Google ramps up Sitelinks Extension Policy Enforcement in AdWords

I don’t know if there’s been a change of leadership in the Google AdWords team recently, but this is the second policy update email I’ve gotten from them in the past week.  The first update came out Monday to let me know businesses must now invest some of their own money on AdWords before a Google will chip in.  Additionally, we found out Google will be retiring all AdWords coupon codes this Sunday.  For more information on this first round of new policies, check out my recap from earlier this week.

Luckily today’s policy update wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, Google just asked advertisers to comply with existing policies regarding the Sitelinks extension for AdWords.  You see, by default a Google advertisement only shows one link to the target business’ website; however, by leveraging the Sitelinks extension an advertiser can provide up to ten extra links to ten additional landing pages on their business’ website.  This greatly increases the probability a customer will find what he’s looking for with the first click so Google will likely reward that advertiser’s efficiency with a lower ad cost for subsequent impressions.

Screenshot of Google AdWords Sitelinks Extension

The Sitelinks are the two links in blue at the bottom of the ad.

The email Google sent me is fairly comprehensive, so I’ve summarized the highlights in the following bullets.  If you’d like to read the full text of the original e-mail it’s included after the tildes.  Thanks for reading and feel free to let me know if you have any questions about how to use the Sitelinks extension for Google AdWords to boost your company’s own click-through rate (CTR).

  • The Sitelinks extension in Google AdWords makes your ads more valuable by presenting visitors with more relevant links to unique landing pages on your website.
  • Google is already reviewing all new sitelinks for policy compliance but will wait a few months to audit existing sitelinks.
  • Use this grace period to audit your own Sitelinks extensions for compliance before Google does!
  • If Google discovers duplicate sitelinks they will be restricted from showing.  This could decrease the quality of the ad in Google’s eyes, therefore increasing the cost for you to display it.
  • Google recommends having 6-10 unique sitelinks within each advertising campaign for optimal ad performance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear AdWords Customer,

We’re making a policy enforcement change that could affect the performance of any AdWords campaign that uses sitelinks. If you use sitelinks now, or plan to use sitelinks in the future, please continue reading to understand the changes and suggested steps you can take to avoid any negative impact to your campaigns.

WHAT ARE SITELINKS
Sitelinks make your ads more valuable by showing additional direct links to specific web pages that you want to promote. Users get to specific destinations on your web site more quickly. And, on average, you’ll see a higher clickthrough rate for your ads. That makes sitelinks a great way to improve your campaign performance. To see images or learn more about sitelinks, please see this AdWords Help Center article (http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?answer=2375416).

EXISTING SITELINKS POLICY
To ensure that users have a good experience with ad sitelinks, our existing policy requires each sitelink in a campaign to link to a different landing page URL with unique content on the landing page. That means a user can expect a meaningfully different landing page experience for each sitelink.

ENFORCEMENT CHANGE
Recently, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of sitelinks created with the same landing pages or the same content. So in the coming month, we will begin more proactive enforcement of our existing policy. Initially, we’ll focus on new and recently changed sitelinks. As your ads are being served, our systems will verify that your sitelinks meet the policy standards. Sitelinks that don’t meet the standards will be restricted from appearing.

IMPACT ON PERFORMANCE
Having fewer eligible sitelinks could keep your ad from showing in the larger 2-line and 3-line formats, where more eligible sitelinks are required. Remember, larger formats are more visible and typically have higher average clickthrough rates (CTR). And if you don’t have enough eligible sitelinks in your campaign, then your ads may not display sitelinks at all.

FUTURE ENFORCEMENT
We realize that manually checking and fixing duplicates for your existing sitelinks and landing pages might take some time and coordination. So we’re delaying more proactive enforcement with existing sitelinks for a few months. But don’t wait until the last minute. And remember, any sitelink that you add or change will be subject to proactive enforcement right away.

SUGGESTIONS WITH EXISTING SITELINKS
To increase the chances of having more sitelinks shown with your ads, we recommend having 6-10 unique sitelinks in each of your campaigns.

If you already have campaigns with sitelinks, we’d suggest reviewing each campaign to verify that it has 6-10 unique sitelinks. You’d probably want to start with the campaigns that show sitelinks most often. Usually, this would be a campaign with keywords like your business name and its best-known products and services.

