Hey Google Search Terms in Google Ads

You may already be familiar with the widgets in Google Ads overview. Lots of handy intel there. However, you may not have stumbled on Hey Google search terms or what I’d rather call “Search Recordings” because they are the  entire conversation your prospective customer is having with Google.

You find this in Google Ads > Overview tab > in the widget that says “New Words were used in Google searches that showed your ads”. Then look for the keyword bubble “google”. Mouse-over it, and then mouse-over the “+x more searches”. The pop-up contains the entire recording a shopper had with Hey Google. In my case, its not just the search regarding the original keyword. Its the whole enchilada, truncated at x number of characters, it seems. I’m almost sorry I couldn’t catch what the next thing “to pay..” was going to be. To pay what?

I think this is far more insightful than just looking at a list of search terms to get inside the head of my audience. Its like eavesdropping on a private conversation and stream of behavior that you probably couldn’t get if you were this persons spouse.

Creepy Line? Or Use It Before You Loose It!

I can’t help thinking that this post will cause havoc down at the campus in Mountain View and (this disturbance in the force) may cause our little window into the soul of our shoppers to disappear. Enjoy it while you can.

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Conversion Statistics

Just some useful statistics on conversions as I’ve found them somewhere else or from my client analytics. In the interest of keeping this usable as a reference tool, this is intentionally brief. Perhaps I’ll expand more on certain points as necessary. All statistics are no older than 2018.

@ 60% of all conversions happen during a single visit
@ 15% of conversions require two visits
@ 25% of all conversions require at least 3 or more visits

@ 70% of conversions happen on the same day as the first visit

**Typical Local Business traffic Sources
@ 25% Maps
@ 25% Organic

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The Domain Authority Fail

Have you gotten a proposal from an SEO firm that lists as one of the deliverable “Domain Authority Evaluation”?

If so, you should unceremoniously crumple it into a ball and shoot for the trash can. If it arrived by email, delete it.

Why do I think this is a sign that the firm is not reputable?

For one, its a term that fails to clearly explain itself. What the hell is “Domain Authority” anyway? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Backing up…

…Recently a few clients have passed along proposals they have received from Agencies or SEO Firms. There in big bullet point fashion is “Domain Authority Evaluation” or  “Domain Authority Audit” or “Domain Authority Research”.

Domain Authority was once such a simple concept that its not worth mentioning in a proposal or report. It once meant the age of your domain name and website in continuous service. “How long has your website been around?” See? Simple. A long time = “good”. Its brand-spanking new = “not great for your search rank. We’ll need to work harder to get your web pages indexed and ranking in search results.”

So its was enough to simply say in meeting “You bought your domain name in 2001, and the website has been in continuous service since 2002. That means it has solid domain authority, which means its been around long enough to have credibility with search engines, making it easier to rank in search results.” Or you would say, “I see you just bought your domain name and built a website. It probably does not have too much street-cred with the search engines. We’ll have to work harder…”

That’s the gist of it. Its not rocket science and it does not require any “research”. (and by the way, Google never-ever mentions “Domain Authority” anywhere)

Now if you are new to the business of SEO, you may have read about it at MOZ, who has redefined the term over recent years. What we once called “link authority” is now “Domain Authority” at MOZ. I’m not going into the weeds on why their definition is misleading. Read about it here https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain-authority and you decide if it should have been redefined.

Doesn’t anyone like straight-forward terminology anymore?

Well I do and I know my clients do and that’s why the term and its use in proposals is a bad sign. Too much snake oil in this business already. Lets talk (and write proposals) like business professionals and not like propeller-heads.

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Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

28% of Website Traffic is Non-Human…says Adobe in a Wall Street Journal article.
Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses

Adobe found that about 28% of website traffic showed strong “non-human signals,” leading the company to believe that the traffic came from bots or click farms.

Bot Traffic in Apache logs
Bot Traffic in my Apache logs

Anyone who runs a webserver would not disagree with that. It just takes a brand name company in tech to say it so that this stuff sticks to the wall.

So yes, Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses is true. Bob Hoffman says Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts. I love his stuff. Ya know, ten billion here, ten billion there…it starts to add up. Read more by Bob Hoffman.

According to another ad fraud expert, Dr. Augustine Fou, “No matter what you are hearing or reading about digital ad fraud, I can assure you it’s actually worse than you think.”

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Lies and Pretty SEO Reports

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

What is the single most frequent concern I hear from business owners?
“I don’t know if the Internet Marketing we are doing is working?”
What they mean can be 2-fold, but the bottom line is always the same – is someone doing anything and is it having any affect?

