronym Media

Overview from the SES Day 2 Agenda:

How are ads ranked in the paid search auctions run by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft? Each keyword in your campaign is assigned a “quality score” based on past performance. Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. In any case, you must achieve high quality scores to keep your paid search costs in line. Expert panelists explain the workings of the latest algorithms, discuss case studies and testing techniques, and explain how to troubleshoot problems.

First speaker: A. Goodman

Evolution of Google AdWords and its pricing model:

  • v1.0. Original AdWords used fixed pricing. It was an unpopular program. Fixed CPM rates, few tools. It was the worst of old display ad technology, but at least you could target keywords.
  • v2.0: CTR rules now. Leapfrogs Overture’s pure PPC auction. Bid multiplied by CTR equals AdRrank. Now a more efficient auction. Ads priced on market demand. New tools mean more marketers are measuring ROI by keyword. Other incentives and tools introduced to test ads. (Notes that CTR is not the perfect proxy for relevancy, but it’s pretty close. Still, Google makes more money this way.)
  • v2.5: quality based bidding introduced in 2005. Google pursues multiple goals. Disincentive for lowball bidding on irrelevant terms. Chase away “annoying” advertisers (to enhance user experience). Addresses relevancy and quality with more factors than just CTR. Low quality score meant inactive keywords, or need to raise your bid above minimum. Side effect: increased revenue (higher CPCs) & profit margin for Google.
  • v2.6: landing page quality. Use response and consumer protection goals. Editorial approaches being automated. Google’s published guidelines. What is the weighting of these factors (e.g., Quality Score: ‘Poor’, ‘OK’). Landing pages: can check speed of landing page, etc.

States that in reality landing page score is probably not big part of Quality Score.

Increase quality score by having good account/campaign categorization, tight relationships of meaning: keywords, ads, landing page.

Accounts in Quality Score (QS) purgatory. Basic build problems: wrong campaign settings; no ad testing; jumbled ad groups, wrong keywords. Quasi arbitrage or unclear business model; urgent need to spend $X dollars (tens or hundreds of thousands) in one month; no understanding that it takes time to rank up QS

Sometimes if you have broad keywords and weak ads in a hot sector you get poor CTRs and QS out the gate. Using high bids to rescue an account with low QS doesn’t go too far. If QS is so poor across account, may want to try building new account.

Higher ad positions and better click prices: the classic recipe. Build a powerful account; “shape” QS. Strong brand, clear goals for a good head start. Smarter campaign structure using better keyword research, persona research. Ongoing attention to QS hygiene: delete loosely-targeting words

Second speaker: D. Sprinkle

Known factors for QS: CTR, query relevance, landing page “quality”, account history, geographical performance, maximum bid, bounce rate.

Smart campaign architecture: small, focused ad groups is the best; kill non-performing keywords (pause/delete); pause ads—don’t just edit existing ones; separate top performers; match types (recommends putting different match types into different campaigns [though, I personally don’t usually think this is a good idea].

Disagrees with previous speaker regarding consideration of landing pages by Google in Quality Score formula. Thinks it plays bigger role. Checks pages with Google’s site-related keyword research tool

Monitoring. Your bid management tool doesn’t cut it. Utilize available reports; create your own metrics; only use current data; give change time

Goal is to have landing page load in under 5 seconds. Free tool for checking: YSLow (for FireBug/Firefox)

All the above relates to Google AdWords. Yahoo & MSN have greater focus on CTR, CPC… ad relevance, landing pages, more literal than Google. Keyword being bid on needs to be in ad.

With new pricing models, Google gets more say in what you have to pay.

SES Toronto : Canada specific SEO & PPC Issues

Heather Dougherty from

Microsoft Bing beame the 9th most visited website in Canada Last week!  Last week they ranked 17 in the US.

52% of search queries contain 1-2 keywords.  Success rates of Search engines:

Yahoo! Canada: 76.59% Google US only 68%.  Search results have lots of potential improvement.

