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Pull the Trigger

Triggered email pays eCommerce dividends.

Triggered Emails are a powerful tool you have at your disposal on CV3. And they are very high on the bang-for-your-buck scale. They increase your touches with key site visitors, at key times, and are relatively simple to set up.  Best of all, triggered email campaigns pay dividends indefinitely. If you are doing anything cool with triggered emails, I would be very interested to hear about it. Drop me a line –

Abandoned Cart Emails and Request for Review Emails are a great place to start working on your triggered email strategy.

Abandoned cart emails are sent automatically to visitors who started the checkout process on your website, provided an email address, but never completed the order.  To understand the value of this technique think for a second about the conversion funnel on your website. If your site is like most eCommerce websites, the vast majority of visitors do not add a product to their cart. They come in, look around and leave.   Of those that do add a product, only a minority get to the point where they begin checkout. Of those that do begin checkout, you likely have a large minority that do not complete the process. This audience is THE MOST QUALIFIED LEAD SOURCE I can imagine. These are people who have come very close to ordering. Don’t let them get away!

The email you send can be timed, can include special incentives to completing the order and will prepopulate the abandoned cart info to make ordering easier.  This is free money, people! What are you waiting for?

Reviews matter. They give people unfamiliar with your brand a sense of trust about your company and your products and can help your natural search rankings by bringing fresh, keyword rich content to your site. An automated Request for a Review email message X days after an order can help you bring a stream of reviews to your website with little ongoing effort.  Simply configure an email to be sent asking the buyer to review your site and products. You may also consider holding off on the prompt until after the return period has expired (so your request doesn’t serve as a reminder to return) but sometimes sooner is better, depending on your business.

One of the keys for successful eCommerce is “working smarter, not harder”.  A robust, hosted solution like CommerceV3 is a step in the right direction.   On CV3, you don’t have to own the problem of hosting, web development, bug tracking, etc.   You can simply use the features of the system and focus on selling your products.

But as with all tools, you have to use them to get the benefit.

You can do this yourself by checking out the user documentation (or ask support to help you find it). Or if you are on the Growth Plan, talk to your coach about triggered emails. He can give you information on copy strategies and together you can make a plan. There are even email packages available where his team could do the work for you.

More Holiday Marketing Tips

Last week we talked about last minute holiday marketing tips. I received some good feedback and wanted to pass on a few extra ideas.

1) Don’t forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

I blushed when I read this email. It was an important omission. These two days help companies and customers kick off the holiday buying season early.   It certainly will vary by company and the brand relationship you have with your customers, but typically you have to be pretty aggressive to stand out on these days, e.g. 20% off or more. Perhaps you can try this to reactivate nonbuyers, nonclickers or other segments of your file while still “keeping your powder dry” for emailing your best customers other holiday offers later in the season.

  • Try subject lines that promote urgency: “Today Only… 20% Off All Blue Widgets”
  • Try to incentivize volume on items that might not normally be bought in volume “Buy 3, Get 2 Free”

2) Try a 12 Deals over 12 Days Promotion

Typically these are set up to feature one blow out item or premium on each day. Choose items that have high margin cross sells or which are lead in products to other products in your line.

3) Look Sideways for Best Practices

Study what other companies are doing for online promotion during the holidays. During the Holiday 2010 Season, Responsys tracked emails from more than 100 large retailers and published a report of holiday email trends. They cover the takeaways and outline some predictions on 2011 in this guide: Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season in 2011.

I found it be a value source of information and an excellent guide for brainstorming, but don’t forget – it’s a marketing piece for their very high end mailing solution. Not all of their “Best Practices” are appropriate for small and medium sized retailers.

One final takeaway:  Retailers have been pushing holiday marketing earlier and earlier in the season, i.e. “Black November” to start holiday promotions on November 1st.  So if you haven’t started your messaging plan in earnest, it’s high time you start.   We are in the 11th hour, but it’s not too late if you get going now. Giddyup! … and Happy Holidays.



