Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts
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.
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.”
Lies and Pretty SEO Reports
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.
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.
Google Adwords Revelation 98% of Business Comes From 22 Keywords
How would you like to cut your PPC ad spend by perhaps 90% and get the same net revenue?
This is not a cheap come-on. This tsunami is ripping through the digital marketing space as we speak. In case you have missed it, there have been three significant stories recently; Proctor & Gamble, then Restoration Hardware, now today Uber has filed a law suit against its advertising agency – all concerning waste and fraud in the Pay-Per-Click ad market.
The Restoration Hardware story summarizes the situation best; Restoration Hardware generates almost all of its Pay Per Click traffic from only 22 keywords.
“We’ve found out that 98% of our business was coming from 22 words. So, wait, we’re buying 3,200 words and 98% of the business is coming from 22 words. What are the 22 words? And they said, well, it’s the word Restoration Hardware and the 21 ways to spell it wrong, okay?”
I’ve been going up against agencies for years as they boast of their superior ability to manage 10,000 keywords (no kidding, 10,000). Well these revelations kind of put that selling point to rest once and for all. RIP!
You may not hear one peep about this from the usual Internet Marketing cheerleaders. Those “Internet Marketing Cheerleaders” include every agency and eZine that blogs about Search Engine Marketing daily. Not only do they seldom write anything worth reading, they never write a negative word that might impact their standing with Google. Obviously Google does not want this kind of news circulating, so 1) don’t expect the cheerleaders to blog about these high-profile corporations and their experiments cutting ad spend by 90% and 2) expect these headlines to be scrubbed from search results (or found on page 7).
The large advertising agencies are wishing these things were never published. They make too much money on the status quo (meaning the same fraudulent practices) because fees are based on a percentage of spend, and most clients are ignorant of the workings of the digital ad marketplace. Ignorant clients are good clients!
I want to plug HARTENSTINE right here because we have always charged a flat fee for our PPC services. That is so we have no incentive to spend client money recklessly.
So what may be a pivotal nail in this coffin, today Uber announced that they are the victim of not only wasted ad spend, but click fraud as well. The entire law suit filing is at that link detailing just how it is perpetrated. Its a worthy read.
Don’t be an ignorant-good client!
Obviously these are large corporations utilizing equally large ad agencies, but the percentage of waste is probably proportionate across the board. So even if you are a small business, you could be wasting 80% or more of your money on pay-per-click ads that do not impact your bottom line.
What are your 22 keywords? Lets find out and save some $
Proximity Advertising and Geo-Fencing Technologies
A few events recently got me thinking about what might be happening in the future of local search advertising. I’m calling it “proximity advertising” because the terms “geo-fencing” and “local search” are separate terms that need to merge in advertising, and they are not as accurate, nor very eloquent.
In the span of just 3 days, I followed two Apple Maps vans though the mountains. I drove down a street to see a WAZE vehicle pass in the opposite direction. Then I drove near Moffet Field (Silicon Valley) and another similar but unmarked vehicle pulled out of the (unknown) facilities over by Lockheed Martin Way (where you can’t get Google Maps street view) oh! the hypocrisy! It seems every company and government contractor is driving a street level mapping vehicle.
There is also the seemingly unrelated change Google has made concerning SERPs and Places displays. All of these things got me thinking about the future of local search advertising. It seems suddenly obvious that the next big thing is Geo-Fencing/Proximity Advertising. As is typical in the early days of a technology, there is a lot of hype and confusion about what geo-fencing is, so lets clarify what it is and what we think is really happening.
Geo-fencing is just one element of “proximity advertising”. When you move into an area (a geo-fenced area), …read more about Proximity Advertising
Remarketing Pay Per Click Explained in Plain Terms
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).
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
- 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 ).
- 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.
What is a Blog Post Worth
Does Blogging Pay? Its the most common directive issued in SEO. Blog! If you want free traffic, Blog! If you don’t have a big budget to pay Google Adwords or Bing Adcenter for clicks, BLOG!
But does blogging really payoff? Here is your real-world-local-business answer. Not only can we see exactly how many clicks a blog post is bringing every month, month after month; we can calculate the exact value of those clicks, and therefore calculate the exact value of the blog-post. (which means how much could you pay someone to blog for your business) Here is our Query Report from Google Webmaster or Google Analytics.
