Friday, July 6th, 2012

New Blog Posts Await

New blog posts await

If you’ve reached this page in the hope of finding my latest blog posts, then I have both good news and bad news. The bad news is that you won’t find my latest posts here. The good news is that you can find them on my latest wordpress blog (http://www.hmtweb.com/marketing-blog/). You can also subscribe to my feed to keep up to date on my latest posts and news.

Happy Reading.

GG

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Breaking: Email Reports and PDF Export (in Beta) Now Available in Google Analytics v5 [Screenshots]

OK, I’ve been waiting for this functionality to hit the latest version of Google Analytics for some time, and I’m excited that it’s finally here! From what I gather, this is rolling out gradually (in beta), so not everyone is seeing what I’m seeing. About 10 minutes ago, my Google Analytics session froze. Upon refreshing, I noticed an “Email” button on the action bar with a beta label, along with a new option in the “Export” dropdown. You can now email reports as an attachment (in csv, tsv, tsv for excel, and now PDF!) That’s right, you can email pdf’s, as well as export them separately. You can also schedule emails by frequency (daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly), so you can automatically send reports.

Below are screenshots of the buttons in action:

Email Button in Google Analytics:
Email report functionality in Google Analytics v5

Export to PDF in Google Analytics v5:
Export to PDF functionality in Google Analytics v5

As of now, Google Analytics hasn’t officially stated this is rolling out, but I’m seeing it.

Let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to provide more information until you receive the update!

[Update] Now that I’ve had some time to play with the new functionality, I wanted to explain more about export to pdf and the advanced email functionality in Google Analytics.

1. Export to PDF
From any report, you can easily click the “Export” dropdown in the action bar to export that report as a pdf. There aren’t options for tailoring the report, and it will be exported immediately. As with other reports, you can increase the number of rows exported by altering the table.rowCount parameter in the URL. For example, changing it to “50” will export 50 rows versus the default 10. The report in pdf format includes the trending graph, aggregate metrics for the report you are viewing, and the rows of data with associated metrics (based on the view you are currently in). For example, Site Usage, Goal Set 1, eCommerce, etc.

Sample PDF Report in Google Analytics v5

2. Email Reports (With Scheduling)
The second piece of functionality I’ll cover is the new Email Report functionality. As I explained above, you can also find the “Email” button via the action bar. When you click the button, you are presented with a set of options, including choosing the format of the report. You will notice that “PDF” is now an option. You can also set the frequency for the scheduled report, including once, daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. If you choose weekly, you can then choose the day of the week that the report will be emailed. If you choose monthly, you can choose the day of the month. Last, there is an arrow labeled “Advanced Options”, which enables you to choose how long the scheduled report should be active for. The dropdown list includes 1-12 months.

Scheduling Reports via Email in Google Analytics v5

Wrapping Up – The Power of the PDF
Once your account receives the update, you should test the new functionality for exporting pdf’s. I think you’ll like it. This is something that’s been much needed for some time. Now let me go schedule some more reports. :)

GG

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

How To Create a Custom Report in Google Analytics by Customizing a Standard Report [Tutorial]

Custom Reports in Google Analytics

Custom reports in Google Analytics are incredibly powerful.They enable you to tailor reporting, based on your own business, your own conversion goals, key metrics, etc.The problem is that custom reports can be confusing to create. You have metric drilldowns, dimension groups, report views, filters, etc. If you aren’t familiar with creating custom reports, the interface could be daunting. That said, you shouldn’t give up trying to create custom reports! Again, they can be very powerful for analyzing traffic.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through creating a custom report that displays organic search traffic from mobile devices. The report will also enable you to view those visits by location. It’s a nifty custom report for any local business. The report lets you quickly view top keywords leading to your site via organic search (mobile traffic), but also lets you view how many of those visits are from potential buyers (people located near your business).

In addition, Google recently released functionality for customizing a standard report versus having to create every custom report from scratch. This is a great option if you are new to custom reports and want to tailor some of the existing reports in Google Analytics to fit your needs.

Creating a Custom Report from a Standard Report
As I mentioned earlier, we’ll start with a standard report in Google Analytics and tailor it to meet our goals. Since we are going to create a report showing organic search from mobile devices, let’s start with the Mobile Overview report and customize it to display:

  • Organic keywords leading to the site (mobile traffic).
  • The region those visits are from (i.e. states).
  • The cities within those regions that visits are coming from.
  • The mobile operating system from those visits (android, iphone, etc.)

The goal of the report is to know the organic keywords leading to the site from mobile visits, and how many of those visits are from potential customers (people located near your business).

How to Create the Custom Report (from a Standard Report)

1. Open up Google Analytics, click the “Audience” tab, and then expand the “Mobile” link in the left side navigation. Click the “Overview” link to view the Mobile Overview report.

Accessing the Mobile Overview Report in Google Analytics

2. Click the “Customize” link in the action bar of the report. This will enable you to customize this report for your own needs (by creating a custom report based on this standard report). Note, not all standard reports can be customized this way. Tabular reports can be customized this way, but you will find other reports within GA that cannot be converted to custom reports:

Customizing a Standard Report in Google Analytics

3. When you click “customize”, the standard report will be loaded into “report builder”. The initial view will show you the current report mapped out already in report builder. Then you can tailor the various elements, based on what you are trying to achieve with your own custom report.

Report Builder in Google Analytics

4. You can keep the current metric groups if you want. If you ever want to go back and customize the metric groups, you can by editing the custom report. For example, you definitely want to set up various conversion goals and events so you can better understand quality traffic. Once you do, you can add them to your metric groups so you can view performance by traffic in your custom report.

5. Under dimension drilldowns, you will only see “Mobile” listed. Adding more dimensions will enable you to drill into each level to find more data. As I explained above, we want to drill into mobile traffic to reveal the organic keywords leading to the site. Then we want to view location by region and state. So, let’s add those additional dimensions to our report.