The shortest path between the question and the answer you seek is Reporting. (and a quick test…more on that in a moment)

The only way to know you are getting what you pay for is in the reporting, because you often cannot see “the work”. And even if you are shown “the work”, its still about the bottom line – sales. But measuring online visitors converting into in-store sales is not easy. ( and don’t let them tell you it is )

I’m going to let you in on a secret you probably already suspect is true, The SEO business is more about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” than actually doing the work and honestly reporting the results of that work.

So here are my back-of-napkin statics : 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) don’t actually do much “effective” work, and 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) work harder on pretty reports than doing the actual Work. Work is hard. Re-reporting Google Analytics is much easier and scales better.

I have been amazed to see how often the magic tricks (pretty reporting) sells better than the hard work. But it makes sense. Pretty reports make people feel good and provides cover for the subordinates whose job it is to hire and manage the Internet Marketing portion of the business. Thats why we at HARTENSTINE would rather work directly with hard-nosed owners rather their “expert” employees. ( we welcome hard-nosed expert employees )

Here is one scenario you may be familiar with :

You hire an SEO, SEO firm or advertising agency (that also does SEO). After some time has passed you are given a report or presentation which shows all the keywords your website now ranks for and how you dominate your target market. Everything is “Green” and improvements are abundant. The problem is, you probably didn’t get a report on these keywords BEFORE you hired them. And “dominate your market” is often based on some kinda logic you can’t quiet get your head around – but it sure is a pretty report.

It dawns on you that you might have fallen victim to “lies, damned SEO lies, and pretty reports”. Now what do you do? You either continue in the relationship spending money on feel good reporting, or you tell them you are having a sales crisis and can’t afford them anymore. Both of these scenarios play out everyday. But either way, you are not happy.

It does not have to be that way (or end that way). You only need someone who does the work and who reports in a transparent and honest way.

The Test

I use this litmus test because we can get our hands on the data. If your SEO is working, your CPV should decline. (Cost Per Visitor)

Take a look at your past PPC campaign Average CPC ( Average Cost Per Click ). All things being equal, Average Cost Per Visitor should decline as your Internet Marketing initiative kicks in. A better website, et al, with better PPC campaigns will get lower-cost clicks. This is an especially useful test if you suddenly turned everything over to an agency and increased your budget at the same time – everything changed and the reporting will look pretty different – but the Average Cost Per Visitor test will cut right through that lying reporting.

You can get a little more complex (and more accurate) by taking your Total Website Visitors and dividing that by your Total Online Spend. Thats a bit more meaningful way to calculate your Cost Per Visitor. Then do some calculations integrating In-Store Sales, and you should start to see a pattern emerge. Regardless of how you go about it, if you are not seeing more efficiency ( lower cost per visitor / increased sales ), you now know what to do to make things right.

Don’t fall for the magic tricks of pretty reporting.

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How to Add Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Like everything we do, the subject of this post is really “How to get better visibility in Google Search Results”. Isn’t that what everything is about?

Use this How To post as a way for you (business owners) to understand the scope of the subject as well. Its not just about Review snippets. Here is how Google describes it.

Integrate with Search to help grow your business > Enhance Your Presence on Search > Search is evolving beyond ten blue links to bring your content to people in much richer and faster ways. Learn how structured data markup can drive users to your content and services with rich results on the Search results page.

https://developers.google.com/search/

Here are the features you have at your disposal to accomplish that.

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-features

For most business we work with, this is what we want – Local Business schema

https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/local-business

And finally the Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings

Login to your Google Search Console (GSC) >
Structured Data Testing Tool >
Fetch & Validate >
Expand Reviews Section >

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Keyword Enlightenment for 2018

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing You are a business owner looking at reports from your SEO vendor and they show you a list of 100 keywords that you rank #1 for. You feel good!

This article will explain how keyword volume and rank reported throughout the SEO industry is misleading because it is based on a source (Google) that is assumed to be respectable and accurate. Well, we can prove it is not accurate anyway.

You want to know that your SEO vendor isn’t selling you a feel-good story. Lets face it, most of those fancy reports don’t tell you anything actionable anyway – they are just pretty and somehow leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. But business decisions should not be based on “fuzzy feelings”. So lets cut through the crap.

  • The truth is, those reports are just telling you what you want to hear, showing you what you want to see.
  • Most Search Rank Reports highlight Zero Volume keywords that make you look good, 0 volume means noone uses those.