Your Holiday Plan – Time to “Turn the Crank”

Ah, the holidays…   time with the family, good cheer, snowflakes on kittens and the crush of eCommerce retailing.

For many eCommerce retailers, this is the sales performance Super Bowl.   This post is to designed to give a few quick marketing tips to help you “get yourself right” for gameday.




If you did CPC last year, look at the corresponding keyterm performance reports for comparable periods of time last year.   It’s always interesting to me that different parts of the product selection seem to have different curves during the holiday season.   Some items peak earlier than others. Some items tend to be more for last minute shopping.   Peak season is the time to pay special attention to these trends. There are a lot of companies that don’t play the CPC game aggressively until the peak season.   You’ll see an influx of competition and price pressure to maintain position. You want to maintain your position on the terms that you are profitable on.  You need to have clarity on which terms those are. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of smaller retailers give away a lot of profit by being overly aggressive on their terms during the holiday because the prices went beyond where good ROI could be had. Conversely, you leave money on the table by not bidding aggressively on your best terms during the buying frenzy.

Consider testing a discount as a way to differentiate from the competition. For example, you might try a 10% off offer in your ad text or landing page. Run it as an A/B test with two different ads with two different tracking urls.

Lastly, double down on the holiday blitz by using Microsoft AdCenter. I’ve been impressed with the volume coming from Bing and Yahoo and you might find different veins of opportunity in the bidding environment in the AdCenter. Again, now is the time to try. There is volume and opportunity.



Turn the crank!   Have you a had a meeting to talk about ramping up your email strategy for the peak season? Whoever is in charge of email should be at the top of their game right now. This is the peak season! If ever there is a time to be aggressive, it is now. How aggressive? Short answer is “VERY”. Do you have data from last year? Use it! Unless you saw some real blowback from over mailing – ADD SOME MAILINGS. You really don’t know where the line is, until you push up against it.

Also, this is the time where you have the best chance to do some testing. Segment your list. Try 3 messages per week vs 2 messages per week and compare results.   You are trying to maximize your ROI for this year and learn for the future. The peak season is a great time to run statistically significant tests.

Testing ideas:
Try an A/B/A test. Break your list into three parts. Depending on your list size this could be 33%, 33%, 33% or 10%, 10%, 80%.  Test an offer on two of the parts and roll the winner to the remainder. This allows you to optimize your offers for more than half of your audience.

Abandoned Cart Emails

Do you have them in place?  There are incremental sales to be had here at no additional cost. Peak season is the time when you have the most abandons. If you don’t have abandoned cart emails in place there is no quicker route to ROI than to implement them now.

Likewise, Product Reviews and Review request emails. The holiday season is the time for you to get a good volume of these to build up the quantity of reviews on your site. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an abundance of fresh content for search engines and site visitors in Q1 2012?


Shopping Engines


Just make a point to revisit your feeds and tweak your listings before Thanksgiving.  Make sure your listed products are up to date and in stock.


Your Webstore


Freshen up your category list. Does it make sense to make a “Gifts” category or “Holiday” category? Consider some seasonal “Hero Images” for your homepage or category pages. If you don’t have any, there still might be time. Circle the wagons and schedule a photo shoot.




Not much to talk about here.   SEO is not something you can change quickly.  Hopefully the peak season is the time when you can reap the benefits from your natural listings (and the work you’ve done to make your site search friendly, fresh and content rich all year).


SEO 101 – 3 Kinds of Ranking Factors

This post explains three types of “ranking factors” widely believed to be important to Search Ranking at both Google and Bing.   These are:

1)      On-site factors:  What are the words on your page and how do they relate to the keywords in the search.   The search engines look at the code of your webpage.  Can they find keywords in that code.   Are the keywords found in places that the search engine thinks are important?  Is the url of your page one that implies that the page is “on target” for the search?