Adding Dimensions to a Custom Report in Google Analytics

6. Click the “Add Dimension” box in dimension drilldowns and select “Keyword” from the “Advertising” list.

Adding More Dimensions to a Custom Report in Google Analytics

7. Next, add more dimensions to your report. Click the “Add Dimension” box again, and include the “Region” dimension from the “Visitors” list. After adding “Region”, you should go through the same process to add another dimension for “City”.

Adding Location Dimensions to a Custom Report in Google Analytics

8. Filter Your Traffic
The last step is to make sure the traffic is only from organic search. We only want to view mobile traffic from organic search, so we need to tell Google Analytics to filter that traffic for us. Click the “Add a Filter” box under the “Filters” category. Select the “Medium” dimension under the “Traffic Sources” list. Then select “include” from the first filter dropdown, leave “Medium” as the dimension, leave “Exact” in the third dropdown, and then enter “organic” in the text box (without quotes). See the screenshot below to follow along. This text tells Google Analytics to include all traffic that exactly matches “organic” as the medium. “Organic” is what’s listed for all organic search traffic.

Filtering Traffic in a Custom Report in Google Analytics

Congratulations! You just created a custom report, based on a standard report. Click “Save” at the bottom of the report and you’ll be taken to the functioning report in Google Analytics.

You can start drilling into the report by clicking “Yes” in the mobile report, which will reveal all organic keywords from mobile traffic. Then you can click any keyword to view the region those visits are from. If you click the region, you can view the cities within that region. Again, this report can help you identify mobile traffic from organic search, the keywords being searched for, and identify if these are potential customers (based on their proximity to your local business).

Bonus: Access the Custom Report Template
As an added bonus, I have shared the template for this custom report and you can access it by clicking the link below. Once you click the link, you can add this template to a Google Analytics profile and start using the report today. You can also analyze the report setup so you can work through creating similar custom reports. Click the following link to access the custom report for organic search visits from mobile devices.

Summary – Customize It!
I hope this post helped clear up some of the confusion associated with building custom reports in Google Analytics. I love that Google added the ability to customize standard reports, since that’s sometimes all you want to do… If you are new to custom reports, then I recommend starting with a standard report and then customizing that report to fit your needs. Going through that process should help you get more comfortable with working in report builder and could lead to more advanced custom reports. And that can all lead to advanced analysis of your traffic. Good luck.

GG

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

How To Create Interest Lists in Facebook [Tutorial]

Last week Facebook rolled out interest lists, which is a Twitter-like way to keep up with specific groups of pages, people, or subscriptions. Remember, you can subscribe to someone’s public feed in Facebook without being “friends” with them. It’s definitely an effort to keep people on Facebook longer, versus jumping out to check Twitter, RSS feeds, etc. In addition, it’s a powerful way for Facebook to learn even more about you, which can help fuel their advertising platform. Remember, marketers can target you via interest-based targeting, based on your activity on the social network.

I’ve been testing interest lists since they launched and have found them to be a pretty good way to organize feeds by category. They definitely aren’t keeping me away from Twitter, Google+, RSS, etc., but it’s a good way to view the latest updates for a certain category within Facebook. Organizing interest lists can absolutely save you time, and can help keep you informed. In this post, I’ll walk you through the process of creating and accessing interest lists in Facebook.

How To Create an Interest List in 4 Steps:

1. Access Interest Lists
Log into Facebook and find “Interests” in the left sidebar.

Interest Lists in Facebook

2. Click the link for “Add Interests”
Add Interest Lists in Facebook

3. Add an Interest List
Facebook has already organized interest lists by category (if you don’t want to create one yourself). This is the quickest way to add an interest list. You’ll see prepopulated lists organized by category like Art, Books, Business, Technology, etc. You can click the “Subscribe” button next to each list to add them as interests. Once you do, the new interest list will show up in the left sidebar under “Interests”.

Prepopulated Interest Lists in Facebook

4. Create Your Own Interest Lists
Prepopulated lists are fine, but the true power of interest lists comes from organizing your own, based on pages, people, or subscriptions you like. Click “Create List”, and Facebook will bring up a dialog box with all of the pages you like, the subscriptions you have, and friends you are connected with. You will also see categories on the left side, which when clicked, will reveal pages to add or people to subscribe to.

The Create Interest List Button in Facebook

Create Interest Lists in Facebook

At this point, click each of the pages or people you want to add to your new interest list and then click the “Next” button. You will be prompted to name your list and then choose its privacy setting. You can choose “Public” where anyone can see your list, “Friends” where friends can view and subscribe to the list, and then “Only Me”, which means only you will be able to view the list. Click “Done” after you’ve named the list and selected its privacy setting.

Privacy Settings for Interest Lists in Facebook

That’s it! Congratulations, you’ve just created an interest list. Facebook will automatically show you the feed after completing the setup. To access other interest lists you’ve created, simply click the interest list name in the left sidebar under “Interests”. To return to your standard news feed, simply click the Facebook logo in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

Summary – Organize Your Interests
Interest lists can be a strong way to keep up with the latest news and updates from specific pages, subscriptions, and friends (and all by category). Again, interests provide a Twitter-like feel to Facebook and is definitely an attempt to keep you on the site longer, versus relying on other services for updates. In addition, and this is extremely important for Facebook, interests provide a great way for the social network to understand more about you. This can help fuel their advertising product, which enables marketers to reach you via interest-based targeting. So if you’re ok with giving Facebook more information about you, then go ahead and set up some interest lists today.

GG

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

How To Troubleshoot Authorship Markup When rel=author and rel=publisher Clash [Case Study]

Last year, Google rolled out authorship markup which displays author information (including a thumbnail image) right in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It can be extremely powerful and can absolutely make your content stand out. For example, here’s what a search result looks like for my post about bounce rate and exit rate.

An example of author details in Google.

With author details in the SERPs, a thumbnail image shows up for the author, there’s a link to the author’s Google profile (or Google+ profile), and you can link to additional posts from that author right from the search listing. If you are logged into Google+, you can also circle that author right from the search results. This can all lead to higher levels of trust with users, which can lead to higher engagement and click-through. Think about it, if Google is highlighting the author by providing all of the information I listed above, it can bring a higher level of credibility when users are searching for solutions, answers, help, etc.