A single Blog-post about how swimming pools can pop out of the ground, brought our business 31 clicks from natural searches last month.
Therefore if our blog-post brought 31 visitors and we are paying a nice round figure of $3.30 per visitors in our PPC campaigns, the blog is worth $102.30 per month or $1,227.60 per year. With this data, we can now make many more assumptions about our marketing spend.
Brilliant! Hold on! What you may have missed is that there are 4 blog-posts on this website, but this is the only one that is performing to bring us a measurable number of free visitors. That is a variable that needs to be included in our overall marketing calculations to determine what a blog-post is really worth (paying for).
Plus there are a few noteworthy bullets to go with our numbers that can serve to flesh-out your Internet Marketing assumptions:
- The blog-post title, when written, did not reflect what those online searches would be that produces our traffic. This blog-post could potentially perform much better with the right title. That’s water under the bridge, but now that we know, we can still do some SEO to increase our page position and thereby, increase our clicks.
- The CTR for this post is exceptional. Combined with Average Positions (that are at the bottom of page 1) and that tells us the other results on the SERP (search results page) are not as appealing, and may also mean our meta description (SEO) is working well.
Another critical marketing variable not provided here is CONVERSION (into leads, into sales) but that’s something for another post. With conversion figures you can really dial-in your ROI – the ultimate in Internet Marketing Planning.
- Q: What should I blog about?
- A: What questions do your customers ask you?
- Q: Should you hire someone to write blogs?
- A: Can you produce the material for them and can they optimize the content?
I know those are not an answers, but they should point you in the right direction to the answer you need. Only you know your business well enough to make all this work. Everyone else can only help.
Well, without question, blogging works to bring (relatively) free traffic and save you the cost of paying Google and Bing for visitors. There is technique (SEO) involved in making it work to its full potential, but my experience is that everyone has moments of inspiration and motivation, but few can actually execute – consistently. Perseverance and persistence (lack thereof), not $, is what inhibits most Internet Marketing from real success.
But at least now you cannot say you don’t know whether blogging is worthwhile for your business.
Adwords Click Fraud Concerns Answered
How Do I Know Im not paying for Fraudulent Clicks?
How Do I Find My/Google’s Invalid Clicks Report?
A common concern for everyone, including me, is how can we be assured we are not paying for fraudulent clicks (click fraud) in our PPC campaigns. Well the short answer is, we can’t. Its entirely within Google’s purview to handle those odd-looking clicks and all the nuanced behavior of the “clicker”. Google does not provide even the originating IP address of the click. If we saw a bunch of clicks from the same IP address, we could dig deeper and maybe find the fraud. They could provide that information, but then there are issues of privacy, etc, that they don’t want to deal with. (Of course they do sell that data to advertisers who are willing to pay for it. Its all about the money after all. Privacy for sale!)
The obvious conflict of interest is that Google makes money when someone clicks. Refunding you for what looks like a bot or your competitor does to hold much incentive for Google does it? There have been lawsuits to stoke your fears too. In 2006 Google paid $90 million in a click fraud case. https://www.wired.com/2006/03/google-to-settle-click-fraud-case/ So there is THAT disincentive to prevent Google from turning a blind eye to the issue. But $90 Million (2006) out of annual sales of $111 Billion (2017) is .08%. Not much of a disincentive, is it?
We can find some comfort that Google is the master of algorithms, and it should not be too hard for Google to spot a bot or a competitor who has nothing better to do than click on your ads with their algorithms. They report those (refunded clicks) as Invalid Clicks in Adwords – more on that below.
The bottom line to the issue is, we can take Google’s word that they handle those clicks appropriately. We can also pay attention to our campaigns performance to spot poor ROI, which will greatly reduce the chance of paying for nothing-clicks. And finally, you can see how many clicks Google identified as fraudulent (invalid) here:
Does Google have a Invalid Clicks Refund Policy?
How does Google guard against click fraud?
How Do I Find My Invalid Click Reporting in Adwords?
Invalid clicks / Invalid click rate
These columns indicate the number and percentage of clicks that were classified as invalid and automatically filtered from your account. You aren’t charged for these clicks, and they don’t affect your account statistics. Data for invalid clicks is only available after January 1, 2006. Learn more about invalid clicks. This column is available on the Campaigns and Dimensions tabs only.
