how your placement on Google is determined

The Role of Quality Score and Ad Rank in Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is more than bidding for relevant keywords. To be successful an advertiser needs develop quality landing pages and engaging content.


What is Search Engine Marketing?

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of advertising that that involves bidding on keywords so that a specific ad will appear on the results page. It is commonly referred to as PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, and is popular on Google and Bing search engines.


Here is an example of search engine marketing from the searcher’s perspective:

pizza search query with sample ads from Pizza Hut and Dominos on Google AdWords


For this example, the search query was “pizza,” which also happens to be the keyword. If instead of “pizza,” a searcher entered “where can I buy pizza near me,” the search query would be that entire piece of text. Advertisers may bid for a single keyword (which may be a word in a search query), or a keyword phrase (which may match an entire search query).

When the keyword was entered into the Google search bar, an auction took place. In this example Pizza Hut and Dominos were two of the bidders competing for their ad to appear.


How Does Bidding Work in Search Engine Marketing?

To explain this process, it’s necessary to go back in time, to before the search occurred.

Well before the search for “pizza” began, Pizza Hut, Dominos and a number of other companies set up a Google AdWords account, and created a campaign targeting people searching for “pizza.” These companies can target people searching in specific geographic locations, by what type of device they were using to perform the search, or a number of other factors.

Within each campaign are a number of Ad Groups, which are commonly differentiated from each other based on advertising strategy, or the web page searchers visit when they click the ad (also known as a landing page). Each Ad Group contains a set of keywords and ads.


In Google AdWords, an Ad Group looks like this:

Ad Group example from AdWords

In Google AdWords, an ad looks like this:

ad example from Google AdWords


Keywords are words or phrases a company believes searchers will use when trying to find the product being offered. Essentially, an advertiser is attempting to guess (though it should more appropriately be called a well-researched, educated guess) what someone would search for if they knew what they wanted, but weren’t sure where to buy it. For each keyword, a bid is placed which represents the maximum amount an advertiser is willing to pay for their ad to appear when a person searches for that keyword.


In Google AdWords, keywords look like this:

keywords example from Google AdWords

Every advertiser performs the actions, which leads to an auction when multiple advertisers bid for the same keyword. If two or more advertisers bid for the same keyword, an auction occurs, but it’s not always the highest bid that wins.


How Does Google Determine Ad Placement?

Google, like most popular search engines, uses an algorithm and ranking system to decide which ads will appear on the SERP (search engine result page). The bid is only one factor that is considered.


Here is how Google determines which ads to show:

how your placement on Google is determined


There are two key metrics which are measured to determine where an ad will rank (Ad Rank). The CPC (cost-per-click) bid and the Quality Score are both evaluated when a search is performed. The keywords with the best combination of these two factors will earn the highest Ad Rank.

The CPC bid is the maximum amount an advertiser is willing to pay when a searcher clicks their ad. The Quality Score is a measure of multiple factors.


Here is how Google determines the Quality Score of a keyword:

how Google determines your quality score


A keyword’s Quality Score is measured by factoring in:

  • The relevance of the keyword, ad and landing page’s URL, to the search query.
  • The quality and relevance of the landing page to the search query.
  • The past performance of the campaign, including historical CTR (click-through-rate), previous Quality Scores and overall effectiveness of the campaign.

Based on these two metrics, Google determines the rank of every ad competing for the same keyword. Similarly, because both of these metrics have the potential to change from minute-to-minute, Ad Rank can constantly fluctuate.


Why is Ad Rank Important?

Ad Rank is important because people rarely view the second or third search results page; and they generally click the first result.

Based on one study by Chitka, the search result with the top position received nearly 33% of the total traffic. The second position received 18% and third result gathered 11% of the potential traffic. After that the results degraded quickly.

In total, the results on the first page received 92% of all the potential traffic, while the second page received less than 5%, and the third captured 1%.

From this research it’s clear that placement is critical, and explains why competition is tough for so many industries. Every business is fighting to gain the best Ad Rank because the top spot will often capture the most traffic.


What Determines a Good Search Engine Marketing Strategy?