Here’s how you can work through this using the AdWords interface.
1. Log into the AdWords interface and click on the “Ad Extensions” tab.
2. Select “Sitelinks Extensions” from the drop down menu.
3. Sort your sitelink extensions by impressions or clicks by clicking on the column header.
4. Click on each sitelink in the top campaign and follow it through to its landing page (there’s no charge for these clicks).
5. Fix any duplicates you find in each campaign by hovering over the extension area and clicking the pencil icon.

QUESTIONS?
For more information about sitelinks policy, please visit the AdWords Help Center (http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?answer=1054210).

You can also contact AdWords support with questions about this policy change or anything else related to AdWords (http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?answer=8206).

Thanks for your help keeping ad sitelinks unique and valuable for end users. We wish you continued success with AdWords.

Sincerely,

The Google AdWords Team

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Google Devalues Promotional AdWords Coupons

Google announced today that it no longer offers completely free advertising coupons with which to try Google AdWords.  Google promotional coupons are still available, as we’ll explain, they’re just no longer completely free.

Until today you could take one of the many Google AdWords coupons floating around, open an AdWords account, enter the coupon code (and credit card info in case you exceed your promotional credit), and start an advertising campaign with no out-of-pocket cost to you.  Now a company desiring to try AdWords must spend $25 of its own money in online ads before the $100 credit from Google will be applied to the AdWords account balance.  Google says they “believe businesses that invest a small amount in their AdWords campaigns are more likely to be successful” but I’m dubious.

As if that wasn’t enough, Google also announced that as of September 30th, all existing Google AdWords promotional coupons will be retired.  That means if you have an AdWords coupon sitting on your desk right now you have until Sunday to apply it to your AdWords account or it will be worthless.   Notice that I said “apply it to your AdWords account.”  Typically with AdWords coupon expiration one only has to redeem the coupon by applying it to an AdWords account (pursuant to the AdWords T&Cs of course) before the expiration date.  In my personal experience the coupon value will remain in the account even after the expiration of the coupon but who knows – that could also change this weekend but I haven’t read anything about it.

I know this is sudden but if I had known ahead of time that this was happening I certainly would have notified you before now.  Unfortunately the announcement from Google arrived in my inbox at 3:18 PM Eastern Time so I didn’t get much notice, either.  But hey – on the bright side businesses are still netting $75 in free advertising, right?

If you have any questions about the new policies around Google promotional coupons feel free to contact us directly or just leave a comment below and we’ll answer it as soon as we can.  For more information on how we can help you start finding new customers tomorrow with Google AdWords click here.

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Configure Contact Form 7 for Google Analytics Conversion Tracking

I wrote in a previous blog post about all the amazing insights you gain from running Google Analytics on your website, but when it comes down to it, Google Analytics helps you to assess whether visitors are doing what you want them to or not.  For example, the goal of an e-commerce site is to compel visitors to make a purchase from an online store.  The goal of a B2B website may be to encourage potential customers to download a “white paper” about the supplier’s newest product line.

In order for Google Analytics to provide real business intelligence on your website’s performance, you first have to configure Analytics to recognize when a visit to your website results in the completion one or more of your sales or marketing goals (such as a store purchase, white paper download, etc).  In this post I outline exactly how to configure Contact Form 7 and Google Analytics to track and identify form submissions as goals within Google Analytics.  If after the slideshow you’d like more information about what Google Analytics can tell you about your website’s performance, visit our Website Optimization page.

Note: I presume anyone following these instructions already has both Contact Form 7 and Google Analytics installed and functioning properly.  If you need help getting Google Analytics setup feel free to contact us.

Contact Form 7 Additional Settings
Contact Form 7 Successful Submission
Virtual Pageviews as a Result of Form Submission
Google Analytics Goal Configuration
Google Analytics Goal Configuration
Goal Completion Reporting - Google Analytics

1. Determine the naming convention for your form submissions.

The contact form submissions will be tracked as virtual page views, so they will appear anywhere in Google Analytics that "real" page views do.  I suggest you provide each of your contact forms with a unique, easily identifiable label so you can filter and spot your form submissions in various in Google Analytics reports.  In this example, I decided to use:

/GA_Virtual/contact_form_name

2. Add the Google Analytics tracking code to the "Additional Settings" field of each of your contact forms.

Use the following code snippet, substituting the text in red for the event tracking syntax you chose above.  When you're done it should look like the image above.

on_sent_ok: "_gaq.push(['_trackPageview', '/GA_Virtual/generic_contact/']);"

3. Test each contact form you configured in Part 1.

Complete a test submission to each form.  Make sure you see the green confirmation box after each submission!

