Archive for the ‘YSM’ category

I’m A Slave To You (Google)

January 24, 2007

I’m a fan of Google.  Not a fanboy, per se, they can certainly do things poorly (see most of their products which aren’t search- or advertising-driven) and I wouldn’t buy the stock anywhere near where it is right now.  But as a business owner, they’re very useful to me.  I use Analytics to do my analysis of how my changes to the webpage are working, Sitemaps to make sure I’m doing decently on Google searches, AdWords to generate about 10% of my traffic and sales, and Checkout is getting a solid 50% of my customers since I rolled it out.  So that is pretty good.

What isn’t so good?  Well, to be perfectly candid, I’m dependent on Google.   Google properties send me 65% of my web traffic and account for over half of my sales.  That percentage is going up since Microsoft recently tweaked their algorithms and sent my ranking down for many of my most valuable search terms on MSN.  If Google ever tweaks their algorithms in a similar fashion, I’m 31 flavors of screwed.

So where does this leave me?  Fortunately, it leaves me with a day job.  Bingo Card Creator could close up shop tomorrow night and while I’d regret it I’d still be able to pay the rent, buy food, and save for retirement (although less than I am now).  But the idea of having my business at the mercy of one player who is not me is rather disconcerting, and since I have eventual dreams of having my business(es) be my day job, I have to figure out a solution for this.

Some options:

Diversify CPC providers.  I’ve been planning on getting AdCenter up for a while now, might as well start that this weekend if I have a few hours free.  I tried YSM (Yahoo Search Marketing) before their recent update and the experience was beyond terrible — anyone know if they’ve improved?

Have backup plans.   In the event of catastrophic failure at Google Checkout I can be recovered in under 45 seconds, because switching to 100% Paypal would take me 5 seconds in e-junkie’s control panel.  (In the event of a catastrophic failure at e-junkie… I’m probably borked.  I have a script set up to deploy an eSellerate-based website at the touch of a button, but I’d really hate to be in that position.)

Improve Yahoo/MSN’s search marketshare.  Oh, wait, thats not an option because its out of my control.  This is really the crux of my problem: Google is an absolute titan in the organic search market (at least in the US, where most of my customers live).  If there were some secret sauce I could use to improve my ranking on MSN I’d certainly use it, but for equivalent rankings on identical search terms Google gives much, much better traffic than MSN and Yahoo.

Have more ways to aquire customers than search.  Well, I do get a sizeable portion of my customers from download sites.  Aside from that, I get some from teaching sites and some more from word of mouth among my users.  Unfortunately, when my users tell their friends to go download Bingo Card Creator, their friends Google for it.  D’oh!

I Am Oddly Motivated By Free Money

December 13, 2006

I read (through the indispensable PlanetMicroISV‘s feed from WorkHappy) that Microsoft wants YOU to set up an account with adCenter this Christmas.  So much that they’re prepared to stuff $200 in your stocking (in credit, naturally) if you fork over the $5 opening fee.  Ho ho ho, does that sound tempting.  I categorically refuse to use YSM again (“Like AdWords, except inferior in every way — price, performance, features, reporting, and workflow”) but maybe MS can separate me from some of my money.  I think I’ll give them 4 months at $50 a month or so to see if I can get positive ROI.  If yes, they get kept for the long term.  If not, its an experiment that costs me a cup of cocoa.

Fie Upon You, YSM

August 5, 2006

I decided to check my Yahoo Search Marketing stats today, which is always an ordeal.  And I was pleasantly suprised to see a weekly conversion rate in the 60% region, spiking to 80% on many days…

80%?!  No, sorry, something is rotten in the land of Denmark.  So I started drilling around…

My main ad terms looked somewhere in the realm of plausibility, and then I got down to the Long Tail of searchers, the kind that get clicked on once in a week… and which had 300% conversion rates.  Some bug in Yahoo’s CR tracking has been causing them to pick up multiple hits nearly every time somebody visits my download page (possibly because folks visit the download page multiple times — this is especially easy to do if you’re running IE and double-click links by habit instead of single clicking them).