Search engine marketing is more than choosing keywords and bidding more aggressively than competitors. The Quality Score is a measure of overall campaign performance, relevance and landing page quality. An ad gains the top placement because the advertiser addressed all factors that are measured by the Quality Score. This often requires the cooperation of multiple people within a business, or one person who knows how to do it all.


Search Engine Marketing is a mix of:

  • SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Keyword research
  • Market research
  • Advertising strategy
  • Web development
  • Web design
  • Content marketing


To be successful with SEM, an advertiser needs to:

  • Research and understand their target market, including how they search
  • Research and discover the keywords people will use to search for specific products or services.
  • Build an advertising strategy that targets the most qualified searchers at the exact moment they’re ready to make a purchasing decision.
  • Develop a high-quality landing page that is relevant to a specific set of targeted keywords.
  • Design a landing page that is engaging and clearly communicates its purpose and value to visitors.
  • Incorporate targeted keywords effectively and organically throughout the landing page.
  • Create engaging, interesting and valuable content for the landing page to keep visitors on page longer and encourage them to return.
Email Marketing for Noobs Part 2 blog header

Email Marketing for Noobs – Part 2

In Part 1 of the Email Marketing for Noobs series, I explained the benefit of permission-based email marketing, and how to stay within your recipient’s circle of trust.

The Circle of Trust

Part 2 goes one-step further and helps you get the most out of your email campaigns and efforts.


Be a Trusted Email Sender


There’s no better way to be successful with email marketing than to send emails recipients actually want to open, read and share. The best way to do this is to only send messages that provide some sort of value.

If you’re a small business without much to say or offer, sending an email once a month, or quarter, is enough. If you’re a business that regularly generates valuable content, or consistently provides exclusive offers or discounts, multiple emails a week or month may still be effective.

Don’t send emails just because it seems like it’s been a while since the last one was sent out. Instead, only send emails when there’s something significant to offer.

The recipient doesn’t care how often they receive an email from a brand. Their only concern is the value of each and every email.

Otherwise, you’re just sending something that will end up in their trash.


Personalize the Email Address

Hello my name is noreply

When someone views their inbox the first thing they’re looking for is names they recognize. These names can be friends and family, colleagues or brands. People know which people and businesses they enjoy communicating with (or receiving communications from), and open these emails first.

Names that recipients recognize stand out and prompt them to open the message. Names they don’t recognize are left unopened until later, or even ignored completely.

Email addresses like:

Don’t look personal. These are email addresses which often send out mass-messages. There’s nothing personal about these names and people are rarely persuaded to believe they are.

Recipients don’t have the time or desire to open these types of emails. If they don’t instantly recognize the email address they probably won’t open it at all.

When choosing the email address that’ll be used to send out marketing messages, pick one that looks like it’s from a real person; not some faceless, automated robot.




Write an Honest and Clear Subject Line

The most important part of every single email is the subject line. This single line often decides whether an email will be opened, ignored, deleted or marked as spam.

no spam

In 50 characters or less, a subject line must explain the purpose and intent of an email, invoke a reaction, stand out or detail its value; sometimes all four. A subject line is responsible for getting the recipient to open.

Don’t be too clever when writing subject lines; it’s often better to be straightforward than write something so witty it’s misunderstood. Five – ten words aren’t enough to explain context and it’s easy for a subject line to be misinterpreted if it isn’t direct.

Don’t attempt to hide the emails purpose or trick the recipient into opening the message based on a few words.

Homer Simpsons opening can of snakes

If the email is asking the recipient to take a specific action, requesting information, or attempting to sell something, make this clear. This is the difference between trying to capture leads by quantity over quality.

If the email is only for a small group of people interested in a very specific topic, use the subject line to be transparent. If only a handful of people open the email, but all are interested in whatever the email’s topic, this is far better than 1000 opens and only 5 interested recipients.

Effective subject line writing involves a practice that makes many marketers uncomfortable; honesty and transparency. Tell recipients what the email is about, briefly, and make sure to live up to that promise.


