Content Testing Before Going ‘All-In’

So you’re thinking about leveraging content? Before you write your eBook or webinar slides, you’ll want to try and make sure your topic will actually resonate with your target audience.

So you’re thinking about leveraging content? Before you write your eBook or webinar slides, you’ll want to try and make sure your topic will actually resonate with your target audience.

Whether you’re content magnet is free or paid, or eBook or webinar, it’s important to test the waters before jumping in with both feet.

One of the biggest challenges I hear from clients is determining which “theme” they should choose for an eBook or webinar before investing all of the time, resources and expenses that are involved with writing, production and marketing.

Sometimes, more often than not, just because you think a topic is interesting doesn’t mean it’s something the marketplace will buy into.

Consumers are very savvy these days. There’s so much free content out there, that if you’re asking for their email address (or even more, their credit card) to download an eBook or sign up for a webinar, it better be something mind-blowing … a new perspective … something that gives them that “a-ha” moment.

Clients often feel they have their fingers on the pulse of the market. And maybe they do. But it’s the marketer who needs to help drive the content machine and do some due diligence first before going all-in.

Working in online and print publishing for the last 15-plus years, I have some proven tips and best practices to help you determine the validity of content (i.e., Topic or theme) for your next eBook or webinar.

Of course, there’s no crystal ball to help you see how something will ultimately perform with so many variables that can influence conversions, such as brand recognition, ad copy, creative design of landing page, price point, etc. Ultimately, the market will let you know if it’s interested in your topic or not. But your overall efforts can be a little easier, with some solid pre-requisites …

Surveillance

Look at what you’re competitors are putting out there with eBooks and webinars. You can do some simple competitive analysis to see the types of content topics they’re focusing on. Go to their website. What free reports are they using for organic traffic? Also, check out sites like ispionage.com. This site lets you type in a website URL so you can see competitor’s paid and organic keywords, landing pages, PPC spends and more. The free version is limited. To see full data, you have to subscribe. But this can give you some good ideas.

Getting Social

Sites like Social Mention let you search for keywords, show you how often they’re being used and where they are among the top social media platforms. This is as close as you can get to being a fly on the wall.

Keyword Research

Think of your topics in terms of keyword strings of what your target audience would likely search for. Use a keyword search platform, like Google’s keyword planner or Wordtracker. Look for keyword and potential topics that are not too popular (as the market is likely saturated with that content) but also not under-searched … the sweet spot.

Trends

Sites like Trends.google.com give you a general view of what’s trending on the Web. You can search by topic and see what people are interested in.

Purchase Behavior

Sites like Clickbank.com and Amazon.com (Kindle eBooks) will show you best-selling digital content. Clickbanks is a marketplace specifically for eBooks. You can search by topic, then sort by popularity and other criteria. The more popular eBooks can be a gauge of hot topics. Kindle eBooks can be searched and sorted by topics and you can see the best-selling topics in various categories from health, self-help and more.

Testing

Before going all-out with a 25-page eBook or a 30-minute webinar, test the concept with a 1-pager, quick and dirty digital download. Create a strong PPC text ad or Facebook ad and see what the initial clicks and conversions are. This is a great way to really see how the general marketplace will react to your topic and if it’s got legs. Carve out a small test budget (anywhere from $65 to $250, depending on your marketing medium) and let the ad run for one to two weeks. Keep it simple and remember this is just a test.

Experience

Some things you just see over and over again, so you have a good inkling of what gets your target audience excited. Generally speaking, there are a few things I’ve noticed that will, nine out of 10 times, get people to convert. Topics that:

  • Tie into a current event or are time sensitive
  • Are controversial or a contrarian viewpoint (a “hot button” issue)
  • Tap into an emotion (fear, greed, vanity, exclusivity)
  • Solve a problem
  • Save you time or money
  • Help you be healthier, wealthier or wiser in some way
  • Reveal something
  • A forecast or prediction (this works well in financial newsletter publishing, i.e. Top Stocks of 2018)
  • Are sensational or “forbidden” (this tactic is not for the faint of heart)
  • Include “Top” lists (such as, “Top 10 Ways to Combat Cancer”)
  • Combine two of the above

Remember, the core of direct response marketing is testing.

So view your content testing with an open mind and let the market help dictate your next move.

Being calculated and strategic will help you either hit a home run or, even if your test bombs, save you time and money in the long run.

Boost Your Clicks With AdWords Sitelink Extensions

If your goal is acquisition, Google’s pay per click AdWords platform has proved for many to be a viable way to increase leads or sales for your business and, depending on your keyword and bids, can be cost-effective.

google adwordsIf your goal is acquisition, Google’s pay per click AdWords platform has proved for many to be a viable way to increase leads or sales for your business and, depending on your keyword and bids, can be cost-effective.

However, if you’re not in the PPC know, then you may not be aware that Google is now allowing up to eight sitelink extensions in paid search ads AND they are interactive, tappable scrolling buttons on mobile devices (vs. text links on desktop).