Your SEO is probably using Google’s Keyword Planner to find those keywords for on-site optimization and for PPC in Adwords? I’ll show you why Keyword Planner, the source of most reporting, is completely inaccurate to the degree that it is useless. ( remember this article is about local search, not global. Google Keyword Planner may be fine for huge volume keywords, but not for local small volume keywords. )

I know many SEO’s reading this will say, “Why bother? Just build more content and do more link building.” ( But that sounds very much “build it and they will come” – not much business acumen in that! )

The fact is, if we are going to do any Internet Marketing at all, blog more (build more content) and get more backlinks; we still want to know which keywords work and which don’t. OK. How do we find which keywords we should use?

Step #1 – What does Google say about our current exposure?

In Google Analytics > Acquisition > Search Console > Queries

(If you don’t have this menu option, it means you need another type of help first)

Google Analytics Acquisition Search Console Queries

On the far right is the first level on our way to Keyword Enlightenment; our Average Position. Now think!

  • if our website is getting an Average Position of 1st place for this keyword, shouldn’t our website be seen EACH time someone SEARCHed using that keyword?

Correct. So in that 2nd column are the Impressions we got. Next logical step would imply;

  • if our website is seen for each search, then IMPRESSIONS = SEARCH VOLUME

So lets verify the Search Volume for our keywords using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Step #2 in Keyword Planner we must narrow our view to a Geo ( otherwise Google will give us global volume instead and we are not interested in what happens more than 100 miles away from our business ).

We copy and paste our keywords from Search Console > Queries into Keyword Planner, we download our results, sort in a spreadsheet, correlate the two sets of data (the tedious part and why good SEO work is so time consuming – and because Google is not really trying to help ) and we get an interesting juxtaposition.

  • Why is Google telling us there are 390 searches (Search Volume) for a keyword that our website got the #1 spot for yet was seen only 83 times?

That does not make sense. That is a 470% inflated “estimate”. Why does Google report two different results for what is essentially the same thing? I’m inclined to believe that Keyword Planner is a feel-good tool. And that is why I think it is useless for doing any keyword research. I could extrapolate further whether anything Google reports is accurate, including the clicks a website “supposedly” gets in analytics. This all means that SEO vendors using Google data for their prettier reports (which is almost everyone) are even more useless.

BTW, this is why we built SearchStation. At least with SearchStation we get accurate search rank (which means Impressions in both Organic and Paid results). I would suggest employing a 3rd Party Analytics tool to track clicks as the other reporting we would need to get some realism back into our keyword research and SEO reporting.

We can now cut the crap and conclude that the only way to To Do Keyword Analysis For Local Search Engine Optimization is to derive it locally from actual SEARCH RANK and TRAFFIC that actually hits your website.

Having reached our goal of Keyword Enlightenment we know that Google’s Analytics and most SEO Vendor Reports are feel-good reporting and not the real world. We also now know that if our website consistently ranks #1 for a keyword, then visitors reported in our analytics is the most accurate measure of Search Volume for that Keyword.

Coming soon, in Part II of this series, we will take a look at the accuracy of Search Rank Reporting in Google Search Console.

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Geofencing vs Hyperlocal Search Confusion

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing There is a bit of confusion about Geofencing. It is a new advertising methodology after all and that newness has spawned misleading usage of the word. Many are confusing it with the act of searching using a mobile device. Let’s see if we can’t clear up some marketing BS floating around in the blog-o-sphere.

Android has some training for the technically inclined that is useful to understanding how it works.

For the rest of us, Geofencing encompasses advertising to an audience that happens to be in your targeted area but is not searching per se. The advertiser is trying to catch the attention of this audience while they are in a usually small target area (the geofence).

For the advertiser to apply a geofence on a consumer, the consumer must either a) use an application (APP) on a mobile device or b) visit a website with geofencing capabilities.

If the consumer has downloaded an APP for receiving alerts, they are actively shopping and aware that they are targeted. We aren’t so concerned about this active/passive consumer because they are not the most coveted consumer. Its the unaware passive shoppers that are more interesting and valuable to the advertiser. Lets take a look at why that is the point of what makes geofencing attractive to advertisers and why this is where all online advertising is headed.

