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E-Business Secrets

Surprising tricks that make AdWords boost your e-business
First place might not be cost-effective

By  Brian Livingston March 07, 2003  

Google.com's search engine now sends far more visitors to online shopping sites than any other referrer, according to an article from The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 26. Using Nielsen NetRatings figures, the article reported that, counting home users alone:


-- Google referred 5 times as many visitors as DealTime.com

-- It sent more than 6.5 times as many as BizRate.com

-- It sent 12 times as many as its ad competitor, Overture

If your e-business isn't using Google's pay-per-click AdWords Select program to get into the top listings for relevant search terms, maybe now is the time to start. If you ARE using AdWords already, you can certainly improve your ROI by using some little-known tricks.

These secrets are the subject of a new "insider report" by Andrew Goodman, an AdWords specialist. His downloadable book, "21 Ways to Maximize ROI on GoogleAdWords Select," reveals the techniques he's discovered through months of tests and trials.

His 124-page guide is far too detailed for me to adequately summarize here. But let me hit some high points:

1. An advertiser who is paying an average cost-per-click of $1.00 for high-demand keywords can often generate the same volume of click-throughs with other keywords that cost only 5 to 10 cents. Even without dropping the higher-priced clicks, the addition of the "unobvious" keywords usually reduces overall costs from, say, $1.00 to $0.40 per click, in Goodman's experience.

2. The key to capturing traffic from low-demand keywords lies in AdWords' "phrase matching options." These options allow you to combine words using wild card matching, phrase matching, and exact matching. Even experienced advertisers miss most of the opportunities that these alternatives permit, Goodman explains.

3. Getting an outstanding ROI involves testing numerous alternatives every day over the course of at least the first month of the program. "This isn't some macho competition to see who can build the biggest campaign," the author says. "The goal is to build the SMARTEST campaign and to act on the feedback generated as the campaign progresses, so your online business becomes RECURSIVELY smarter."

4. To execute a smart AdWords campaign, you must organize your bidding on AdWords into multiple "ad groups." You put only 10 to 50 related phrases into each group, and then evaluate the groups separately against each other. Because Google applies a single "maximum bid" to each group as a whole, the intelligent division of the phrases you're bidding on is the key to the management of your entire campaign.

5. Many advertisers are bidding incorrectly and failing to use Google's "bid gap" manager effectively, Goodman has found. "There are often times when you get clicks for $0.05 in the second or third position," he says, but "$0.31 or $0.50 to get listed first." Being listed first (and paying top dollar) can be a sign of poor campaign management.

6. "You're eventually going to want to 'isolate' some of your costliest keywords and put them in their own separate ad group or groups," Goodman says. "This way, you won't be overpaying for your cheaper ones just to keep the costlier ones 'live.'" His advanced techniques to accomplish this can make a substantial difference in the ROI of an advertiser's spend.

7. The methodology of finding profitable keywords occupies a large section of Goodman's report. Specific terms matter. "People wanting to buy a 'sofabed' are more likely to click on an ad containing the word 'sofabed' than one containing the phrase 'pull-out couch,' even if they are exactly the same thing," explains Goodman. One of his campaigns now pulls a 6 percent click-through rate on an innocuous term such as this that he originally ignored.

According to research cited by Altavista.com, 25 percent of all search queries are unique and have only been entered once, ever. There's more on this, but I'll stop here. For further details on the techniques in Goodman's report, see: http://www.page-zero.com http://bri.li/4e82

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I wrote in last week's E-Business Secrets that I was developing for my new Web site a special Contact Page. The objective was to prevent automated "harvesting" programs from collecting any of my e-mail addresses for spammers.

I've made several improvements since last week. You can see the updated page at: http://BriansBuzz.com/w/contact

1. The biggest change is that my primary contact e-mail address looks like text but is actually a graphic. To speed up the Web scanning process, harvesting programs usually don't read images. Formatting my human-readable address as a graphic was part of my original design, but I stupidly neglected to implement it before describing the page to you. That'll teach me to write about a Version 1.0! The first reader to propose the change was Miles B. Kehoe, who will receive a gift certificate for a free book, CD, or DVD.

2. The second change was in the clickable "mailto:" link. The link, which looks like underlined text, is now another image. Clicking the graphic decodes the address via a JavaScript routine and opens a new e-mail window. Harvesting programs can't afford the time to interpret JavaScript. For the 12 percent of surfers who've turned JavaScript off in their browsers, the clickable image simply doesn't appear, since it wouldn't work. (These individuals can see the address in the first image or use the page's input form to send a message.)

The best routine I've found to encode such address-concealing JavaScript is offered by Hiveware. Its free Enkoder service accepts an e-mail address and other details you provide. It then computes an encrypted array that's based on a different algorithm every time. To try it, visit the handy input form at: http://www.hiveware.com http://bri.li/7592

I also corrected a coding error on my contact page. The quote marks that were part of the subject of the original e-mail window were HTML-encoded as """. That's the correct code for a browser, but it confused Outlook 2000. Changing the code for these characters to "#22" fixed the incompatibility. My thanks to all the readers who sent helpful comments.

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1. AOL and HP developing business uses of instant messaging: http://www.washingtonpost.com http://bri.li/44a

2. Duncan Wilcox explains link text value in Google rankings: http://duncan.focuseek.com http://bri.li/832

3. A compelling new technology road map for small businesses: http://www.aaxnet.com http://bri.li/c1a

4. Dr Pepper enrolls blogs to market its new Raging Cow drink: http://www.msnbc.com http://bri.li/1002

5. Is your e-mail violating any of 26 state anti-spam laws? http://www.clickz.com http://bri.li/13ea

6. All SendMail versions need update to close security hole: http://www.internetnews.com http://bri.li/17d2

7. Play Flash in any browser in a much faster and smaller way: http://www.macromedia.com http://bri.li/1bba

8. Incredible Zvon.org tools unveil CSS, SOAP, XML, much more: http://www.kuro5hin.org http://bri.li/1fa2

9. Pixeltable designs sites entirely in CSS -- without tables: http://www.pixeltable.com http://bri.li/238a

10. Computer figures out what you're thinking in 20 questions: http://y.20q.net http://bri.li/2772

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An attractive young woman appears in a small video window of the Web site you're visiting. She offers to answer your questions, so you ask her a few. Her answers are very helpful -- even more so when you realize she's entirely a computer animation.

The technology behind this is ALICE, the Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity, a robotics project associated with Dr. Richard S. Wallace, chairman of the ALICE AI Foundation. Arguments rage about how far bots can go with natural language. But talking bots are already being used at sites such as OnLetterhead.com and Loftdesigns.co.uk. (You must have sound and JavaScript enabled to hear their voices.)

Examples of the latest talking AND question-answering bots are at: http://www.pandorabots.com http://bri.li/c3b2 and http://www.pandorabots.com http://bri.li/d73a

For more info, see: http://www.pandorabots.com http://bri.li/e6da

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Livingston is publisher of http://www.BriansBuzz.com. Research director is Vickie Stevens. Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/0764534130

You'll receive a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send Brian a Top Story or Wacky Web Week he prints. Send tips to mailto:Brian@BriansBuzz.com with "tip" in the subject line.

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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