Write a Less-Formal Email

When people send and receive emails they typically don’t expect perfectly worded, eloquent and professional messages. Email is a quick-form of communication that is generally used for close friends, family and colleagues. Even inter-office email has a casual feel to it.

Don’t write emails that sound like they should appear below a company’s letter head.

Effective online marketing requires understanding how people communicate on different platforms, and adapting. A message on Facebook shouldn’t look the same as a brochure, and an email shouldn’t look like a sales-pitch.

Email is often quick, more relaxed and less rigid than other forms of business communication. As a brand, it’s important to recognize this difference and adapt.

Write emails like they’re to a close friend. Speak casually, without the need to sound so buttoned-up and professional.

This doesn’t mean a brand should always use emoticons or social media abbreviations, but it does mean they don’t always need to be avoided. What’s more important is that each message is written for the intended recipient.

The key is to learn, and then speak, their language.


Each Email Must Provide Actual Value

Don’t just send an email for the purpose of sending an email.

Emails should be sent every week, or month, ONLY if there is something new and unique to say every week or month. Emails should never be sent out for the sole purpose of reminding recipients the business exists.

The best time to send an email is when there’s something interesting or value to provide to recipients, and only if it’s unique and exclusive.

If a business has a coupon to give to recipients, this is an example of good value. However, sending the same exact email the next week is an example of a non-unique or non-exclusive message. The better strategy is to send out a different coupon, with a different offer.

While it is true that recipients occasionally overlook emails and may not have seen one the first time around, it’s more likely they did see it and just didn’t feel it was relevant.

If a brand created an amazing eBook and wants to send it to all of the email addresses they have, the brand shouldn’t send an email every week with the same wording, images and links. Instead, switch it up and make it appear like different messages.

Consider this strategy:

  1. First Email – Alert recipients to the creation of a new eBook and include an exclusive link only they can access (with the input of their email address).
  2. Second Email – Remind them about the eBook and let them know that if they Tweet the link and @mention the brand, they’ll be signed up for a special contest.
  3. Third Email – Update recipients about the value and success of the eBook and let them know other people are talking about it online and social media. Embed some reviews, social shares or testimonials.
  4. Fourth Email – Let them know the link will expire on a set date, but tell them they can request a PDF version of the eBook by sending an email to:


Only send messages when there’s something interesting to say, or don’t send anything at all.


Blog originally posted on “A Working Progress” @

Is Twitter’s Proposed 10k-Character Limit a Good Idea?

Is Twitter’s Proposed 10k-Character Limit a Good Idea?


The big Twitter news, beside the possibility of being banned in Turkey, was that the 140-character limit may go extinct.

First reported by Re/Code, the news comes as Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, continues to figure out how to make Twitter profitable.

Instead of a 140-character limit, Tweets will have a 10,000 character-limit.

And of course Twitter reacted the way Twitter always does; with an overreaction.

Join the fun. Search for #Twitter10k.


Apparently Twitter has a new logo.


As you can see, anger is at its typical Twitter level.


My personal favorite.



But is this (potential) Twitter change really that big of a deal?


Yes (but mostly no). Here are a few (possible) consequences.


A “Read More” Option

If this change occurs, the heart-and-soul of Twitter won’t change. Twitter has always been about brevity and creativity. 140 characters forces users to pick their words carefully; and sometimes make them up (see: BAE & NSFW).

But Tweets won’t suddenly be long-winded ramblings. Instead, a “read more” option will be implemented.

Tweets will stick to their 140 character roots, and give readers an option to “expand” the tweet. And if the first 140 don’t interest them, they’ll just keep on scrolling.


Even More Clickbait

File this under “annoying,” but not necessarily “bad.”

This 10k change is being considered more for advertisers, than it is for users. Many advertisers find the 140-character limit too, well… limiting.

Brevity and creativity are not something many businesses can accomplish. Instead, they prefer multi-sentence sales-pitches, and long-winded promotional copy. The best social media marketers may not have this issue, but those slower to adapt to digital marketing, have trouble.

Insert more clickbait.

We’ve all seen them, and we’ve all been tricked.