What does that mean for you?

Quite simply, Google is giving your more opportunity to catch your target audience’s attention with strong, relevant calls to action or other enticing keywords that are clickable; whereby, you can drive traffic to a targeted page.

These extra descriptives can help increase your clickthrough rate, and possibly conversion rate.

Now, some marketers don’t take advantage of this. But I say if you don’t, you’re leaving opportunity on the table!

What You Should Know

  • Including a Sitelink in Your Ad. When you’re creating a new ad, you’ll see prompts to add a new sitelink extension. If you have an existing campaign, but you didn’t take advantage of this feature, you can go back and add it under “All Campaigns,” select the ad you’d like to add the sitelink to, then select “+Extensions” and “+New Sitelink.”
  • Types of Extensions. Here are some top extensions to help drive traffic or clicks:
    • Teasers and Call-Outs. This would be a unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from your competition. Some may include call outs like “free shipping,” “100% guaranteed,” “special offer,”’ “free report” and similar. These sitelinks would then link to a promotional page that speaks more to the teaser and has a goal of getting a conversion.

This would be your physical address if you’re driving traffic to a physical location. This can then link to a directions/map page on your website.

  • Phone Number. This would be if you have the Google “click to call” feature driving traffic to a phone number.
  • Testimonials or Reviews. Some advertisers would put a strong excerpt from a testimonial page or “5 stars” review here, then link to the full reviews page.
  • Call to Action. Another popular tactic is to include calls to action that may answer a question the prospect is looking for, or help them find a solution. Such as “call now,” “get a quote,” “request appointment,” “order now,” “customer favorites,” “top sellers,” “special trial offer,” “on sale now,” etc.
  • Sale and Promotion Extensions. Where you can actually have things like “25% off your entire order” or “last chance sale,” where you can even enter the dates the sale is running in the ad!
  • Combining Lead-gen and Sale in One Ad. Using sitelinks can be a great way to kill two birds with one stone. In your one ad, you can have different sitelinks for different goals. One sitelink term may say something like “free report” and the other may say “top sellers.” One links to a squeeze page to collect an email address (lead generation). The other goes to a sales page to a product going directly for a sale.

Tracking your sitelink performance is easy. When in your AdWords dashboard, just look for clickthrough rate performance under “Acquisition,” “All Traffic,” “Ad Words” and “Sitelinks.” It’s that easy.

According to Google, the mere presence of sitelink extensions may boost clickthrough rate on average by 10 to 20 percent, and for branded terms, 20 to 50 percent.

So what are you waiting for?!

As part of your online marketing mix, if you have a percentage of your time and budget allocated to pay per click (PPC), then testing sitelink extensions in your ad is a MUST.

Good luck.

10 Elements of a Squeeze Page

For those of you who haven’t heard this term, a squeeze page is basically a short landing page with one main purpose — to “squeeze” the email address out of the visitor to that page.

10 Elements of a Squeeze Page
“10,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Paul Downey

For those of you who haven’t heard this term, a squeeze page is basically a short landing page with one main purpose — to “squeeze” the email address out of the visitor to that page.

In other words, it’s a promotional page with the goal of lead generation (or “list-building”).

Smart marketers like to balance their online mixes and do both direct-to-sale efforts (i.e. selling a product) along with list-building (i.e. lead gen) efforts.

But not all squeeze pages are created equal.

Some are very short and pithy, with a headline and call to action … more ideal for mobile phone viewing. While others have longer copy to convey the value proposition of why the prospects need to give their email addresses.

Your target audience, delivery platform, message, offer and other variables will determine which format you may want to test.

But generally speaking, over the many years I have been creating successful squeeze pages for both consulting clients and top publishers alike, I would have to say that I’ve noticed 10 key elements that help make a winning squeeze page and get conversions.

Here they are:

