Subtle PPC Differences Can Boost ROI

  |  April 5, 2004   |  Comments

If you know how to use to your advantage, seemingly small differences between Google and Overture's paid ad programs can make big improvements to your bottom line.

Fundamental differences in how Google and Overture deliver pay-per-click (PPC) advertising deserve your attention. They can affect your search ad campaign both subtly and significantly. If you understand and adapt to these differences, you can maximize return on investment (ROI) from each.

CTR Used to Determine Ad Position

Arguably the most dramatic difference between Overture and Google's PPC programs is their use of CTRs as a consideration in an ad's rank. There's now slightly less of a difference due to recent changes at Overture (I'll explain later).

Previously, Overture ran an ad in whatever position the bid allowed (the higher the bid, the higher the position relative to other listings), regardless of the number of people who clicked on it.

Google considers click-through volume, as well as bid price, to determine an ad's position in search results. The company will quickly deactivate an ad if not enough people click.

That Overture doesn't consider click volume when determining an ad's position in search results creates opportunity for some advertisers. In theory, some unqualified clicks can be discouraged without causing the ad to be deactivated.

An academic example: A clever marketer buys an ad for the broad keyword "fish" (298,503 queries last month). The advertiser writes a targeted ad offering "tropical fish for sale." No doubt many people searching "fish" are looking to purchase tropical fish. But because the keyword is so broad, many have no interest in tropical fish. Perhaps they're interested in fish recipes or fishing. The trend is toward targeting increasingly specific, longer keyword phrases with targeted messages.

Today, though Overture still doesn't consider CTR in determining ranking, it'll now deactivate an ad with unusually poor click-through volume. Although this new policy is in place and Overture regularly deactivates ads, its low click-volume threshold is apparently lower than Google's. We do see advertisers successfully use language that reasonably limits unqualified clicks without causing their ads to be deactivated.

Take advantage of Overture's model by ensuring your copy discourages unqualified clicks -- within reason. Ad copy should include not only reasons to click but also reasons not to click. It'll increase your conversion rate and help you avoid paying for unqualified visitors.

Length of Creative

The old adage says a picture is worth a thousand words. Nonsense. Words are the tool advertisers use to persuade. Online, especially in text-only ads such as search, words are critical. More words are better.

I've learned from direct marketers that often, a one-page letter produces more conversions (inquiries, orders, requests for information) than a postcard. A two-page letter can outperform a one-page letter. And believe it or not, I once watched a six-page direct mail letter produce more conversions than any other direct marketing message I'd tried for a particular offering.

Words persuade the human mind. Though brief compared to direct mail, search ads still contain words, and it's still about persuasion.

In this area, Overture's ad unit offers a distinct advantage over Google's. The title and description fields allow more characters and, therefore, more total words of copy. Overture allows titles to be up to 40 characters and descriptions to be up to 190 characters. Google allows titles to be up to only 25 characters. Total description length can be only 70 characters, 35 per line.

A hypothetical client sells home equity loans. In the Overture ad, there are six critical pieces of information that can be communicated:

  • We offer great rates.

  • You can apply online.

  • You can get an immediate quote.

  • Great rates apply only to customers with good credit.

  • Product is only available in certain areas.

  • Home equity loans are the product.

The Overture ad might look like this, with 32 characters in the title and 175 in the description:

Great rates on home equity loans
Apply online for an immediate rate quote on a home equity loan! We offer great interest rates to customers with good credit. Not available in WY, VT, ND, AK, SD, DE, MT and RI

(Note the excluded states have smaller populations and likely fewer searchers. That affects click-through volume. If California and New York were excluded, the affect might bigger and Overture could deactivate the ad.)

Shorter messages have less persuasion potential. Shorter copy means we can communicate only four of the six pieces of information. The Google ad fails to say the product is primarily for those with good credit and not available to folks in certain states.

At Google you may pay for plenty of clicks from users with bad credit or from states where the product can't be sold. Here's how the Google ad might look (with 17 characters in the title, 29 in line 1 of the description, and 32 in line 2):

Home Equity Loans
Apply online for a fast quote
Get a great interest rate today!

Which ad provides more opportunity for an informed click? Longer copy in the Overture ad allows advertisers to more carefully qualify their clicks.

This can potentially improve conversion rates from Overture clicks. We see slightly higher conversion rates from Overture ads and suspect it's due to copy length. Longer copy allows us to write better, more qualified ads.

To be fair, Google has a slight advantage in click volume. That could change when Microsoft builds its own search engine this year.

Use Overture's copy length advantage and every available character to ensure your ad is as persuasive as possible. More words often mean more persuasion. The longer copy allows some advertisers to include words that discourage clicks.

Monthly Versus Daily Budget

The last important difference between Google and Overture is how they decrement your spend. Google AdWords uses a daily budget, Overture's is monthly.

If your Overture campaign budget expires before the 10th of the month, your ad won't appear for 20 more days or until you replenish your account.

Google's daily budget allows the company to turn your ad on and off all day to ensure you don't exceed that budget. On any given day, your ad won't be shown to some number of people who search keywords you're targeting. There are only two possible outcomes when someone searches: they find you or they find your competitor.

That's why "natural" search engine marketing is so important. If your site is found in algorithmic, or natural, search results (typically, below text ads), it generally remains there indefinitely. It's not subject to a competitor's bidding strategy nor to a limited ad budget (unless you participate in a paid inclusion program and your budget expires. But that's a risk only in Yahoo and MSN, for all practical purposes). A well-optimized site can ensure your site remains on the first search results page for months.

Optimize to ensure your site's listed high in search results for your most important keywords -- all day, every day.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Fredrick Marckini

Fredrick Marckini is the founder and CEO of iProspect. Established in 1996 as the nation's first SEM-only firm, iProspect provides services that maximize online sales and marketing ROI through natural SEO, PPC advertising management, paid inclusion management, and Web analytics services.

Fredrick is recognized as a leading expert in the field of SEM and has authored three of the SEM industry's most respected books: "Secrets To Achieving Top-10 Positions" (1997), "Achieving Top-10 Rankings in Internet Search Engines" (1998), and "Search Engine Positioning" (2001, considered by most to be the industry bible). Considered a pioneer of SEM, Frederick was named to the Top 100 Marketers 2005 list from "BtoB Magazine."

Fredrick is a frequent speaker at industry conferences around the country, including Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, Frost & Sullivan, and the eMarketing Association. In addition to ClickZ columns, He has written bylined articles for Search Engine Watch, "BtoB Magazine," "CMO Magazine," and numerous other publications. He has been interviewed and profiled in a variety of media outlets, including "The Wall Street Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," "Financial Times," "Investor's Business Daily," "Internet Retailer," and National Public Radio.

Fredrick serves on the board for the Ad Club of Boston and was a founding board member of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO). He earned a bachelor's degree from Franciscan University in Ohio.

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