How To Display Invalid Clicks
- Sign in to your AdWords account
- Click the Campaigns tab.
- Click the Columns button above the statistics table
- Select “Modify columns” from the drop-down
- Under Modify columns > Select metrics
- > Performance
- > Invalid Clicks ( >> add to your Column List )
The World Goes Mobile-Local
Does that sound like old news? Needless to say, the search engine marketing business is always changing and marketing people being marketing people, write about every hiccup as if it were newsworthy. However this is different and I encourage you to read and think about recent changes to search results page-ad layout and how this change profoundly impacts your internet marketing reach.
Google has made a few changes recently, two in particular, that signal a monumental change in search marketing. Its not just a page-layout thing. Its a fundamental change in business.
The shot heard around the SEO world was the removal of local search filters from search. Forget about the “why” for the moment, Google never tells the truth about changes anyway. That change was followed by the radical change in paid search layout on the desktop – by doing away with side ads, the desktop now mimics the mobile interface. Some other noted initiatives point in the same mobile-local direction; re. Google Explorers and Google My Business road shows. All together these clearly focus on local business and that is because mobile search is now the largest search segment and growing. Its clear that in Google’s world, mobile is now the driver and mobile is local in nature.
We can therefore surmise some things that are unique to mobile that will drive all search optimization and search marketing going forward.
Page (Format) Strategies
If our space changes, our behavior must change. That would apply to a rat in a maze, just as it applies to an advertiser and ad formats. With the new “mobile” format, we must adapt new behaviors and strategies.
- Paid search strategies must be drastically overhauled. What you were doing last month won’t work anymore. With four (4) instead of about ten (10) potential spots for ads on a page, it is now a “Winner Take All” environment “Go Big or Go Home”. If you are not in the those 4 spots, you are out. Its even more dramatic than that. Some pages split the #1 spot at the top and #2, 3 and 4 spots are now at the bottom of the SERP, rendering them far less fruitful. (I have seen 8 ad spots total. 4 at the top and 4 at the bottom. But bottom ads? Really?) This means the deeper pockets and the more aggressive will win. Because if you don’t get the #1 spot, your clicks are going down dramatically. Those playing at the margins are out. Keyword knowledge will become more valuable than ever before.
- More important than Ads; the Knowledge Graph that sometimes occupies the top right of desktop display and the top of mobile is now the local elephant on the page. Also called a Business Card (or just Card) it gets the majority of SERP real estate. Therefore it gets more clicks that any paid ad. Getting your business into the Card is a matter of survival and needs to be the heart of your SEO (natural search optimization). If you don’t have your SEO ducks-in-a-row you are not getting the Card and therefore, your natural traffic may take a hit.
Search Footprint not Search Rank
Search rank tracking formerly could be content to display natural search rank alone. Are you #1 on Google? Today #1 in natural results doesn’t mean much. Who gets the Card gets most of the clicks, along with who gets the #1 paid spot. There are also places and sitelinks that take up real estate. Adding them all up signifies a Search Footprint, which better illustrates who gets the most clicks on a SERP.
Mobile is Local
Google has a tiered keyword approach to search rank, local, national and global, and perhaps others in between as well. Global can be understood as the Brand segment and Local could be understood as a Product segment. To get your head around a this tiered keyword-search segmentation, think in terms of how searches signal whether your want a Global or Local result.
We can see this with Toyota as an example. Search for simply “toyota” and Toyota Corporation will get the Card, which is our Global result. Search for “toyota for sale” and you get what I call a National result (re. autotrader, carguru, etc.). Search for “new toyota prius” and you get a Local result (local car dealers). There is overlap, but it is often not significant and it is rather logical.
You Ranking Strategy and Keyword Focus
Your search rank strategy must now account for which tier your business fits into. Forget what you want to rank for. You cannot expect to get into another tier easily. If you are a local business, you will not easily get into the Global keyword tier. If you are a local business you will seldom get into the National tier even in your local SERP. That is just how Google’s algo works at the moment. Those in the National tier are large enough to employ a full-time SEO team/strategy. As a local business you seldom have those resources available, so its more important than ever to know which keywords are in the Local tier and make sure your SEO efforts make use of those keywords most efficiently.