  1. Gets Your Attention. It’s very important for a good squeeze page to have a strong headline, coupled with an eye-catching masthead image. This is when good persuasive copywriting skills comes into play with creative design.
  2. The Offer. You need to show the reader why they need to sign up and give you their email address … WHAT are they getting out of it? Typically it’s some kind of bonus, such as a free .pdf report, free white paper, free e-newsletter … free something. And that freebie needs to answer a question the prospect may have, solve a problem and teach them something they don’t know. All of the bonus benefits and the value proposition need to be outlined in the body copy in a clear, easy-to-read format (usually bullets).
  3. Why Listen to You? It’s also important to briefly outline WHY the prospect should listen to you. What makes you the expert? Why you are uniquely qualified? In a paragraph or less, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself and your credentials to the reader. Again, strong copywriting comes into play here to persuade the reader that it’s imperative to hear what you have to say and give you their email address.
  4. Visually Appealing. Call-to-action buttons that are bright and catch your attention (i.e. orange, yellow, red), a thumbnail of a free bonus report, a starburst showing the $ value of the free report, a headshot of the expert, and other relevant graphic enhancements are great ways to keep the reader engaged and move the eye down the page.
  5. If you have testimonials that speak to your expertise, use quote boxes and add short, strong testimonials. One or two that have a “wow” factor are best.
  6. No Distractions. As mentioned earlier, squeeze pages have one simple goal: to collect an email address. So it’s important not to have other clickable links on the page or navigation. You want to keep the readers focused on only giving you their emails and clicking “submit.” Don’t have background noise.
  7. Contact Information. At the bottom of the squeeze page, I like to add a brick-and-mortar physical address of the business, as well as the business Web address — that’s un-clickable. If you have a BBB logo or other logo that represents an award, accolade or accomplishment, it helps adds prestige, authenticity and promotes consumer confidence.
  8. Legal Mumbo-Jumbo. It’s important to remember, especially if you’re in the health or financial publishing space, to add the necessary disclaimers specific for that industry. In general, you may want to add something along the lines of: “The information and material provided on this site are for educational purposes only.”
  9. Anti-Spam Pledge. Under the email collection fields and above the call-to-action button, it’s a best practice to add some anti-spam verbiage to alleviate any concerns to the reader that the email may be sold or rented. Some even have a text hyperlink to their privacy policy.
  10. The More You Ask, The Less You Get. It’s a general rule of thumb that for each information field you ask the prospect to give, i.e. first name, email address, etc., you will get fewer responders. Some people ask for mailing address, age and other demographic information. That will deter some prospects and dampen response. However, the ones who do answer have demonstrated a real interest and are more qualified than just visitors who gave their email. So think about your ultimate goal for the squeeze page when determining how much information you’re going to ask for.

The squeeze page is only the beginning.

A good, strategic list-building campaign will have many elements that all work together to get a prospect’s attention (the ad); get them to sign up (the squeeze page); help them bond with the guru or editor; become educated in the publication’s mission; and, ultimately, get the subscriber to convert to a buyer of a paid product.

This is called the onboarding process. And an effective onboarding process is the beginning of the sales funnel that should end with more voluminous conversions in a shorter time-frame than if you don’t have an onboarding process in place.

So evaluate your business. See how many leads (#) you’re bringing in on a monthly basis, at how much ($) per lead, and how quickly these leads are converting to buyers.

Then decide if squeeze pages and setting up an onboarding process are right for you.

Good luck and happy prospecting!

Converting Your Social Media Triple-Fs: Friends, Followers and Fans

I’ve heard many gurus, marketers and publishers brag about their social media followers. They’ll say things like, “Isn’t it great … I’ve got 10,000 fans on Facebook” or “I have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter.” Then I’ll ask them how many free e-newsletter subscribers they have. And they’ll reply, “I haven’t had time to build a list yet. I don’t have an e-newsletter.”

I’ve heard many gurus, marketers and publishers brag about their social media followers. They’ll say things like, “Isn’t it great … I’ve got 10,000 fans on Facebook” or “I have more than 15,000 followers on Twitter.” Then I’ll ask them how many free e-newsletter subscribers they have. And they’ll reply, “I haven’t had time to build a list yet. I don’t have an e-newsletter.”

Well, in my opinion, they’ve won only half the battle …

It’s fantastic that they have a following on social media—people who seem to be interested in their messages (posts) and their overall philosophy. They can certainly cultivate these relationships to assist in their marketing efforts. However, I remind these gurus that the “fans” are following them. It’s a passive relationship. And there’s an awful lot of background noise in a news feed that can distract their fans.

If you don’t have fans’ email addresses, then you cannot have one-on-one communications with them. Building and cultivating a list is a fundamental business strategy for sales growth.

In the publishing world, a list (email addresses of free or paid subscribers) is sacred. It’s one of the most valuable things you own. You protect it and treat it with care, because your list is your financial bread and butter. It’s made up of people—customers and subscribers—who can make or break your business through their purchasing power or lack thereof.

Your list is also your leverage—what you use when reaching out to other synergistic publishers and friendly competitors to do reciprocal JV (joint venture) swaps and revenue share deals.

So, if you’re an online publisher, guru or business owner who has social media followers but no list, you’re at a disadvantage. Initiate a plan to capture your fans’ email addresses immediately and get permission to open up the personal lines of communication.

I recommend that you make a special conversion effort to encourage social media followers to give you their email addresses, or, as we say, “opt in” to receive your marketing messages.

This typically involves creating strong promotional copy and a lead-generation landing page (also know as squeeze page), where the goal is to capture the email address of the friend, follower or fan.

The offer should be something that will resonate with your fan, such as a useful and relevant free bonus. Some popular examples are a whitepaper, e-newsletter or e-alert subscription, audio download, bonus video, webinar or teleseminar..

Some marketers also offer coupon codes or gift certificates in exchange for an email address or the option to be in a “VIP club,” where you’re the first to hear about special offers.

Freebies will vary based on what you have to offer in exchange. Ideally, this is something that has a perceived value and is immediate and relevant. You run the campaign for a two-week period at a time, mixing your conversion messages with your regular, organic daily posts. It’s ideal to drive traffic to specially coded pages so you can track traffic and conversions. You can also make sure your sign up box on your website’s home page is up and ready for stray organic traffic. Then you monitor email sign-ups and website traffic (via Google Analytics), to ensure list growth and traffic source referrals.