International competition is facing Canada right now.   It is difficult to find relevant canadian results.  When adding “canada” to can improve relevance drastically.  for example “credit cards” vs. “credit cards canada.”

Audit Search results from competition outside of Canada.  Sometimes companies don’t realize they compete here even though they can’t cated to Canadian Audience.

Ari Schomair From Henderson Bas : Canadian Search Engine Optimization

Why do we care about canadian SEO? Language and location are two key factors in SE relevancy rankings.

Some Facts: Canada has 2 official languages, Canadians regularly visits US websites, Not all Canadian sites are hosted in Canada, Many Canadian Companies have american offices.

Sample problems:  you don’t appear in Canadian SERPs, they appear in English but not french, a US parent company outranks Canadian  counterpart.

1. IP Location and Whois Location – whois is set at domain level but subdomains can be hosted separately.

2. Webmaster tools – You can set Geographic target, but obviously only works for Google, and is also at domain level.

3. Domain extention: .ca vs.  generic .com etc.

4. Canadian Centered link building

5. On page address listings – google has a patent for this particular function

Case Studies which improved results in Canada dramatically:

Mercedes Benz C-Class: in Canada was being outranked in US.  They moved content to 301 redirects, canadian focused Link building.

Nestle: They couldn’t move to, so they utilized a .ca domain to signal geography focus. didnt rank well in canada.  It was hosted in the US.  Solution: moved from .com to .ca utilizing deep 301 redirects, specified geographic focus in Webmaster tools.

Dual Language site: They split french and English into subdirectories, moved listed canadian mailiing address oon site, hosted site in Canada.

conclusion: think about geographic focus when creating website

2. use the 5 main tactics to rank in Canada (lusted above)

Marc Poirier From Acquisio: Canadian-Specific issues with PPC

What’s unique in PPC in Canada Vs US:

1. Size of the Market.  Way less volume in Canada  In US 21$ billion spent, in Canada it was 1.2$ Billion. Population 10x smaller and adspend is 20x smaller.

2. Two official languages 60% english 23% french and 17% other.  Bilingual campaign is good for bilingual companies.  Remember it is marketing, so you cannot do crappy translations.  Language targeting – use french ad copy for french keywords. Content network is great to experiment language targeting.

3. Currency issues.  In Canada 80% of Search traffic is driven by Google and they use Canadian Dollar, but Yahoo and Microsoft you have to fund with US dollars, so it becomes difficult to do accounting, understanding ROI, etc.

4. Victims of the giant next door: Canada is a source of arbitrage traffic to be resold in the US. Example “car insurance” comes up in, but if you dont enter a US zip code you cannot use site or service.

Conclusion: Harder in canada to do PPC: 2 currencies, 2 languages, we have a market that is 5% of US.

Guillaume Bouchard NVI (woot woot!): Quebec-Specific Issues

Quebec Demographics:  73.5% of quebec uses internet every day, however 80% uses debit cards so ecommerce is delayed because people want to use debit cards for transactions. 4 Million active Users, 70% French 30% users. Rural zones are more french.

The Quebec French Audiene is ahead of france in terms of search complexity (how many kw used in a query.  Since it is harder to find things in french, Quebequers have to use more complex search queries.

225-250 million seaqrches a month in Quebec from Google.  Content network quality in French is lower than US counterpart.

Bing needs to stop changing its name.  Peope in Quebec went through sympatico/MSN, Live, now bing.  Too many branding changes. did a lot of advertising on buses but forgot to put the URL in ads. Content network for is low quality.


BV! Media: Important display ad network. Low ROI on B2B, not a search engine, below average traffic. – doing a lot of new things, however if they are arbitraging Google ads, then it will be more expensive tha Google.   Some categories recieve a lot more traffic than others but cost the same.  Some verticals can be more advantageous than others.

Quebec Market Distribution:

PowerCorp, Transcontinental, Quebecor.  They are all based on vertical acquisitions.

Social: 2 of the top 30 users in Digg are Quebequers!!

Marketing properly in Quebec:  Have a real Francophone from Quebec for Marketing.  French in France is different. US results, and international have different results.  see previous post by Naoise Osborne of NVI.