And to come full-circle, when you know the National and Global teir keywords (those which you cannot rank naturally for), those keywords should be in your Paid Search Strategy. But those Global keywords just went up in price significantly, while the National keywords went up in price too. What to do?
Local search is a local game that can be won by locals. While the Global and National players will be in your paid search backyard, they just can’t know your neighborhood the way you do. Use your local know-how and maximize your Local Search Footprint judiciously.
Google Drops Side Ads – Confirmed as of Feb 22
This was much anticipated, and I can confirm that as of Feb 22 all SearchStations have seen no side ads since. But I’d like to concentrate on two things; a) what local businesses need to know, and b) how this particular issue is a great barometer indicating who in this business is just blogging (asleep at the wheel) for the sake of SEO, and who is awake.
The later does not take much analysis except to say I’m amazed by what little substance these noise makers in search engine land actually produce. I looked though dozens of
articles “blogs” and 95% are absolutely empty dribble echoing the headline – worthless wastes of time. Do something else will ya?
What people want to know is not that it happened, but “what does it mean to me?”, the local business. So here are the bullets:
What is not new is the fact that last year we became acutely aware that mobile search had surpassed the desktop (non-mobile shall we call it?). I think you’re leading a sheltered life if you have not been to local hangouts (bars, restaurant, malls, movie theaters) and witnessed that the majority of people are more preoccupied with whatever they are doing on their mobile device than what is going on around them. That’s a fact. So you have to be there.
- The #1 spot is what catches the fish on a mobile device. So this point has not changed so much as its now not an optional PPC rule. We have to get that #1 spot now regardless of what we think our shopper is doing. Google has forced the issue.
- Therefore, the competition for the top 4 spots has just moved up a big notch. Therefore the CPC (cost per click) is going up.
- That also means this change favors the larger members in their niche. ( re. the national chain flower shops will crush the mom & pop shops, the auto dealer groups will crush the single roof tops ).
- This may not be permanent on desktops because Google experiments a lot. They may loose ad revenue as smaller players get squeezed out. But the fact remains – mobile will always be more important.
The bonus point which only one blog I read pointed out:
- The “Card” or Knowledge Graph (or whatever it will be renamed by Google tomorrow) is the key to your online success. You can’t buy a Card from Google yet, but the Card gets ALL THE CLICKS.
Google servers up those cards only in local searches, and only when its 100% sure its the right thing to server up to the user searching – so its pretty hard to achieve. My experience is that a business can get an average of 4 keywords to produce a card, but rarely does a business have more that 8 keywords that produce a card. (I’ve seen 14 max.)
- If you want to dominate locally, and that means get as many keywords to produce Cards and possible, you need to get your local ducks in a row.
Not coincidentally, Google is making the rounds organizing local business meetups called “Lets Put Our Cities on the Map“. This is what you should be doing if you don’t already know and understand everything in this article. Here is the link
Not so long ago Google rolled out a program aiming in the same direction by enlisting
people interns to update maps called Local Guides.
Altogether these separate initiatives confirms the direction Google has chosen and its not a temporary thing.
- Its about accurate business location data! To get a Card, forget about all that other SEO stuff for the moment and clean-up your location data wherever it may be found online.
If you do understand everything in this article and have the time to DIY, then I suggest getting starting here with MOZ Local.
Can You Predict Keyword Impressions vs CTR
I have been doing this (SEO, PPC, Keyword Research, Internet advertising, etc) for a long time and I am still often and pleasantly surprised by what I find. Its pleasant to do work that is not so rote and predictable, like keyword variations and the Impressions they generate and the CTR (click-through-rate) they get.
Here is a simple but interesting, real-life sample that illustrates how easy it is to be wrong when you assume you know what people will search for in order to find a product or business online. You would be wrong with most of your assumptions.
This sample is even more interesting because of the keyword variables – there is more than one way to search for the brand – volkswagen or vw.
It was my assumption that more people would search for “vw dealer” than for “volkswagen dealership” because its easier to type. But this sample proves that assumption would be wrong.
And one would not necessarily assume that the people who search for “vw dealer” are the most likely to convert (click-through) into a visitor to our website – the highest CTR of all our possible keyword combinations and 250% better CTR than our big Impression keyword. Surprised? I was.
There are more gems to find here, but finding those is up to you – enjoy the sample/example.