The Problem with Authorship Markup
Although authorship markup can yield powerful results, there are some problems associated with it. As many webmasters have found out the hard way, adding authorship markup to a website or blog can be confusing. Google lists several ways you can add authorship markup to a website, which is both good and bad. It’s great to have options, but it leaves too much room for error, especially for non-technical website owners.

Also, since you’re never given all the feedback you need to make sure authorship markup is working, it can lead to a flawed (or botched) implementation that goes untouched and unfixed for too long. Google does provide the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, but it doesn’t include detailed instructions for making changes (nor does it always provide clear information).

Since Google doesn’t guarantee it will show author details for all markup implementations, you basically have to wait it out and see how the new markup takes. If it takes, you’ll see the robust search listings I showed you earlier. If it doesn’t take, you’ll see the standard listings (all text).

Again, not every author is eligible for author details in the SERPs. That’s algorithmically determined. Therefore, you won’t know right away if it’s your setup that’s the problem, or if you just aren’t eligible. As you can guess, this can be very frustrating for webmasters.

Yes, It Gets More Complicated, Enter rel=publisher
With the rollout of Google+ business pages, Google added a way to connect your business page with your website (and vice versa). The benefit of doing this is that a company can share +1’s across its website content and business page on Google+. It also makes you eligible for Google+ Direct Connect.

The Google+ Developers Page About Connecting a Website to a Business Page:
Using rel=publisher to connect a website to a Google profile.

In order to connect your Google+ page with your site, you need to add more code. Google recommends adding a snippet of code to the head of your webpages using rel=publisher. The problem, once again, is that webmasters were adding the code, but never knew if it was implemented correctly. In addition, people were confused whether rel=publisher would work with rel=author? Could the two pieces of code be located on the same page? How would Google handle that? And would it screw up authorship markup? These were all good questions, and again, it caused a lot of confusion for webmasters.

Fixing a Botched Implementation
So, based on what I listed above, there are definitely webmasters out there who have implemented authorship markup that aren’t reaping the benefits in the SERPs. I know how frustrating this can be for webmasters, since I just finished helping one site fix a botched implementation. The author was at her wit’s end. And she isn’t alone.

But don’t fear. I’m going to explain what went wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes. I also hope this post can help you troubleshoot implementations that aren’t yielding the desired results. For example, if the SERPs don’t display author information, thumbnail images, etc. Let’s learn more about what was happening.

Some Background Information About The Setup
The site in question had implemented rel=author by linking directly to the Google+ profile for that person (it was a single author blog). According to Google, you can implement authorship markup this way, as documented in their help section about authorship markup. Note: Google just added a new way to add authorship markup, but the original methods are still supported.

With regard to the company I was helping, linking directly to a Google profile from each piece of content is easy, but it’s not what I recommend. Instead, I recommend linking to a dedicated author page on your site using rel=author, which then links to a Google profile using rel=me. Then you would link back to your author page from your Google profile using rel=me to complete the process. This three way linkage seems to work best, based on my experience.

If you haven’t dealt with authorship markup yet, then I’m sure the last paragraph completely confused you. :) Stick with me, though. There’s a good lesson to learn. Back to the site I helped.

So, the site in question was linking directly to a Google profile from each piece of content on the site. Then the Google profile was linking back to the site using rel=me. Using the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, the implementation of authorship markup looked correct. Also, for a short period of time, author information did show up in the SERPs (according to the company). All looked good from their end.

An example of using the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to view authorship markup:
Using the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to view authorship markup.

Adding Complexity – Connecting a Google+ Page with a Website
Then Google+ business pages rolled out and Google recommended that webmasters link their websites to their Google+ business pages using rel=publisher (as I covered earlier). So the site did just that, adding rel=publisher to each page of the site (using the code that Google provided), which was included in the Google help documentation.

When testing the pages using the Rich Snippets Testing Tool after rel=publisher went live revealed some strange results. The tool said authorship markup was correct, but the SERP preview showed the business page as the author. Needless to say, that’s not what the author wanted. After the site got crawled again, author details disappeared from the SERPs. Instead, just the typical SERP details were displayed. Note, rankings were unaffected (which you would hope would be the case), but author details, including the beautiful thumbnail image, were gone. Weeks went by and nothing changed in the SERPs.

The Fix
When I got involved, I immediately had a few recommendations:
1) I wanted to remove rel=publisher from each page of the site, other than the homepage. I believed that was confusing Google and could be screwing up author details in the SERPs.
2) I wanted to revamp the way authorship was installed on the site. Instead of linking directly to the Google profile from each page of the site using rel=author, I recommended adding links to a dedicated author page on the site using rel=author. Then, as I covered earlier, the website should link to the Google profile from the author page using rel=me. And last, they should add a link from the Google profile to the author page using rel=me. That’s the three part linkage I mentioned earlier.

The Results & Key Takeaways
After implementing the changes listed above, we needed to let the site get crawled again. This took about 5-6 six days. After which, I was excited to see that author details were back in the SERPs! For each piece of content ranking in Google, you can now see all the beautiful SERP details via authorship markup. And yes, it makes a huge difference for the site and author I helped. The listings just stand out.

So, if you have implemented authorship markup, while also connecting your site to your Google+ page, then beware of a botched setup. If you believe you should have author details showing up in the SERPs, but aren’t seeing them, don’t automatically assume you aren’t eligible. Some of you might be eligible… I recommend double-checking your setup, having someone familiar with SEO check it out, and then making changes, if necessary. Then it’s just a matter of waiting to get crawled again (which varies depending on your specific site).

