There are lots of options for an advertiser to buy into search. First there were syndication providers like Overture and Sprinks and small businesses jumped in with a credit card, a dream, and little else. Later came contextual search marketing because paid search was making everyone so much money.
Today, big brands and big money are driving paid search. Search sites are even dropping their own paid listings on sites, which appear in addition to syndicated paid listings thereby pushing editorial or unpaid listings down or off the page. Searches on top five search sites can show multiple paid results from multiple providers for the same query.
The thought of devaluing search by gratuitously placing paid listings on every inch of otherwise unoccupied site real estate is beginning to take its toll on my sleep patterns. More importantly, advertisers are asking questions like, “If my listing can appear two or three times in a search, which one should I buy?”
Welcome To My Nightmare— Alice Cooper
Initially, this is a question of reach and frequency. As it relates to search, reach is defined as the percentage of total searches viewed and frequency amounts to the number of times a viewer sees the listing. Other issues that must be addressed include the varying cost of entry and the cost of the specific searches utilized. The solution is a bit complicated, but by plugging into top search sites, the argument for partaking in these search site-centric paid programs becomes a bit more cogent.
I have this recurring nightmare in which I am driving down the information superhighway with Bill Gates and Cindy Margolis. Bill is quietly seated in the back seat while Cindy and I enjoy scintillating conversation. Suddenly we come to a screeching halt near an off ramp with three tollbooths. Each tollbooth provides access to the same destination but one costs three bucks, one costs between a buck fifty and twelve dollars (depending upon how many others want to pass through at the same time) and the last is 30 cents.
Thought inspiring dreams aside for the moment, most of Internet search activity resides within the top five search sites. According to data compiled by comScore Networks in June, Google sits at the top of the list with 32% of all searches, Yahoo! has 26%, AOL shows 20%, MSN checks in with 15%, and the Ask Jeeves butler has 3%. The listing relationship between these sites is both the source of and solution to the problem.
In addition to MSN’s own paid listings, an MSN search can provide a user with paid listings from Overture and Looksmart as well. Similarly, an Ask Jeeves query provides internal CPC listings and Google results.
What Dreams May Come— Shakespeare
Search activity redundancy exists with every search site. For example, comScore data shows that of the more than 147 million unique visitors to Yahoo! and Google in July, approximately 23 million visited both sites. Google carries its own paid listings and syndicates AdWordsTM listings to AOL and Ask Jeeves. Yahoo! picks up paid listings from Overture. Since neither AOL or Yahoo! are running CPC listing programs on their own , the score card now reads three down, two to go with 18% of the U.S. search audience remaining.
Back to the nightmare. Using the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Interpreting Dreams, I was able to ascertain the three-dollar toll represents MSN paid-search results, the one fifty to twelve dollar toll represents Overture results (auction-based CPC), and the thirty-cent toll is Looksmart. The attempt to calculate reach in the instance of three advertiser listings appearing in the same search query is a most efficient way to send your media planners to a padded room because the figure represents a theoretically impossible 100-plus percent.
MSN offers a Featured Site program that carries a “Let them eat cake” kind of scenario for paid search with a $50,000 minimum buy. According to MSN, the keyword pricing is based on “competitive activity” in the vein of market value. I am hearing this market value descriptor a bit too much lately. Market value? I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but let’s just call this what it is—the average bid price for keywords on other sites.
The fixed cost-per-click model has its ups and downs. On the upside, bidding on the rubber chicken keyword on an auction- based search site may pit your listing against some nudnik who’s only metric is the click itself. A competing advertiser may burn an entire keyword budget in positioning bids while waiting for the other rubber chicken site to file Chapter 11. “It appears that many advertisers are not conversion-to-cost goal-orientated in the pay-per-click space.” says Jeff Ferguson, owner of the The Gag, a Website that sells among other things, rubber chickens. “I know the margins well and the bid prices paid for some keywords go beyond the ability to generate a return.”
