A HIPPO Internet Marketing Training blog by Corey Creed

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Expert Comments on PPC in a Down Market – CLTIMA

July 28th, 2009

The Charlotte Interactive Marketing Association held one of their first meetings tonight (7/28/2009).  The theme was…

“PPC: Upside in a Down Market”

When I first moved here (12/2007) they had a little social meeting.  Then, I think they had something a couple months ago that I missed (by accident).

I was very honored to be on the panel with some excellent marketers that work with Lowes and LendingTree.  We also had someone from Yahoo Search Marketing.

PPCOverall, it ended up being a pretty high-level discussion about PPC.  The other panelists do some pretty serious PPC with some pretty high dollars, so the data in particular was quite interesting.

I mostly kept my comments on a strategic level.  They provided more numbers and data to back up their comments.  Below are some simple comments from the various panelists and perhaps some commentary from me.

Note to my readers:  If the below notes seem a little too complicated, please think about taking our Google AdWords class sometime.

NOTE TO THE PANELISTS AND CLTIMA: If any of the below is inaccurate or off in any way, please comment and I’ll try to fix it.  I tried to take good notes and be on the panel at the same time, so I may have gotten a few things wrong.  Just let me know.

In a downturn, buyers tend to switch off spend.  What are you seeing?

Jeff Campbell who works with Lowes:  Dollars are moving to paid search still.  But often clients are wanting to learn from the PPC and then try to “get it for free” by doing organic and social.

Mike from Yahoo:  CPC is still going down.  Advertisers are spending less.

ME:  It depends on the industry.  Some industries feel it.  Many that do e-commerce are saying “what recession?”  Many never saw a drop.

Other comments on PPC in general?

Jeff:  Overall conversion rate for all PPC on average is about 2%.  Many advertisers are saying that’s not good enough.  Why do we get nothing from the other 98%?  Optimize landing pages!  Get more people to take action on your site.

Note from me:  True.  To learn more about this type of stuff, check out these books.

Rob from LendingTree:  Use every targeting available when doing PPC and even other advertising.  Jump on any new opportunities.

Jeff:  Search vs Content is like Push vs. Pull  They are very different.  Handle them differently.

Me:  Very important!  Always create separate campaigns on Google and Yahoo for Search Marketing and Content Marketing.

What is the best PPC tools out there?

OvertureRob and Jeff:  Microsoft Excel!

Me:  I was big into bid management tools for Overture (remember that?).  Since then the value is not strong enough for me to bother.

Rob:  There are reporting tools and bid management tools.  (I forgot if he had any specific recommendations.  Rob?  Leave a comment below if I am mis-quoting you.)

Jeff: Google and Yahoo may actually penalize you if you are making over 2 changes to your bids every single day.

(Side note:  That surprised me.  I’d like to hear if anyone else has heard of that.  Jeff, have you personally experienced that?)

Should advertisers focus on branded or generic terms?

Me:  Both.  But be sure to track and test them.

Jeff:  For several major brands he has worked with, brand keywords are worth the money 100% of the time.  He has tracked two weeks on and two weeks off.  It’s always worth the money you spend.

Mike:  Agreed.  Branded terms are well worth it.  The people that type your brand into search engines already know you.  They are likely your loyal customers.  Those are always best.  In contrast, generic terms are better for getting into a conversation that you may not have otherwise.  It builds awareness.

How has PPC performance (CTR, ROI, etc) fared during the recession?

Mike:  Yahoo overall has had a 9% Q2 earnings growth.

Rob:  The mortgage industry has seen a 10–15% shift up/down in ROI

Jeff:  Higher CTR, longer keyword phrases, conversion rates are flat.  Marketers are doing more A/B testing of copy.  Many are bidding on more phrases, as many of 100s of millions.

Rob:  Definitely test different copy.  In the mortgage industry, the same phrase could be typed in on a weekday mid-day vs a weekend evening.  Yet, it is probably two very different consumers.  Try different ads for different time periods.

Me:  What recession?  Again, it depends on the industry.  Real Estate, Construction, Banking, etc will probably have seen bigger differences during the recession.  Yet, we have seen e-commerce sales rising through the recession, even though vendors are saying sales are down.  People are clearly shopping more on the web and less offline.

Jeff:  Use coupon offers on your PPC ads.  It’s working very well now.  Also, try tracking e-commerce conversions as just getting to the shopping cart, not checking out.  The checkout process can have problems.  Track (and test) changes to the actual checkout process separately.

Other thoughts?

Jeff:  Test sending branded phrases straight to the home page.  It seems as if customized landing pages should work better.  But testing has shown that just sending to your home page may work better.

Web-video-iconThoughts on Using Video?

Jeff:  Yahoo has new RAIS program, but it is not available to all.  It really works well.  Some are seeing a 50% CTR!!

Me:  From a strategic direction, video works well for small business because it helps consumers not just to know you exist, but to like and trust you.  People need to know, like, and trust you in order to pull out their credit card.

My final thoughts…

As I mentioned earlier, this was not a discussion for those just starting out in Internet marketing.  It was a fairly high-level discussion about PPC for some pretty significant spenders.

I really appreciated the experience and wisdom of the other panelists.

The networking was nice before and after.  I met some VERY interesting people.  Several people asked about my classes and SEMCLT.

Thank you again to all involved for inviting me.  Thanks also for the free one-year membership to Charlotte IMA that was offered to all panelists.

Thanks to all who attended and were a part of the evening.  Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.