AdWords updates their admin interface

February 2, 2009 in Analytics, SEO/SEM

It looks like some higher volume AdWords accounts are being offered a new admin interface. Haven’t had a chance to dive in real deep yet, but so far, I’m liking it – lots of clever Google-Analytics-ish touches.


Update: really liking this. Seeing a few errors (like, it's timing out - might be getting hammered). And so far only one thing that really bothers me - you no longer get your quality score visible at a glance in a single column, you have to click this little bubble to see it. Yes, you have to click it for every word. Absurd.


Permalink | | Comments (9)

Tip: Track the ROI of any campaign with Google Analytics

January 29, 2009 in Analytics, SEO/SEM, Tips

Did you know that you can track any advertising or marketing campaign with Google Analytics, not just AdWords? Of course failure to track is the first (well, fifth actually) mistake entrepreneurs make. You shouldn’t just want to track things precisely, you must.

Here are some examples of what you might like to track with the same precision as an AdWords campaign:

  • Pay per click campaigns with Yahoo or MSN
  • A banner ad buy on another site
  • An email marketing campaign
  • An affiliate program
  • Any link you give out for which you want to track the effectiveness

For todays’ tip, let’s say you’re running a banner ad and you want to track how many clicks you get from that banner, where those visitors go on your site, how long they stay, how many of them convert to your goals, etc. (Incidentally, this works very nicely with your Google Analytics conversion goals.)

Campaign Report Example It’s actually easier than you think. The bonus is that you get a nice report inside of Google Analytics under Traffic Source > Campaigns.

This report provides you information on visitors, including:

  • pages per visit
  • average time on site
  • bounce rate
  • goal conversion
  • sales revenues
  • number of transactions
  • ecommerce conversion rate
  • value per visitor
  • and more

And actually, it so simple (bear with me), it would be ridiculous not to do it.

So here’s how:

Simply add the following to the end of the link back to your site from the campaign source:

utm_source=campaignname where campaignname is whatever you want to call the campaign.

For example, let’s say your site is, and you are running a banner campaign on

The link you would provide to would be

And you can do it to any URL, not just your homepage.

That’s the bare minimum, but you can just as easily pass in more information to make your reporting even richer. There are 5 name/value combinations you can use in all (called “tags”), and you really want to use at least the first three.

The five tags are:

  • Name  (utm_campaign) The name of your campaign. Example: Free Shipping Promotion. utm_campaign=Free+Shipping+Promotion
  • Source (utm_source) The source of your traffic. Example:
  • Medium (utm_medium) This is the medium sending you traffic. Example: banner. utm_medium=banner
  • Term (utm_term) Mostly used by AdWords campaigns, Google will load it with the search term used when they saw (and clicked on) your ad. If you’re running a PPC campaign with Yahoo or MSN, you can add this one yourself but to do so, you’ll need to create a specific URL for each keyword. utm_term=my+keyword
  • Content (utm_content) Here you put any additional clues to help you determine the effectiveness of two otherwise similar things. Example – let’s say you’re running two banner ads, one in the header, one in the footer. You might put footer in one, and header in the other. utm_content=header.

So for our banner ad example, the full link might look like this now:

I know what you’re saying now – how the heck do you know how to get the link just right? Looks complicated right? Well it’s not, and to make it even easier to figure out how to properly format Google has given us an URL Builder to do the heavy lifting for you.

Google’s URL Builder

Hope this helps.

Permalink | | Comments (4)

Tip: an undocumented secret in Google AdWords

January 23, 2009 in SEO/SEM, Tips

Note: old hands with AdWords already know this, but for those of you who are new to AdWords, or haven’t gotten that deep with it yet, I hope this tip helps you out.

First – when writing ads in AdWords, you should all know that the very first and most important rule is to use the keywords in your ad, preferably in your ad headline. This gives you the highest chance of getting clicks – in part because it bolds those words in the ad itself, but also because it’s a clear match for what the searcher is looking for.

Adwords-example Now, have you ever noticed how you can type some obscure term into Google, and ebay/Amazon/Target/Shopzilla have ads showing, with that term in the ad? Well here’s how they do that, and why you might care.

This tip is most useful for people who have many, many product offerings. The most effective thing to do is write specific ads for each of your keywords. If you want maximum success and click though rate – that’s the way to get it. But if the constraints of time, or budget, or practicality make that impossible, then this can be a good option.

Google has a syntax feature when writing ads where you can create a placeholder in your ad copy, then Google will dynamically flow a search term that matches one of your keywords into your ad, under certain conditions.

Here’s the syntax that you’d put in your ad. Note: the “default text” text is what shows if the term won’t fit or the quality score of the term is too low:

{Keyword: default text}

Example ad text using the technique:

{Keyword: Stuffed Bear}!
Get your {Keyword: Stuffed Bear} Here!
Free Shipping on all orders.