4. Find your form submissions in Google Analytics.

Go to "Google Analytics -> Content -> Site Content -> All Pages" and find the names of the form submissions you decided on in Step 1. Keep in mind that by default Google Analytics excludes data from the current day so you will probably have to adjust the date range of your report if you're completing this project in one day. If your date range is correct and you still don't see the virtual pageviews wait a few hours and look again.

5. Navigate to the "Goals" section of the Analytics dashboard.

Click "Admin" in the top-right corner of the Google Analytics dashboard, then click on the "Goals" tab just under your Profile name and Property ID.

6. Configure a new goal in Google Analytics for each contact form you're tracking.

Give your goal a meaningful name then select "URL Destination." In the field that appears enter one of the virtual pages you just verified in the previous step. Make sure you select "Head Match" and click "Save." Repeat this for each contact form you want to track.

7. Test and validate Goal Completion reporting.

Go back to your contact forms and complete one additional test submission for each form you're tracking. Wait a day or two then go into "Google Analytics -> Conversions -> Goals -> Overview" and you should see a report similar to the above that tallies your contact form submissions. If you see "spikes" in the report, congratulations - you're done!

Contact Form 7 Additional Settings thumbnail
Contact Form 7 Successful Submission thumbnail
Virtual Pageviews as a Result of Form Submission thumbnail
Google Analytics Goal Configuration thumbnail
Google Analytics Goal Configuration thumbnail
Goal Completion Reporting - Google Analytics thumbnail
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Make GMail Social with Rapportive

A few weeks ago I visited an old friend who has spent his entire career in outside sales.  He asked me what my company did so I explained that we provide clients with technology solutions to business challenges; however, as soon as I mentioned Social Media he crossed his arms and got a sour look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said “Social Media is just a way for people to tell their friends what they had for lunch.  Who cares???”

Unfortunately my friend’s opinion of Social Media is not uncommon, although it is misguided.  Social Media is one of the newest ways for people to communicate although some have refused to try it and thus don’t understand it.  While Social Media is revolutionizing how humans are able to connect with each another, it’s still in its basic form, just another set of tools for people to use to communicate just like email or telephones.  And while there are those who use it to broadcast their daily culinary choices, there are millions of people who use social networking for business – just ask the 59 million Americans who use LinkedIn or the 4 million businesses with Facebook fan pages.  But what if you’re busy?  What if you don’t have time to keep up with Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and every other social network out there?  Luckily, Rapportive is here to help.

Rapportive, pictured below, is a plugin for your web browser that consolidates social information about your contacts right into GMail.  Not only does it list your contacts’ name, title, and company right next to GMail’s “Compose” or “Reading” panes, but it also shows you their profile picture, latest status updates from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more.

Rapportive Screenshot

As you can see above, Rapportive shows me all the networks I currently have connected to the plugin.  If I’m viewing one of my contacts, it shows their information instead of mine as well as updates for the social networks that contact participates in.  I now have an easy way of keeping up with my colleagues’ and clients’ social updates without having to dedicate time to checking Facebook and Twitter for them.  If I’m emailing someone Rapportive will even identify when I’m not yet connected to that contact on a given social network and show me a button I can use to connect with them in one single click!

Rapportive was purchased by LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) earlier this year but so far it is a free product and supports Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Mailplate (but not Internet Explorer or Opera).  To get started, all you have to do is go to the Rapportive install page and add the plugin to your favorite web browser, then link Rapportive to each of your social networks.  All in all installation and setup take only five minutes, depending on how many social networks you plan on connecting.

If you end up installing Rapportive come back here and let us know what you think about it.  Are there other tools you use to keep up with your business contacts?  Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

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Ten Reasons the iPhone is Better than Android Phones

A picture of a Droid and an iPhone 3GIf you’ve been keeping up with our blog you saw my rant about Android’s superiority over the iPhone last week.  While I would personally never trade my ‘Droid for an iPhone, I can’t ignore that the iPhone is still the single most popular phone on the market today.  Here are what I consider to be the top ten reasons so many people have chosen Apple over Android.