Aside from captivating copy, many variables come into play to make sure the effort is successful. These include making sure email collection fields are at the top, middle and bottom of the lead-generation landing page being used, as well as in a static (fixed) location on your website. There should also be links to your privacy policy and an assurance statement alleviating any concern about email addresses being rented or sold to third parties.

It’s also critical to clearly disclose before users submit their email addresses that opting in to receive your freebie also gives them a complimentary subscription to your e-newsletter (if applicable), along with special offers from time to time.

Finally, you should follow up with a series of autoresponder (targeted messages) emails welcoming your new subscribers, reminding them how they signed up, offering strong editorial content and special new subscriber offers.

These emails facilitate bonding; validate that the correct email was sent; ensures that the user is aware of the sign up; helps reduce false “do not mail” reports, email bounces and general attrition; and most importantly, improved life time value.

So before you get enamored with your Facebook following, realize that to monetize these names takes a conversion strategy. Once you start building your list, you’ll add a whole new value to your businesses valuation.

The Power of Interstitials … Are You Using Them?

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get your website visitors’ attention and take action. According to adspeed.com, an interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before (on top of) the actual webpage. This illustration is a sample. Your webmaster or Web programmer can easily put this in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it’s an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get your website visitors’ attention and take action.

According to adspeed.com, an interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before (on top of) the actual webpage.

This illustration is a sample.

Your webmaster or Web programmer can easily put this in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it’s an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

Typically, interstitials don’t get blocked, like pop-up ads, by many websites or search engines. (For example, Google AdWords won’t approve a PPC campaign if the redirect URL goes to a website that has pop-up ads).

An interstitial can feature various offers for lead generation (email collection) or sales (selling a product). It could be alerting the audience of a special offer, new product, poll or more.

Most interstitials are visually attractive, with strong promotional copy, calls to action and eye-catching graphics. Then the background of the ad is greyed-out, where you can still see the website behind the ad, but it’s faded—so your focus is on the main offer. There’s also a clear and obvious way to close the interstitial. No tricks or hard-to-find “close x” buttons.

Interstitials are ideal if you don’t have room for banner or text ads on your website or you don’t want to affect the current layout of you home page or website theme.

Not all interstitials, however, are created equal. I’ve seen some implemented that are not only unattractive, but are also ineffective in copy and execution. So think about the traffic and audience that may be coming to your website and the offer that may be most attractive to them.

If you drive a lot of traffic to your site but haven’t been able to monetize the traffic or harness the emails, an interstitial is an effective way to capture email addresses and put those names into your sales funnel for future auto-responder series and upsell efforts.

The beauty of an interstitial is that you can make your actual ad space as big or small as you need.

Whatever your offer or need … an interstitial can deliver. And best of all, you don’t have to wonder if your website visitors saw the ad or not. It’s no doubt they did. You are just giving them the option to act on it OR not.

A Few of My Thoughts on SEO

This is going to be a short post. First, a caveat: No one SEO tactic is the end-all be-all, in and of itself. It is part of a bigger picture using other SEO tactics. So, emphasizing keywords alone will be useless. Several SEO tactics need to be part of your overall SEO plan. Second, I’d like to clarify that there are different points of view on this. However, many webmasters still believe certain tactics—such as alt tags/attributes and keyword emphasis, such as bold, underline, italics—although they aren’t critical to overall SEO, certainly don’t hurt efforts.

This is going to be a short post.

First, a caveat: No one SEO tactic is the end-all be-all, in and of itself. It is part of a bigger picture using other SEO tactics. So, emphasizing keywords alone will be useless. Several SEO tactics need to be part of your overall SEO plan.

Second, I’d like to clarify that there are different points of view on this.

However, many webmasters still believe certain tactics—such as alt tags/attributes and keyword emphasis, such as bold, underline, italics—although they aren’t critical to overall SEO, certainly don’t hurt efforts.

In addition, many webmasters and SEO experts who do agree with subtle use of keyword emphasis think it’s okay to underline if another element is used, such as italics, to distinguish it from a text hyperlink. Also, it’s recommended if you underline text, don’t use blue font (again, to avoid confusion with hyperlinked text).

Some supporting reading:

Penguin 3.0 Is Coming and It’s Time to Clean House

Anyone who’s involved in Internet marketing can tell you that Penguin is more than a cute little seabird that lives in Antarctica. The Penguin 2.0 algorithm was released by Google in October 2013 and basically penalized websites for having unnatural, irrelevant, low-quality, spammy backlinks. Those that may come from link farms or sites that pay for backlinks.

Anyone who’s involved in Internet marketing can tell you that Penguin is more than a cute little seabird that lives in Antarctica.

