Google Trialling Favicons

The social world of Twitter and the Search Marketing blogging community has been buzzing today with screenshots of Google trialling the use of favicons in Adwords creative, presumably to judge the impact on CPC.  So far I have seen examples in the bingo and car insurance markets with numerous PPC. Ads showing a favicon alongside the display URL.  Que hundreds of search marketers testing positioning of favicons to try and get theirs included. 

Its an interesting test from Google but surely if it was to be deployed across Google Adwords companies would become wise to it and all 10 would have the favicon in place?  How about, as an interested alternative, allowing only the ads which achieve a CTR. above a certain threshold to show the favicon?  A reward for writing well targeted creative and following Adwords best practice, surely that’s more beneficial than introducing something which will become nothing more than decoration for the SERP in a few months.

favicon in google ppc

favicon in google adwords

Comparison Sites Killing Google?

Ill be honest, the thought had never crossed my mind, after all, the financial comparison sites are some of the biggest spenders with Google and so contribute a large chunk to Google’s Adwords revenues each year.  But it was mentioned in a conversation the other day with Richard Gregory, Latitude’s Chief Operations Officer, and it actually adds up.

Car Insurance is one of Google’s biggest markets with the number 1 PPC position commanding CPC’s in excess of £10 and thousands of searches each month.  So you would think that these comparison sites, who at the time of writing hold 2 of the top 3 PPC positions, would be adding to, not taking away from, Google’s revenue growth targets.  But when you look at the trend for car insurance searches on Google over the past few years you will see a steady decline since mid 2006.

car-insurance-comparison-killing-google

And if you plot that against searches for the brand names of the major insurance comparison sites you can see that the growth in their search volume could be the cause of this.

car-insurance-comparison-sites-adwords

Prior to the emergence of comparison sites, if you wanted a quick an easy list of insurers online, what did you do?  You searched for car insurance on Google.  But with the amount of branding activity these sites do offline and the awareness it has generated, people are fully aware of the places they need ot go to compare car insurance offers and providers.  So they are now going direct to their site of choice, or performing a brand search for that site instead.  Therefore whilst the comparison sites are spending a large amount on Google Adwords, they are taking away a large chunk of its revenues from this market through their very presence.  And you have to say, as people look to save every penny in difficult times, this trend is only going to continue, and car insurance will become a less and less lucrative market for Google and they will have to find a replacement cash cow for the future.

Maybe this trend was a contributing factor to the decision to allow gambling advertiser on Adwords?  And this is their replacement revenue source, that is of course until someone finds an effective way of comparing odds on the leading gambling sites and we are back where we started!

Google Timeframe Budgeting – To Make Sure You Spend Every Penny!

According to news reported last week on Search Engine Land Google is trialling a new budgeting option for Google Adwords to be known as timeframe.

Early reports indicate that, when selected, Google timeframe will automatically increase your Adwords daily budget if you are under spending against a budget allocate for a set timeframe.  How nice of Google!  They have invented an option to make sure you spend every last penny possible with them!  Doubtless this idea came from some senior member of the Google team looking at the total unspent budget allocations within the Adwords system.  Initial indications are unclear but I think you can be sure the system does not work the other way, reducing daily budgets when you are overspending against a monthly budget.  After all, if you budget runs out sooner, there’s a chance you will add more!

This new option will make little difference to the educated search marketer who should be using CPCs and not daily budgets to manage their campaigns (other than in exceptional circumstances) but it could mean that a lot of direct advertisers find very little left in their Google pot at the end of each month if they enable this new option.

Breaking News – Google to Allow Gambling Affiliates

I have just spoken to a representative at Google who has revealed that as of Monday they will be allowing gambling affiliates to advertise on Google Adwords!

The affiliates will have to agree to Google’s terms and conditions which will mean that the affiliate is responsible for ensuring the gambling sites they advertise are legitimate, therefore removing all liability from Google themselves!  Another requirement is that the affiliate is “adding to the user experience” and not simply showing details of a single gambling site or regurgitating website copy available elsewhere.  The word “comparison” came up on more than one occasion int he call and so affiliates comparing gambling programmes is clearly an area Google is thinking for the new sites they allow on board.

All campaigns will be manually approved by Google by a specialist gambling tema they have set up.

Who will qualify?

  • affiliates comparing programmes or “adding value” to the user journey

Who wont qualify?

  • Affiliates direct linking to gambling providers
  • Affiliates copying or mirroring gambling sites or copy from gambling sites

So its open season for affiliates who meet the criteria and a potentially expensive time for gambling companies who’s own CPCs will rise and they will begin to see their affiliate commission payouts on the increase at the same time, double whammy!

Google iPhone Targeting – How to make the most of it

Earlier this week Google announced the launch of the ability to target iPhones and mobile devices which have full (html) web browsers on the Adwords blog.  As always happens with these announcements the news spread like wildfire and it is now all over the blogosphere and shouldn’t really be news to anyone who works in search engine marketing.

All campaigns are automatically opted in to the iPhone search results by default but to the intelligent search engine marketer this new functionality offers new opportunities for trial, refinement and maximisation of mobile search.

To the lazy or uneducated this box will remain ticked and the PPC campaign will continue to run on both standard web search and the new iPhone and advanced mobile search.  Using the same keywords, same ad text, and directing to the same website.  There is no harm in this as such given the volume and the way it follows standard search specifications.  But in many industries this would be massively missing an opportunity.  Location specific products such as hotels and national companies with regional branches could do so much more with this functionality if they put their minds to it.

Mobile campaigns need treating differently to standard web search campaigns because users interact with mobile Internet in a different way.  To realise the opportunity then there are a number of steps I would recommend;

Campaigns: deactivate iPhone search in your main campaign and set up a new campaign targeting ONLY THE NEW iPHONE SEARCH.  This will allow you to build a campaign aimed solely at the mobile users and mean you can make the necessary amends.

Keywords: build a keyword list based around mobile users.  This tends to mean simplifying your keyword list and using more broad keywords and dropping the long tail.  But make sure you include location specific keywords if your product fits with people using destinations in searches.  Most people using mobile search to find things want to find something nearby so will often include a town or area name in their search.

Ad Text: Obviously follow the standard Adwords guidelines of making it relevant the search phrase but also consider making it specific to mobile users.  If you are going to offer something special (see point below) then include it in the creative.  Also consider reaching out to mobile users in the creative, a message such as “welcome mobile Internet users!” might sound cheesy, but it’ll also make you stand out.

Website/Landing pages: It is still best practice to have a tailored site for mobile visitors even as mobile Internet advances.  But by splitting out the campaign so you can be sure the visitor is coming form a mobile device, why not send them to a page targeted at their needs?  Or even offer them something special? If you have local stores why not have a splash page offering a discount for all users who show the page in-store and make a purchase?  this would work great for hotels, coffee shops etc.  20% off if you show this page in store.

Tracking: Make sure you track it separately so that you can judge performance.  This probably wont be performance by way of conversions but it will certainly help to see bounce rates and site traffic stats.

Bid strategy: Use the fact you have split the campaign out to your advantage, use the tracking you have installed to judge keywords based on mobile search performance rather than web search performance.

Keep testing!: your unlikely to get this right first time but by trying different things you are bound to find some successes so don’t be afraid to try.  iPhone’s and other mobile devices with full browsers are set to revolutionise mobile Internet, it is better to make your mistakes now and learn from them, rather than in a couple of years when you are already behind the game!

Mobile strategy shouldn’t be something which gets lumped together in the general web pot, in the same way search shouldn’t.  Making sure you have a clear strategy and objective for mobile activity will ensure that as mobile Internet grows, you are best placed to take advantage.