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New FTC Guidelines Raise Concerns for Social Marketers

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This past December 1st, new FTC guidelines we enacted which have the potential to greatly impact social marketing and affiliate marketers.  The new FTC guidelines entitled “Guide Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” require social marketers to disclose if they are compensated in any way when discussing a product.  This could include receiving a product or service for free.

The new FTC guidelines are squarely aimed at bloggers, forum posts, Twitter and Facebook platforms.  The FTC is trying to enforce transparency if messages by the author could be believed to be that of a sponsor even if the author and sponsor have identical points of view.

While compliance seems to be reasonably non-intrusive, this does appear to be a shift in standards that have been widely allowed in traditional media for years.  Enforcement on the other hand presents many challenges.  How can anyone possibly monitor all of the social media touch points?  On one podcast that I recently listened to, an affiliate marketing expert pondered the opportunity for free publicity.  What if your post becomes the case that goes all the way to The Supreme Court?  Somewhere a marketer and lawyer are licking their chops.

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Written by Greg M

January 2, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Google – Now with Personalized Feed Search Goodness

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Over the past 2 and a half years Google has fine tuned it’s algorithm around Universal Search.  In the normal SERPS (search engine results page) Google shows news, images, local listing, videos and more blended in with its normal results.

Recently Google has started to roll out its new algorithm which includes 2 primary features – Personalized Search and Real Time search.  Personalized Search launched last week and means that Google will attempt to learn your preferences over time and adjust it’s SERPs on an individual basis.  This has the promise of much better results for the user, however as a search marketer I have no idea how will track individually targeted keyword rankings.  My guess is that will have to focus on referring keywords at a site level rather than the SERPs.

The second is Real Time search which is coming online this week.  Google will now include a Feed Box along with its other Universal Search listings.  The Feed Box will contain the latest updates from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  I was listening to a podcast with Bruce Clay a few weeks back and they understandably had significant concerns for the impact this could have on brands – this looks like a big fat wait and see!

Written by Greg M

December 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

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Net Neutrality Debate Heating Up in Congress

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net neutralityA quick summary of Net Neutrality is that no content on the web should be given preferential treatment by the owners of the pipes, wires, switches, ISPs, etc.  Net Neutrality would prevent someone like ATT from speeding up (prioritizing) the delivery of content through their pipes based on say an advertising deal.  For example, ATT would get ‘free’  advertising space on ESPN if they gave priority to Disney content.

While listening to the October 29th podcast of Webcology on Webmaster radio the hosts talked about some of Google’s new offerings and the potential implications of Net Neutrality.  When one services owns such a commanding share of the web it begs the question – Do we also need Google Neutrality?

Here are some resources for Net Neutrality education and action.

Webcology 10/29 Pocast

Save the Internet Petition – Sign Up Now!

Save the Internet Video on YouTube

Written by Greg M

November 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Podcasts, Tips

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SEM Ad Text, What to Test First?

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ad text

I’m starting work on develop an SEM campaign and in the process of writing copy started wrestling with some different testing options for the ad text.  My testing options are limited in two ways.  First, we’ll also be conducting an A/B landing page test for each ad group shortly as soon as possible once the campaign launches.  Secondly, since it’s a new campaign we intend to ramp up slowly so the initial focus will be on the long tail, greatly limiting our volume and quest for statistical significance.

It’s imperative that we start of with an ad text test but it will need to be small.  The options seem to be a 3×1 or 2×2 test matrix – 3 headlines and 1 body copy for 3 total combinations or 2 headlines mixed with 2 sets of body copy for a total of 4 combinations.  Best practices suggest that the headline copy tends to be much more effective than body copy so I’m leaning toward the 3×1 option.  With fewer combinations than the 2×2 test we’ll be able to roll into the landing page test more quickly as well.winning results with google ad words

Another short cut I’m considering is combing the ad text results across the engines.  No doubt Google, bing and Ask would have some performance nuances with regard to ad text click through rate but I’m willing to assume they’re constant for the sake of speed.  Yet another example of the digital marketer balancing speed and accuracy!