8 things you should never feed to cats and dogs

I Left My Husband & Daughter At Home And THIS Happened! I Can’t Believe It!

Advertisers will stop trying to sell you something creatively; instead, they’ll use more clickbait, encouraging you to click “read more” on their Tweet.


Twitter Users (kinda) Asked for It

I can’t imagine anyone tweeted CEO Jack Dorsey, asking for more characters. But what Twitter did notice was an increase in tweets with screenshots of longer text messages.

It’s clear some users have more to say, and need a way to fit it all in a single tweet.

For those verbose Twitter users, the option to say everything they want, in a single tweet, would be a nice addition.

The only alternative is to send out multiple tweets, in rapid-fire succession, that pick up right where the last tweet ended. This is already more annoying than a possible “read more” icon.


The Biggest Twitter Complaint Still Wasn’t Addressed

Spend half-a-minute looking through all the #Twitter10k tweets, and you’ll notice one, consistent trend. There’s still no edit option for tweets.

Twitter users aren’t looking to say more; instead, they just want the ability to edit tweets. A way to fix a typo, or alter a URL mistake.

Twitter announcing this potential change illustrates it isn’t listening to users; instead, focusing on advertiser’s demands.

Which, as a business, isn’t always a bad thing.

But, as many social media platforms are discovering, their popularity came from the unique experience they provided regular people. It wasn’t until they tried to appease advertisers, that people start moving away.

Go ahead and ask a millennial how much time they spend on Facebook.

The success of a business often depends on its ability to gain repeat customers; which is cheaper than acquiring new ones.



It’s no guarantee that Twitter will implement this change, as multiple possible changes have been suggested by the company. But if these do occur, it’ll be a sign that Twitter is more concerned with appealing to stockholders, than to users.

Will this change cause people to find an alternative social media platform? Let me know what you think, in the comment section of this blog.


This blog was originally posted on “A Working Progress” @

2015 Digital Marketing Stories That’ll Make Headlines in 2016

2015 Digital Marketing Stories That’ll Make Headlines in 2016



As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at a year that provided a few great advancements, and changes, in digital marketing.

But reliving the past should never be something we do too often; instead, it’s time to start looking forward to the future.

2016 has the potential to bring incredible changes, not just to digital marketing, but the world. With new technologies gaining popularity, older forms of media being forgotten, and the way we search changing, the next year is sure to affect how we market online.

Here are a few of the biggest digital marketing stories from 2015, which will continue to make headlines in 2016.


The Rise of Digital Assistants

Digital assistants, like Siri, Cortana, Google Now, and the new Amazon Echo, will change the way we search. Voice commands will trigger information, websites and services to launch automatically. These technologies adapt to the way you speak, and learns about you; to provide the best result for your command or query.

The implications of this on SEO have yet to be discovered. The long-tail keyword has long been promoted as the optimal way to optimize a page or piece of content; and this will likely remain. But additionally, more informal, conversational keywords may gain importance. The purpose of SEO has always been to describe web content in a way that matches search queries. As search queries become more specific, and more conversational, SEO that focuses on the niche, may gain priority placement. It will also become even more important to write for people, not search engines.


Google & Twitter Partner

2015 was the year that saw Twitter partner with Google, to provide Tweets within search engine result pages.

In the end, both sides win, as Google receives access to the most revolutionary real-time communication platform that’s ever been created (seriously, think about it – how else can you receive breaking news, contact the President and order a pizza, all at the same time?). There are over 7,000 Tweets sent out every second (as of this writing), and this amount of up-to-date information is vital to Google remaining at the top of the search world.

Twitter, in return, gets massive exposure, which is exactly what it needs. According to Pew, only 19% of adults in the U.S. use Twitter. Facebook has 58%.

Partnerships like these can only continue. Facebook is already trying to become a search engine competitor to Google and Bing, offering Search FYI as an alternative. The race to provide relevant search results to users will intensify, as real-time updates, information and content continue to be shared at light-speed. We live in a culture of immediacy, and the search engine that provides the most updated content will reign.


