Will your website stand out this holiday season?


For the last few years in our office, holiday time has meant we’ll be doing a Yankee Swap. You may know this tradition by one of its other names: Bad Santa, White Elephant, the Present Game. The rules are simple. Everyone spends a certain amount of money on a gift. Then, the gift is wrapped up, decorated and anonymously placed in a pile. We take turns picking whatever gift seems the most attractive and open it in front of the group. The next person can either steal your gift or try for something better. There are always those great gifts that are quickly in the highest demand.

Yankee Swaps remind us of the way many businesses try to find new customers online. First and foremost they have to get someone to choose them. One of the most important ways to attract customers to a website is with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of adapting a site to improve its ranking in the results for specific search terms.

SEO improves the visibility of a website in search results, and in turn attracts potential customers—just like that silver and gold wrapping paper grabs attention in our Yankee Swap pile. On average, in the United States, we conduct 12 billion searches per month.[i] “If a business doesn’t show up on the first page of Google, they don’t exist,” says Sarah DeJong, channel sales manager at MLive Media Group. If you want your website to show on the first page of those searches, you’ll have to put in a little work. And if you do it well, you can be sure that people are going to find out about your products and services: Search is the number-one driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300%.[ii]

But once they pick your site, will they like what they find on your pages? Or will they want to “swap” and click away to another site? The holiday season is the perfect time to capture those fervent shoppers and tantalize them with useful information. If you haven’t already started to market to eager buyers with engaging content, now is a great time to get started. The content your website provides is just as important as the tactics that drive your customers to it. Make sure the “gift” you give (great content) is as special as the thought put into the presentation.

SEO and content development are just a couple of the topics discussed in MLive Media Group’s free downloadable Digital Marketing Bootcamp ebook. Learn how easy and beneficial digital marketing can be for your business.

Make your website stand out and give the gift of good content this season and you’ll be the talk of the office party!


[i] http://www.ironpaper.com/webintel/articles/2015-critical-seo-statistics-and-trends/#.Vi_CbrerS00

[ii] http://www.ironpaper.com/webintel/articles/2015-critical-seo-statistics-and-trends/#.Vi_CbrerS00

Enhance Your Search Campaign’s Potential with Display Advertising

It happens often – a marketer hears what paid search marketing can do, gets all excited, and rushes into an AdWords campaign, only to be disappointed with the results. Why? Google is supposed to bring prequalified customers directly to their website. Businesses are supposed to start buying private yachts and begin swimming in money, right?

Not so fast. To maximize search marketing results, marketers should consider other factors that help push consumers to the point of conversion. Hint: it’s not paid search by itself.

In many cases, marketers who rely solely on paid search marketing are missing opportunities to drive more search traffic. They are often too passive, “waiting” for traffic, and not doing anything to actively generate awareness or activity. They “hope” people are searching for them, but they are not doing anything to stimulate brand searches. So when they see poor results, they often jump to conclusions, and say paid search marketing does not work.

But the problem isn’t paid search, it’s that these marketers are missing a huge part of the conversion process.

Harvard Investigates

In 2013, Harvard Business School conducted a study to see how online display advertising impacts a search campaign. This detailed study measured many things and came away with an important conclusion: spending dollars to create brand awareness improves paid search campaign performance.

The study found that, when a business started a display campaign, there was an increase in search volume after two weeks. So a marketer can create more demand for a product or service with a display branding campaign within a matter of weeks. And that means more potential customers.

The study also determined that brand searches increased when a display campaign ran along with search marketing efforts. Brand searches come from people looking for a specific product or business rather than a general search term. For example, display ads for the Brooks Cascadia running shoe will cause more people to search for terms like “Brooks Cascadia.” These branded searches tend to lead to more sales than searches for a general term such as “Running Shoes”.

Running Shoes

Finally, the study showed that display campaigns led to a reduction in cost per acquisition (CPA), and a higher return on investment. This was more apparent the longer a display campaign was active.

Real-World Confirmation Harvard’s study is illuminating, but real-world experience is even more compelling. Customer results at Alabama Media Group have shown that paid search campaigns for identical products perform worse in markets with little to no online display marketing. In other words: a search campaign without a corresponding display campaign gets a lower CTR and higher CPC than the exact same search campaign paired with a display campaign.

So why are the numbers so much better when search is paired with display?