Live Blogging SES Toronto 2009: Introduction to Paid Search

Moderator: Amanda Watlington, Owner, Searching for Profit

Presenter: Matt Van Wagner, President, Find Me Faster

Overview from the SES Day 2 Agenda:

Paid search is a form of advertising that places your text ad near search results on engines like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft Live Search. The ad systems allow you to choose which specific keywords you want to bid on. This popular session walks you through the key concepts, warns of you of key pitfalls in the setup phase, and explores strategies for maximizing profit now and going forward.

Session starts with definition of basic terms. Why you should love PPC: it’s all measurable. You can test stuff out; spend a little bit of money and see how things fare.

PPC and SEO are complementary:

  • Get going quickly
  • Discover what words convert
  • Manage risk for natural search ranking changes
  • Predictable, dependable traffic flow

PPC allows more control over messaging:

  • Control messaging through ad text; whereas with SEO, depend on snippet that Google uses in the SERPs
  • Determine what pages visitors first land on

PPC is not a set it and forget it thing. Should work in a disciplined manner. Use systemized thinking: align campaign goals with larger company goals. Increase sales, not visitors

This is not a media buy in the traditional sense. Spending money per click and want to get the maximum return on investment.

Track performance and make adjustments. Be methodical, measure, test everything. Don’t react too quickly, but don’t get analysis-paralysis

Set good goals and work towards them

Concentrate efforts on biggest PPC provider: AdWords. ( May 2009)

Two areas where ads will show:

  • Search engines and search partners. User types in a query; they are actively seeking answers, etc.
  • Content network websites. User does not type in a query; they encounter ads while doing something else (e.g., reading article on New York Times online)

Demonstration of where ads appear in the different search engines (Bing, Ask, Google)

Typical questions when starting out in PPC:

  • What’s best position for ad?
  • Does highest bid always get the top spot?
  • How much will I pay? (Max CPC vs. average CPC)
  • What’s AdWords Quality Score?

In general, higher your ads appear, the more clicks you get and the more you pay. You need to take both relevancy and bids into account. Ad rank equals your Quality Score multiplied by max. bid.

Quality Score is comprised of:

  • Relevancy: keywords, ads, landing page all relate to one another
  • Historical performance of your keywords, keywords and ads together, ad groups, campaigns, account
  • CTR

When starting out campaign it’s best to set higher max. bids so you can burn in a higher CTR from the get go.

With Quality Score you won’t always pay more than a competitor to be in a top position, if your ad and campaign are deemed more relevant by AdWords.

Setting up and managing campaigns. Know the primary goal of your campaign (leads, sales, branding?); how do you define success (online vs offline conversions); how do you measure success (conversion tracking offered by search publisher; third party analytics tools; phone calls)

Measure and manage actions, not just CTR or CPC

Structure of a PPC account. Campaign, ad group (keywords, ads), landing page

Demographic, geographic, day targeting. If not sure where to start out, just focus on your most likely best area, demographic to work in. Shows ads to most likely buyers. Constrain your spend. AdWords, Yahoo!, adCenter all offer ability to do demographic bidding as well as day parting (ad scheduling).

Building keyword lists. Start with a brain dump from what you already know. Keyword list works best with two to three word plus phrases. Absolutely buy your own brand names. Use search engine and third party keyword tools for further research (Google/Yahoo!/MSN; Wordtracker,; related, competitor websites)

Organize keyword lists. Segment word together into logical groups

Explained differences between keyword match types. Google and MSN use broad, phrase, exact, negative match terms. Negative match keywords very important for preventing ads from showing for things irrelevant to your campaign.

PPC ads. They serve two purposes: designed to draw clicks (ad should include strong offer, keyword being bid on); designed to filter clicks. Obvious, but to increase CTR, write great (i.e., relevant, enticing ads). Variety of ad copy styles: first person story; trusted authority; price appeal; convenience; get info; “we’re different from Brand X”. In AdWords, if tracking conversions, ensure that you set your campaign to rotate ads evenly (as opposed to by CTR, the default setting).