The Cord-Cutters are Growing

According to Forrester Research, 24% of U.S. adults don’t pay for television. Instead, they’re opting to stream content from their computer, mobile device, Roku, Fire TV Stick, Chromecast and video game console. TV is no longer the only way to consume video entertainment, or watch your favorite show. The consumer has options more options than ever. Cable companies, like Comcast, are already implementing data caps for subscribers; hoping people will keep paying, every month, for channels they never watch (though they a very different corporate response).

As more people ditch cable, streaming services will rise. But currently, there are very few ways to brands marketing on these services. Netflix doesn’t have commercials (thankfully), and Hulu goes traditional, showing the same commercials as shown on television. But as more people make the switch, more streaming services will be born. Savvy marketers already see the future, and opt to spend some of their time, and budgets, on lesser-known, but growing, streaming services, such as Twitch, Yahoo Screen and Newsy.


Online & Streaming Video Capture Eyes

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Live Video, Video on Instagram and Vine are dominating our attention, and eyeballs. More people are watching video on these platforms than primetime television. According to Cisco, 69% of all consumer internet traffic will come from video, by 2017.

Marketing is about appearing in front of consumers, wherever they are. It used to be television, but now it’s more often coming from online videos, and streaming sites. Video content is more engaging and keeps user’s attention longer. Creating and sharing videos about your business, and your industry, are great ways to build brand awareness.

As demand for video content grows, so will the need for brands to invest in talented, and creative, content marketers. These digital marketing underdogs are the lifeblood of marketing in the future. As the cliché goes, “content is king.” But the truth is, it’s so much more than that. Content represents marketing in the 21st century.


Don’t Forget, Mobile is (still very) Important

It may feel like ages ago, but “Mobilegeddon” occurred in 2015. Has your website survived? Is it thriving? Or are you still working with your development team to optimize your site?

A new year may be upon us, but t’s the same story as last year (and the year before that, and the year…). Mobile is important. Very important. For the first time in Black Friday history, over half of all online shopping came from mobile devices. Google confirmed that more searches come from mobile devices, than desktops.

If you don’t have a mobile marketing strategy, and a mobile-friendly website, what are you waiting for?


Overall, 2015 was a mild year for digital marketing changes. There were a few new platforms, devices and developments, but for the most part, it was much of the same.

2016, however, has the potential to see massive changes.

Along with many of the topics listed above, advances in technology are expected to change the way we connect, the way we interact, and the way we live. We’re getting close to finally having virtual reality and self-driving cars. Wearable devices are getting more popular, and cheaper. Traditional media will continue to decline, as new online sources continue to gain viewers.

What are you most looking forward to in 2016? Share your thoughts in the comment field below, and let me know what, in digital marketing, you’re most excited to experience next year.


Originally posted on “A Working Progress Blog” @ 




What’s in a Creative Brief?

A creative brief should be a stand-alone document, which speaks for itself. Often, briefs will be passed from one creative person to another, without any background, context or explanation. If you’re lucky, you may receive an email, or a call, asking for clarification; but there is no guarantee.

This single document can be used to design entire campaigns, or provide direction for a single graphic. All of the research that’s been performed, conversations with the client, and market analysis, must be translated into a 1 – 2 page brief.

But just like getting to Carnegie Hall, all it takes practice (practice, practice).

Here’s an overview of the key components to any effective creative brief. Feel free to use this as a template for your own creative briefs.

Timing and Deliverables

Desks get messy, and sometimes things get overlooked. Putting the most important information at the top will make it easier to set priorities. A quick glance at any creative brief should remind you of deadlines and expectations.
Answer the question, “what and when?” This is where you put the most basic of requirements, and place it prominently.


People are busy at work, managing multiple projects, answering emails, and attending meetings. Don’t force people to re-read an entire brief every time. Instead, summarize the most important information in the overview section. This section, along with the timing and deliverables section should provide enough info to remind them what’s required.
Explain the work needed and provide only the most important information. This section should summarize the entire brief, for quick reference and recollection. Save this section until the very end; after you know exactly what the rest of the brief contains.


