AOL Web Search Powered by Bing

As Rik announced in a recent blog post, as of January 1, Bing now powers AOL web, mobile and tablet search, providing paid search ads and algorithmic organic search results to AOL properties worldwide and exclusively in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Most major Bing Ads products are enabled for AOL search traffic worldwide, providing our clients with additional high-quality volume and more ways to reach their desired audience.

Key takeaways for advertisers

  • Bing now powers web search traffic across all devices for AOL: mobile, tablet and PC.
  • Our partnership with AOL brings a greater market share to the Bing Network. Currently, one in five searches are powered by Bing. By integrating Bing with the number three and five top search providers in the U.S., Bing now serves nearly one-third of all PC web searches in the U.S.
  • AOL has many established web properties, such as AOL.com, with strong brand names and an affinity among its user base who generate several billion search queries each year.
  • AOL’s high-quality audience is similar to the audience Bing and Yahoo offer today – both audiences have higher household incomes, the majority have attended college, they skew slightly female and the majority of users are ages 35+.2 Both audiences also spend more online than average Internet searcher.
  • In general, we anticipate a 5-8% increase in click volume in the U.S. In order to optimize this expected increase in click volume, we recommend that advertisers consider increasing their budgets to take advantage of the incremental quality volume available.
  • Most current ad products will be enabled for AOL’s search traffic, such as:
    • Ad extensions including Sitelink Extensions, Dynamic Sitelinks, Location Extensions and Call Extensions.
    • Annotations including Long Ad Titles, Bolding and Merchant Ratings; Customer Ratings will be in beta at the time of launch.
    • Product Ads will be in beta at the time of launch.

As Prince called out in this blog post, you’ll notice several changes within Bing Ads, including the Campaigns page, Reports page, the Google Import experience, and Keyword and Campaign Planners. We have also made changes in Reporting API. Read this blog post to find out more.

Call to action for advertisers

All existing campaigns are automatically opted-in to take advantage of additional volume available on the Bing Network. To ensure you are taking full advantage of this opportunity:

1. Increase your budgets. In general, you can anticipate an increase in click volume of 5-8% with additional AOL web search traffic available through the Bing Network. Make sure your budget allows you to take advantage of growing volume availability.

2. Monitor and adjust your bids, ads and keywords soon after Bing begins to power search traffic from AOL beginning January 1, 2016.

We believe that the extended reach combined with the controls within Bing Ads will give digital marketers additional opportunities to reach even more customers at the right ROI.

The Top 7 Online Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016

The online marketing industry is complex and volatile, but an exciting one for anybody who stays up on modern trends. Each year, new hardware, new software, new companies, and new user preferences dictate a host of sweeping changes that either get adopted or ignored by the businesses of the world. Early adopters get a leg up on the competition, appealing to new markets or cementing their reputations as industry leaders, while those lagging behind miss out on a key opportunity to retain their positions.

2016 looks to be a great year for online marketing, and I anticipate it shaking up the game with these seven trends:

1. Video ads will start dominating. Video ads are certainly nothing new, with social channels like YouTube dedicated to hosting billions of videos and advertising platforms like Facebook and Bing already offering advertisers video options. 2016 is set to be different because Google is finally getting on board with in-SERP video advertising. It’s a sign that users are becoming more accepting of video ads online, and as that trend continues, expect to see more types of video ads popping up in more unexpected places. With Google’s ownership of YouTube, the possibilities are virtually limitless.

2. App indexing will lead to an explosion of apps. Google has offered app indexing for a while, but as the ranking possibilities for apps become more complex, 2016 will be the year more business owners realize the online visibility advantages of a dedicated app. A mobile-optimized site works wonders for appealing to the mobile crowd, but soon, apps will begin to replace them. Apps can do everything that websites can, except in more intuitive, convenient, accessible ways. We’re still several years away from apps completely replacing websites as a medium, but 2016 will be a pivotal year in app adoption from business owner’s perspectives.