 

  1. iPhones can be serviced at any Apple Store, regardless of where you bought the phone.  Android phones have to be serviced by the vendor from which you bought them.
  2. iPhones with iOS 5 use iCloud to wirelessly sync your music, photos, documents, and more with all the Apple devices you own.  Android can sync some things via Google Docs but it’s a pitiful substitute for iCloud.
  3. iPhones leverage iTunes to make device management incredibly easy.  Backing up and restoring data, managing your music library, and more are accomplished in a single dashboard.  Android has no equivalent.
  4. iPhones and iPads work with AppleTV to stream media straight to your HDTV.  Again, no Android equivalent.
  5. iPhones have great keyboards.  Sure, they’re smaller than a lot of Android phones but by comparison they’re still more accurate out of the box.
  6. iPhones can take screenshots of their own display.  While not too critical for many people, it’s still something Androids lack.
  7. iPhones have a much smoother user interface.  It’s pretty common for Android phones to lag or hesitate before completing an action but ever since the release of the original iPhone, Apple devices have been extremely responsive.
  8. iPhone screens look better than most Android devices.  While iPhone screens are still only 3.5 inches they usually boast higher resolution and brighter colors than most Androids.
  9. iPhones have more accessories.  There’s no other phone on the market that can be accessorized and personalized like the iPhone.
  10. iPhones have many more Apps.  Even if Android has more application markets, the App Store boasts over 725,000 applications for iOS.  Apple didn’t coin the phrase “there’s an app for that” for no reason.

There are plenty of good reasons to choose an iPhone over an Android but the most important is iPhones just work.  When Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, they set a new precedent for smartphone usability and the rest of the mobile market has been trying to catch up ever since.  No other company in the world has been able to innovate the mobile user experience quite like Apple and that’s clearly shown both by their market share and soaring stock price.

That said, there are many reasons they don’t own 100% of the market.  What’s in your pocket?  What did we miss in our Battle of the Smartphones this week?  Leave us a comment below and if you didn’t catch last week’s blog post make sure to catch up on Ten Reasons Android Phones are Better than the iPhone!

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Top Ten Benefits to Installing Google Analytics on your Website

Why did you build a website for your small business?  Did you have a specific business objective in mind when you designed your site or did you just decide to build a website because you knew you “had to have it”?  Either way, the chances are you’re having a hard time figuring out whether it was worth the investment.  After all, it’s built and it’s out there, but now what?

Now you should add Google Analytics to your website and really start turning it into a lean, mean marketing machine.  Read on for the top ten benefits to installing Google Analytics onto your small business’ website.

 

  1. Find out how visitors find your site -  Google Analytics details your website’s traffic sources, whether from Search (Google, etc), Referral (Visitor clicked a link to your site), Direct (user typed in your web address), or Campaign (Paid Advertisements via Google AdWords).
  2. Find out where your visitors live - Not only which countries your visitors live in, but the individual cities as well.
  3. Find out why visitors found your site - Discover which terms visitors enter in search engines in order to find your business.
  4. Find out what parts of your site visitors like… and don’t - Find out how long people spend looking at each page on your site and which pages most often send visitors away to your competition.
  5. Optimize goal conversion - Google Analytics provides a visualization of the entire “sales funnel” of your website so you can identify where in the online sales process your visitors are leaving.  This gives you the chance to optimize your conversion process.
  6. Optimize Google AdWords - Google AdWords provides reports identifying which digital advertising campaigns yield the most cost-effective clicks; however, Google Analytics reveals which ad campaigns and keywords are yielding quality visits that actually result in conversions.
  7. Track E-Commerce - By enabling Google Analytics’ e-commerce tracking, you can quantify the value of a conversion, which adds a whole new dimension to analyzing the cost of your ad campaigns.  When linked with Google AdWords, Analytics will even calculate the profit margin of each sale for you as well as the RoI of your online advertising campaigns.
  8. Evaluate effectiveness of print and other traditional media - When creating multi-channel ad campaigns that drive traffic to your website you can use Google Analytics to analyze which channels and which messages are most successful.
  9. It is Customizable - Google Analytics is completely customizable.  It offers dozens of reports on its own but you can create custom reports and dashboards to track and highlight the metrics most meaningful to your business.
  10. It’s FREE -  That’s right, you can add all these capabilities to your website without any software to buy or subscription fees to pay.  All you need to sign up for Google Analytics is a GMail account or an email address hosted by Google.  Just follow the instructions here and you’re off and running!
And that’s it – ten great reasons to use Google Analytics and get the most out of your website.  As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave us a message below or just contact us.
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