The Passive Consumer

Lets use a contemporary example and the best representation of geofencing (proximity advertising). I’m shopping for a car and I’m at a dealership talking to a salesperson about the price. They of course says this is the best price anywhere and I of course whip-out my mobile device to see if that’s true. ( BTW, what I am doing as a consumer is called price comparison shopping, not searching! )

As it happens, the nearest competing dealership has geofenced the location of the dealership I’m standing in. The geofence could be very small and is identified by the IP address or GPS coordinates of my device. When I visit the website of the competing dealership, I’m greeted with a pop-up ad that says “We’ll beat that dealer’s price”. Hmm! That’s pretty compelling. I think I have to check what that competing dealer is going to offer me. Don’t I?

As an advertiser, that’s about as good a lead as any. This is a confirmed buyer because they are far into the funnel – they are price shopping. As an advertiser, I’m all-in for Geofencing! And I’ll pay more from these highly qualified leads.

The Hybrid Consumer

The hybrid scenario means the consumer is active in the sense that they downloaded an APP for, lets say, car shopping onto their mobile device. This consumer would get a passive alert on their mobile device that the car they are looking for is on sale near by when they enter a geofence setup by the car dealer.

While there are a few APPs for car shopping, they are not all-encompassing and therefore not too popular. My guess is that for this capability to mature it will have to be offered by search engines – probably in the not too distant future. This explains many changes Google has made recently; particularly the change to Places listings that are now entirely based on distance from the consumer/search. Google is polishing its location services with regard to the consumer’s location as communicated by the device.

The Active Consumer

Search has been around for a long time now. I search on my computer/mobile device for the car I want and I see an ad from a nearby dealership. While that ad is shown to consumers in a limited geographic area, this is NOT what is referred to as geofencing. That is a typical PPC (Adwords) ad. That geo-targeting capability has existed for about 14 years now. The car dealer simply specifies where those ads appear depending on a) a radius from a location or, b) a zipcode, city, county, or entire country. Thus far, Adwords cannot alert you. You must search first. That is why I call this an “active” consumer. They are searching.

OK! Now that we have all that clarified, here is as example of how a so called marketing “professional” does not understand that geofencing has nothing to do with search.

In this post 3 Geofencing Stats You Need To Know:

#3 is > 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product when conducting a search on their smartphone.

Yes, that statement is true, but…it has NOTHING to do with geofencing. (or maybe its how marketing people just cant help themselves when the ability to use misleading context arises. You know. “Baffle them with bullshit”.)

Note the word “search” there? It is outright misleading to include this item in the list of benefits of geofencing. Search is how you FIND new businesses. Geofencing by itself does not help you FIND what you want.

Here is another in my diary of marketing companies that either don’t know what they are talking about or they should just not blog. You decide.

What Is Geofencing and Does It Matter? in which they write “The smallest location you can target in AdWords is a one-mile radius.”

What? A radius in Adwords is not a geofence (nor is it a recent innovation). And there is a lot of other useless information in that post too. In the article is a Premier Google Partner badge. I guess you can trust anyone with a badge.

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What Is A Search Engine Friendly Website?

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing In a sentence; it is a well organized set of information made easily accessible to another computer to crawl (the bot) and index ( the search engine ).

Search Engine Friendly means What Humans Don’t See

It is not necessary to have a visually attractive or interesting website in order to be search engine friendly. “Visually attractive” or “interesting” are things humans want. Search engines seek well organized information; a theme, explicit descriptions of a page, and explicit labels (for images). These are things humans don’t see or even care about. Here’s some advice from Google

What is not Search Engine Friendly

90% or more of “pretty” websites are not optimized for search engines (the web designer will always say it is) (and how can the client tell?). In contrast, you will never hear a real SEO claim they build pretty websites – it’s not their talent and good SEO consumers all their bandwidth. Web Designers concentrate on the visual. Do they also have the ability to concentrate on the unseen SEO as well? (I like and use webs designers, but…)

Then there are the website owners, they usually make a mess of a perfectly organized website; they move pages around, change menu navigation which often changes URLs; add this thing; and add this other thing; and soon all these “things” create obstacles for search engines. Over time the web site becomes an unintelligible and very search engine unfriendly mess.

Many website owners and advertising agencies try to do SEO themselves because it seems easy and obvious ( read a book – search online ). Hiring an SEO specialist is an unnecessary expense. We would add to the list that – hiring an SEO specialist seems unnecessary because there is a belief that “everyone can do SEO”. This self-perpetuating environment in which every website designer seems to do SEO, leads you also to ask, Why can’t I do it myself?

“A proficiency at billiards is a sign of a misspent youth” Mark Twain.