2)      Off-site factors:  What sites link to your site and to the pages of your site?   What keywords are in the link text that is clickable in those links?   The most talked about example is Google PageRank.  PageRank is a number that Google shows for a given webpage that shows in very rough and generic way how much “link juice” a page is understood by Google to have.   Generally speaking, if a page has more links from many different reputable sites, it will have more PageRank and will have a better chance of ranking for searches.

3)      “Keyword Agnostic Signals”:  This is a relatively new addition to ranking factors and in some ways it overlaps with Off-site factors.  Keyword Agnostic signals are things like the amount of traffic occurring at the website, the success rate of the website for engaging visitors, social mentions for the website , site speed, the age of the domain, the freshness of the content.

Do you have to score well on all three of these to rank?   It depends how competitive the ranking is for the particular term (keyword phrase) you are asking about.  Some phrases are much more competitive than others.

How can you tell which factors are the most important?   Most professional search professionals learn from trying things and from reading what other people are saying.   Matt Cutt’s blog (  is a very valuable resource since Matt is “on the inside” at Google. has an annual survey of SEO luminaries which is an important reference to the leading thinking in SEO.  Check it out at



SEO 101 – Page Titles, Meta Tags and Search Friendly URLS on CV3

UPDATED 05/13/2014: Welcome to our new series on “SEO Best Practices” in the CV3 environment.   These posts will be tagged as SEO 101, SEO 201, and SEO 301 depending on how advanced they are.  Please let us know what you think.

This post is about how to improve your CV3 site’s “On-site ranking factors” by customizing your page titles, meta descriptions and urls.  These are things you can do on your site to make your pages more search engine friendly.

Title Tags

In my opinion, optimizing your title tags is the single greatest “bang for your buck” in SEO. That does not mean that keywords in your title are sufficient to get you ranking for keyterms, but they are an element that is easy to change and which search engines look at to determine what your page is about.  It is an eCommerce best practice to take the time to come up with keyword rich page titles for the different pages of your website.


  1. Title tags should be no longer than 60 characters in length and not contain commas. You can use pipes, dashes and colons (“|”, “-“, “:”), but not more than once.
  2. Try to write it like a catchy title to an article.
  3. Keywords in the title should only be relevant to what is on the page and include brand name only at the end.
  4. Never use keyword phrase more than once and try to keep it toward the front of the title.


Bad: Red Tomatoes | Buy Red Tomatoes | Red Tomatoes Online | Your Brand

Good: Red Cherry Tomatoes Large Selection | (This page would be about cherry tomatoes)

A great way to tell if Google likes your title is to look at the search results for that page. If your title matches the title in the search results then you are good. If it does match the search results that means that Google does not like your page title and has come up with its own title for that page.

(To see what your page looks like in search results type in to Google search “site: http://Your URL)

Meta Keywords

Meta Keywords have been retired and are no longer used by search engines. (leave them blank).

Meta Description

The meta description field is important. It is sometimes used on the engines’ search results pages as the descriptor of the page that accompanies the clickable link.   It is worthwhile to write a good meta description for your pages to help your search listings get more clicks. That is an important part of SEO often overlooked as people tend to focus on ranking alone.

  1. Limit your meta description to 140-155 characters.
  2. Try to use your keyword phrase in the description twice.
  3. Make sure that the description is relevant to what is on the page focusing on the product or service.
  4. Describe benefits of your product or service (marketing copy) this will increase click through rates.

Search Friendly URLs

Search friendly urls are urls that have words the search engine can read and understand. These urls can have keywords that tell the search engine that your page is about the keyword topic and therefore can help you rank for a keyword search in a way that a typical “dynamic url” can’t.

Always use dashes as opposed to underscores between words. Search engines view dashes as a space, but if an underscore is used Search Engines view it as part of one word. Always use lowercase and never use spaces, commas, quotations, apostrophes, parenthesis or dollar signs.


This url is not friendly:

This url is friendly:

Bonus Tips:

Product Descriptions

This field is also important. You can use the same method you would for your meta descriptions. Include the search term for the product in the description.  (You can use the Meta Description for your product description.)

Product Names

When coming up with a product title, try to keep it short but descriptive.