  • A larger market is created, so more consumers will end up buying products or services
  • Increased brand exposure means more of that market is looking specifically for the brand or product being promoted
  • Effective branding makes consumers more familiar with the benefits of the brands they may later see in paid search ads

Many businesses that neglect display miss an opportunity to extend their market, often assuming others in the industry will drive market leads. By that time, it may be too late to direct conversions. While these advertisers may still see clicks and even conversions, they are not maximizing their search potential, often seeing poor CTRs which lead to an increase in CPCs and perhaps a cancellation of their search campaign (if not loss of the business entirely).

Of course there are exceptions. A plumber focusing on 24-hour emergency service may insist on just doing search; brand terms are not as important when people are in a pinch. A small local business with a limited budget may want to start with SEM first, and add to their media mix as they grow. But Harvard research and AMG experience clearly show how display enhances paid search results.

Don’t be passive and hope for business. Create a market, prime the market, and your customers can create better paid search results, and more business!

Want to see real results?  View this case study of ours to see how branding can bring a new level to your marketing strategy.

Improve Your Search Campaign by Using Callout Extensions

Adding callout extensions to SEM ads is a great way to highlight additional information about an advertiser’s business, product or service. But that’s not the only reason they’re valuable. Here are additional benefits to SEM campaigns for advertisers who take full advantage of these new extensions.

Adding callout extensions increases ad size.

Callouts are typically added as an additional line below the ad, which increases its overall footprint. This not only helps an ad stand out on the page, but brings attention to the bulleted selling points as well.

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Callout extensions are customizable for each segment.

Not only are multiple segments important for increased relevancy, but each segment’s callout extensions (and site-link extensions) can have a customized list of benefits.

Callout extensions can increase performance.

By increasing ad size and making it stand out, you have also made it a larger target to click, and as a result, this may increase click-through rate. This can help the ad’s quality score and ad rank, helping to reduce the overall cost per click.

Callout extensions make ads more favorable.

If you’re taking advantage of all possible extensions in a campaign (location, phone, site links, and callouts), it is assumed Google will favor your ads over ads that are not using all possible extensions, therefore improving your ad position.

Here are some important best practices to keep in mind when creating callout extensions:

  • Keep each callout short and concise. There is a maximum length of 25 characters; however, Google recommends keeping callouts to 12-15 characters.
  • Use “Sentence case” instead of “Proper Case.”
  • Do not use special characters. This includes exclamation points and “gimmicky” characters that violate Google’s editorial standards.
  • Avoid repeat words. Google may not approve callouts with duplicate words (e.g., “Quality Support,” “Quality Service”).
  • A minimum of two callouts is required, but no more than four callouts are allowed.

Everything Is Marketing Episode 110: Matt Targett of Google

Matt Targett from Google joins the podcast to talk about micromoments, search, how your social can effect where and how you are found online, and which of his three careers were the toughest to get into.

Is Search Engine Marketing The New Yellow Pages

Recently, I was thinking about how tough it must be to be a business owner. They start a business because they have something they are really good at, a specialty, a niche, a gift. But how will people know about them? Believe it or not, some business owners will never advertise. This always amazes me. A brand new business opens and they just think people are going to show up at their door. They don’t put an ad in the paper, list in the yellow pages, don’t’ have a website. I am never surprised then, when an “out of business” sign appears in their window soon thereafter.

So what about the businesses that succeed? What are they doing to bring people to their door? A new business may have been fortunate enough to open its doors, and they now have a couple dozen advertising companies calling them with the next best thing. Whom do they believe? They all say their ads are the best, but how do they know what really works? Very rarely does a business owner have unlimited funds to try every form of advertising out there. So they have to choose. And they need to choose wisely.

When it comes to advertising, there are basically two types: creative and directional. Creative is something like radio, television, billboards, newspapers, magazines and flyers. They create the desire for a product or service and help create brand awareness. But the user may not be ready to buy at that time. That’s when directional advertising comes in. Directional advertising captures the buyer when they are ready to take action, when they are ready to spend money and do business. This form of advertising has got to be the first priority when it comes to an advertising budget.

Ten years ago almost all successful businesses found it necessary to advertise in the yellow pages. But these days, there are so many other options to find products and services, I wondered if anyone still used those books. I have heard that “the phone book is dead,” and “the phone book is a dinosaur, completely extinct.” If this is the case, why are business owners still giving these yellow page companies a good chunk of their advertising dollars? I decided to find out for myself.

According to statistics, announced by <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>searchengineland.com </span>(link to source), yellow page usage has been steadily decreasing. In 2002, there were more than 15 billion references to the printed yellow pages in the United States. Last year in 2011, that number had dropped below 11 million.