A big buy-in also says, I’ve got a plan as opposed to I’ve got rubber chickens and a credit card. The biggest drawback of the MSN Featured Site plan is that you cannot measure the performance of individual keywords. The best way to formulate a refined keyword list to maximize this investment is testing the performance of keywords on the other sites.
For the time being one can’t forsake Overture paid search in favor of an MSN program simply because the plan includes paid listings on MSN because you will miss out on the Yahoo! audience. LookSmart inclusion listings aside, comScore-compiled data in June indicates that of the nearly 42 million uniques visiting both sites, only 11 million used both Yahoo! and MSN search.
Alhough Ask Jeeves has launched a $6 million magazine and billboard awareness campaign sans butler, the old chap remains as mascot on the site. On the paid listing side, the Ask Jeeves Premier Listings program offers a similar “market value” click buy-in that resides below the Branded Response ad unit, but above Google AdWordsTM listings. The butler requires only a $1,500 per month minimum and also allows individual keyword performance measurement.
“Dream the dreams that have never been dreamt” — David Bower
The goal of most branding initiatives is to reach the target audience at an effective frequency. Many times, an advertiser wants to own search terms on every possible site regardless of any redundancies. Whether the campaign is awareness or ego driven, the truly beautiful part of this otherwise artistically benign form of advertising is its performance-driven origin. In short, you are only paying for the click traffic within each site, so managing multiple search results within the same query will allow the advertiser a greater reach and share of voice.
Beyond branding goals, cost metrics rule the roost. The key element of effectively managing this type of campaign lies in the ability to generate a return regardless of positioning or redundancy. In this instance, multiple placements may make a lot of sense. The advertiser can also use the redundancy to its advantage by placing multiple messaging elements in the same search query.
Something Wicked This Way Comes— Ray Bradbury
At press time, MSN is testing several unique search formats in the UK and plans to continue testing other formats here in the United States. “MSN’s focus is on doing a good job of answering users’ queries”, says Michael Payne, vice president at MSN. There has been quite a bit of conjecturing of late as to the would-be fate of many site pay-per-click and directory partnerships. LookSmart, in its second quarter earnings report, stated that MSN accounts for nearly 64% of its revenues, which is bad news if MSN goes out on its own. A plan like that is just this side of theoretically possible since MSN rival Yahoo! plans to purchase Overture in the very near future. Payne also indicated that while changes in search listing relationships are possible, MSN’s first task is to make the most efficient search possible for users.
As for my nightmare, it always ends with Cindy disappearing and Bill grabbing the wheel insisting we use his “get out of jail free” card to go though the most expensive toll.
About the author: iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Thrice decorated with the directory industry highest honors for excellence and innovation in online marketing, he is currently Director of Market Development at IPG’s Wahlstrom Interactive where he provides guidance in directional online marketing to Wahlstrom’s prestigious list of clients and sister agency brands.
I have received of few calls lately where an appointment setter has placed the cold call for the purpose of scheduling another cold call with a sales person. Nothing shows more arrogance than this move. Each time I let the appointment setter know that if the salesperson wants an appointment, they can call me themselves. When the salesperson finally does pick up the phone and call, I'm already put off by their company. Selling media is tough enough without needing to fight an uphill battle right out of the gate. To date, I haven't given the time of day to any company that used this tactic.
I've noticed a growing trend of poorly trained salespeople who think they know everything about marketing and that their company is the perfect fit for every marketer on the planet. Confidence is admirable, but telling a prospect that you know more than they do about what is right for their business is ridiculous. If this is your approach, read: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie before picking up the phone ever again.
Along these same lines, don't ask to speak with the CMO or CEO if you don't like the response you receive from your prospect. Remember, you're trying to enter into a business relationship not talk to customer service to get a credit on your cellphone bill. More than a dozen times in the last year, I've had a salesperson leave a voice mail for our CEO because I made the decision not to do business with their company. This tactic will completely eliminate any chance of doing business with your prospect's company. The same holds true for running to the client directly after their agency says "no" and visa versa.