For example, if you sell brown high heel shoes:

You would not want to have the title as “brown shoes” or “high heel shoes” you want it to be “Brown High Heel Shoes”. Better yet, include the brand if it’s one shoppers would be searching for like “Gucci Brown High Heel Shoes”

Keep in mind if this page is exclusively focused on “Brown High Heel Shoes” this should also be a part of your page title, Meta description and Product description.


How to Edit Title Tags and Meta Tags in CommerceV3

In the left navigation go to “Marketing” then click on “Meta Tags”.

Click on Default and you will see the edit Meta Tags interface:

You can fill in the Title Tag, Keyword and  Description fields here.

Considerations for Title Tag
-Put your keywords first and any general info second, e.g. “Civil War Biographies – Rare Historical Books for Collectors”,  “French Revolution Books – Rare Historical Books for Collectors”, etc
-Limit the title to 65 characters. Google will crop your title to the nearest full word.
-All titles should be typed in Title Case (or Proper Case)

Consideration for Meta Tags
Description-  Depending on the page, you can either write 3-4 sentences about what the page is about (remember to use good keywords), or you can write out structured data, i.e. just the facts.   I think this latter technique is especially good for product pages (see below).

Keywords- Pick 10-25 keywords or keyphrases and separate them with commas.

Category Pages and Product Pages:

CV3 does a great job of providing good page titles at the category and product level. By default, the page titles on category pages are simply the category name. In many cases this is a pretty good title. However, category names can be optimized for SEO by adding more keywords either before or after the category name. To do this, navigate to the Edit Category page in your CV3 admin (under Inventory in the left navigation) and then add your preferred page title in the “Meta Title” field in the Information section of the page.

The meta description and meta keywords fields are where you can edit your category page’s meta tags. The general rules for these fields are the same as described in the section above. However, remember to reinforce the category’s keyword themes in the meta fields.

For product pages, CV3 again does a fine job with titles. By default the page title for a product page will be [Category Name] –[Product Title].  That might be very good. However, sometimes you might want to do something different. For example, a bookstore might have the title of the book as the product title. It might be smart to make the page title include the Author’s name as well since people often search by author. To change Titles and Metas for products in CV3 navigate to the Edit Product page and edit the fields under Product Display -> Product Display.

Page Templates

CommerceV3 allows you to specify a unique title, description, and set of keywords for each “top level” template.    This allows you  each static template to be given unique meta information to further increase SEO. Top level templates are those like “viewcart.tpl”. Other templates, like  _top.tpl, which are included within other templates will not have the custom meta information applied to the page.

To edit, navigate to your template list (Design -> Template Library), find and click the template, expand the Edit Meta Information section and Customize.


Note: CV3 also provides ways to write title and meta tags automatically according to a formula. This is beyond the scope of this blog post. If you are interested in this topic, let us know and we will write a subsequent post specifically on this.

How to Make Search Friendly URLs in CommerceV3

CommerceV3 makes it easy to make search friendly urls for your categories and products. To make a search friendly category url, navigate to the Edit Category page and, expand the Options section and type the name you want to use for pages in this category.

And it will show up like this:


For products, navigate to the Product, Expand Product Display -> Product Display and type the words you want to use in the url for the product.

And it will show up like this:

Note: You should not use spaces in the category or product url fields.   Separate the words with dashes instead.

With a little effort on these three areas – titles, metas, and custom URLs, you will have a solid foundation for optimizing your CommerceV3 website for search.  Look for upcoming posts on more SEO techniques in the coming weeks, including using Google Webmaster Tools, the different types of Ranking Factors that determine your search position and ways to build inbound links.  As always, please let us know if this post has been helpful to you.



5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Google Places

Before I get into the tips, I should probably first give a little primer on Google Places and why you might care about it.   Google Places is a database of local business information that is used by Google in a large number of ways.   If you have a brick and mortar store or a public place for business information and you’re interested in being found when people search for you from their computer or phone, you should pay attention.   The Google Places database is a very important asset for Google and the date in it is being leveraged more and more in search results.   This trend will surely continue as the mobile web becomes a bigger slice of the internet pie.