3. Mobile will completely dominate desktop. 2015 was a big year for mobile—not only did Google announce that mobile traffic finally overtook desktop traffic in 10 different countries, it was also the year they released the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update to phase out sites not optimized for mobile. But apparently, you don’t have to have an optimized desktop site in addition to a mobile version—according to Google, a mobile-only site with no desktop counterpart is perfectly acceptable. This alone won’t be enough to drive down desktop traffic, but it’s clear what side of the fence Google’s on; they’re banking on desktop traffic fading away, meaning the smart money rests on mobile-focused online marketing.

4. Digital assistants will lead to a new kind of optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are two highly popular strategies for getting your site seen by thousands of previously unknown visitors. But the rise of digital assistants is going to lead to a new kind of optimization. Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana do utilize traditional search engines, but only when necessary to find information. The key to optimizing in this new format is to make sure your business information is easily accessible to these assistants, rather than trying to funnel people to your site specifically.

5. Virtual reality will emerge. There are dozens of different virtual reality devices set to release in the next few years, some of which are dedicated for specific applications like video games, and others which are available for general use. Oculus Rift, arguably the most hyped VR device, is set to release in the first quarter of 2016. Oculus Rift and other VR devices will introduce an entire new medium of online advertising, with integration to popular social media platforms, video channels, and even forms of direct messaging. There’s always a chance VR could fizzle as a temporary fad, but there are billions of dollars of funding in limbo, ready to bet otherwise.

6. Wearable technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) will pave new ground. While not quite to the level of virtual reality, wearable “smart” devices should start gaining more traction into 2016. 2015 saw the unveiling of the Apple Watch, a first-generation smart watch, but more smart watches and similar wearable devices should start emerging next year. Such devices will change the landscape of local marketing, and will do more to blur the lines between “online” marketing and “real” marketing.

Local Business Marketing Trends for 2016

Heading into Q4, now is the time to start thinking about what your business’s goals will be in the next year, including how you’ll to organize your budget and what your overall marketing plan will include.

You already know the organization of your current digital marketing channels — from SEO to coupons and deals — and which were the most effective for you this past year. Going into the next year, you’ll want to make sure that your local business takes advantage of 2016 digital marketing trends so that you can reach new customers that use these mediums.

This article will provide you with guidance about how to structure the different pieces of your marketing plan — 2016 digital marketing trends included — so that you can build a successful marketing strategy. From the up-and-coming social networks to the next mobile device your local business can use for quick customer check-outs, we’ve got the most important 2016 digital marketing trends that can help you start the year on the right foot.


PREDICTION

Instagram will take off

Since Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012, the social media giant has been consistently making small changes to the photo-sharing platform. In late 2015 and 2016, all these smaller changes will start to culminate into big developments on the platform.

2016 digital marketing trends, instagram takes off

Facebook is now the social media network that every local business needs to have a Business Page on, accompanied by an advertising package so that you can reach the followers you worked hard to amass.

Reaching your followers on Facebook with a post used to be free — just like it currently is on Instagram. However, with Instagram offering advertising in the form of “sponsored posts,” we predict that soon you’ll have to pay to ensure that your post is seen by your followers (just like you do on Facebook).

Instagram advertising gets strong results for its advertisers. The photo-sharing app says that their ad recall is 2.8x higher than other online advertising platforms, making it an attractive option for those businesses looking to get the most bang for their marketing buck.

Ad recall on Instagram is 2.8xhigher than other online advertising platforms.

New tools that combine trending topics on Facebook and Instragam, such asSignal, are further proof that Facebook plans to continue integrating Instagram into its platform. As the two continue to be more tightly integrated, Instagram will certainly become a bigger and bigger player in the 2016 digital marketing trend arena.

It has been predicted that by 2017 Instagram will have $2.8 billion in advertising sales (it already has $600 million in advertising revenue YTD for 2015). Instagram is available exclusively via mobile and tablet apps, positioning it for a clear leadership role as small business marketing shifts to mobile.