So don’t hesitate, enhanced SERPs await. :)

GG

Monday, February 13th, 2012

How To Add The Pinterest “Pin It” Button to a Website, WordPress Blog, or ecommerce CMS

Pinterest

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Pinterest lately. It has been all over the news, as it’s growing like mad, and driving a lot of traffic to ecommerce retailers. If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s a new social network/application that enables users to pin photos to virtual pinboards, organized by topic. Once pinned, other users can view your photos and pinboards, “repin” photos to their own pinboards, comment on photos, and like them. This had led to an explosion of traffic for some websites, especially ecommerce retailers. Many people use Pinterest when researching new purchases, to organize ideas, etc. For example, I just created a pinboard containing the top golf drivers I’m researching for the 2012 season. That’s if I get to play this year. :)

Based on the rapid growth of Pinterest, and all the buzz associated with that growth, I’ve received a lot of questions recently about how ecommerce retailers could get more involved. Also, website owners want to know the best ways to make it easier for Pinterest users to pin photos that are located on their respective websites. So, I decided to write this post to explain various ways to include the “Pin It” button on a website. I will include instructions and information below for how to include a “Pin It” button on a webpage, on a WordPress blog or website, and how to address adding the “Pin It” button to an ecommerce CMS (which is the most challenging of the three).

What is the “Pin It” Button?
Before we hop into the instructions, I’ll quickly cover what the “Pin It” button is. You have inevitably seen Like buttons, Tweet buttons, +1 buttons, etc. as you travel the web. Those social plugins make it easier for users to share content to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ from websites across the web. Well, Pinterest also wants to make it easier for users to quickly pin content. So, they created the “Pin It” button. In its simplest form, it’s a small button that you can place on a webpage that enables users to quickly pin content to a pinboard, while also showing how many “pins” it has received. You can tailor the code of the “Pin It” button to specify the URL of the webpage, the URL of the image you want users to pin, and the description that populates the “Pin It” form. You can also tailor how the “Pin It” button displays on your webpages.

The “Pin It” button (both horizontal and vertical layout listed below):
Pinterest Pin It Button

Since there are several types of websites, and each brings its own type of installation, I’ll cover a few of the most common methods below. My hope is that the following information and instructions can help you get up and running quickly. Let’s face it, if you make it easier for users to pin content, the greater chance you have of receiving a spike of traffic from Pinterest. Let’s jump in.

Instructions for Adding the Pinterest Button to a Simple Webpage
This is the most basic implementation of the “Pin It” button. Let’s say you have a webpage with a killer photo of your core product. Maybe you don’t have many products, but just sell a handful of core products. If that’s the case, you could use the following instructions to add a “Pin It” button to those product webpages.

Pinterest has created a simple tool on its website to help webmasters create a static “Pin It” button. You can visit http://pinterest.com/about/goodies/ and scroll down to section titled “Pin It” Button for Websites. You will see fields for URL of the webpage the photo is located on, URL of the image located on your servers, and then a description field. The description is optional, but I highly recommend adding that to make it easier for users (since it auto-populates the “pin it” form once the button is clicked). You can also select how the “Pin It” button displays. There is a dropdown that lets you choose if the pin count shows up next to or above the pin button. You can also choose to not show the pin count at all.

Once you enter the required information, Pinterest will generate the code for you below the form. Then you can copy the code and add it to your webpage. There is “Basic” code and “Advanced Code”. The advanced code loads asynchronously, which can help with performance. Also, you should use the advanced code when you want to add several pin buttons to one webpage. You will need to add the resulting code to your webpage (in your html).

Screenshot of what the “Pin It” button form looks like when populated with sample data:
Pinterest Pin It Form

How To Add a Pinterest Button to a WordPress Blog (via a WordPress Plugin)
If you are running a WordPress blog, you are in luck. There are several plugins that you can install that makes it easy to add “Pin It” buttons to your blog posts and pages. I’ll explain two of those plugins below.

The first plugin I’ll cover is called Pinterest Pin It Button, and it provides some great functionality. Using this plugin, you can add “Pin It” buttons to your posts, pages, homepage, archives, etc. In addition, you can choose to show the “Pin It” button either above or below your main content. For even more customization, you can use a shortcode in your post to add the “Pin It” button within your main content. For example, you can use the shortcode [pinit] within your post to add the “Pin It” button within your content (versus just at the top or bottom of the post).

The Pinterest “Pin It” Button plugin settings in WordPress:
Pinterest WordPress Plugin

The second plugin I’ll cover offers basic “Pin It” button functionality. The Pin It on Pinterest plugin adds a “Pin It” button at the end of your posts, and it enables you to select which image should get pinned, as well as what the pre-populated description should be. Once installed, you will see Pinterest options in your post editor within WordPress.

How to Add a Pinterest Button to an eCommerce CMS
I mentioned earlier that adding a “Pin It” button to an ecommerce CMS is the most challenging to address. The reason is simple. When you have hundreds (or thousands) of products being handled dynamically by a content management system (CMS), you can’t simply add a static pin it button like we did earlier in the post. The code needs to be dynamically tailored based on the product at hand. There aren’t separate pages for each product within an ecommerce CMS, but instead, the CMS dynamically handles each product via database-driven code. This means you cannot simply ftp product pages to your server for each product you sell on your website. The underlying code needs to determine the right URL’s and description for the “Pin It” button.

In order to add any code to an ecommerce CMS that addresses the specific URL, images within the post, etc., you will need to understand the specific functions and variables that your CMS uses. By the way, even WordPress works this way. WordPress is a CMS, although many people don’t realize this. For example, there is a function that WordPress uses to determine the current URL, and it looks like this:

 PHP |  copy code |? 
1
2
<?php the_permalink(); ?>
3

In WordPress, the_permalink() returns the current URL, which can be used to populate the “Pin It” button code. This is the approach you would need to use for your own CMS. The good news is that any reputable ecommerce CMS will provide a reference guide that includes the various functions and variables that can be used. Actually, it’s common to use these functions and variables to perform other tasks.

For example, here is a webpage explaining how to add a pin it button to Shopify. You’ll notice that the example includes variables specific to Shopify for determining the current URL, image URL, and description. Again, your own ecommerce CMS provider should provide similar variables you can use when adding the pin it button to your website.