If you are a web only company with no public place of business, you can ignore this post  🙂


5 Tips for Getting the Most out of Google Places

1.)   Create a listing

Google Places listings are free and creating one is generally not difficult.  Google does a good job at the main Google Places page helping business owners getting started.

Beyond simply helping you to create a listing (claim your listing if it already exists), Google gives specific tips on how to create a good listing.

2) Tweak your listing

Google maps listings (where Google Places live) are similar to Google search in that there is an algorithm for determining which listing to show.   How does it work?   Good question.   As you can imagine, it’s just like the standard Google Search Ranking algorithm:  It is not perfectly clear, there are many opinions and it’s complicated.   However, like the rest of SEO, there are “best practices”  that should be followed regardless of how much you are willing to invest in optimization.   Important factors are the completeness of your listing and the words in the content you provide.  Add keywords to your company description and business categories that would be used by prospective searchers.

For in depth look at Google Places optimization you can also refer to this excellent post at  If you want some help, contact us.

3.)   Encourage your happy customers to leave reviews!

Google reviews have become more important recently and I suspect that reviews will continue to grow in importance – perhaps integrating with Google Plus at some point in the future.

How do you encourage customers to leave reviews?  Make it a habit to ask.   I am a big believer in investing in customer feedback in the eCommerce environment.   I think it’s important for companies to get good at getting feedback back from customers.   Are you asking for that feedback?   Are you responding to good feedback with a follow up request for the customer to tell others (via a review on your site or throught their social network)?

4.)   Buy advertising

This might not be for everyone, but if local search is important to you you might want to pursue promoting your listing either with Adwords Location Extensions or with Google Adwords Express campaign.   With geotargeting and device targeting,  you could land very local searchers searching from mobile devices on your Google Places page rather than your website.

5.)   Create an Offer

Google Places has an option to create Places Offers for your listing.   Offers allow you to provide show special coupons in your listing.   Places visitors can access these, i.e from their mobile phone.

Places Mobile Check InThere is also a new offer format called Mobile Check-In Offers.   Here’s how Google describes in on the Places Help site “When users for businesses using Google for mobile devices, they’ll be able to access your Google Places Offer on their phone. “

For more info check out the Mobile Check In Offers page.

Thanks for the emails and please keep them coming.     Let me know what traction you’re getting from Google Places and feel free to ask any questions you have.



Note on KPIs:  If you know Timberline, you know that we are Google Analytics wonks.   However, the tracking of Google Places traffic in Analytics did not make the 5 tips above.   The reason?  It’s just a little too complicated to “do it right” (in quotes because the definition of “right” will vary from company to company).   However, if you are interested in the details, give us a call.   Also, here is a very helpful post by Rebecca Lehmann that outlines the options.

Presenting, by Popular Demand, the Tracking Parameter

We often get questions about tracking parameters. Specifically, people wonder about what tracking parameters are, how to add them to urls and how to use the parameters provided by Google Analytics.

First, just a quick overview on why you should care about tracking parameters.   The bottom line is that without tracking parameters, many campaigns are very difficult to track.   Tracking parameters allow you to tell your reporting engine how to show tracking data in reports.  They allow you to give the data in your reports the names that make sense to you, and to group the data in your reports into units that make sense and are actionable.

Like many things in the internet space, understanding tracking parameters is simple once you know it, but sometimes you need someon to give you a foundation of understanding before you can internalize the
knowledge.   That’s what I’ll try to do here.

To start, you’ll want some vocabulary.   Tracking parameters are a specific kind of query string parameter.   A query string is a part of a url. A url is the tech term for a web address.

Now, let’s dive in…

These are all urls:

Of these 5 urls the last three have query strings.   A query string starts with a question mark and contains one or more name-value pairs.   The name
value pairs have a parameter and a value.    Let’s look at these in more depth.

