Category Archives: pay per click

Google, mobile, and the erosion of 95% of ad inventory

So. What happens to Google if consumers really move to cell phones for internet searches, and 10 out of 11 prime ad slots disappear? What would happen to your business if you had to kiss 10 out of 11 customers good-bye?

It’s pretty obvious, folks. Cell phone screens are small. About 95% tinier than the big window on your desk you now use to access the web. Now think, how does Google make money? By selling pay-per-click “sponsored link” ads on its search results home page. The typical Google page has 11 slots for advertisers. The typical mobile phone Google page has one slot. (Yes, there are “next page” positions, but most consumers never click there.)

This is no pie-in-the-sky threat. Vic Gundotra, chief of Google’s mobile operations, said yesterday that web searches from mobile phones should outnumber web searches from traditional computer screens in just a few years. Google made $16.5 billion in revenue in 2007 largely from pay-per-click internet searches, and it still has no viable mobile model in sight. Gundotra also noted that Google has seen 50 times more searches from iPhones than any other mobile handset — meaning touchscreen devices are the tipping point for consumers learning to really adopt the internet via cell phones.

Investors are currently stoked that Google is pushing Android, above, a consortium to develop a touchscreen mobile interface. We think Google is leaping into mobile OS in pure defense, desperately trying to figure out how to get more ad slots onto tiny glassy cell screens. Search will still work brilliantly from your handset. But you’ll find fewer paid results from advertisers when your screen is 95% smaller, and that cuts to the core of Google’s business. Expect to see a new mobile interface soon in which users can flick through a series of horizontal “pages” … and expect to see more visual real estate on mobile get eaten up by ad inventory. Google’s life depends on it.

The end of the world as SEM knows it

Holy devastation, ad man. A little add-on to Firefox called Adblock Plus is getting buzz in the blogosphere by allowing consumers to wipe off all forms of advertising from web pages. No more pop-ups, video-in-banners, refinance offers, or personalized text ads from Google. All gone.

What would happen if the gold rush of advertisers panning for consumers on the Internet went dry? Industry experts say web sites might have to make money the old fashioned way, by charging admission. Good news is it’s an add-on, and not many consumers like mucking around with web browsers that work fine already, thank you. Bad news is 2.5 million people around the world have downloaded it already, and adoption is climbing at about 300,000 to 400,000 users per month.

One intriguing scenario is that if ad-blocking software did take off, search engine marketing (SEM) on Google might become even more dominant over banner advertising on web sites. Consumers punching keywords into search engines will still want to see paid search results with the organic listings, because those little text ads match exactly what they are looking for. Banner advertisers and ad networks, with their very cool but intrusive behavioral targeting, might lose far more as fills up with lots of white space. And pity the poor newspapers, already hammered by falling advertising revenue in print, if their online slips too.

‘Course, ad-blocking may white out SEM too. I’d give you a link to the Adblock site, but frankly, I’m too scared.

Paging Dr. Who? Dr. Who?

Doctor who? That’s the question healthcare consumers will have if they can’t find you. We are constantly amazed by the number of healthcare organizations reluctant to use the Internet to help consumers find them.

By internet, we don’t mean your web site. Sites are great, and we love them. But web search is what brings home the bacon. Eighty percent of Americans use the internet to search for health information, and of these 66% of consumers begin at a search engine vs. only 27% at a specific web site. Specialists in elective surgery such as bariatrics have been the groundbreakers on the internet, but conventional wisdom inside hospitals has said that physician referrals drive the majority of patient volume, so why bother?

Hmm. We ran a few Google tests for supposed low-interest consumer categories such as radiology, and found 18,000 impressions on a test ad within a 15-mile radius in a single month. Pause. Think. Impressions in pay-per-click mean that the Google text ad was served up on the screen only after the consumer had typed one of several specific radiology phrases — MRI, radiologist, breast screening — into the Google search window. 18,000 consumer web searches. In one month. For radiology. Within 15 miles of a small town in Connecticut.

Conclusion: If you think physician referrals drive all healthcare decisions, you are wrong. The pharma marketers have known for decades that consumers make up their own minds (Purple Pill, anyone?), and hospitals and small-town practitioners are just catching on. The cheapest way to advertise to consumers is to catch them on Google, when they are already looking for you. Pay-per-click campaigns can be targeted to tight geographic areas and even single PCPs can test the channel for a few hundred dollars.

Harley takes the lead (form)

Draw a Venn diagram around marketing, sales and the internet, and the little overlap in the middle will be a dark hole called your web lead form. This is where most internet campaigns fall down, because most marketers ask too much.

Harley-Davidson gets it right. Punch Harley-Davidson into Google and you’ll end up at a tight lead form with only 6 data entry fields — not too much info to give, but enough for Harley to find out if you’re old enough to ride, what town you live in, if there is a dealer near you, and whether you’ve previously owned a bike. Harley generates a qualified lead, and you don’t feel overburdened.

Harley has some other nice touches — a free newsletter offer to entice you to complete the lead form, minimal graphics to distract you on the lead page, and a second page to complete more information (if you retreat from the next page, too late, they already know who you are!). Nice. Marketers with more than 6 data fields on a lead form should think about Harley, and how trimming back could boost lead volume.

The one thing you won’t see on the Harley-Davidson lead page is a sweet photo like the one at top — probably too distracting.

Lower your SEM handicap

Don’t believe the hype. The number one position is not always beneficial to a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign…it is often harmful.

The number one position statistically generates the highest average click-through-rate (CTR) among all other positions. Therefore, on an unlimited budget, your campaign will most likely gain the maximum amount of clicks when your ads stay atop the sponsored listings (left-side listings, of course). This seems to be a great piece of information; however, let’s face it: simply driving traffic to your site means absolutely nothing if your end goal is to convert these website visitors to sales or leads (conversions).

Position numero uno often lacks when it comes to conversion rate. The reason: prospective customers/clients often “feel out” their options before they commit to a purchase or a lead form; the very nature of shopping. Before purchasing, searchers are very likely to visit several sites by clicking multiple paid ads during the pre-buy information gathering stage. For instance, if you were in the market for the new Titlest driver, would you go ahead and buy it on the first site that you clicked on? Not a chance. It is not until you find the most competitive price with free shipping that you commit to duck-hooking and/or power fading yet another over-priced driver.

Much like finding the right driver, finding the right ad position (sweet spot) involves testing, testing, testing. Ad copy testing, although burdensome and lengthy, can dramatically lower cost-per-lead values and thus increase ROI. It is not worth doing…it is absolutely necessary.