Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Budget Decisions

I see a lot of questions that include such phrases as "... how much does it cost... " and "... I can't afford... " and "... how much should I spend... " and so on.  Budgeting for AdWords is a pretty common topic but most questions hover around the idea that advertising is a cost, a capital outlay that is a drain on income or cashflow.  Although it will probably be necessary to have an initial budget that can be used as a loss-leader, ongoing advertising costs should be examined simply in terms of their return to the business.

I've tried to summarise this in the following diagram.

Simply put, if you understand the value of your advertising, your budget should be controlled primarily by that value.  If you don't and cannot, your budget should only be what you can afford but you should always aim to measure your return on investment as this is the only true way to gauge advertising success.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Fewer Marks Still for Marks & Spencer

Back in 2009 Interflora Inc and Interflora British Unit began legal action against the use of their trademarked term "Interflora" as a Keyword for AdWords Ad Campaigns used by Marks & Spencer.  The use of this term meant that if someone searched on Google for "Interflora", an Ad by Marks & Spencer for their own flower delivery services could appear right next to an Ad from Interflora themselves.

Oh, the irony!  A search for "high court rulings interflora" brings up a fine example of the very problem being debated (left).

Note: this image was taken today and may not be representative of any Ads examined in the case itself. If this image is representative, it seems pretty clear to me that the second Ad is for M&S; their website appears twice and M&S also three times...

This use of competitor trademark terms is not prohibited by AdWords Policies and the practice is quite common among advertisers.  It is therefore something of a shock to here today (21st May 2013) that the UK High Court has ruled in favour of Interflora and has ordered Marks & Spencer to pay damages.

This ruling, should it stand, is likely to have an enormous impact on the worldwide advertising community given that the practice is so common.  Perhaps more worryingly, parts of the judges ruling appears equally applicable to virtually any selection of Ads on a common theme:

“The average reasonably well-informed and reasonably observant internet user is not particularly technically literate, does not know precisely how AdWords operates and is not aware of the issues.”
He concluded that the “M&S advertisements which are the subject of Interflora’s claim did not enable reasonably well-informed and reasonably attentive internet users to ascertain whether the service referred to in the advertisements originated from [M&S or Interflora].
“On the contrary, as at 6 May 2008, a significant proportion of the consumers who searched for ‘interflora’ and the other signs, and then clicked on M&S’s advertisements displayed in response to those searches, were led to believe, incorrectly, that M&S’s flower delivery service was part of the Interflora network”.
It will be interesting to see if this ruling "sticks" and how it affects both Google's own Policies and the future of AdWords in general.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Tackling Tablet Traffic

Enhanced Campaigns have brought a number of great new features like location based bid adjustments, Group-level sitelinks and mobile specific Ads but it's what's been taken away that has many advertisers up in arms.  At the time of writing it is not possible to run a Search Campaign that doesn't have at least the potential to show on Desktops and Tablets.  This restriction obviously affects advertisers who were previously targeting only mobile devices but it also affects those who were targeting Computers (Desktops) and not tablets and it's these Accounts in which I'm most interested.

Let's look at a fictional Campaign where some lengthy historical data shows that while the Campaign has a healthy conversion rate and a positive ROI (Return on Investment) the vast majority - perhaps all - of those conversions and that return come from Computers.  You look at a segmented view showing devices and can see that 30% of your monthly budget is being spent on tablet clicks but you have no recorded conversions for tablets.  What do you do?

You really have two choices.  You can rant and rave at people you meet in the street, your pets, your partner and anyone else that appears to be listening, that not being able to remove tablets from your Campaigns is killing your business.  Or you can ask why your tablet traffic does not appear to convert.

There are some specific circumstances where a tablet would not be a suitable conversion platform but in many cases a tablet user can be considered to be very similar to a desktop user.  There's plenty of evidence to show that tablet use is increasing at a prodigious rate - I have more than one friend who no longer use their desktop machines but spend all their surfing time on tablets.  I myself now spend most of my leisure browsing (what little there is of it!) on my Nexus 7.  So let's consider some reasons why tablets don't convert.

#1  Are you sure they're not converting?  It's an easy mistake to make to look simply at the "Conversions" column in AdWords and see a big fat 0.  But is this accurate?  Many advertisers overlook the importance of Search Funnels.  Not all conversions happen from a single click.  Some convert from an AdWords click followed by an organic search, others from multiple AdWords clicks or a combination of these options.  It's entirely possible that while your visitors are not converting on their tablet devices, these Ad impressions and clicks may be "assists" for a later conversion on another device.  It's not hard to imagine someone searching for a product while away from home, finding your site and the product they want, but not completing the sale then for any number of reasons.  They may well come home and complete the sale on their Computer so it looks like another sale for the desktop but in fact it started with the tablet.

#2  Is your site tablet friendly?  At the very basic level this means can your site be viewed reasonably on a tablet device, does it resize properly, and is the navigation finger/touch friendly?  There's one site I use regularly that on a tablet has an important drop-down menu displayed as a millimetre wide down-arrow right at the far right edge of a tablet screen - you need a cocktail stick to click it - so it's worth checking that it doesn't just look alright but is actually usable.  Make sure your dialogue boxes position correctly and can be moved to accommodate screen keyboards (has anyone tried to change the date range on Analytics via a tablet?  You end up chasing the calendar picker across the screen).

Think about things like checkboxes or "fly-out" menus that may not work properly (or easily) on a tablet.

More importantly, does your site offer useful features on a tablet view?  Along with many other commentators I'd thoroughly recommend creating a website specifically tailored to mobile/tablet devices so the visitor is not just looking at a smaller version of the desktop site.  However, if you do this, make sure you  don't take things away from your customers.

I use a well-known, very rapid, accounting package online for my accounts and I'm generally very happy with it.  Better yet, apparently, if you access your books via a tablet, you see a mobile specific site with big bright buttons to click.  Great!  The problem is that this mobile version lacks many of the most useful features of the full site and to rub salt into the wounds, there's no way you can view the full site!  There's no link to the full site and it appears to ignore requests via Chrome to display as a desktop.  It's a classic example of good intentions leading to a poor experience so don't make the same mistake.

#3  Is your site just too slow?  Although a lot of tablet users may be on reasonably fast connections, many may not, especially in public areas where a single connection may be shared by many people.  Make sure your key pages are as fast to load as they can possibly be, don't weight them down with images or videos.

#4  Are you making checkout too hard?  Filling in forms with a screen keyboard can be tiresome so make sure you don't make it harder than it needs to be.  If your customer details are recorded following a sale, offer the ability to pre-load addresses and other details via a simple login.  If you must use a new form each time, make sure completed information is retained if there's an error or the customer moves away from that page.

So don't just throw your (or your clients') toys out of the pram because you can no longer exclude tablets from your Campaigns.  Consider what you could be doing with that traffic instead, it may be more worthwhile.