The Penguin 2.0 algorithm was released by Google in October 2013 and basically penalized websites for having unnatural, irrelevant, low-quality, spammy backlinks. Those that may come from link farms or sites that pay for backlinks.

The “penalty” Google issued directly affected the website’s search engine results ranking and website traffic, which of course would affect the company’s sales and lead generation efforts. So needless to say, this little bird was devastating to some businesses.

If you’re not sure if your site’s traffic was affected by Penguin, you can visit this free tool to see if in fact your website traffic had dropped in correlation with the time of Penguin’s 2.0 release: http://reconsideration.org/penalty-tool/

Now with talk of Penguin’s big brother, 3.0, coming down the pipeline, it’s prudent to do a link audit on your website to avoid possible fallout.

So where do you start?

You can check your own website’s backlinks to ensure those sites that are linking to you are relevant and synergistic to your own site’s content.

To do this, you can use several free backlink checkers, such as: http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/,http://www.backlinkwatch.com/, or http://www.iwebtool.com/backlink_checker .

You can also go into Google’s Webmaster Tools and select your website.

Then, go down the list and see who’s linking to you. This may be laborious, but well worth it. Sites like Removeem.com have free “predictor” tools, where you can see how many bad links your website may have. And it also offers paid-for self-service and full-service link removal options.

Next, it’s literally a manual process of visiting the “bad” link’s website and contacting its representatives to remove the link going to your site. If there’s several “bad links,” it’s best to create a form letter. According to searchenginewatch.com, the letter should state that you are a website owner trying to recover from a Google penalty and would like the following links removed. Then, list the URLs where the links can be found, the URL on your site they point to, the anchor text ─ all the info needed to easily find the link you’re requesting be removed.

Sometimes, it’s easy to find contact information of “bad links.” You simply visit the site and can find email or similar information in the footer or “Contact Us” area of the website.

Other times it’s harder, and you may need to engage in some free tools to help determine a bad link’s website owner. According to searchenginewatch.com, such tools are:

  • Domaintools.com: If you want to find out who owns the site your link is on, visit domain tools or type “whois.sc” in front of a URL.
  • C-Class Checker: If you have a list of all the links you want to get rid of, you can run them through a bulk C-class checker to see how many of them are on the same C-class.
  • SpyonWeb: If you only have 1 URL to work with, this tool lets you find out what other domains they are associated with. Just put in a website URL, IP address or even the Google analytics or AdSense code and you can find all of the websites that are connected to it. Keep a record of all efforts to contact “bad links,” as it will show Google you’ve been making a good effort to get rid of these irrelevant links.

If you find that Google’s last Penguin update has affected your website and you believe there may have been an error of some sort, there is a form on Google you can fill out to pinpoint search terms that you believe you shouldn’t be penalized for.

Just remember, when it comes to SEO backlinks, it’s all about quality not quantity. Relevance is key. As long as you keep it lean and clean, all should be fine when our little seabird friend comes to visit again.

PPC Shockers and Secrets

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales. I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now. Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

Pay per click (PPC), particularly Google AdWords, is a marketing channel that can produce profitable results for your business, whether your goal is lead generation or sales.

I have been managing PPC for businesses, as an in-house marketing leader as well as marketing consultant, for over a decade now.

Though the years, I have noticed many secrets to success that I wanted to share—especially with business owners and marketers that haven’t tried PPC yet.

First, I’d like to clear the air about a big shocker … or actually a fallacy … that you need a big budget to run an effective PPC campaign.

You don’t. If you happen to have a large budget, your ads will be shown more and you can spread out your ad groups and test different types. With a smaller budget, you do need to be more judicious with your efforts. But if you market smarter, not broader, your campaigns can still produce positive results.

I have run PPC campaigns with total monthly budgets of $1,000. I have run campaigns with total daily maximum budgets ranging from $25 to $50. These campaigns brought in both sales and leads, despite their limited spending. But they do require active management, strategic thinking, deep PPC knowledge and refinement/optimization.

The PPC Tri-Pod
What is going to determine the cost and return of your campaign are three simple things I call the “PPC Tri-pod”, as it supports your entire PPC efforts:

  1. Keywords
  2. Creative (or banner ad, if it’s running on the display network)
  3. Redirect URL

So in order for you to get the most bang for your buck with PPC, you should be aware of a few things regarding the PPC Tri-pod:

Keywords. The more popular the keyword, the more cost per click (CPC) it’s going to have. So it’s very important to do your keyword research before you start selecting your keywords as you’re setting up your campaign.

I like to use Keywordspy.com. The “lite” version is free, but you can also upgrade to the full version and see more results and have more capabilities for a monthly fee. Google used to have its Keyword External Tool, which has since morphed into Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You need a Gmail account to access this free tool.

Either of these tools will allow you to enter keywords or keyword phrases and then view popularity (actual search results), as well as what the average CPCs are. This is important for your keyword selection and bidding. You can also type in your “core” or focus keywords and get additional ad group/keyword ideas. To help refine your search terms, you can also choose broad match, broad match modifier, phrase match, exact match and negative match.