Here’s what happens – Google will use one of the keywords in your ad group that matches what the searcher typed in and put it where the placeholder is.

So if you have a keyword Pink Bear, and someone searched with the term Pink Bear, the ad would show thusly:

Pink Bear!
Get your Pink Bear Here!
Free Shipping on all orders.

All the same ad writing rules apply, of course. But when used properly, this can be a great help. Enjoy!

Permalink | | Comments (7)

A tip for bloggers who care about SEO

January 16, 2009 in SEO/SEM, Tips

Did you know you can submit your RSS feed to Google as your "sitemap" in Google Webmaster Central? Remember that Google says submitting your sitemap lets them know "about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover." Which is a Good Thing. So take a couple minutes to make sure Google is up to speed.

Permalink | | Comments (0)

SEO Toolbar

January 15, 2009 in 3 out of 5 stars, SEO/SEM

What is it?

SEO Toolbar: A tool bar providing very valuable (and juicy) SEO intelligence for any site. If you have a site and are serious about SEO, this is an excellent resource.

seo toolbar logo Who makes it?

Aaron Wall of SEO

Why is it the killerest?

First of all, Aaron has had most of these tools available in other forms before now. They are all excellent tools that I've used for a while (SEO Rank Checker and SEO XRay). The SEO Toolbar just packages them into an even easier-to-use interface, with a few more features. In so doing, he has really created something valuable.

It provides valuable SEO information like Page Rank, page links, and Alexa scores, site comparison tools, and much more, all at a glance. It also integrated helpful tools like a Keyword Suggest tool that reaches out a dozen keyword tools to help you get the juices flowing and gather intelligence to make decisions.

In addition to the excellent comparison tool built in, it’s handy to load your site, along with your competitors sites up in different tabs, then click across the tabs at the top to see the different scores. 

This is a pretty exciting tool – can’t wait to see it evolve. Watch the video Aaron has put together to learn more.

What could be improved?

BUG: Using the keyword highlight box at the top clears form data on any form page. So don’t write a big blog post online, then use this box or you’ll lose everything. This is evil, and surely a bug, I'm sure it'll be addressed in future versions.

Also, the toolbar should be off by default every time the browser is launched. Otherwise people will install this out of curiosity and leave it running forever on every site they ever visit, forever. In addition to slowing down their browsing experience, it will tax the servers providing this information and potentially jeopardize the ability to freely grab it with tools like this. Make sure you turn it off yourself if you’re just browsing around and not actively doing SEO research.

I’d like to be able to show/hide certain parts of the bar – not sure if this is even possible, but it would be nice. There are a few things I don’t imagine many people will find useful, or that are covered by better tools already. The RSS aggregator, for example.

How much does it cost?

Free (for now, he says that may change at a later date).


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (4)

Adwords Optimizer

June 11, 2007 in 3 out of 5 stars, Analytics, SEO/SEM

What is it?

Adwords Optimizer: A tool to help you fine tune your AdWords ads.


Who makes it?

MindValley LC

Why is it the killerest?

It's simple, it's free, and it works.

Savvy AdWords users write two or more ads for a given ad group. Google then uses both ads and you can learn which ad performs the best by watching the CTR (click through rate) and conversion over time.

Adwords Optimizer sends you a daily report of how your different ads are performing and which one has the best CTR, then offers suggestions for improving. It's a simple thing, and something you can do by hand-checking your AdWords account every day and keeping track, but Adwords Optimizer makes a tedious thing you should do every day (but probably don't because it's tedious) very simple.

What could be improved?

I wish I could view a back history of my reports. If you save all the emails you get, you have a crude history, but I'd like a screen where it listed all my reports so I could view past ones.

It's a bit sparse on metrics (but it does provide what it promises to provide).

Update: The signup process they suggest is confusing and lame, you can signup here.


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (6)

Google Analytics

August 22, 2006 in 5 out of 5 stars, Analytics, Free, Hosted software, SEO/SEM

What is it?

Google Analytics: Web analytics (statistics + analysis) software that anyone with a website can use.

After Google initially launched this service, they were crushed with interest and they shut down new sign ups. However, after several months, the gates are open again.


Who makes it?

Google (although they bought and tweaked Urchin's product to create this).

Why is it the killerest?

The information it provides is super-rich without being unwieldy (unwieldiness is a common ailment afflicting analytics software).

Googleanalyticschart You can use it to track simple traffic statistics, but you can also you use it (and here's the real power) to track conversions and associated behavior (this is the heart of Seth's point  number 5). It integrates closely with your AdWords campaigns but can also track any marketing initiative you run, Google-based or not. It's hard to overstate the power and importance of that. If you do commerce online, you're insane not to be using this to measure.

It has great visual representations of your information, making it easily digestible. This includes graphs, charts, and a very nifty site-overlay showing you where and how people click through your site on their way to conversion Also, Geo-targeting map representations, date-range comparisons, and more.

