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5 Keys to Improving Search Ad Results

Millions of businesses use some type of paid search advertising to attract customers and prospects to their location or website. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – also called search engine marketing or simply paid search – can be an effective, low-cost way to gain visibility online. If your business is using or planning to use paid search advertising, here are five keys to getting the most bang for your buck:

1. Make your keywords really count

Keywords are the essence of PPC advertising. This is what you are actually paying for – the right to show up in results when customers or prospects search for specific words and phrases. The more carefully you choose those keywords, the better your results will be. Ideally, the keywords you buy should match the terms that your customers are most likely to use when searching for your products or services.

But that’s harder than it sounds.  Customers often think in different terms than business owners or professionals and might use different words and phrases to describe the same thing. In short, buying the wrong keywords won’t get you anywhere.  Google has a good keyword tool that can help you find the precise words and phrases that people use most often to search for millions of different products, services and solutions online. Visit

2. Consider “negative keywords” as well

Selecting keywords is a little like preparing a party guest list. There are people you choose to invite and some you choose to avoid. In similar fashion, using “negative keywords” for your search is like crossing certain people off your guest list. Negative keywords that you specify will not trigger your ad. Thus, for example, if you sell only new or paid services, you might put the terms “used” or “free” on your negative keyword list. That way you won’t pay for people seeking only used or free items.

But using negative keywords is a bit of balancing act.  If you use too many of them, your ads might end up reaching too few customers. If you don’t use any negative keywords, however, your ads might show to people not really interested in what you offer.

3. Be conscious of your quality score

Your ad’s “quality score” is something that many small businesses fail to consider. Unbeknownst to many business owners, search engines don’t consider all ads equal, even if you pay the same or even a higher rate than a competitor. Google, for example, assigns each ad a quality score based on how relevant it considers your ad, your keywords and the “landing page” you are linking to. Their goal is to deliver the most relevant and useful ads to people searching online. The higher your quality score, the more often your ad will be seen by the best searchers. If you use Google AdWords, you can check your quality score in your online account (under the Keywords tab).

4. Write compelling ad messages

Search ads are extremely short so you have to make every character count when you write your copy. Hone in on only the most critical benefits and features of what you offer, knowing your goal is to get someone to click on your words. Include your keywords in your ad copy so searchers know your ad is relevant to what they want. Ads that include the exact search term get more clicks.

Emphasize any unique selling points you have, and include a call to action such as “buy now,” “sign up for a free trial” or “request a quote.”

5. Send users to the best landing page

When someone clicks on your ad, the page on your website that you send them to is the “landing page.” But it doesn’t have to be your homepage. The idea is to send people to the most relevant page on your site that relates to their search, and that helps them make a purchase.

To improve conversions – and get a higher quality score – try to match the text in your ad to the message and other content on your landing page. Don’t make visitors hunt and click for offers you featured in your ad. They should be able to find what they’re looking for on the landing page.

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A Secret Google Tool for Local Search Success

It’s been almost three years since Google launched one of the most useful tools ever devised to help small business owners plan more effective advertising campaigns for local online search. Yet this free and insanely useful tool called Google Insights for Search (GIS) remains a well-kept secret among a handful of search geeks, corporate quants and marketing academics.

Too bad. GIS (still listed by Google as “beta”) has the potential to be a local business owner’s dream tool for analyzing search volume patterns across specific regions, product and service categories and time frames. For example, it lets you see how search volume by specific keywords and phrases is distributed across cities and regions and compare what’s happening now for any time periods you select going back to 2004.

With search engine marketing becoming more competitive and expensive for small business, being smarter about it and spending online marketing money effectively is more important than ever.

This kind of self-serve market research does require some work.  But the GIS tool makes it easy for even the most data-phobic among us to interpret the numbers. Rather than showing absolute numbers, which can be misleading, it “normalizes” the results and graphs them on a simple to read scale of 0-100.  That makes it easy to see the relative gain or loss in popularity of any particular search term over time, and in any area down to individual cities.

What’s more, the system offers projects of where the graph will go over the next 12 months, making it a handy forecasting tool as well.

For example, is you chart searches for “orthodontist,” “pediatric dentist” and “teeth whitening” in Chicago over the last five years, you’d discover the following (among many other things):

  • Online searches for pediatric dentists in Chicago have increased from 24 to about 31 on the index scale, or about 29%.
  • But teeth whitening jumped from 46 to 75 (63%) and searches for orthodontists went from 66 to 99, a 50% leap. 

Different starting points for any given search reflect its relative importance (more people search for orthodontists than pediatric dentists, for example), so the most important thing is the percentage change over time. In other words, among these three searches in Chicago, teeth whitening has experienced the most relative growth over the last 5 years.

By applying the “Category” filer in the Google tool you can convert the index numbers into a graph showing change over time as a percentage of growth.

Our dental graph reveals other helpful information as well.  For example, searches for both orthodontists and teeth whitening have tended to move together in the first half of each calendar year.  In the second half of the year, however, searches for orthodontists tend to rise while people seeking whiter teeth go away. And indeed, for the second half of 2011, the GIS tool projects a big increase in searches for orthodontists, while teeth whitening searches tumble.

This kind of knowledge clearly has marketing implications for orthodontists or teeth whitening services trolling for new customers online.  And that’s just three search terms involving one type of business.  The possibilities are endless for hundreds of local businesses and professions, and tens of thousands (or more) of search terms. Google also provides some helpful examples of how a business can use Insights for Search.

Here are three general areas to explore on the GIS tool:

  1. Categories:  Here you can focus and compare the search information you retrieve to specific categories such as automotive, food and drink, beauty and personal care, health, home and garden, real estate, travel and many others.
  2. Seasonality: By looking at search trends during specific seasons (summer; back-to-school, Thanksgiving, etc.), you can better anticipate demand for whatever your business sells and plan or budget accordingly.
  3. Geographic targeting: This GIS component offers great potential to help you know where to find customers by looking at how search volume is distributed across cities and areas. This would be of particular help in targeting new locations.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.