If you pick a word that is too vague or too under-searched, your ad will not see much (or any) action. Impressions will either not be served, or if they are served (in the case of a vague word), it may cost you a high CPC. In addition, a vague keyword may not be relevant enough to get you a good conversion rate. Because you pay by the click, your goal is to monetize that click by getting an instant conversion. And conversions, my friends, will be the role of the landing page. I’ll talk about that more in a moment.

Creative. This is your text ad (or banner ad, if you’re running in AdWords’ display network). For Google to rank your ad favorably, and more importantly, for you to get the best conversion results possible—there needs to be a relevancy and synergy between your keyword, text ad and landing page. Google will let you know if you’re not passing muster by your ad’s page position and quality score. Once you’ve carefully researched and selected your ad group keywords, you’ll want to make sure those keywords are consistent across the board with your ad and landing page. Your text ad has four visible lines with limited character count:

  1. Headline (25 Characters)
  2. Description Line 1 (35 Characters)
  3. Description Line 2 (35 Characters)
  4. Display URL (35 Characters)

Your keyword must appear in your text ad, as well as follow through and appear in the content of your landing page.

This will give you a good quality rank with Google, but also help qualify the prospect and carry the relevancy of the ad through to the landing page. Why is this important? It helps maintain consistency of the message and also set expectations with the end user. You don’t want to present one ad, and then have a completely different landing page come up.

Not only is that a “bait and switch,” but it’s costly. Because you’re paying for clicks, a great ad that is compelling and keyword rich, but not cohesive to your landing page, will not convert as well as one that is. And your campaign will actually lose conversions.

Redirect URL. This is your landing page. Different goals and different industries will have different formats. A lead generation campaign, which is just looking to collect email addresses to build an opt-in email list, will be a “squeeze page.” This is simply a landing page with a form asking for first name and email address in return for giving something away for free—albeit a bonus report, free newsletter subscription or similar. It got its name because it’s “squeezing” an email address from the prospect. Some retail campaigns will direct prospects directly to e-commerce sites or catalog pages (as opposed to a sales page). Direct response online marketers will drive their traffic to a targeted promotional landing page where it’s not typically a Web page where there’s other navigation or distractions that will take the prospect away from the main goal. It’s more streamlined and focused. The copy is not technical, it’s compelling and emotional, like promotional copy you would see in a sales letter. The anatomy of your redirect URL will vary on your goal and offer. It will take optimization and testing to see what’s working and what’s not. And that’s par for the course. If you’re testing, I suggest elements that scream and not whisper, such as long copy vs. short copy, or headlines and leads that are different themes. However, no matter what your goal, whether it’s going for the sale or the email address, you still need keyword consistency between all creative elements.

Tips And Tricks For Maximum ROI
Whether you have a big or small budget, there are a few things I’ve learned during the years that help the overall performance of a PPC campaign. Some of these are anecdotal, so if you’ve seen otherwise, I suggest testing to see if it makes a difference to your particular industry.

Ad and Landing Page. In general, I have noticed that shorter, to the point, landing pages produce better results. And the rationale is quite obvious. People searching the Web are looking for quick solutions to a problem. This means your creatives have to not only be keyword rich, but compelling and eye-caching. You have seconds to grab a Web surfer’s attention and get them to click. In the same sense, the landing page has to be equally relevant and persuasive, and typically shorter in copy. Keep in mind Google has many rules surrounding ad copy development. So write your text ads in accordance to its advertising policy.

Price Point. Again, in my personal experience, most Web surfers have a price threshold. And that’s items under about $79. When running a PPC campaign, think about price points that are more tolerable to “cold” prospects; that is, people who haven’t built a relationship with you or know anything about you. They have no brand loyalty. They don’t know you from Adam. So getting a sale at a lower price point is an easier sell than a product you have that costs hundreds of dollars. Luxury items or items with strong recognition and brand loyalty are the exception to that rule. As a direct response marketer, I urge you to price test and see for yourself.

Campaign Set-up. There are a few tactics I notice that help with ad exposure, clicks and saving money. When you’re setting up your campaign you can day-part, frequency cap and run ad extensions. Day parting allows you to select the hours of the day you’d like your campaign to run; ad extensions allow you to add components to your text ad to help visibility and call to action—such as location, site links, reviews and more; And frequency capping lets you set a threshold on how many times you’d like a given person to see your ad (based on impressions).

PPC Networks. It’s smart not to put all your eggs in one basket. In addition to Google AdWords, try running campaigns on other PPC networks, such as Bing/Yahoo, Adroll (retargeting through Facebook), Advertising.com/AdSonar.com, SiteScout.com (formerly Adbrite.com), and Kanoodle.com. Then see where you get the best cost per click, cost per conversion and overall results.

I’ve only touched the surface here. There are more tactics and features that can help a PPC campaign’s performance. So get yourself familiar with it, read up on the best practices, and don’t be afraid to put your toe in the water. As with any marketing tactic, some channels will work for your business, and some won’t. But you won’t know unless you test. Just remember the foundation of success hinges on the PPC Tri-Pod. The possibilities are endless.