It's simple and quick (just a few minutes) to integrate into your site, just drop a snippet of code on each page you wish to track.

What could be improved?

Some of the more common data feels buried.

The data is always about a day old.

Potential for some tin-foil hat anxiety about Google's increasingly Sauron-like all-seeing-eye.

How much does it cost?

Astonishingly Free


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (7)

Happy Links

August 15, 2006 in Happy Links, SEO/SEM

SEM/SEO edition:

  • What you must know before hiring an SEO company
    is an ebook written by Jonathan Cook who knows what's up (and what isn't). As an SEO/SEM guy myself, I was pumping my fist in the air reading this. Great advice and a must-read before you hire someone to help you with search engine marketing.
  • Hit Tail
    This is really an interesting new service geared toward helping you tap into "the long tail" and gain natural search engine traffic to your site. The methods they use are solid, and the tool they offer appears to be a great help. It definitely has my attention. If anyone has experience with them, please let me know.
  • Top 50 SEO Resources
    This modestly named list really is a treasure trove of good resources.

Permalink | | Comments (4)

Google AdWords Jumpstart Service

January 23, 2006 in 3 out of 5 stars, A service, SEO/SEM

What is it?

Google AdWords Jumpstart Service: I've already given Google AdWords a 5 star review here on, but this is little-known about service that Google offers new AdWords advertisers where for a $299 advance toward advertising fees, they'll set up your first AdWords campaign for you. It's for people just starting out with AdWords. It helps absorb a little bit of the learning curve and saves you some time.

I've set up lots of AdWords campaigns for my clients, but had never used this service. So I decided, that for you my dear readers, I would so venture. I'm setting up and managing some campaigns for our main local university here in Spokane (Gonzaga) and decided to give it a whirl and see if the "Jumpstart Service" lived up to it's name.


Who makes it?


Why is it the killerest?

It mostly lived up to it's name, with an emphasis on "start." I needed a geo-targeted campaign in a very tough keyword market. I submitted my Jumpstart request and a couple days later received a phone call from a Google rep who informed me she'd be setting up my campaign and I'd hear back from her in a few days. Total time to set up the campaign was about 1wk from when I made the request. She created a campaign with three ad groups, wrote some ads, set bid prices and selected keywords.


After she set up the campaign, she carefully and helpfully walked me through what she had set up over the phone. Explained everything, invited me to engage the campaign and said she'd call back a week later.

Which she did. She was then ready to talk to me about all the basic mechanics of AdWords. She walked me through how to manage bid prices and ad writing. She gave me ad group creation strategies, phrase matching advice (with information that wasn't entirely true, but it was close), and answered some tougher questions I gave her, with not just mechanics advice, but good "best practice" advice too. It was entry-level, but it was helpful. She also gave me the Google AdWords phone number, and said she'd check in on me in another week. A few days later I received a brief survey via email from Google wondering how things went.

Overall, not a bad way to start AdWords if you're going to do it on your own -- so long as your expectations are that this is only to help you do the initial setup. It helps with about the first 15% of what you'll need to do if you want to be successful. For example, I had two different mini-sites for which she set up three ad groups with about 15-20 keywords in each. After nearly a week I had almost no impressions and zero click throughs. Her reasoning for the low results was that it was geo-targeted (small audience). Quite valid indeed, but I've since spent hours adding a few hundred keywords, playing with bids, adding ad groups, rewriting ad copy... and traffic is beginning to flow.

What could be improved?

This is only a start (as the name implies). You'll still need to invest the hours, blood, sweat and tears to make your campaign work. It's not designed for people who wish to have someone else set up and managed it for them. It's for people who are willing and able to figure it all out and manage the nitty-gritty themselves, but need a little hand holding to get started.

On the geo-targeting she didn't advise me to create a global campaign and use the geographic terms to compliment and target AOL users and others who don't represent valid IP information to Google's geo-targeting servers. (Which is a must with any effective geo-targeting campaign).

Note: when compared with Yahoo's paid listings particularly their so-called "local" listings, there's no comparison. Google rocks the house by comparison, Yahoo! doesn't even warrant a review here on WorkHappy because it's so abysmal.

How much does it cost?

Nothing extra, but they do charge a $299 advance on your advertising spending


Reviewed by Carson McComas

Permalink | | Comments (2)

Beginner's Guide to SEO

December 8, 2005 in 4 out of 5 stars, A website, SEO/SEM

What is it?

Beginner's Guide to SEO: SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization." This is a very comprehensive guide to understanding the process and strategies of optimizing a web site for search engines.


Who makes it?

Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz

Why is it the killerest?

It's very thorough and an excellent resource for learning about SEO - it includes up-to-date information, tips, tricks, and resources. This guide isn't your standard smoke-and-promises SEO claptrap, this is good info. It comes in 3 formats; downloadable MS Word, multi-page online and single page versions.

How much does it cost?



Permalink | | Comments (0)