Creative

SEO or Keyword Advertising Experiment

Posted by mhurston on May 13, 2009
Creative Corner / 5 Comments

Outside of the commercial real estate realm I own and operate a very niche market PDF publishing company whose hosting provider, GoDaddy, recently provided me some free credits for Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. The credits consisted of $25 towards Google AdWords and $50 towards Facebook Ads. My first thought was that the amounts were so low, they couldn’t possibly provide any benefit, and since my PDF publishing hasn’t been exactly profitable the last few months I didn’t want to increase any budget items for it.

However, the company I work at recently had inquiries to me to look into both of these ad services so I figured this might give me an opportunity to familiarize myself with these two products. So I began two campaigns on each site and tracked all of my results. I then shared these results with my companies Marketing Technology Director and our PR firm MassMedia; the results were interesting and a little surprising in some cases.

Disclaimer: Since the testing was only done for 2 days for both campaigns, this information is by no means extensive and should be taken with a grain of salt, though I believe it is something I will look into more and I’d recommend others to evaluate on their own as well.

The Ad Campaigns & Initial Results:

For Google AdWords I created a campaign consisting of about 20 relevant key words (short and long included) with a daily max budget of $30 and a bid of 0.01¢ (the estimated bid of my keywords was between 0.04¢ and 0.09¢. The budget increased to $30 because of Google’s “activation fee” of $5 and their “forced” deposit of $10 to open the account. The ad consisted of the name of the company, a brief description of the product and linked to the sites storefront, however, the link shown in the text was to the sites main page, not the store. I ran this campaign for two days prior to beginning the second campaign. After these two days I had generated just under 200 exposures, but no clicks. This was to be expected; however on my Google Analytics I had seen an increase in traffic of 5%. No other ads or releases had been made during this time.

I continued to let this campaign run, as it was not using any of my credits and set up a second campaign almost exactly the same, but with a slightly higher bid of 0.05¢ After two days the ad had generated over 500 impressions, with a click thru rate of almost 0.20%. My websites traffic increase from this was slightly higher obviously. I then paused this campaign for the remainder of the next test, with hardly any of my credits used.

Facebook was a different beast entirely. I started by setting my campaigns to a daily budget of $25, used the same key words, ad text and link setups as I did in my Google AdWords campaign, but had a cost estimate of 0.46¢ to 0.59¢ – apparently my competitors must advertise on Facebook more than Google. I placed two campaigns, one for 0.01¢ and the other for 0.5¢. After the first day with 0.01¢ I had not generated any impressions, so no clicks, but the 0.5¢ had a different story – I had hit my $25 daily budget with over 84,000 impressions and 54 clicks. While the traffic to my storefront had increased that day, the traffic to my sites main page had not seen a change, and since the previous days had been higher, my Google Analytics showed my site had a decrease in traffic for those pages. Which is fine, since ultimately I want people at the store or at least one of my distributors sites since if they visit my home page, blog or forums it’s not going to generate any income directly.

Questions & Answers:

While the Facebook Ads worked the way I had anticipated for the most part – the Google AdWords, which I have turned back on and continue to follow has been causing me to ask questions. While Facebook seemed to generate traffic to me from the clicks to my site, Google AdWords seems to continue to generate traffic to me whether people click on my ads or not.

When I spoke to our companies Marketing Technology Director we came up with the idea that perhaps the people interested in my niche may have seen the ads, but not clicked on them, but for some reason either typed in the web address or name of the book and found my site this way. This would explain why the ads, which link to the store, seemed to increase traffic to the main page instead of the store.

I then thought of the idea, that perhaps looking into ad words as a way of generating a lot of impressions, but not necessarily desiring clicks may be a feasible small-budget marketing strategy. Of course for commercial real estate, we’d have to look at the possibility of higher key word costs, but the concept would remain the same – to underbid in such a way that our ad is seen but not shown dominant enough to generate a lot of clicks.

This was an interesting train of thought for me, but I wanted more input, so I sent a few emails off to our PR firm, MassMedia to see what they thought of these campaigns and their results. The first response was what I had been thinking, but hadn’t voiced, which is that my use of AdWords may have increased the keyword relevancy from an organic SEO point of view. There have been some theories that an advantage of AdWords will increase your sites SEO as sort of a self serving incentive or that AdWords simply grows the SEO algorithm Google Search uses. I don’t know if it’d be possible to really prove this one way or another, but an interesting concept none the less.