CONCLUSION

Expand your social media presence on the network that will get the most user engagement in 2016: Instagram.


PREDICTION

Search will expand beyond search engines

Search is moving beyond Google, Bing and Yahoo and onto social networks where search capabilities are expanding.

Pinterest jumped into the search engine game, expanding its search algorithm and incorporating “guided searches.” Pinterest isn’t the only one in the search game either; Facebook is already working on tests for its own search engine and Twitter is, once again, being indexed by Google so that public tweets are seen on both the micro-blogging network and the wider Internet.

88% of consumers are influenced by reviews and comments online and the ability to search on Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube will connect people to these comments quickly. For small businesses that have been monitoring and building up the amount of positive customer reviews on social media sites, such as Facebook, you’ll be pleased to hear one of the side effects of a search engine: your business’s reviews are about to get a lot more attention because they will show up in searches.

2016 digital marketing trends

CONCLUSION

Expanded search means that your business needs to invest in expanding your listings and start monitoring social more closely. Not only should your local businesses claim a social profile on every popular network (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yelp and LinkedIn), but you also need to be able to respond to what may be said about it online.

If you’re looking for help with reputation management, The Berry Company provides a service that you can use to track everything being said about your business. With this reputation management service, you’ll be able to learn what is being said about your business and also respond to it.


PREDICTION

Targeting will be the new black

As the digital market continues to expand, the more consumer data it collects along the way. With all this data, more sophisticated targeting algorithms can be created to help you get better results by using more targeted messaging.

Depending on the state of your business’s online marketing strategy, targeted messaging can be a good or bad thing.You’ll be excited about targeted data if you have a comprehensive local online marketing program that you would like to refine and get more qualified results out of. You’ll be bummed if you don’t use local online marketing because your competitors are — and they’ll be able to reach more local customers than you can.

CONCLUSION

Take advantage of targeting by starting pay-per-click or re-marketing display ad campaigns. As more and more data is added to the funnel, your ads will automatically take advantage of new targeting capabilities.


PREDICTION

Mobile payments will skyrocket

With the development of Apply Pay and the reliance on cell phones, mobile payments will have a steep increase this year.

In 2015, nearly 15% of Starbucks customers already began paying for their daily latte fix with their mobile devices. As a whole, nearly 60% of consumers use their smartphone to pay, so that they receive some sort of reward or benefit from the business.

Furthermore, mobile technology continues to become more and more affordable, as demonstrated at Apple’s latest conference with its line of iPhones. As prices continue to drop, smartphones will replace older phones — eliminating limited payment functionality.

CONCLUSION

As mobile technology becomes more affordable, mobile payments will continue to penetrate the market. Start looking into different platforms and hardware that your business can invest in to accept mobile payments.


PREDICTION

Webrooming will become as important as showrooming

Consumers want to know exactly what they will be buying before they make a purchase, consulting 10+ sources before making a purchase.

Now these savvy-shoppers can use the web want to see how a product or service will fit in their lifestyle before they head to the store to make a purchase. By showcasing your product or service, or “webrooming” (it took me a minute to get that, web-rooming for anyone like me who didn’t get it ), you can help a consumer imagine how your product/service fits into their lifestyle.

ikea on instagram

Ikea does a remarkable job of marketing their products to many generations, from millennials who prefer webrooming, to baby boomers who are used to showrooms and window shopping.

CONCLUSION

Pick up a few of Ikea’s out-of-the-box marketing strategies to expand your offline experience with your online one.


PREDICTION

Video will get the most views

Video has been a part of many online marketing strategies for years, but 2016 will make video the center of attention.

From 2013-2015 there was a 360% increase in video views. Facebook jumped on the video bandwagon and began hosting videos to keep more users on their network (instead of sending them to YouTube).

CONCLUSION

Your local business can leverage video in 2016, too. Share (and host when available) videos so that you can to attract more views to your content and your business.

