Here are some of my writing concerning Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and related digital marketing topics:

Efficient Systems are Wasteful. (February 9, 2017) Increasing the effectiveness of your advertising efforts can mean a larger portion of revenue is spent on ‘overhead’ and less on delivering the services that are the reason why your organization exists… and that’s a good thing.

AdWords Position Preference is Dying. Good Riddance. at The Search Agents. (April 7, 2011) Google is retiring the ‘position preference’ feature in AdWords. But, in explaining why, they reveal some very interesting information about how ‘average position’ is calculated.

Is Google Using Neuromarketing in Reporting Quality Scores? at The Search Agents. (March 21, 2011) I’ve got a mystery I’m trying to solve: Quality Scores of 8 and 9 are very rare. But it hasn’t always been that way. And that might be because Google is using basic psychology to cause you to focus your time on AdWords.

Does Google Reward High Quality Scores with More Impressions? at The Search Agents. (February 14, 2011) Experienced search marketers know AdWords rewards a high Quality Score with more Impressions and punishes a low QS with fewer. Or, maybe they don’t…

Like a Rock: The ‘Bid-CPC’ Relationship at The Search Agents. (January 19, 2011) The ‘bid-CPC’ relationship in pay-per-click advertising is very stable over the period of months, despite holidays and major changes to Google’s algorithms and user interface.

From Business Intelligence to Bathtub Insights at The Search Agents. (December 30, 2010) Using online marketing data to answer wider questions about your industry is part of the domain of “business intelligence”. But doing so requires an understanding of the mechanics driving your business. Without that, it is easy to get lost in the numbers.

Google’s New “Automated Rules” Lets You Shoot Your Eye Out at Search Engine Land. (December 9, 2010) If you’re looking for some joy from your AdWords accounts this holiday season and beyond, Google’s new “Automated Rules” tool might only makes things worse. This feature helps users modify bids and budget limits based on recent performance of their ads, but gives very little guidance on how to do so in lower-risk ways that maximize return.

Braking the Rules at The Search Agents’ Blog. (December 6, 2010) Whether written out in computer code or just rattling around inside people’s heads, many PPC account managers like to use rules to help guide their bidding decisions. But it’s very easy to create rules that do more harm than good.

Google Rich Snippets for Shopping Sites: A New Dilemma at The Search Agents’ Blog. (November 4, 2010) Providing Google with price and product availability information for use in Google’s search results might turn out to be a big headache for advertisers. But not doing it might be worse.

Quality Score Never Shined My Shoes at The Search Agents’ Blog. (October 19, 2010) Many advertisers worry about how to improve the Quality Score of their ads. But it turns out that it is in Google’s best interest to ensure that the actions advertisers take have as little impact as possible.

Ad Auctions are Not Auctions at The Search Agents’ Blog. (August 24, 2010) Search engines claim their paid search advertising systems are auction-based, but here are 10 good ways bidding for PPC ad space is more like an iterated negotiation than an auction.

Betting on the Weak Horse at The Search Agents’ Blog. (August 9, 2010) In a videotape from late 2001, Osama bin Laden said: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” But when it comes to managing sponsored search advertising campaigns, betting on the weak horse can sometimes bring a larger payout.

Interview with Bradd Libby at The Search Agents’ Blog. (July 28, 2010) Technically I didn’t write this, but most of the words are quotes of mine, so I guess that counts for partial credit.

Bid Optimization in Paid Search: Aligning Advertising Strategy with Business Goals (July 2010) A white paper published by The Search Agency that I (and several other people) had a hand in writing. A PDF file is available.

Search Marketing Advice from Machiavelli (July 20, 2010) Insofar as an account manager rules the keywords and ads of a pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaign like a tormenting angel, so too must the bitterly pragmatic advice for a sovereign that Niccolo Machiavelli dispensed in The Prince and other works hold merit.

The Pareto Ad Spend Rules (July 8, 2010) Many people are familiar with the ’80/20 Rule’ (also known as the ‘Pareto Principle’). This concept is useful in paid search marketing, but not necessarily with the values of ’80’ and ’20’.

Intermediate Microeconomics for Google (June 22, 2010) Google claims that their economic impact in the US in 2009 was $54 Billion. But this figure seems to come from double-counting, adding wrong, and other fishy math.

Dirty Little Secrets of Portfolio Theory (June 7, 2010) Several search marketing firms claim to have based their account management technology on Modern Portfolio Theory. But, there are problems with portfolio theory that could easily get online marketers into trouble if they take these companies at their word.

Attack of the Teenage Quality Scores (May 3, 2010) Quality Scores (QS) on Google can change unpredictably and seemingly without reason. So, before you use QS in your advertising campaign management, be sure to see if their values are rational.

Maximize Your CPC (Apr 12, 2010) One sign of successful online marketing efforts is that your cost-per-click (CPC) should rise over time. So, if you are trying to drive your CPCs as low as possible, you are probably undermining the success of your campaigns.

Statistical Significance: Not Just For Geeks Anymore (Mar 16, 2010) With the sophistication of online marketing rapidly rising, concepts which were formerly the exclusive domain of geeks like me are becoming common topics.

Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain (Feb 24, 2010) Why doesn’t Google always show 10 ads for every search query? Because doing so wouldn’t maximize their revenue.

Lessons from Google’s Own Paid Search Campaigns: Forget The “Rules” (Feb 9, 2010) A lot of online marketers have offered tips for writing ‘killer’ pay-per-click ads, but looking at the ads that Google runs on Yahoo and Bing indicates that maybe these tips aren’t so useful after all.

The Pitfalls of Budget-Constrained Bidding (Jan 22, 2010) Introducing budget limits to your online ad campaigns affects how you should bid for space.

The Pollution Effect (Jan 19, 2010) Google’s expanded-broad-match keyword type is allowing some low-relevance ads to appear in search results. In this post, I show that it doesn’t likely take to many of these ‘showstoppers’ to cost advertisers a fortune.

The Hidden Cost of Using Budget Limits (Dec 14, 2009) It is in the search engine’s best financial interest to respond to your budget limit by simply reducing your Quality Score as your budget gets used up.

The Values of a Click (Nov 13, 2009) When determining how much a click on an ad is worth, most advertisers consider only the immediate financial benefit. But there are other values to a click, all of which must be properly accounted for when buying online advertising space.

The Highest Quality Score is Not Always the Best Quality Score (Nov 10, 2009) The formula for AdRank is so simple that it’s surprising how frequently, and grievously, people can sometimes get it wrong. The purpose of economic activity is to maximize profit, not Quality Score. So, when the two are in conflict, choose the lower QS.

Keywords are Not Stocks (Nov 4, 2009) Since it seems almost trite to say this, I’m not certain why it doesn’t appear to have been said before: “Keywords are not stocks.” But listening to many firms in the SEM industry one would think that bidding on keywords on Google is governed by the same rules as buying shares of Google, Inc. itself.

Behind the Scenes of ‘Google AdWords Bidding Tutorial’, Part 2 (Sep 29, 2009) Part 2 of my description of a simple, visual means for determining your optimal bid from Google’s Bid Simulator. Then, some straightforward math to show you how to calculate the optimal bid (and CPA and ROI) for Google economist, Dr. Hal Varian’s example of online retailer selling digital cameras.

Optimal Bidding, Part 1: Behind the Scenes of ‘Google AdWords Bidding Tutorial’ (Sep 24, 2009) Google’s chief economist, Dr. Hal Varian, produced an AdWords bidding tutorial in which he outlines a 4-step process for determining your optimal bid. The video includes a number of best practices for any PPC manager to follow, but also leaves out critical information and makes numerous simplifications.

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