A “Pin It” button on a Shopify ecommerce website:
Pinterest Pin It Button on a Shopify ecommerce Website

My recommendation is to contact your ecommerce CMS provider and track down the necessary code for referencing the current page, images within product pages, and the description you want to use for the image. Once you have that information, you can add the necessary code to your CMS template or theme to handle the “Pin It” button. It will then dynamically pull the correct information for each product page on your website.

Summary – Enable Users to Pin Content Easily
I hope this post helped you understand more about Pinterest, including how to add a “Pin It” button to your website, WordPress blog, or ecommerce CMS. Pinterest is growing rapidly and adding the “Pin It” button to your website can make it easier for users to share your content. This can give you a greater chance of having that content get noticed, shared, etc., which can result in increased traffic, exposure, and sales. And that’s what ecommerce is all about!

I recommend you start thinking about Pinterest today. You should speak with your development team or programmer to see how you can implement the “Pin It” button soon. Pins are waiting. :)

GG

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Search, Plus Your World and the Power of the Google+ Outlier

Change occurs at a frantic pace in digital marketing, and I love that about the industry. It definitely keeps you on your toes. There are times that small changes occur, and you can barely notice the changes. And then there are times that major shifts occur. Shifts that drastically change how companies need to think about marketing. This month, one of those major shifts occurred in Search, and as you can guess, Google drove the change.

On January 10th, Google announced Search, Plus Your World, which in certain cases, drastically impacts the search results for users. Search, Plus Your World is Google’s big push to tie Search with Social (using Google+ as its foundation). Google+ is growing rapidly, and based on the impact that Search, Plus Your World can have, it’s only going to keep on growing.

What is Search, Plus Your World?
With Search, Plus Your World, the search results are being tailored by your social connections (and weighted heavily by Google+). Personalized results can contain user profiles, posts, shares, images, related people and pages, etc. from your social connections, along with standard search results (the results you have been seeing for some time).

Google now presents a toggle so users can switch between personalized results and search listings without personalized results. In addition, there is an option at the top of the screen showing you how many personalized results are possible (based on your connections in Google+). Clicking this link is a “pure” personalized experience, showing you a full listing of personalized results. And last but not least, autocomplete can now contain user profiles (when you search for people). Talk about having an impact on online reputation management. Thumbnail images showing up in autocomplete is darn powerful. Note, personalized results contain a small blue icon next to the them (shaped like a person).

For example, here are the personalized search results for “android smartphones” when I’m logged in:
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Personalized Results

And here are the un-personalized results:
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Un-Personalized Results

And here are the “pure” personalized results (by clicking the link at the top of the search results):
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Pure Personalized Results

Yes, there’s a big difference between the three screenshots, especially the pure personalized results. Note, the default view is personalized (the first screenshot). Then you can toggle between un-personalized and personalized by clicking the icons in the upper right-hand corner. The pure personalized results can be accessed by clicking the link above the search results (which shows thumbnails of your connections next to the link). See below:

The Search Plus Your World Toggle Buttons:
Search Plus Your World Toggle

Your Google+ Perspective Means Everything
As I’ve been reading numerous blog posts about Search, Plus Your World, I think one point is getting lost. What you see in the search results is your own view, based on your own social connections. That view completely depends on the number of people you have in your circles, and what they are sharing. If someone has 1000 people in their circles, they are more apt to see personalized results for a number of topics than someone that has 50 people in their circles. That said, if you are in someone’s circles that doesn’t have a lot of connections already, then you have a strong chance of showing up for searches focused on your niche, location, etc. I cover this in more detail below.

Although Google+ is growing rapidly, it still hasn’t reached the number of users that some other popular social networks have. The fact of the matter is that there are still a lot of people not using Google+, or not using it regularly. Connecting with these outliers when they join Google+ presents a strong opportunity for current users of Google+ to influence their search rankings. For example, if you are brand, business owner, etc., you have a chance of directly influencing their search results if you become one of their connections. And when I say “influence” their search results, I’m not kidding. Read on.

The Power of The Google+ Outlier
After Search, Plus Your World launched, I received a very interesting email from someone that had added me to their circles. She was new to Google+ and didn’t have many people in her circles. And from what I can gather, I was the most active out of them all. This once Google+ outlier couldn’t help but view a boatload of information from me when she searched Google. Search results-wise, it wasn’t “Search, Plus Your World”, it was more like “Search, Plus Glenn’s World”. And that presents a huge opportunity for businesses looking to get noticed in Search.

When searching for anything related to technology, marketing, advertising, mobile, social, etc., I was there. The standard personalized results had several listings from my activity on Google+. That’s great, but it got even deeper when she clicked on the “pure” personalized results. When clicking the link to view all the personalized results, I was in almost every single listing. That’s incredibly powerful, and could very well be happening to a lot of people new to Google+. You can see a few examples below.

Outlier Example 1: Example of personalized results for “Google Analytics”:
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Personalized Results for Google Analytics

Outlier Example 1a: Example of pure personalized results for “Google Analytics”:
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Pure Personalized Results for Google Analytics

Let’s try a search for a location:
Outlier Example 2: Example of personalized results for “Princeton, NJ”:
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Personalized Results for Princeton, NJ

Outlier Example 2a: Example of pure personalized results for “Princeton, NJ”:
Click the image to view a larger version.
Search Plus Your World Pure Personalized Results for Princeton, NJ

After reviewing the screenshots above, you can see that I was listed several times in the personalized results, but also dominated the pure personalized results. Google may adjust the level of personalization in the future (as they test this out), but for now it’s heavily weighted by your Google+ connections.

Key Points To Consider:

  • There are many Google+ outliers now. You should think about the best ways to get in their circles (especially when they first make the move to G+.)
  • Keep sharing high quality content about your given industry, niche, etc. The more you share on Google+, the more opportunity you have for showing up in someone’s personalized listings. And for outliers that make the move, you might be able to dominate the results.
  • The sharing effect with outliers won’t be strong (at least on Google+). That said, they might be heavily using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Additional shares might come, but those shares might come via Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can always use Google Ripples to analyze content you are sharing on Google+.
  • Don’t overlook people that are new to Google+. Who cares if they only have a few connections. You can be one of them, and then show up when they search (a lot).