Every marketing piece has a purpose. Most often, it’s to encourage a consumer to take a specific action. It’s important to know what you want a consumer to do before you start working on it. If you understand what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s easier to stay focused.
Know what you want the consumer to do, and state it clearly. If there are specific calls-to-action, include them. It’s important to understand the goal of each creative piece before starting the work.

Most Important Thing(s)

Similar to the objective, understanding the primary goals is essential. Where the objective details the purpose, the most important thing(s) lists mandatory elements, specific rules or essential things to include.
If there are elements or considerations which must be used, communicated, or included, list them in order of importance. The purpose of this section is to let the creative person know, that any work missing these thing(s) will be considered incomplete.

Target Audience and Insights

When you attempt to target everyone, you end up reaching no one. Know your audience, their pain-points and interests. Messaging should always communicate with audiences the way they communicate.
Briefly define the target audience. Reference market research or reports which can more thoroughly describe the demographic. Explain who the creative is for, and how communicate with them.

Messaging and Copy

Words can be persuasive. They can be controversial. Words can provoke reflection, initiate action, or make a person smile. Know what you want to say, and how it should be said.
If there are specific phrases or keywords that should be included, add them here. Provide direction to the copywriter, by defining communication styles, and the brand’s voice. If the creative will be used online, be sure to add SEO keywords and anchor text.

Design and Graphics

In the marketing world, looks are everything. In a rapidly refreshing environment like the internet, visual elements must stand out, or risk being ignored.
Describe the look and feel of the creative. If there’s a theme, make sure it’s explained. Any required elements, such as logos, trademarks, or product images, should be included.
Try to avoid telling an artist how to design, but give enough information and direction to get them on the right track.

Considerations and References

The structure of this brief places the key information at the top, and provides enough specific details to get started. A brief should be formal and consistent, since this one document may be seen by multiple creatives, who may or may not have context.
However, this is where you should break free from the formalities, and give any other information that may help get the work completed.
If there are previous marketing materials that are similar, reference them. If the client wants the piece to match something they’ve seen from a competitor, add a link. Anything else that can help, add it here. The more information you can provide, the better the final product.



1st World Digital Marketing Problems


In essence, we must fail to succeed. – Daniel M. Christensen

What can you learn from reading LinkedIn updates? That everyone is an expert. Regardless of their field, every professional is convinced they must prove they have all the answers. Because of the inherent self-promotional attitude necessary, marketing professionals suffer from this “guru-mentality” at much higher percentages. Every marketer, especially in the digital realm, is convinced their methods will lead to success. They’ve tested, perfected and out-performed all of their peers.

The truth is, however, most digital marketers simply pick-and-choose segments of data, test results and insights to “Frankenstein” their own personal creed. No marketer likes to admit they’re still learning.

Luckily this method works. Too many executives, bosses and decision-makers know too little about the industry. They hear their business must exist online, but don’t know how truly make it grow. They understand social media is culture’s latest “fad,” and believe simply existing on Facebook will grow their business.

They want success, but don’t always believe in investing in true talent. True success comes from true talent. Talent’s the offspring of competition. To compete is to fail. And to fail is to learn. In essence, we must fail to succeed.

But before one can succeed, it is necessary to teach the inexperienced. In today’s corporate environment, all people, regardless of title, must keep social media in their mind. Today, no business-related action lives in isolation. It is crucial to include marketing teams in most business decisions, since each decision affects customers. And marketing teams are often the first point-of-contact for many customers. Whether through social media, email, or online review, customer’s opinions are often first heard by marketing teams.

Unfortunately, too many people are still unsure what digital marketing entails. It’s time we discussed today’s most common misconceptions.

1st World Digital Marketing Problems:

What my Boss thinks I do…



What my Co-Workers think I do…



What the Accounting Department thinks I do…



What the Web Designer thinks I do…



What the I.T. Guy thinks I do…



What Google Search thinks I do…



What my Customer’s Inbox thinks I do…



What my Grandmother thinks I do…



What my Friends think I do…



What my Optometrist thinks I do…



What Teenagers think I do…