When the task is to turn a human website into one that also speaks to, and serves the needs of search engines, hire those who understand how search engines work and can take the time to do it right. Sprinkling a few keywords around pages and posts is not SEO and will not create a Search Engine Friendly Website.

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Remarketing Pay Per Click Explained in Plain Terms

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing Remarketing: should you do it?

Remarketing is a term you’ll hear most often from those selling PPC services. They usually recommend allocating some of your budget, in addition to what you are already spending on Pay-Per-Click ads, just to Remarketing ads. ( read between the lines, and it means “let’s spend more” )

Well first, what is Remarketing?

Here is a screenshot of a real-life situation as it actually happened to me (click to enlarge).

remarketing-explained

I wanted to read-up on Ebola because it came up in a conversation and I had no real knowledge about it. I had only heard bits and pieces in the “news” (which explains why I knew nothing substantial about it) and therefore could add nothing to the conversation. I later Googled “ebola”, and clicked on md-health website. Suddenly I notice this ad from a bike shop on the right. What the heck does a bike shop have to do with ebola? That’s Remarketing.

Bookmark this concept ==> the ad is not relevant to what I’m doing right now! It’s an interruption – similar to ads on TV – which means this ad has low conversion potential to start with.

Lets take a look at how this works

I had recently been searching online for a particular bike part that I could not find locally. I had visited that very bike shop website; one of many bike shop websites. That website placed a cookie on my computer (in the browser). It happens that Md-health places Google ads on their website to make money on visitors like me (you can do the same with Google Ad-Sense).

When I visited Md-health, Google recognized the bike shop cookie in my browser, put 2+2 together, Google served up the ad. That’s Remarketing, cool! Some think its creepy, ( like the fact that Google has now tagged me as a potential ebola case or a hypochondriac ! )

So think of Remarketing as advertising that “follows you around” online, kind of a “reminder” ad.

So now that you know how this works, and you will begin to recognize the ads you see on other website as Remarketing, you can judge if it has an influence on your behavior. I have found that Remarketing ads have never caused me to act (click). If I search for something to purchase online, I usually buy it, or look up the address where I’m going to physically buy it – done – I’m now offline – and no longer a potential customer for the Remarketing approach.

But should you do Remarketing?

You can answer that question precisely only if you have a strictly online business.

Unfortunately, if you are like most local businesses, you have walk-in customers, or take telephone calls to complete sales. In that case you cannot measure if those Remarketing ads are leading to sales. Yes you can spend more money on clicks ( just as you normally do with your Google Adwords campaign) but you still can’t see if the any of your ads turn into sales. So don’t let your PPC advisor tell you Remarketing is proven to increase sales. That has never been proven for local businesses.

Bottom line ==> You can probably prove that more ad spending will lead to more sales. Now that is Rocket Science at work!

Products with long purchase cycles ==> such as automobiles, can benefit by repeatedly exposing your business name to customers who have already visited your website while shopping online. In this case you are building brand awareness, often without paying for clicks.

Chances are the brand(s) you sell are already engaged in Remarketing at a global or national level. Its what they do, and they can do brand advertising more effectively than a local business.

Remarketing may be best for Brand awareness ==> a local business’s brand is really it’s name ==> Remarketing ads using your business name may make sense – but Remarketing product oriented ads may not be so effective.

So how do you go about it?

I have found that most ( actually all – as in 100% ) Remarketing ads I have sampled out of professional interest are implemented poorly. The bike shop ad in this example, linked to a completely different product page than anything I was interested in. So while I clicked because the keyword “XTR” was visible ( part of my search term ), I was disappointed to NOT FIND something even remotely relevant on the landing page – so I’m out-a-there. The bike shop just wasted money because they setup their keyword attributes very broadly and did not have appropriate landing pages.

==>  Poor landing pages and appropriate keyword attribute settings are common weaknesses for most ordinary Pay-Per-Click advertising campaigns everywhere. If you’re not doing the basics well, reaching harder and farther with Remarketing is like trying to run before you can walk.

My bottom line

  1. If you have absolutely mastered your PPC advertising, then Remarketing is a worthwhile experiment. But its not for the pay-per-click beginner, and its not for products with impulse buys or short purchase cycles ( like bike parts ).
  2. Having good (specials) product pages, and getting more 5 star reviews will increase conversion and sales for a lot less spend than Remarketing. That advice may seem unrelated to the topic, but conversion into sales is going to happen because the customer chose your physical store front over the many others they visited online because they liked what they saw the first time, not because they saw the same ad over and over again.

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