Video is an incredibly versatile medium. From showcasing a product to sharing behind the scenes look at your business, start creating videos to drive up your customer engagement.


It may be 2015, but these 2016 digital marketing trends will have a big impact on your 2016 budget and strategy. Make sure you stay in the know with the latest digital marketing trends for local business by subscribing to the LocalVox blog which will also help you implement and track your marketing success.

Yahoo & Google Together Again In New Search Deal

Three year deal to put Google’s results and ads into some of Yahoo’s search results needs US Department of Justice approval and still might get vetoed by India or EU action.

 

google-yahoo-2015d-1920

Reunited, and it feels so good. Well, we’ll see if that line from the classic song plays out for Yahoo, which has revealed it wants to be together with Google again in a deal for search results. The deal excludes Europe, almost certainly to avoid anti-trust issues there. It also will depend on US Department of Justice approval.

The Deal, In Summary

As part of today’s Yahoo earning news, it revealed a new search deal with Google:

In October, the Company reached an agreement with Google that provides Yahoo with additional flexibility to choose among suppliers of search results and ads. Google’s offerings complement the search services provided by Microsoft, which remains a strong partner, as well as Yahoo’s own search technologies and ad products.

Wondering how Yahoo and Google can be together, when Yahoo is supposed to be with Microsoft? What we mean by Yahoo and Google being together again? And what’s in the deal? Come along.

Isn’t Yahoo With Microsoft?

If you’re thinking that Yahoo and Microsoft have a search deal, you remember correctly. They do and renewed that in April of this. year. Our FAQ: The New Yahoo-Microsoft Deal, Explained story also had more background on that.

As part of the renewal, Yahoo agreed that Bing’s ads would appear on 51% of the desktop searches that Yahoo delivers. The other 49% could be “powered” by Yahoo’s own ad system or from any third-party that Yahoo wanted to use.

As it turns out, by July, Yahoo was spotted testing using Google’s search results and ads. Clearly, Yahoo liked how it went. Now it’s planning to do more.

And Yahoo Had Been With Google Before?

Years ago — back in 2000 — Yahoo was partnered with Google to carry both Google’s search results and ads. That partnership maintained for many years, until Yahoo eventually developed its own in-house search technology and ad serving systems in 2004.

Yahoo gave up its own internal search technology when its search deal with Microsoft was formally established and got the go-ahead in 2010. But as that deal never performed as expected, and Yahoo’s been especially looking over the past two years for ways to generate more revenue from search beyond its deal with Microsoft.

What’s In The New 3-Year Google Deal?

Let’s go to the Form 8-K filing on the deal and look at the officialese, which I’ll break down as best I can into regular speak:

On October 19, 2015, Yahoo! Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Yahoo”), and Google Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Google”), entered into a Google Services Agreement (the “Services Agreement”). The Services Agreement is effective as of October 1, 2015 and expires on December 31, 2018.

Right off, we’re talking just over a three-year term. However, the agreement can end early for various reasons, as explained more below.

Google To Power Both Mobile & Desktop

Next up, this:

Pursuant to the Services Agreement, Google will provide Yahoo with search advertisements through Google’s AdSense for Search service (“AFS”), web algorithmic search services through Google’s Websearch Service, and image search services. The results provided by Google for these services will be available to Yahoo for display on both desktop and mobile platforms.

Basically, this says that Yahoo can show Google’s search results. And by search results, that means both the editorial “free” listings as well as the ads. Yahoo needs to serve both, because it has no editorial listings of its own, no crawler that combs the web for such content. And Yahoo probably can’t — or can’t afford — to show Google ads against editorial listings provided by Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

Could Yahoo Go Over 51% On Mobile With Google?

Yahoo also can use these results for both mobile and desktop. On desktop, it’s limited to a cap of 49% that potentially could come from Google, as Microsoft is guaranteed the other 51%.

On mobile, Yahoo has no such limit. There, it could choose to fully serve out Google results even at the expense of its own Gemini ads system.