The first url above has one parameter, “q”, whose value is “dayparting”.   The second url has two
parameters, “q” and “sort” with values “dayparting” and “asc” respectively.   You will notice that the name value pairs are separated by ampersands.

Generally speaking, query strings pass specific information to the hosting server (the server that has the file that you are requesting with your web browser) so that the hosting server can deliver specific
information back to you .

In the case of Google Analytics, tracking parameters are added to the url to talk to javascript on your webpages that in turn talk to Google so that your Google Analytics can understand the visit better and report on it in a useful way.

There are 5 parameters used in Google Analytics.


I won’t go into what these parameters correspond to in GA reporting (let me know if you want that and I’ll do it in another post.)

How to add Google tracking parameters to your urls.

The key is that each url should have only one question mark.   The question mark says to the server “ my query string parameters start here”.  Having more than one question mark can cause errors.

If your url does not have a query string parameter you need to add one at the end of the url and then put your name value pairs.

could become

could become blog/eric/?utm_campaign=email&utm_content=banner

If your url already has a question mark, you need only to add your tracking parameters as name value pairs.
You start with an ampersand (to say, “here is another parameter”) and keep going.

could become

could become blog/eric/? sortorder=asc

Did you see how the two examples I gave end in a slash, “/”?   Adding the query string is easy in
these cases, you can just add it at the end.

However, not all urls do.   What do you do if yours doesn’t? Unfortunately it depends on the case and I’ll need to explain why.

To understand the slashes in urls,  it’s helpful to remember that urls are requests to a webserver for a file.   The slashes give a path to the information you are requesting.  They indicate which folder (aka directory) the file lives in.   There is a master folder called the root for your domain name that holds all the other folders.   It can be found either by typing in the domain name

or by typing the domain name with a trailing slash

Beyond that, all the other folders are specified using slashes for each level you go in.

specifies that I am looking for a file called within a folder called “eric” within a folder called “blog” which is found at the root.

No file is specified in that request.   That’s OK. Most servers have a default file they will serve if no file is specified.  However, sometimes there is a file request.  This is the last thing you need to know (I think).

File names end with a suffix.   A file suffix starts with a period.  Common file suffixes for web files are


If your url ends with a file name, you can simply add the question mark and your tracking parameters.

could become

Generally speaking the order of your parameters does not matter as long as you are following the proper syntax of starting your query string with a question mark and separating your name value pairs with

Here are a couple of common examples of using Google Analytics tracking parameters to get reports on common campaigns:

Ad Center CPC Destination URLS:[the keyword for this link if you are using keyword level destination urls or
‘default’ if not]&utm_campaign=[your campaign name]

Email:[mailing name]&utm_medium=email&utm_content=[the specific link if you’re interested in reporting on that]

First Thoughts on Google Plus One

Have you heard about Google Plus One  (+1)?    Google launched it earlier this month and seems to be poised to push it.  For example, it’s front and center on Google Ad Innovations currently (great site which makes a great default homepage, by the way:, and it’s a very logical play for Google as they embrace social.


Here’s what I love about it

Plus 1 brings social media to where eCommerce people really need it – Search.   Social is here to stay and there’s no doubt that social connections are going to continue to influence ecommerce buying decisions more and more. Plus One puts Google in an interesting place in this dynamic.  It allows them to leverage the unique selling proposition of the adwords platform – very powerful psychographic targeting capabilities via keywords to have gain a foothold in social.

I also really love that the Plus Ones you see are only of those people whom you know.   That makes the recommendation much stronger in my opinion and it makes Plus One much more useful to me.  That’s pretty cool.

So I think it’s an interesting and smart play by Google  …  um, good for them, but “So what?”     Can you as a marketer jump on this and make a huge difference for your brand?

I don’t think so… not yet.


What I don’t love about it

1) You have to have a public Google Profile to Plus One something.   It’s pretty easy to do, but the problem is that few people have done it and I’m not sure that people will be compelled to do it.  What’s the upside for them?   It seems to me that there isn’t an immediate payback for doing so.  On Facebook you get to hear about the lives of people – long lost friends, neighbors, family, etc.   People share stories.  Plus One is a lot less rich.