Summary – Entering “Their World”
If you have been sitting on the sidelines with Google+ (as an outlier), now is the time to jump in. It’s going to be incredibly important for you, your business, your influence, and your rankings. In addition, if you are already on Google+, don’t overlook the outliers that will soon join Google+. Search, Plus Your World provides an unprecedented opportunity to rank for extremely targeted queries. The opportunity cost of sitting on the sidelines is enormous. So start today.

And oh yeah, don’t forget to add me to your circles. :)

GG

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

How To Use The Contextual Targeting Tool to Estimate CPC and Budget for Google Display Network Campaigns [Video]

When most people think of running AdWords campaigns, they immediately think of ads running on Google.com. Many don’t realize that you can target audiences outside of Google.com with both text ads and display advertising. The ads will run across Google’s Display Network, which includes any website running Google Ads. Note, this also includes Google properties like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. It can be extremely powerful when set up and managed correctly.

Although there are several different ways to target audiences across the Display Network, setting up targeted themes is often a strong way to go. That’s where you set up ad groups targeting a tight set of keywords, which Google can use to understand the content you want your ads to match up with. For example, if you want your ads to show up on hdtv review sites, you would create an ad group that includes a tight set of keywords around the topic “hdtv reviews”.

That’s great, but how do you estimate the cost per click (CPC) and budget for Display Network campaigns? Is it even possible to gauge CPC’s for various themes you are targeting? Yes, you can do this, and I’m going to show you how to do it today. I’ve created a five minute video below that walks you through how to use the contextual targeting tool in AdWords to find estimated CPC’s by theme. Check out the video below to learn more.

Video Transcription:
Hello, everybody. This is Glenn Gabe from G-Squared Interactive. I just wanted to take you through a quick video tutorial today. What I’m actually going to go through is the contextual targeting tool and how to estimate CPCs and budget based on the themes that you set up. For those of you that aren’t familiar, the Display Network enables you to target an audience outside of Google.com. It could be extremely powerful, but you do need to understand what a rough CPC and what the rough budget will be. That’s what we’re going to go through today.

There are various ways to target an audience across the Google Display Network, but the way that we’re going to work through today is by targeting themes, very tight themes that Google will interpret and then provide your ads against targeted content. It’s contextual advertising.

In order to get started, what you’re going to do is log in to your AdWords account. You’ll probably be under your Campaigns tab. What I want you to do is actually go to Tools and Analysis, it’s a tab up top, click the dropdown, and then click Contextual Targeting Tool. That will take you to this screen right here.

The first thing we’re going to do is actually map out some themes for a specific category. So it’s that time of year. It’s the holidays. A lot of people are buying electronics and TVs. So let’s use HDTVs as a test for us. What I want you to do is go up into the search box and actually type “HDTV” and then hit Search. What Google is presenting now are themes based on HDTVs. You have about five or six different suggested ad groups with about five to seven different keywords in there. Again, very tight themes.

What this is going to tell Google, if you choose a specific “suggested ad group”, which you won’t for every one, I mean, some of these are not going to be targeted, like “HDTV antenna” probably isn’t one that you’re going to run, but for the ones that you’re going to run, you’re telling Google to present your ads against content that is relevant to the specific themes. And that could be very, very powerful if used properly.

What’s worth noting here is that if you go to the far right, you’ll see Suggested Bid based on the ad groups that are suggested here. Suggested Bid is based on historically competitive bids on the sites that are relevant to the keywords you entered. So Google is taking a look at what bids were on sites that matched these themes and giving you an estimated CPC.

Moving back to the left here, you’ll see two icons for each of these suggested ad groups. One is a plus symbol, another is an ellipsis. If they’re grayed out, you cannot drill into them. If they are active, you obviously can. The ellipsis represents predicted placements. These are websites that Google is saying that your ads can show up on based on the themes that you’ve set up. If you click the ellipsis, you are actually going to see all of those websites, and more importantly, you are going to see an estimated CPC like we saw before. So this is a bid suggestion, which you can use to estimate clicks, costs, obviously clicks times estimated CPC. You can start to back out conversion numbers. It’s just a great place to start based on the themes that you’re creating.

So that’s predicted placements. Let’s pop back to the results here. We clicked the ellipsis before. Now what I’m going to do is click the plus sign. Again, it needs to be active. If it’s grayed out, you cannot drill into it. Let’s go into HDTV deals. If we click the plus icon, what you’re actually going to see are more themes based on HDTV deals. So now you’re going deeper into the themes, sub-themes within HDTV deals. This is something that you definitely would want to do if you’re researching this for a specific project.

Back to our CPCs for a minute. If you go to the right here, you’ll actually see again suggested bid. Again, this is based on each of the historical bids that Google has found for each of the themes that you’ve created. Of course, like we did before, you could actually click the ellipsis icon to drill into predicted placements. You could click the plus sign to expand links to the websites so you could actually check those out. Again, you do have bid suggestions up top for estimating your CPC. This is the way that you would drill into specific themes, figure out estimated CPCs, and then start to gauge what your rough budget would look like.

This concludes the tutorial. I hope you feel more comfortable using the Contextual Targeting tool to estimate CPCs and budget. Again, it’s a great way to actually map this out and export it directly to your campaigns. So head over to my blog at GSQi.com, post a comment, ask questions. That’s totally fine, and you could email me directly from the blog as well. Good luck with the Google Display Network and happy bidding.

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Targeting Competitor Fans via Facebook Advertising: Legitimate Practice or Risky Business?

Targeting Competitor Fans via Facebook Ads

I’ve been launching more and more Facebook advertising for clients over the past few years. Although many marketers will be quick to say that Facebook Ads don’t produce the ROI that Search Marketing campaigns do, I don’t necessarily think that’s a fair comparison. Actually, I believe they can work together, and both can be powerful in their own ways. For example, Facebook provides powerful demographic and interest-based targeting that’s not available in SEM (for now anyway). Sure, you can target interests via The Google Display Network, but not to the level that Facebook provides.