Conclusion:

I’m ultimately left with a lot of questions, not too many proven answers, but definitely an interest in researching these results more. While this outcome was a bit different than I expected it definitely made me think about the benefits of organic ranking compared to raw conversions to your site. If someone is simply looking to build site traffic it’s probably best to just focus on the more common optimizations, such as relevant link exchanges, url submissions to directories, enhanced keyword and description tags, consistent content updates and the use of social media networks and tools. Of course, if you have the budget, a well-targeted AdWords or Facebook Ad campaign wouldn’t hurt either.

AdWords Update: I’ve turned my campaign back on and will post a follow up once the $25 has been burned through.

– Michael G. Hurston

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What Constitutes Good Design?

Posted by mhurston on April 14, 2009
Creative Corner / No Comments

In my last segment I overviewed various marketing tools that can benefit any commercial real estate office, but this time around I became a little side tracked. Instead of continuing on the marketing subjects I outlined, I’m going to start with design, as that is what everything else I’ll have to talk about stems from. I’ve broken this down into what I see are the three aspects of design, visual, functional and structural.

For marketing collateral purposes we’ll look primarily at the visual design. For the most part visual design is something that the client will find appealing to their senses. The sights and sounds of a TV ad or flash banner on a website or the look of a printed page. While visual design is one f the most important elements for marketing, it is also the most subjective.

Edward Tufte can be considered a genius within the visual design field with his ability to present incredible amounts of statistics within an easily identifiable and understandable display. This is one of the first steps towards good design. However, Tufte will be the first to admit how much he dislikes marketing and many of the elements used in advertisements and various forms of collateral that irritate him to no end.

With that said, it’s important as a designer to understand that the client is not always right and it’s part of your visual design duty to make sure you can talk them out of doing something that will hurt their business.

The next most important part of design is function, or simply, how stuff works. For example, a website is one of the areas where functional design is extremely important. It does no good to both you or your clients if people aren’t able to find the information they want on your website. A little study of typical human behavior on the web and you will understand the necessity for multiple links to the same information along the top and sides of a website, among the reasoning behind many other online strategies. However, functional design is not just important to interactive media such as websites, flash applications or interactive PDF’s, it is also important to printed items, such as when creating a book or magazine layout, where you are incorporating bleeds and spreads. It is also important to understand the media on which your printed pieces will be produced, such as the difference between the look of a 10 pt Gill Sans Light on glossy magazine stock versus newspaper.

Some could consider structural design the least important, but structure varies drastically from designer to designer. If you are your own boss and work alone, chances are you don’t care how you organize your files, how you name them, or how your layouts are set up. After all, if it looks good and works, who cares right?

This is in strong contrast to the ideals of anyone who has worked in either a design studio or with an in-house team who constantly handle each other’s files as needed. In situations as these it is essential to an efficient and successful workflow to come up with a system and stick to it. In addition, the actual design setup of layouts should be done in a way that the other designers will be able to easily adjust and edit.

Anyone who has worked with me knows of my issues I have with designers who use spaces after a bullet point in an InDesign file instead of using tabs as well as my pet peeves of those who would make each line of text for a bulleted list placed in it’s own text box and then not even bother to align them properly with the align tool. These are things that cause a person to be seen as an amateur within their circle.

Ultimately it is important for designers, especially those in print, to understand and know how to use and adjust items such as tracking, kerning, bullets, styles and tables when doing text layouts. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, such as when creating text for a cover or header piece that may require the text to be adjusted and set in a non-standard way.

While code formatting is for the most part irrelevant due to the many applications that auto format the display and highlight code, what is relevant is the expandability of the code. In short, is the site designed in such a way to allow the addition of new features, links, ads, etc easily or would it require a rework or site rebuild?

In conclusion good design is a product of proper structure, usability, function and ultimately strong and captivating visual design. A good understanding and planning from each of these aspects will typically end with the creation of a successful collateral piece, ad campaign or website.

– Michael G. Hurston

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