But perhaps this isn’t at all what Plus One is trying to be.

I guess it’s a bit like Amazon ratings… people DO seem to do those…but the difference is that they are talking to the whole world and not just their friends.   I think that stage is the attraction and incentive.   Imagine if the only reviews you saw on Amazon were those by your friends.   How often would that be useful?

It’s sort of a chicken-and-egg problem with Google Plus One.   I suppose if I were to start really seeing value of commentary from friends, I would be inclined to pay back that Karmic debt.   At this point, however, I’m seeing nothing.

Maybe Google is big enough to overcome this.   I feel like they have been patient in the past with new offerings.   They put something out there and learn… They continue to innovate and find new ways to bring value and in time the offering is really compelling.  Gmail was like that,  Adwords didn’t start as the leader in it’s space, Analytics has gotten better year after year and looks to be poised for a great leap in 2011.   Maybe Plus One will just take time.

But the bottom line is that it is NOT super important to most marketers at this time.   There just isn’t a population there yet.


That said, what is the downside of promoting Plus One on your website?   There is very little investment for you as a website owner to do so.   Sure, not alot of people will use it, but it probably does behoove you to get in the game and start seeing what Plus One is and how it’s being used.   My understanding is that data will be available with Google Webmaster Tools (which in turn is becoming more integrated with Google Analytics).  It’s Google, after all – they are always worth watching.

Besides that, the other trick is to be great in the other things you do.   Have a great product, have incredible customer support and get Plus Oned.  That’s a piece of cake, right?














Using Dynamic Keywords: 5 Tips

Earlier I blogged about using Dynamic Keyword Insertion for paid links. Here are five tips to maximize your return using DKI.

1)  Tighter adgroups work better.

Dynamic Keywords can help make your ads more relevant, but they can also make you look silly. Have you ever seen an ad that says something like, “Buy Abdominal Pain at!”? I know I have, and I doubt it performed very well.  You need to look at your keywords and make sure that they will work properly when the dynamic content is in place. It is simplest when all of the ads are on the same theme and have the same syntactical requirements.  After you launch your campaign, you can use Google’s Ad Preview tool to check your work.

2) Specify a good default.

The Ad Copy rules regarding character limitations still apply in the case of DKI. So if the dynamic ad including the dynamic search term exceeds the space alotted, the engine won’t show the ad that way. Instead it will show the fallback default option that you have supplied.  Don’t just punt here and write something that will fit.  Work the ad! Write something that fits AND sells.

3) Use case properly.

Each engine has it’s own rules for case. The help links will give you the details.  Remember to use the casing abilities you have at your disposal and test different versions.  Though the example above doesn’t include it, I’ve found that an ALL CAPS word can make a big difference in ads. Give it a try.

4) DKI is not just for titles.

Dynamic keywords are most often used in titles only.  Indeed, that’s a fine place to start.  In my experience, the titles make the biggest difference. However, I think agreement between titles and description can also make a big difference. I definitely suggest testing a version where you try a dynamic insertion in the description lines too. You can also test dynamic insertion in the display url.

5) DKI works in MSN/Yahoo too. Try “param” values in MSN/Yahoo

Not only does MSN/Yahoo Adcenter have Dynamic Keywords, it’s also has something that Adwords does not that can make your ads more relevant. That’s right, the Alliance is out ahead in this area. The feature is called “Placeholders”.  Placeholders allow to change your ads throughout your campaigns by changing parameters that are inserted in your ad.  These parameters are referenced as {param2} and {param3}.

Example: The ad text “All roses are {param2} and {param3}” could change throughout the ad campaign to:

All roses are 10% off and shipped anywhere in the country.
All roses are 25% off and shipping is free.
All roses are half-price and guaranteed fresh.

Like dynamic keywords, you can (and should) specify default copy for your placeholders. Learn more about placeholders here.