Similar to SEM, upfront planning pays huge dividends. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of thought and research you put into your campaigns and the performance of those campaigns. For Facebook Ads, this comes down to your targeting, and the subsequent structure of your campaigns. While brainstorming various targeting options for clients, it’s amazing to see the audiences you can pinpoint via the “interests” available in Facebook.

For example, you have a wide range of demographic targeting options available to you, including age, location, gender, education, etc. In addition, you can target interests, which opens up a powerful mechanism for reaching an extremely targeted audience. For example, you can target men, aged 35-45, who live in New York City, who are college graduates, that are interested in football and beer. That’s pretty darn powerful.

An example of demographic and interest-based targeting in Facebook:
Targeting Precise Interests via Facebook Advertising

Targeting Facebook Fans
Considering the targeting options available to marketers in Facebook, it shouldn’t be surprising that questions quickly arise regarding competitors. For example, can a company target fans of a competitor’s Facebook page? And, can those competitors target your own fans? Does Facebook police this, or do they secretly want this to happen? These are all good questions, and it’s healthy for marketers to explore these topics in great detail.

To be clear, there’s no right or wrong answer with this subject. Some companies will go down one aggressive path, while other companies will avoid the strategy altogether. Let’s take a closer look at the situation below.

Precise Interest Targeting
When targeting interests in Facebook, you can use Broad Category Targeting or Precise Interest Targeting. When targeting precise interests, you can get extremely granular while building your audience. When you start searching for interests, Facebook populates the search box with various interests that match your keywords. For example, when I enter Samsung Tele…, you will see “Samsung Televisions” in the dropdown. The “Estimated Reach” box shows 130K people (in the United States).

Targeting people that have shown a precise interest in Samsung Televisions:
Targeting People Who Have Shown a Precise Interest in Samsung Televisions

When you start entering keywords, interests that Facebook reveals that contain hash symbols (#) relate to anyone who has shown interest closely related to your keyword. Interests that show up without the hash tag are people that have expressed that specific interest (more targeted). Using the example above, you are targeting people that have liked Samsung Televisions since the hash tag is not present. Hypothetically, if you were a competitor of Samsung TV’s, you might choose to run aggressive advertising to their fan base in an attempt to get them to buy your own brand of HDTV. That’s how the battle begins…

For example, Samsung could turn around and target one of its competitors like Vizio:
Targeting people who have shown a precise interest in Vizio via Facebook Advertising

The Ethical Problem
As you can imagine, this type of targeting brings up serious ethical questions. Although those fans might be an incredible target for a company, marketers needs to decide if that’s the type of advertising activity they want to be involved in. It’s similar to targeting competitor brand terms in SEM (yet even deeper). Note, I’m referring to running brand keywords only and not using competitor brand terms in your ads. There’s a difference.

As I explained earlier, there’s no right or wrong answer here. It completely depends on your company, your industry, and how your competition is playing the game. Are they targeting your fans? Are you losing customers to them? How does this come across to prospective customers? Will they know you are targeting them based on their “likes”? All of this needs to be weighed when deciding whether to run Facebook ads targeting competitor fans.

Facebook’s Stance
As of now, you can target competitor fans. Facebook lets companies do this without violating its advertising guidelines. Not only that, but Facebook can benefit greatly from competitor battles. As one competitor runs ads targeting another’s Facebook fans, the other company might retaliate. When they do, more ads are run, more money is spent, and Facebook generates more revenue. And the uglier the battle gets, the more money Facebook stands to make.

Therefore, I’m not sure this will change anytime soon. That’s unless Facebook is forced to change their policy (which could definitely happen). At that point, what gets changed, and what Facebook allows moving forward, is anyone’s best guess. This is just another reason to seriously analyze the situation before pulling the trigger on targeting a competitor’s fans. You might be within Facebook’s guidelines one day, and violating its terms the next. Welcome to digital marketing. :)

So, should you target competitor fans or not? As I explained earlier, it’s a tough question that needs to be analyzed on several levels. Therefore, to help you make an informed decision, I’ve provided several important points to consider below.

Points to Consider When Deciding Whether or Not To Target Competitor Fans with Facebook Advertising:
1. Weigh Risks and Benefits, Prepare for Possible Backlash
Don’t take this decision lightly. Depending on how aggressive you are, targeting competitor fans could cause serious backlash. Don’t simply implement a campaign that targets fans of competitor pages without walking through all the possible scenarios. For example, how will your competitors react, how will the audience react, how will your own fans react (if the story is surfaced) and what will your stance be if approached about the campaign?

Depending on the size of your company, I would make sure that you get several key people involved from Marketing, PR, Legal, etc. If you are a smaller company, then make sure others from your team are involved (both internal employees and important contractors like consultants or strategists from your agency). Walk through possible scenarios, the upside of targeting competitor fans, the downside, how you will respond, what happens if fans react negatively, what if your competitor goes public with their allegations, etc. Remember, there’s a difference between targeting an interest and targeting fans.

2. Don’t cross the line.
When setting up your ads, you need to decide how aggressive your creative will be. If you go too far, it can really anger your competitor(s), while also rubbing your audience the wrong way. For example, if you were targeting fans of a competitor, specifically targeting its weaknesses in your ads could be risky. You can also violate Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines by using competitor logos or misrepresenting a competitor.

Crossing the line could be perceived as sneaky and unprofessional. In addition to infuriating your competitors, their fans might not be thrilled either. Therefore, be careful with your ad creative.

3. Track and Analyze
This should go without saying, although I still see many companies not tracking their Facebook campaigns. If you decide to target fans of competitors, the performance of those campaigns will be the true test. If you map out a strong analytics strategy, you will know exactly how your campaigns are performing. Targeting competitor fans can be risky, so it’s important to know how well those campaigns are working. For example, tracking several conversion goals and events based on your specific business and website.