Deal Excludes Europe, Probably For Anti-Trust Reasons

The deal is for these regions:

Yahoo may use Google’s services on Yahoo’s owned and operated properties (“Yahoo Properties”) and on certain syndication partner properties (“Affiliate Sites”) in the United States (U.S.), Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Middle East, Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, Australia and New Zealand.

You can see all of North America is covered. Several Asian countries are included, as are Australia and New Zealand. Parts of South America are also covered. What’s missing? Europe.

Why not Europe? Google already has an anti-trust action happening against it in the European Union. It probably does not want the attention or criticism of doing a deal with Yahoo there, especially with Google already having a 90% or more marketshare in many EU countries.

Yahoo Has Flexibility, Could Skip Google Search Entirely

Next, this:

Under the Services Agreement, Yahoo has discretion to select which search queries to send to Google and is not obligated to send any minimum number of search queries. The Services Agreement is non-exclusive and expressly permits Yahoo to use any other search advertising services, including its own service, the services of Microsoft Corporation or other third parties.

Basically, this says that Yahoo doesn’t have to guarantee anything to Google. It could decide to send no queries to Google, if it wanted to.

Yahoo Gets Cut Of Ads, Amount Not Said; Image Search Named

How about getting paid? Well…

Google will pay Yahoo a percentage of the gross revenues from AFS ads displayed on Yahoo Properties or Affiliate Sites. The percentage will vary depending on whether the ads are displayed on U.S. desktop sites, non-U.S. desktop sites or on the tablet or mobile phone versions of the Yahoo Properties or its Affiliate Sites. Yahoo will pay Google fees for requests for image search results or web algorithmic search results.

This is pretty standard, saying that Yahoo will get a percentage of what Google makes off its ads that are shown on the Yahoo network.

That percentage can — and probably will — vary depending on whether it’s from desktop or mobile.

Interestingly, there’s no minimum guarantee from Google to be paid to Yahoo. That’s sometimes the case in these deals. It was in the original Yahoo-Microsoft deal.

Finally, Yahoo is obligated to pay Google if it uses its editorial (“algorithmic”) search results for web listings or images. This is likely to ensure that Yahoo doesn’t take Google’s listings but shows Yahoo’s own ads against them. In such a case, Google would be earning nothing yet providing a service.

Terminating In Case Of US Opposition

At the end, we get this:

Either party may terminate the Services Agreement

(1) upon a material breach subject to certain limitations;

(2) in the event of a change in control (as defined in the Services Agreement);

(3) after first discussing with the other party in good faith its concerns and potential alternatives to termination

(a) in its entirety or in the U.S. only, if it reasonably anticipates litigation or a regulatory proceeding brought by any U.S. federal or state agency to enjoin the parties from consummating, implementing or otherwise performing the Services Agreement,

(b) in part, in a country other than the U.S., if either party reasonably anticipates litigation or a regulatory proceeding or reasonably anticipates that the continued performance under the Services Agreement in such country would have a material adverse impact on any ongoing antitrust proceeding in such country,

Some history here. Back in 2008, Yahoo wanted to do a deal with Google. The US Department of Justice decided that would be bad on competitive grounds, so the companies abandoned that.

The DoJ decision left Yahoo with Microsoft as pretty much the only choice for doing a deal. As a result, the deal that Microsoft eventually offered to Yahoo in 2009 was much less lucrative than the one it offered in 2008, when it was competing with Google.

In the years since, the deal arguably has helped Yahoo drop from a second-place search engine in the US with its own search technology to a third-place competitor that’s dependent on others.

Clearly, there’s a fear that the US competition authorities still might not favor a Yahoo-Google tie-up, despite the fact that Yahoo is less dominant than it last was and a potential argument that the previous DoJ objection helped lead to Yahoo’s current decline.

In fact, at the end of the filing, there’s this:

In connection with the Services Agreement, Yahoo and Google have agreed to certain procedures with the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) to facilitate review of the Services Agreement by the DOJ, including delaying the implementation of the Services Agreement in the U.S. in order to provide the DOJ with a reasonable period of review.

