AdWords Ad Text Wrapping

22 09 2010

One of the trickiest aspects of writing PPC ads is finding a way to confine your advertising message within Google AdWords’ strict character limits.  In some cases, the use of necessary punctuation is omitted in an effort to fit more words into the ad text copy.

The traditional AdWords ad text character limit follows the below guidelines:

Line 1 or TITLE = 25 characters

Line 2 of AD TEXT = 35 characters

Line 3 of AD TEXT = 35 characters

DISPLAY URL = 35 characters

It’s easy to begin writing a PPC ad, arrive at the end of your Line 2 character limit, and decide it’s not worth re-writing to fit a period at the end of the sentence.  You think, no big deal, searchers will understand it’s the end of a sentence because the second sentence begins on Line 3.  Wrong – to some extent.  It’s time to get back into the habit of best practice ad copywriting, specifically when using correct punctuation.  Here’s why.

  • Google has recently started “text wrapping” (think Microsoft Word/Excel) sponsored listings in SERPs (as well as organic listings), as the browser becomes narrower or wider.  Depending on the width of a searcher’s browser, your ad may not be displayed in the typical 25-35-35 fashion.
  • Additionally, text ads in the top positions (purple box) on also have a similar issue, as Line 2 and Line 3 of the ad text are normally displayed on a single line regardless of how you have previously configured the characters within the AdWords interface or using AdWords Editor.  These ads are also affected by text wrapping.

In some circumstances, an advertiser’s neglect to add the appropriate punctuation may compromise the readability and messaging of a PPC ad.  Google’s display of variable AdWords line lengths in SERPs can return confusing, run on sentences to searchers.  The last thing you (as an advertiser) want to do is to have your first impression with a potential customer be a lackluster one.  Poor use of punctuation, or lack thereof, can rub searchers the wrong way.  Your potential customers or clients may dismiss your unpolished ad for a competitor’s ad, which reads more professionally.

Figure 1 below shows ads that are displaying lines of text that exceed the 35 character length as a result of text wrapping:

Figure 1: AdWords Ad Text Wrapping

Ad Text Wrapping

The current AdWords interface and most recent version of AdWords Editor do not allow advertisers to manipulate how their ad text length will display in variation from the traditional 25 and 35 character limits.  The takeaway – it’s up to small business advertisers to create ad text accordingly, using punctuation that reads correctly regardless of what AdWords line length is shown.  With the holiday advertising season closing in, now is the time for advertisers to audit current PPC ads and fix punctuation anomalies.


Is Groupon a Small Business Killer?

17 09 2010

I recently read a blog post from the owner of my favorite coffee shop, Posies Cafe in North Portland. It was a blog post explaining how Groupon nearly put them out of business. The owner explains the entire process, from the call with the Groupon rep, all the way to her experience of turning down a loyal customer’s Groupon. The owner had hesitations, but knew Groupon has been the Internet darling as its traffic, subscribers and revenue have skyrocketed over the past year. And the recent press it has received about the Gap deal has really put them on the map (if they weren’t already). So, I can see why a business owner would fall victim to the hype. Thanks for telling your story, I’m hoping it helps other small businesses not fall into the same trap.

So, is Groupon right for your business? That’s a tough question to answer, and one I’m not going to attempt for you. What I will do is provide thinking points for you. Ponder these. If you decide to use Groupon, make sure you’re prepared and understand what could happen, both good and bad.

The Pitfalls of Using Groupon

The downside to using Groupon (or any deal site for that matter) can be huge, per the above story or this story of a NYC smoothie shop owner’s experience. Let’s take a look at what these downfalls consist of:

  • Heavy Response – Groupon can drive tons of foot traffic to your store, which most small businesses are not prepared for. A sudden surge in customers waiting at your counter or banging down your door when you’re not prepared can only spell disaster. If you’re a business that takes appointments, you’ll feel the same effects through your phones. Both situations will inevitably lead to bad customer service.
  • Lack of Follow Up Opportunities – The only way Groupon can really work for a small business is to drive repeat customers. Businesses take such a hit (lose revenue, see next bullet point) when doing these deal sites that the only way to recoup the  loss is to get these customers back in the store (customers that most likely wouldn’t have ever visited your establishment without the Groupon). Amazingly, no, shockingly, Groupon does not provide any customer data of those that purchase the deal. Not a single email address. That makes it really difficult for stores to follow up to get these folks back in their business.
  • Economics Don’t Pan Out – Any way you slice and dice it, the economics just don’t pan out. Let’s do some simple math. If you sell a product for $100, and your margins are 50%, you make $50. If you do a Groupon deal and offer a 50% discount off of the $100 product, the customer is now getting a $100 product for $50. Your margins remain the same at $50, so you’re breaking even at this point. We’re not done though. Groupon will take 50% of the deal price, which would be $25. You keep $25. So, in this example you’re losing $25 on every Groupon that is redeemed. It just doesn’t pan out.

The Positives

There can be some positive aspects that come from using Groupon. As a small business owner though, you must still be careful of the pitfalls I mentioned above.

  • “Affordable” Advertising – Groupon has over 13 million subscribers, and with all of the recent press they’ve received for the Gap deal they’re bound to obtain even more. With that many eyeballs, and the “free” advertising a business receives (you don’t pay to have Groupon promote your deal on their site) you can gain excellent visibility and generate awareness to folks who may have never found you.
  • Effective Sales Generation – If a business is prepared, Groupon can be an effective sales machine. The deals can drive hundreds, if not thousands, of new customers, and if you have the appropriate systems (staff, lead capture, etc) set up, Groupon can be a goldmine.