If you are driving visitors to an external URL (a landing page you control), then you should be looking at engagement levels, conversion, revenue, etc. For example, you might be utilizing a Facebook campaign to drive email signups, whitepaper downloads, ecommerce transactions, etc. Make sure you are tracking those goals on your site so you can analyze your Facebook campaigns based on performance. If not, you’ll see traffic and that’s pretty much it.

To Target or Not To Target… Facebook Fans
Facebook offers some incredible targeting options for marketers. Using a mixture of demographic targeting and interest-based targeting enables you to build powerful audience segments. Although that’s incredibly powerful, you can cross the line. Targeting competitor fans is a polarizing topic with no right or wrong answer. As I explained above, there are several key points to consider before pulling the trigger. And after analyzing the situation, you just might find that you never pull the trigger.

GG

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

For Writing Effective SEM Copy, John Caples Was Right – Specific Beats General

How to write effective SEM copy.

Earlier in my career I read an advertising book that had a big impact on me. The book was Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples, who is one of the most famous copywriters in advertising history. Reading his book completely changed the way I thought about ad copy. I won’t go in depth on every aspect of the book, but it holds some incredible principles for writing effective copy. And for SEM, I use those principles on a daily basis.

One incredibly important point that Caples makes in the book is that when writing ad copy, be as specific as you can, and avoid generalities. This principle resonated with me immediately, and I have consistently used this strategy during my career. Actually, I use it on a daily basis while writing ads, speaking with clients, and speaking at meetings or conferences. Yes, I even use this principle outside of writing ad copy…

It’s a simple rule that can dramatically change how your ads perform (and impact how well your core points get communicated). Using this approach will enable you to write tight copy that punches benefits, screams facts, and helps you increase the performance of your campaigns. And who doesn’t want to do that?

Here is a snippet from the book:
"Make your copy specific. Anybody who works on tested advertising will tell you how important it is to be specific in your copy. {Using specific numbers and facts} tells the reader that a strict and accurate count has been made." Caples goes on to say that, "What you say is more important than how you say it." I couldn’t agree more, and my testing has proven this time and time again.

Why Being Specific Rules and Why Using Generalities Falls Short
It makes complete sense when you break it down. There are so many generalities used in advertising that specifics seem to connect with prospective customers. They pop off the page.

Compare the following two pieces of copy and tell me which one sounds more credible:
Thousands of people enjoy our service.

Find out why 6,745 people signed up for our service in the past 60 days.

The second line of copy clearly has an advantage. Telling someone the exact number of customers that signed up for the service is credible. Adding the timeframe also brings a level of credibility. The first line of copy is so general that it loses impact.

General Copy Can Easily Be Discounted By Prospective Customers:
Specific SEM copy is more credible.

This is exactly what John Caples was talking about. Build credibility by being as specific as possible and you can increase your response rate. In SEM, response rate translates to people clicking through to your landing page and converting. Although, I would argue that we are focusing on the first part of the handshake (the click-through). And without the click-through, you have no shot at conversion.

The Power of Testing in SEM
What I love about SEM (and digital marketing in general) is that you can split test copy relatively easily and quickly. In SEM, you can always test new ads against your control to see which one performs best. If you want to see the impact of specific copy, set up your test and fire away. Then you can base your strategies on hard data versus opinion.

SEM Enables You To Quickly and Easily Test Ad Creative:
Quickly and Easily Split Test Ad Creative in SEM

How Can You Be Specific in SEM Ad Copy?
In order to be specific, I recommend using facts, figures, sales numbers, percentages, sale prices, dollar amounts, etc. You need to break down the features and benefits of what you’re selling and then identify various statistics and facts that can be used in your copy. And this doesn’t just translate to numbers. You should be specific with location too. If you are close to a landmark, include that in your copy. And that’s especially the case when you are targeting mobile visitors in SEM. For example, "5 minutes from Nassau St. in Princeton" is better than "Close to Princeton."

Examples of Specific SEM Ad Copy
As many of you know, you are limited in SEM ads by character length (when running ads in Search). That said, you can still be specific with your ad copy. Let’s take a look at some examples across categories. Note, I’m not providing full SEM ads below (all lines of copy). I’ll just provide some quick examples of specific copy. It’s up to you how you craft your final ads. And again, I encourage you to test your ads to determine the best performing copy.

eCommerce: Tablet Computer for Kids
Over 1025 Games & Downloadable Apps
Just $100. Don’t spend $600 for a tablet!

B2B: Consulting Firm
74 years of combined experience.
Sign up now & access 375 reports.

Local Business: Restaurant
In business since 1943. Zagat-rated
367 Positive Reviews and Counting.

Electronics: LED HDTV
Sony 1080p LED HDTV. 60 inch screen.
On Sale Today, Only $549.

Coffee: K-Cups
100% Arabica Beans. 48 K-Cups for $32.
Free Shipping On All Orders.

Instructional Book (How-To)
218 pages of Computer Repair Training.
24,698 copies sold in 2011.

You get the picture. Although these examples aren’t lengthy, they still convey some powerful lines of ad copy. Being specific builds credibility and can get prospective customers noticing your ads, clicking through, and giving you a shot at converting them. On the flipside, if your ads are generic, bland, and lack specifics, they just might be overlooked. And if they are overlooked, your click-through rate drops, your Quality Score drops, and your CPC’s rise. And that’s all bad for SEM performance.

One Important Caveat – Be Realistic
One point John Caples makes is that your ad copy must be realistic. If you use specific ad copy, but it’s so far from reality, you can do more damage than just using general copy. For example, “25 million units sold in 48 hours!” That’s not very believable… I’m advocating being specific, but truthful. You should use real numbers, statistics, percentages, etc.

Summary – Be Specific, Forget Generalities
Put yourself in a prospective customer’s shoes and take a hard look at your ad copy. Would you jump to click through? If not, revamp your ad copy with specifics, and drop the generalities. As I explained earlier, the beautiful part about SEM is that you can easily split test ad copy. You just need to start.

In closing, I hope you found this post helpful. Now it’s time for me to analyze 47 holiday campaigns, including 769 ad groups, encompassing 328,456 keywords. How’s that for being specific? :)

GG