To learn more pick up a copy of Winning Results with Google AdWords, Second Edition at Amazon.com

Written by Greg M

August 25, 2009 at 11:27 pm

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Is Branded SEM Worth It?

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branded searchBack when I was client side our SEM agency looooved branded paid search terms.  They did wonders for the overall CPA of our search campaigns.  But for the very generic phrases (e.g. no specific product mentioned) I questioned if there was any additive lift to the overall leads the site was generating – especially given the expanded search results that Google started to show on the SERPs.

We did a couple of on/off tests with the paid search campaigns’ top 3 phrases and compared leads generated from SEM and leads generated from the organic listings in Google.  What we found is that there was lift – but not much.  We found that only about 5% of the leads were actually incremental.  In other words, for every 20 leads generated we would have landed 19 of them.  So if our original CPA for generic branded search phrases was $7, the true CPA ballooned to $140.  Subsequently we used our funds for terms with under $100 CPA that had little to no SEO traffic – the result was an overall lift in total leads generated by the site.

If you’re spending a lot on generic branded search campaigns, try some on/off testing to try and determine your true ROI – you’re online marketing funds may be better used elsewhere.

To pick up some other search marketing tips try reading Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site (2nd Edition)search engine marketing inc

Written by Greg M

August 8, 2009 at 6:10 pm

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Day Parting Can Boost Your SEM Efficiency

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red arrowA few years back I was experimenting with day parting for one of my paid search campaigns with Google and came across something totally unexpected.  Normally the idea behind day parting is that people are more apt to convert for your product or service so pull the ads during the low points and heavy up the ad spend during your prime time.  However, we found that the later in the day we started our SEM spend the more efficient (lower CPA) the campaign became.

Why?  I theorized that most campaigns have daily budgets and at 12:01 AM most campaigns come back online.  It turns out that the wee hours of the morning are the most competitive of the day.  Gradually advertisers deplete their daily search budget – meaning less competition later in the day.  As a result cost per click for search marketing is much lower, generally speaking, at the end of the day than in the late evening.  In other words, if you’re the last advertiser with money you’ll get the cheapest clicks.

There are several different ways to experiment with this SEM technique but if you haven’t started to work with day parting yet give it a try!  The results weren’t staggering but the reduction in CPA was typically in the 5%-10% range.

You can learn more about search marketing by reading Winning Results with Google AdWords, Second Edition

winning results with google ad words

Written by Greg M

August 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

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Optimization KPIs for Testing a Checkout Process

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funnelMulti-step checkout processes and conversion funnels present some unique testing and optimization challenges. Most complex conversion processes like these track campaign and website success across multiple dimensions – conversion rate, number of items bought, total dollar value, gross profit, etc. In a testing environment those items are sometimes way downstream (I once worked on a site that had 29 steps – yikes!!!). Using both a primary and secondary KPI can help you achieve statistical significance faster in your testing and optimization program.

A continual challenge for site side multivariate and A/B testing is that statistical significance can be tough to reach in a reasonable length of time – 2 to 4 weeks is the general range. Using a primary KPI like click through rate on the test page will yield a much greater sample size since it’s further up the funnel. In most cases it’s substantially faster than waiting for an adequate sample size to shake out downstream.

The secondary KPI will be used to validate that we’re sending quality traffic through the funnel with our optimization program and not just tricking people to click on a bright shinny object. In this case we could use total dollar value and compare that against our website’s historical benchmarks. Statistical accuracy isn’t as critical at this point, we just need enough conversions to see if our optimized page is in the ballpark of the norm – 80% confidence or less would be fine if you see enough life on your primary KPI. If these validation KPIs are way off then we need to let the test run longer to gain more significance and start analyzing the pages to determine why we’re generating a lot of low quality clicks. Overall this should greatly boost the testing cycle time of your optimization program.

To learn more aboiut web analytics and KPIs pick up a copy of Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics from Amazon.com today!

Written by Greg M

July 24, 2009 at 10:59 am

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