Live Blogging SES Toronto 2009: Search Ads & Landing Page Clinic

Moderator: Anne Kennedy, SES Advisory Board & Managing Partner and Founder, Beyond Ink

Bryan Eisenberg, SES Advisory Board & Co-Founder, Future Now, Inc.
Mona Elesseily, Director of Marketing Strategy, Page Zero Media

Does your PPC ad make a promise that your landing page can’t keep? Make sure that your ad copy and landing page contents are in alignment to ensure a smooth and profitable visitor experience. This clinic will examine actual ads and landing pages offered up by volunteers from the audience.

Several attendees had their ad copy and landing pages critiqued by the two speakers. After the first and second critiques, things slowed down and got pretty redundant. Some useful takeaways but the constructive criticism should have at least included what these webmasters and campaign managers are doing right, not just highlight all the wrong.

The tips below are what I distilled from the critiques of the websites and PPC ads of one attendee whose company sells, among other things, Father’s Day gifts; one selling training sessions for handling (I think) hazardous materials; and a company selling customized checks.

Do’s and don’ts for PPC ads:

  • Don’t include your company brand name the headline (unless, say, you’re already a household name). This is a mistake lots of brands make… assuming that the potential customer already knows you. Instead, use your most important keywords in headline and description
  • Structure of ad groups. Make sure everything is granular. Create ad copy that speaks to the keywords in the ad group, and landing pages that speak to both those keywords and ad text. Entice the searcher, get them to your site… follow-up with your landing page

And for landing pages:

  • Images should be clickable
  • Product images should be large
  • Show popular products first on page
  • Always have important stuff above the fold (obviously)
  • Make sure ad text matches what’s on landing page
  • Focus on exactly what trying to sell (don’t inundate searcher with too many options
  • Specific landing pages for your campaigns, ad groups
  • Don’t use horizontal lines on page to separate content (searcher will think it’s the end of page; nothing more to see)

PPC Cannibalization : Are you paying for free traffic ?

What is PPC Cannibalization ?

PPC cannibalization occurs usually when you have strong organic search engine ranking and you are running a PPC campaign on top of that. It’s the % of organic clicks you would have had but that you ended up paying for because the PPC campaign attracted the click.

You may have heard that running both increases the % of searchers going to your website and that it is basically a good thing. It’s sadly not always the case, but you can measure that, at least, and it’s one of the best things you can do to optimize a PPC campaign. The basic problem is, a % of the traffic you would get for free is becoming paid traffic, and that messes up the ROI of both the SEO and the PPC campaign. Knowing exactly where to put your SEO and PPC money for the best ROI is an admirable advantage in the SERPs war.

Avinash Kaushik suggests in his book: “Web Analytics: An Hour a Day” a method to measure cannibalization. You can either pause some Ads Groups of your PPC campaign and then measure Key Performance Indicators of the organic traffic during a week and then put the Ad Groups switch to On and measure the difference in the organic traffic. Or, you can even stop PPC completely for a week and do the same thing. The difference between the 2 weeks of results is what is called cannibalization. Try to choose a week that you do not expect to be affected seasonality (don’t use Christmas week, for example).

Using this method you have a way to calculate the real return on investment for your PPC campaign. Let’s say your PPC and organic campaign convert at 3% on your brand name keyword. After having made the blackout test, you realize than you lose 35% of your organic traffic on this particular keyword when the PPC campaign is on. To make thing simpler, let’s assume you get 1000 visitors a week by organic (when PPC if off) and 500 visitors from PPC in a week on that keyword. The average CPC of this particular keyword is 1$ and the average conversion worth 50$ in revenue. Doing some basic math, here is the real cost of your PPC campaign.

You can see from the table that you are making less profit by doing PPC on this particular keyword, even if you are generating more conversions. You may want to go that way because more sales can equal quantity discounts for you and end up with more profit. But usually, you are wasting money pursuing this kind of strategy, and you should move your PPC budget towards more profitable keywords (like ones you don’t rank on organically).