The key is that "no" often means "not now," but insulting your prospect will result in "no" meaning "never in a million years."
I'm a busy person and so are most marketers. I don't have the time or patience to listen to a long, rambling, drawn-out cold call voice mail message. When it comes to voice mail, be prepared. Most of your calls are going to end up there, so practice what you're going to say. A good rule of thumb is to keep your message to 45 seconds or less. A four minute rambling message will land itself in the trash bin before your prospect even listens to the whole message.
What's even worse than a rambler is the salesperson who doesn't speak clearly. At least once per day, I receive a voice mail from someone who has left a good, concise elevator pitch and has my interest. The problem is that the salesperson mumbled and rushed through their name, company name and phone number so badly that I had no way to return the call. Slow down and speak clearly so that your prospect has an opportunity to write down your name, company name and phone number without having to rewind the message three times.
Next: Know your customer
The most common way to screw up a cold call is to not know anything about your prospect's business. You don't need to be an expert, but at the very least take two minutes to visit your prospect's website. As a life insurance brokerage, I receive daily cold calls from people who think our company sells auto insurance, health insurance, or they think we're a stock brokerage firm. A simple two-minute visit to our website would be time well spent.
Want to be a superstar and make a great impression 90 percent of the time? Do research and find out what type of advertising your prospect's company is engaged in. The question: "Are you doing any online advertising?" immediately tells me that the salesperson did not do their homework. If the salesperson hasn't taken the time to understand what we're already doing, then it is extremely unlikely that they will earn my business.
It drives me nuts when I pick up the phone and a salesperson launches into a pitch before I have a chance to say hello. Sixty seconds later, I'm waiting for the salesperson to breathe…60 seconds more and still waiting…still waiting…still waiting. Just like consumers don't want to be talked to but instead want to engage in a dialogue, your prospect is no different. If you talk at me, you'll annoy me. Talk with me and you have a shot.
All things being equal, I'm going to buy media from someone I like and trust versus someone I don't like or trust. If you've done your homework and know a little about my business and where I'm advertising, I'm going to spend time with you on the phone because you've respected my time and I respect your effort. Ask questions that relate to my business and we can flesh out whether a business relationship is going to be a great fit. I've had plenty of people engage in a dialogue with me and determine that their company isn't going to be a good fit for my business. Many of these same people have easily earned my business months or years later when they had something to present that was a good fit.
I look forward to many great and mutually beneficial cold calls in the future!
Look before you launch
If your app, service, or product isn't optimized from the start, you'll quickly get left behind. Data science lets you test the waters, see what works best for your audience, and determine if you're ready to launch. Do this right, and you don't even have to be first.
Case in point: social gaming monolith Zynga. Many of the popular games they developed weren't the first of their kind to market. But they performed better. Why? Zynga embraced data science early on. So did other leaders in the space, like Kixeye, Gaia, and PopCap. Because it had a vastly more rigorous understanding of its users and their products than the competition, Zynga was able to optimize products and drive users faster and more efficiently, ultimately surpassing other similar apps. Now it dominates the social gaming market on Facebook, based largely on its edge in analytics.
Think long term
In the new world, where data science rules, it's not just about optimizing by marketing channels based on a single conversion event. It's now possible to measure and optimize marketing programs by understanding how long users were inside an app; whether or not they invited friends, shared products, or entered an email address; and every other action taken over a user's entire lifetime. We look at this as it's happening, so there's no more waiting two days to receive a report. This means you can do much deeper custom segmentation of your data, and you can fine tune your marketing to target more of the people that have the highest likelihood of monetizing long term. True predictive lifetime value modeling is finally here, and it is revolutionizing the way smart marketers consider how to optimize marketing spend way beyond just a single transaction.
At the end of the day, data science gives you a really good understanding of ROI at a very, very granular level. It's all about tying your acquisition data to your monetization data, and everything in between. We help you see the signals, so you can make better marketing decisions.
Companies that don't look for the signals are making a big mistake.
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