How to Create High Performing Sweepstakes for Lead-Gen Efforts

OK, I know what you’re thinking … viable leads typically don’t come from sweepstakes and contests. And when not done correctly, that’s exactly right. However, just as any online direct response tactic, this one is no different. Over the years, sweepstakes marketing has become refined through testing and targeting. And since the boom in social media, sweepstakes are more popular than ever. But before you embark on this tactic, there are a few core concepts to know—as well as best practices.

OK, I know what you’re thinking … viable leads typically don’t come from sweepstakes and contests.

And when not done correctly, that’s exactly right.

However, just as any online direct response tactic, this one is no different. Over the years, sweepstakes marketing has become refined through testing and targeting. And since the boom in social media, sweepstakes are more popular than ever.

But before you embark on this tactic, there are a few core concepts to know—as well as best practices.

The Precursors

It’s important to get to know your list to help determine its value and how much you are willing to give away for a lead, such as:

  • What is your average conversion time (how long does it take someone to move from a lead to a buyer—30, 60, 90-plus days?)
  • What is the lifetime value (LTV) per buyer?
  • What is your average revenue per name?
  • What is your average cost per lead (CPL)?

Conversion Time. Monitor a group of new names (perhaps by campaign) who come on your file and see at what point, at what percent and for what dollar amount your leads convert to buyers. This will help you know how much and how long it takes a lead to convert. Let’s say you have a pay-per-click campaign and, in the first 30 days, 20 percent of the leads convert and the average unit sale is $50. This shows you your time threshold for getting a sale. You’ll know when to anticipate revenues and can manage your budget accordingly.

LTV. You take the total your buyers purchased: Let’s say over five years, this group collectively spent $100,000, and divide that amount by number of buyers (let’s say its 500). Your LTV is $200. This will show you the potential long-term opportunity for a buyer’s worth, as well as the loss (if the customer leaves your list).

Rev Per Name. This is more for the current buyers on your file not long term, as with LTV. Take the total your buyers spend at 30, 60 and 90 days; and at each time point, divide that amount by the number of buyers. So let’s say at 30 days, your newest names bring in collectively $10,000 and there are 1,000 buyers. That is a $10/rev per name. This will show you current buyer worth and your threshold for acquisition costs.

Cost Per Lead. When you’re doing an acquisition effort, how much does it cost you per name? Take the cost of the media buy and divide by the number of leads that came in. This will tell you how much you typically spend to bring in a new name. Ideally, you want to keep you cost per lead much lower than your revenue per name and LTV. I like to hover between $5 and $25 CPL. CPLs will be different by channel. However, if you bring in a lead at $50 and you know, based on your list performance, that name will spend $75 in the first 6 months, you can afford to take an initial loss.

The Offer

What are you going to give away? The value of the giveaway should be something that won’t be viewed as too good to be true by users as well, as one you can earn back (based on the aforementioned list criteria and in a certain time period). So knowing your giveaway threshold is important.

In addition to being realistic and appealing, the offer should also be relevant and interesting to your target prospect.

I’ve seen random sweepstakes offers on the Web, as I’m sure you have. One in particular, a publishing company, featured an offer: “Win a free iPad.”

This makes zero sense to me in so many ways …

Unless this publishing company is uploading an app on the iPad with a free online subscription to one of their publications, I don’t see the relevance for the end-user. This publisher will likely wind up with thousands of leads, but they will be unqualified, irrelevant people looking for a free electronic device and not in the other information products they offer.

Plus there’s an out-of-pocket cost for the product and shipping of the product.

This, in my opinion, is typical of the “old” sweepstakes offers where little strategy and direct response knowledge seemed to go into planning the campaign.

However, one website I discovered in my research for this article seems to hit the nail on the head and offer something synergistic to their leads, as well as qualifies the lead for future potential sales via cross-sell and upsell efforts.

Take skin care company, Dermagist. Their sweepstakes offer is for lead generation, touts a “$200 shopping spree,” and is featured on their website and Facebook page. The tactics they are using can be applied to most any industry.

Leads have to “register” by liking Dermagist’s Facebook page, as well as post on Dermagists’ Facebook page why they love the product. Winners are chosen monthly and given a promo code worth $200 toward anything in their store. No purchase is necessary.

What I Like …

The offer is ongoing, so it’s a continuity of new leads (email addresses) coming in on a monthly basis to help build the list and offset any attrition.

The prize is realistic, targeted and qualifies the recipient based on relevant interest—it’s appealing to those interested in skincare products and is a great way to get repeat and referral sales.

Leads have to “register” by liking Dermagist Facebook page, as well as post on their Facebook wall why they love the product. This strategy helps with social media engagement (boosting page “likes,” visibility and credibility), as well as product awareness.

I also liked that on the website’s sweepstakes registration page, last month’s winner’s name was posted. This helps reinforce contest legitimacy.

