A piece of advice that I previously offered was to humanize your blog, which in essence, means writing in a conversational style and trying not to sound like a robot spitting out code.

So, we are going to “humanize” this post from another angle, by taking a closer look at the anatomy of a good blog and examining the integral parts that make blogs the valves that lead straight to the heart of your company.

So, get out your gloves, mask and scalpel; actually, a pen and paper would suffice for this instance and let’s get going!

Title

For starters, your blog should begin with an attention-grabbing title that will entice people to click on your post. Blogs that lead with boring titles will usually fall flat. For example, if you have a boring blog title, it’s kind of like you are playing a rousing game of Operation and you keep hitting the edge of each opening spurring on that annoying buzzing sound. So, think outside of the box. Keep the content at the forefront and try to incorporate puns to draw readers into reading your post. Creativity goes a long way when writing titles.

Content

Once you’ve done that, the next step is to keep them there! The best way to do that is to write interesting content. As a rule of thumb, each blog post that you write should offer a solution to a problem. For this blog in particular, we are giving you a solution for boring blogs by suggesting that you stitch interesting information into your blog. Always remember to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry so that you can stay current and write relevant content.

Images

You have probably heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” before. And let’s just say we hope that you never write a blog that is actually 1,000 words. Instead, rather than posting content heavy blogs, break up the monotony with images. By adding pictures to your blog, you will be adding a visual element that will help support your content.

Sharing

Last but not least, give readers the option to share your blog. By doing so, you are increasing the chance your company will be discovered via social media. Each and every time that you write a new blog post, you are creating content that people could potentially share on social media networks like Facebook, Google +, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter. Sharing is caring, and this business practice will help expose your blog, your business, and your company to a new audience who might not know that your company exists.

In order to keep a healthy blog presence for your company, you have to nurture your consumers with a steady dose of creativity and originality when creating your content. This can be done in a number of ways. For starters, create an attention grabbing title, add interesting content and eye-catching images, and last but not least, give the reader the option to share your content.

Well, that concludes our quick lesson on the anatomy of a good blog. As always, happy blogging!

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In the past few months we have seen quite a few updates and changes to Google Adwords. Along with a slick site redesign, Google has rolled out some new features. One new offering that we at Flying Cork have found to be particularly successful has been the launch of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA).

Remarketing

Remarketing in general is a novel idea. A potential customer clicks on one of your ads, but may or may not convert. No matter what action is taken (including inaction), a cookie is placed, and these site visitors continue to get served your ads as they make their way around the internet. It is an extremely powerful way to stay engaged with your audience.

RLSA

Prior to the launch of RLSA a few months ago, the display network was the only way to go about remarketing. While I strongly believe in remarketing on the display network, it made little sense that remarketing on the search network wasn’t an option.

For those unfamiliar, RLSA works by showing your ad to those on your remarketing lists whenever they search your keywords on the Google Search Network. Since you are only bidding on ads being served to the people on your list and not to everyone on the internet, you can bid on keywords that may be more generic or broad than the targeted keywords in your other campaigns. Visitors who have been remarketed to are more likely to convert and these conversions are more valuable since they would be clicking on your ad for the second, third, etc., time. The strategy is to bid higher on these keywords to make sure that your ads have the best possible placement and get the most eyes.

There are many different options available when building your remarketing lists. In our most recent RLSA campaigns, we have remarketed to two lists. One list contains our “converters”, those who came to our site and converted. The other list is “non-converters”, those who came to our site but left before converting. For those who converted, we would like to bring them back and offer them another opportunity to convert. These “converters” are more likely to either repeat the conversion process or to take the next step in the conversion funnel. And those who did not convert? We want another shot!

Since their initial click has already shown that they have some interest in what you are offering, these are people you want to focus on with a more specific offer. What’s more, because they have previously been on your site, you will know a bit more about them (even if it is just what keyword they clicked on to get there), which will help you better target the next ad they see. You can even get more specific and market directly to those who added items to their cart, but left before completing the sales process. However you decide to target, write ad copy that speaks specifically to your audience.

Setting up an RLSA campaign is a must in any Adwords account. This is not a feature that should be overlooked, even if you haven’t had great success with remarketing on the display network. Of course, if you need a hand getting started, we’d be happy to help!

January marked more than just the start of the new year. Last month also ushered in a round of newly available generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). These refer to a domain’s extension, most commonly .com. New gTLDs will be rolling out on a weekly basis throughout 2014 as they become available to registrars. This new program initiated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), will increase the list of generic top-level domains from 22 to over a thousand. ICANN has been quoted as saying the move is meant to foster “competition, innovation and choice in the domain space.”

A Brief History of .Something

In the very early stages of the internet, the core set of gTLDs consisted of .com, .info, .net, and .org and each had a specific purpose. Businesses were meant to use .com, non-profit groups used .org, etc.

Generally, a gTLD falls into one of three categories: unrestricted, sponsored, and geographic.

  • Most often, a site will be a .com which is an unrestricted gTLD meaning it can be registered by anyone.
  • Sponsored gTLDs, while less common, serve to allow domains to be based around a narrower community. Private agencies or organizations who sponsor these gTLDs are responsible for enforcing the rules governing who is eligible to use it. Examples of sponsored gTLDs include: .edu, .gov, and .mil – the latter two being administered by the United States government.
  • Geographic TLDs can be country-code specific, like .uk, or refer to a broader geographic region such as .asia. Lenient registration guidelines have allowed clever sites to build out more natural looking URLs like youtu.be using the Belguim country-code TLD.