The way I see it, there aren’t that many positives for a business. The customers are the ones winning with these deals, and they don’t always win either (due to poor service, waiting weeks to get an appt, etc). If you do decide to use Groupon, I want to leave you with some tips in the hopes that your deal works for you. I want to make sure you think about how this could destroy your business before you make your choice. Don’t be put out of business because of a bad decision, and an apparently aggressive sales team that’s not thinking about the businesses themselves (see the Posies story above).

  • Do the Math – make sure you do the math to see if running a deal on Groupon will work for you. You know your margins, overhead, etc, make sure you look at all of this and understand what you can afford, and what you can’t. You have to at least break even in order for this to make any sense at all.
  • Staff Up – You must ensure you have the appropriate staff available to answer questions, take orders, serve, etc. When your business is suddenly hit by a swarm of hungry customers, you need to have a plan in place to deal with them. If you don’t, many customers will leave angry. A customer with a bad experience will tell 10x the amount of people than a person with a positive experience.
  • Customer Retention – It is imperative, for Groupon to work for you, that you capture email addresses so you can use remarketing tactics on these customers at a later date. More than likely, these are one-time customers (maybe 1 out 5 will return, maybe), unless you are able to follow up with additional messaging to get them back into the store. These customers need to come back several times just to make up for the loss you incurred on their Groupon deal alone.

OK, so there you have it. I’ve laid out many pitfalls, some positives and now tips for determining if Groupon is right for your business. In the end you’re trying to grow your business, not drive it into the ground. Don’t jump on the bandwagon just because deal services are the internet darlings of today.

Has your small business used Groupon or any other deal site? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.

Formic Media Seminar Series: Search Marketing for the Holidays

10 09 2010

The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many small business owners this time of year accounts for a significant slice in yearly revenue. In Q2, eMarketer showed ecommerce sales growing over 13% from Q2 ’09. Reports are saying that the 2010 holiday shopping season could be strong as well. Don’t be left in the cold (and rain) this holiday season; make sure you’re prepared and have obtained the knowledge necessary to ensure your online sales and marketing success. As part of the Formic Media Seminar Series, the team will present several strategies and tactics to ensure website visibility within the search engines, including website optimization, shopping feed optimization, PPC strategies, website usability tactics and more. Utilizing these strategies can help increase site traffic and revenue, which will lead to a happy holiday season.

Join us for this must attend event. Visit our website for more details, and sign up now as space is limited.

When: October 13th, 2010

Cost: FREE

Where: 300 NE Failing St., Portland, OR, 97212

How Google Instant’s Predictive Search Affects Small Business PPC Campaigns

8 09 2010

Today, Google revealed the newest addition to its long line of innovations– Google Instant.  In an industry well known for its constantly changing nature, Google has once again begun to shape the search world, this time in the way paid search impressions are quantified and viewed.  With instant search enabled, Google now predicts what its algorithm (based on popular queries performed by other users) believes your search query will be, and in turn displays ads for each predicted query as a user types.  According to Google, instant search saves the average user two to five seconds per search; which accounts for an aggregate total of 11 hours saved for all Google users with every second that goes by.  Quite intriguing.

Aside from predicting search queries and saving time, Google Instant also generates ads and results relevant to the predicted search query (see figure 1 below).  This does not, however, change the way ads are served.  As Google predicts the users query, ads corresponding to that query will be shown in sequence.

  1. For example, as shown in the figure below, as I begin typing “res” (looking for restaurants in the Portland area), Google first shows PPC ads relating to its prediction that I’m searching for “resume” help.
  2. By going one step further with my query, as I type in my fourth letter “t”, Google now predicts that I’m searching for “Restoration Hardware” and re-populates the ads it has served accordingly.
  3. Finally, as I type in my fifth letter “a”, I get ads relevant to restaurants in Portland.  Pretty neat.

Figure 1: Google Instant Search

Google Instant Search

As stated by Google, impressions will be qualified based on the following criteria:

  • The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search).
  • The user chooses a particular query by clicking the Search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries.
  • The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.

For small business advertisers, these instantaneous ad impressions may inflate or deflate AdWords impression figures.  At this point, it is essential to be aware of the affect that Google Instant will have on impression data and closely monitor campaign performance for major fluctuations.  Advertisers may see an uptick in impressions and a potential downturn in CTR.  However, Google’s new predictive search also has the potential to improve campaign performance.  Google Instant is designed to help users generate and choose more accurate search queries, thus producing more qualified clicks and website visitors from current PPC ads.

Latest Version of AdWords Editor Released

3 09 2010

As discussed last week in the post on AdWords’ latest update to their location extensions, I mentioned that regrettably, AdWords Editor did not yet support location extensions (but hinted they would be upgrading shortly).  To manage location extensions, advertisers still needed to configure and update them through the AdWords interface.  Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long.  Google has just announced their release of the latest version of Editor 8.0.1, which supports location extensions.  Fabulous!

Other nifty new features include (read more from Google):

  • Collapsible and expandable panels
  • Progress bars for lengthy tasks
  • Easier linkage to My Client Center (MCC) accounts
  • Support for campaigns using target CPA and enhanced CPC bidding
  • More helpful error messages

If you’re not already using AdWords Editor to manage and configure your accounts, download it here!  Otherwise, the next time you login, you will be automatically prompted to upgrade to the newest version.

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