Location, Location, Location

Where you promote your sweepstakes is equally important for targeting and relevance.

There’s the obvious, such as having a banner ad, header content or interstitial on the website’s home page mentioning the promotion.

You can also promote it on your business’ Facebook page organically (through fan page timeline and wall posts), through apps, as well as through targeted ads and boosted posts, selecting audiences in the Newsfeed that are like-minded with your target customer.

Tabsite has a variety of Facebook-friendly apps for contests and sweepstakes (photos, trivia and more).

A word of caution: If you are promoting a sweepstakes on Facebook, make sure to follow its guidelines or your campaign may run the risk of getting shut down.

Promoting it organically with search engine marketing is another tactic, such as with free online press releases.

And, of course, if your budget allows, you can promote your sweepstakes through targeted media buys (banner ads, email list rental) and pay-per-click. These costs should be factored into the overall campaign effort and cost per lead.

So when you start thinking about your acquisition efforts and how sweepstakes may be used, know that through the evolution of the consumer and Internet marketing in general, this is not your father’s sweepstakes anymore.

Being a creative and strategic marketer will help you take this strategy to a whole new, high-performing level.

Trending: Consumer Review Sites Leverage Content, Social, Search Marketing

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click. Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic). Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click.

Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic).

Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

Recent articles in Forbes hailed that “content is the new SEO …” and that “content is king.”

My view has always been that with relevant, useful, valuable and actionable original content, you can’t go wrong. It will always work with the search engines, despite constant algorithm updates.

This is the core philosophy of my “SONAR Content Distribution Model,” but also has become more commercial- and consumer-driven with the use of product review websites.

A recent study shows 47 percent of consumers indicate the Internet is their favorite place to shop, and U.S. e-tails are anticipated to hit around $370 billion by 2017.

With all this Web surfing and shopping, it’s no wonder consumers are becoming more savvy.

An emerging trend in digital marketing is consumer review sites. These sites are populated with pages and pages of unique, relevant content that’s beneficial to the consumer. It’s unbiased. And has the main focus of harnessing the power of its content with the search engines, as well as social marketing outlets.

The website’s pages are crafted with targeted keywords based on the products or services being reviewed—many well-known brands—and honest feedback. Then it’s good ‘ole inbound marketing tactics, such as online press releases, article marketing, content syndication, search marketing and social marketing that drive consumers to the product review website.

The pioneer of this ingenious online marketing tactic was Cnet.com, which was founded in 1994. They have been reviewing electronic and tech products for years.

Other well-known consumer review sites that have popped up recently include Epinions.com and ConsumerSearch.com, which reviews products. CitySearch.com and Yelp.com review hotels, restaurants, entertainment and more. And of course, AngiesList.com, which is a membership site that reviews local service providers.

But recently, there have been some new players in niche and specialty industries that are creating a buzz. One such new kid on the block is BuyerReview.com.

BuyerReview.com focuses on the health and beauty sectors. This includes cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, such as skincare products, vitamins and supplements—a most robust marketplace, to say the least …

… The U.S. cosmeceutical industry alone represents $6.5 billion with a growth forecast of 5.8 percent annually through 2015. And nutritional supplements generated $32 billion in 2012 and are projected to hit $60 billion by 2021.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of BuyerReview.com’s editors, Peter Stockwell.

I asked him how he would describe the site, what makes it unique and to describe the overall business model.

According to Stockwell, “Buyerreview.com is more targeted than many of the behemoth product review sites on the Web today. Sometimes when you’re too big and review too many things, consumers get lost on your website. Our team of editors reviews specific products in the vertical of health and beauty. We give honest reviews, as well as health and beauty advice.”

Stockwell continues, “Content is the cornerstone of the website. It helps the consumers. And it works with the search engines. With social marketing, it increases our reach and visibility. It’s really a blueprint for online marketing success.”

Stockwell adds, “There are several things that make us stand out: One is our BuyerReview Seal of Approval, which means our experts have reviewed a product personally and found it acceptable. Two, our editors (which, in addition to reviews) provide expert advice on health and beauty, which is an added bonus to consumers. Three, our Top 10 lists, which takes the best of the best we review and rolls it up into an easy-to-read product grid. Four, we offer consumers the option of getting product reviews delivered directly to them wherever they are, via email. And lastly, we offer free, weekly giveaways of the products we review. We like to think of our website as a one-stop shop for consumer health and beauty product interest.”

Stockwell concludes, “Once you have traffic coming to your site based on superior content, the opportunities are endless. Similar product or service review websites have went the advertising model and sell banner ads on their site for revenue potential. Others charge monthly membership fees. There’s many ways to monetize the traffic.”

Bottom line: There’s a way smart online marketers have turned leveraging quality content into a win-win situation that benefits its target audience, as well as generating revenue.

And the vast space on the Web is wide-open for more to jump on the bandwagon and carve out their own slice.

Marketers in most any industry can take something away from this online strategy and see how the fundamental principle can be incorporated it into their online marketing mix … because content will always be king, and consumers will always be curious.