Releasing the .Hounds

So this brings us back to ICANN, which decided that anyone with $185,000 (plus another $25,000 per year in ‘fees’) to spare could reserve the right to register domains with any gTLD. Donuts, the largest registry for new gTLDs, entered the foray this week with: .bike, .clothing, .guru, .clothing, .holdings, and .plumbing. Only a handful of well-funded entities were able to secure the rights to multiple gTLDs. By some estimations, Donut applied for more than 300 generic top-level domains.

Major brands like Google, McDonalds, and Amazon applying for branded TLDs was expected. It doesn’t require a marketing degree to recognize the wisdom in a company like Chrysler requesting .jeep for use in its brand materials. L’Oreal was keen to request gTLDs that represent individual product lines, only to withdraw a portion of their applications later.

One of the more contentious aspects of the ICANN plan was the process that was set up to allow brands to protect themselves from cybersquatters who like to ruin the internet for everyone. Brands are given 60 days inside a trademark ‘clearinghouse’ where they can submit their brands in the hope of staving off squatters.

How will this all end?

It might seem like a no-brainer to start buying up all the attention-grabbing new domains you can think of in 30 seconds or less. Just make sure your investment in a domain will pay off. A good example of a failed attempt at widespread domain adoption was the introduction of the .xxx gTLD in 2011. The adult industry did not embrace the domain the way investors thought it would.

The next 18 months will give us a clearer picture of what gTLDs will stick and which will fall by the wayside. Bigger brands will most likely be the earliest adopters; confident in the the ability of loyal consumers to decipher the new URLs and respond with clicks. A few may even be adopted as standard in specific industries going forward. For instance, you might see flyingcork.agency someday.

Whether you opt to go narrow or broad, be sure you have a brand domain strategy. Dubious online registrars will try to convince you that you need to scoop up every last version of YourCompany.whatever and that is not necessarily true. Smart companies will look for solid opportunities to inject clever, branded domain suffixes whenever possible. Taking a “something DOT something” approach could lead to a more memorable URL in your consumers’ minds. Now, it’s up to you to decide how your domain ends.

Search Arbitrage is the practice of purchasing a keyword on one search engine (i.e. Google) while directing the person searching to another engine (i.e. Ask.com, about.com, info.com) for the same or similar more expensive term and profiting from the price discrepancy. In layman’s terms these “search engines” are paying for a click to get a click and earning a profit from the difference.

Don’t Be Evil

It is well known that Google was founded on the tagline “Don’t be Evil” and this mantra can still be seen on the philosophy page of its company site today. Bullet number six states “You can make money without doing evil.” Yes! You can absolutely make money without being evil and most of the time Google is offering a very valuable service when it comes to Google Adwords. Heck, Google Adwords is the basis for the career I have today and I could not be more grateful for it. However, when it comes to the practice of Search Arbitrage and turning a blind eye to it, Google is simply reaping the spoils from more than one angle while sticking it to the businesses that continually push Google’s stock prices up and to the right.

How Search Arbitrage Works

Below are a few examples of how these ads appear for a search on the term “water heater information”.

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Clicking on the Ask.com listing then takes you to the Ask.com search engine for the term “Water Heater Prices.” Ask.com serves mostly paid ads above the fold. In 2008 Google made an effort to clean up this practice, but after reports of low adsense revenues the following year, the company allowed this practice to creep back in without thinking about the advertisers that would be affected.

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How We Protected Our Client’s Branded Terms

Articles about Search Arbitrage date back as far as 2006. However, I have never seen it affect a client’s search campaigns until recently. Sites like Ask.com, webcrawler.com and about.com were buying our client’s branded terms and using their branded name in the headlines. They would then redirect the search to a related more expensive one, which brought them to a property that served Google Partner Network search ads for the more expensive term. Sounds legit, right? Yeah not really.

For example, let’s say our client was Nike. (Nike: We know you are not a client, but if you want to become one you can find my contact info below!). It costs Nike $0.15 to bid on their branded term and an Ask.com listing with the headline “Nike Shoes” is in position 2. Ask.com takes the person searching to the Ask.com search engine for the search term “Nike shoes,” which broad matches everyone bidding on the term “shoes”. You can quickly see how a $0.10 click can result in a $7.00+ click on a broad match for “shoes” on Ask.com.

We processed our client’s trademark complaint by each individually branded keyword to get these sites to stop using our client’s branded terms in their ad copy. Over the next three weeks Google eventually stopped these search engines from using our client’s branded terms. In theory, the branded terms should now be safe. Third party search engines cannot use the branded search terms in their headline copy anymore.

The chart below shows how our client’s branded CPCs increase by over 100% when Ask.com and others started their Search Arbitrage efforts. Once Google finally stopped these engines from using our client’s branded terms, CPCs returned to normal.

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Below are three of the most obvious effects of Search Arbitrage and who benefits from it.

  1. Increased CPCs across branded and non-branded terms (Ding, Ding, Ding. Winner = Google).
  2. Increased listing on inexpensive search terms (Ding, Ding, Ding. Winner = Google).
  3. Serving more expensive ads on third party search engines. (Ding, Ding, Ding. Winner = Google and third party engines).

Google Wins the Search Arbitrage Game

For those keeping score at home the results are below.

Google = +3

Third Party Search Engines = +1

Average Adwords User = -3

Google will argue that it is providing a service and further information on your search term. If this was true though Google would be conceding that Ask.com and these other third party search engines are serving more relevant results than its search engine. At the end of the day, we all know that Google has done too superior a job on its search algorithm to concede search relevancy to a third party search engine. It is clear Google is winning the Search Arbitrage game at the expense of its customers and have done very little over the past few years to clean it up.

Dan Monarko is the Director of Digital Media at Flying Cork. He has worked with such clients as Tiffany & Co., Forrester & HSBC on their digital media efforts. Follow him on twitter @dmonarko.