So now I’ve got to figure out some way to test whether YSM is actually performing decently or if its entirely a mirage caused by poor data analysis.  Boo.

Seasons Change, Ads Get Borked

August 4, 2006

(If this is your first time reading a search post from me: DSW are a very business-related keyword which unfortunately this blog manages to rank higher than my business on.  Apologies for the obfuscation: D01ch S1ght W0rds.  In queries and ad text its always spelled out normally.)

Well, the upcoming return of teachers to school has apparently massively shifted the number (waaaaaaaaay up) and the behavior of people searching for my search terms, and my previously decently performing ads have sunk to about 10% CR (Yahoo has also sunk, although the magnitude was a lot less).  I’m trying a couple of things to get them back up:

1)  My most common search term is a variation on “DSW list”.  I always hit that person with DSW bingo instead, which gets about a 1.5%ish CTR and formerly had a pretty decent conversion.  I decided to test actually giving them the lists, since I have them on my website and the page they are on tries to “upsell” people to the free demo about every other word.  The only problem is that for any of these search queries the #1 organic result is just as good as my site (although slightly less navigable).  So I decided to make my add stand out in the crowd:

DSW Lists
Free lists.
No kidding. 

Given that almost everybody is using the full character allotment in every line, the white space immediately catches the eye.  That plus the fact that this very closely matches their query has caused the CTR rate on the ad to jump to about 6%ish (triple to quadruple my best previous performer for this ad group), and (this was the major shocker) the conversion rate is higher, too!  Its a shade below 20% after two days (umm, boo) but given that the rest of my ads have been at 5-15% for a week I’m considering keeping it (this means my CPA has shot past 60 cents — egads!  Call the medics!).

Also, I noticed that every single ad on Google AdWords is the same: “We sell X.  Come get it!”.  Boo for lack of creativity.  I know the character limit is a little constraining but surely there is a way to get meaningful copy in four lines — the Japanese have been writing sub-17 letter poems from what is effectively a 200 word vocabulary for 500 years and they haven’t gotten bored of them yet.   (This is even more impressive if you understand how they are constrained in subjects — autumn, for example, “leaves” you with radiant colors, dragonflies, and thats about it.)

So anyhow, with poetry as my inspiration and an appreciation for the corny-goofballness that a lot of elementary school teachers appreciate:

DSW Bingo
Roses are red, violets are blue,
Bingo makes students love you.

The early results suggest that I am a better programmer than a poet.

Yahoo Advertising vs. Google Advertising

July 2, 2006

Yahoo is running a promotion where, if you pay a $5 deposit (which unlike Google’s is counted against your clicks) they’ll give you a $25 advertising credit. That is a real no brainer, so I signed up for it. And it was pretty immediately apparent why Google is kicking Yahoo’s hindquarters:

  • Google has much, much, much better web-based tools to quickly get in variations for your keywords. For example, “second grade sight word list” plugged into Yahoo’s tool gets only variations on the plurals. Google picks up second graders, etc, and also some words which are syntactically connected but are *not* variations of the words in the query. Which is great because those words are cheaper than anything as nobody is targetting obscure teaching terminology… except me.
  • Yahoo will always display your full URL people get taken to (e.g. Google displays whatever you want it to display ( One of these is obviously a lot more comfortable for the customer.
  • Google makes new ads easy. If you’ve already got one ad in a keyword group, throw in another and Google will rotate them for you trying to find the one that gets clicked on most. Yahoo, not so much. You have to go through the whole setup process again.
  • Google will have you up in minutes *if* your ad text doesn’t trigger any of their filters (e.g. no guns, no gambling, etc). My original text did (bingo is apparently a gambling word) but I got the exemption I requested within 24 hours. Yahoo will have you up and running in 72 hours.
  • Google AdWords comes with Google Analytics, which is a) worth keeping an AdWords account running for even if nobody ever converts from it, because it beats whatever web stats software you are currently using hands down b) is the perfect tool for an information junkie and c) lets you know whether all that money you’re spending on the ad campaign is actually making you money. Yahoo… no such tool, but we play well with Google Analytics, if you go through hoops with tagging URLs which we actually display?