New Google and LookSmart Tools: A User’s Guide

Marketers want all the targeted search traffic they can get (at the right price), especially this time of year. Google and LookSmart both introduced changes that provide additional traffic opportunities for the holiday shopping season.

As with all changes in the search landscape, the best way to take advantage of new opportunities is to understand the best practices for each.

You may have heard LookSmart was dropped by MSN, but that doesn’t happen until mid-January. In the meantime, you’ve got a Q4 campaign to run. There is some good news from LookSmart: auction style paid placement for everyone. Prior to the release of the new service, LookSmart sold paid placement listings only to larger advertisers. These were available only through their sales force.

The new LookSmart auction listings function more like Google’s AdWords than Overture’s system. Generally speaking, the position of a listing is based on a combination of bid and CTR (click through rate).

The creative strategy for LookSmart listings should focus on clear, compelling, targeted copy that includes keywords, whenever possible. Including the keyword in titles and descriptions tends to increase CTR with no degradation in click quality.

One nice thing about LookSmart’s paid placement auction system is more space for the creative to make a compelling descriptive statement. Specifications for paid placement listings: 65 characters for title, 170 characters for description. Take advantage of that real estate!

LookSmart borrowed a few ideas from Overture’s “Match Driver.” When searches are similar, LookSmart uses a system called “Smart Match” to match similar phrases. The idea is to preserve targeting by understanding the searcher’s intent, then matching the intent to the marketer’s desired search profile.

If you already have LookSmart Directory inclusion listings, they make it easy for you to start a paid placement campaign by cloning listings to the secondary platform. They provide automated, editorial rule-checking for many of the most common errors in new listing submissions. The tool checks for excessive capitalization, misspelling and sentences that don’t start with a capital letter. While no pre-launch human editorial review process exists (unlike LookSmart’s directory listings), there are spot checks. Currently, in self-serve mode, you must select a CPC maximum for an individual campaign (similar to Google’s AdGroup).

Google launched changes of its own this week. Because we all want the most targeted search traffic we can get (subject to ROI goals), they now offer expanded broad and phrase-matching enhancements. Broad matching included plurals and synonyms. This will only be activated for listings with a specific profile (over one percent CTR on the core Google impressions).

A Google statement says, “non-exact keyword variations need to maintain a higher CTR than before in order to achieve a strong relevance factor.” As with impressions on Google’s content network, poor CTR on broad match impressions doesn’t count against an ad. Google provides an example for synonym use; a listing including the keyword “hotel” may be shown for a search that includes the keyword “inn.” This kind of matching, executed correctly, can serve a searcher well, while also satisfying the marketer’s need for traffic. Google’s AdWords system will pit all possible listings against each other when there are several possible ad matches in the system. Unlike Overture, exact matches aren’t necessarily displayed above a broad match.

Google recognizes ads already performing well for exact match, and also have broad match enabled, may be candidates for the expanded broad match environment. They’ve posted a FAQ on broader matching.

The best solution for marketers seeking to control their keyword mix and take advantage of broad matching is to employ negative match for any keywords that dilute a click’s value. Negatives can stop the ad from being displayed, or change to phrase match. Another reason to use negative matching in tandem with broad match is an ad won’t display for searchers for whom it’s a poor fit. To isolate negative matches, use AdWords’ Keyword Suggestions Tool.

Need Google tracking? Now it’s available with a system integrated into AdWords. It allows you to track four different post-click events and view conversion behavior from the click. The main reason to consider Google’s tracking is they break out conversion by traffic type (content vs. pure-search). The data allow you to make an informed decision about content targeting.

Most third-party analytics tools and campaign management systems can also track this information, but Google’s system knows with certainty if a click came from content or search. After all, they delivered the click!

Before you install the tracking codes in your HTML, one big consideration. Instead of the standard hidden pixels used by the rest of the industry, Google has a visible image that’s served on your page. It alerts the visitor on your site that Google is tracking them, and the tracking is specific to the one advertiser site. If you’re a small advertiser and can’t afford a separate tracking system, perhaps Google’s system is for you. Most larger advertisers won’t want to allocate even the smallest amount of Web page real estate to a Google privacy notice.

Things could get crazy if you find yourself using Google, Overture and FindWhat and have each service’s individual tracking codes all over your site. Perhaps a third-party or integrated system is a better option, particularly one that captures HTTP referrer for more advanced analysis.

Maintain a constant understanding of the marketplaces you advertise in. Know how your business best fits into each. You’ll have a killer advantage: superior strategy.

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