This is all going to the Department of Justice for review. If approved, the companies will move ahead. Unless….

The EU And India Get Final Word

Even though the deal isn’t involving Europe, the agreement has termination language that involves possible EU objections:

(c) in its entirety if either party reasonably anticipates a filing by the European Commission to enjoin it from performing the Services Agreement or that continued performance of the Services Agreement would have a material adverse impact on any ongoing antitrust proceeding involving either party in Europe or India, or

The deal does involve India, where Google also faces anti-trust scrutiny, so the language including India makes more sense.

Google is almost certainly so paranoid that the agreement might impact its on-going anti-trust actions in both the EU and India that if gets the idea either political entity will object, the whole deal could be closed.

Other Termination Reasons

There’s a few last boilerplate reason the agreement might be terminated:

(d) in its entirety, on 60 days notice if [sic] the other party’s exercise of these termination rights in this clause

(3) has collectively and materially diminished the economic value of the Services Agreement.

Each party agrees to defend or settle any lawsuits or similar actions related to the Services Agreement unless doing so is not commercially reasonable (taking all factors into account, including without limitation effects on a party’s brand or business outside of the scope of the Services Agreement).

In addition, Google may suspend Yahoo’s use of services upon certain events and may terminate the Services Agreement if such events are not cured. Yahoo may terminate the Services Agreement if Google breaches certain service level and server latency specified in the Services Agreement.

If I read this correctly, either party could end with 60 days notice for any reason. Just because. There’s also a nebulous “certain events” that aren’t itemized, unknown reasons Google could terminate. Yahoo can drop if Google doesn’t serve content up quickly enough.

Stay Tuned For More!

The deal is a big deal, even if Yahoo is no longer the search powerhouse it once was. We’ll have further coverage of reaction and more details, as the emerge, so stay tuned to Search Engine Land.

#PPC Worst Practices: 5 “Smart” Strategies That Are Actually Dumb

As digital marketers, we have the “pleasure” of being part of an ever-changing industry. Consider Google AdWords, which has changed drastically since its inception back in 2000. It started out as an internal service, eventually became a self-service portal and has evolved rapidly from there. As paid search platforms become more complex and sophisticated, it’s critical that account managers remain flexible and adjust their strategies to match these changes. But I can’t tell you how frequently I encounter advertisers who are dead-set in their outdated ways, which drives me completely insane.

So, here’s my list of the top five outdated “best practices” that you should eliminate from your PPC repertoire immediately.

Worst Practice #1: Stuffing Your Account with Every Keyword Under the Sun

Back in the day, it was trendy to build expansive accounts with a gazillion keyword variations. I actually remember one of my first tasks when I started at Wordstream was to create a list of long-tail keywords for a cosmetics site. I spent hours dreaming up makeup-related keywords and when I finally submitted my list, my co-worker sent it back to me asking for permutations of EVERY SINGLE TERM. New to this whole shebang, I spent nearly two days developing a keyword list for only a few ad groups. It was so painful that I haven’t shopped online for makeup since.

Nowadays, keyword-heavy strategies on the Search Network are becoming extinct. Since the rollout of mandatory close variant keyword matching, we no longer have to obsess over adding every permutation, misspelling, plural and singular version of the keywords in our account. In fact, in doing so, we may actually be putting ourselves at risk. If you have a number of extraneous keywords, it’s likely that many of the low search volume terms are suffering from poor Quality Scores.

These can negatively impact the scores assigned to new keywords in your account, making it even harder to achieve good scores in the future. Moreover, if your account is cluttered with zillions of keywords, it can be challenging to manage it effectively.

5 "Smart" PPC Strategies That are Actually Dumb | SEJ

Our founder, encourages advertisers to delete the bottom third keywords in their accounts (the ones that are NOT converting) and re-deploy that portion of spend to a more fruitful strategy like remarketing, which brings me to my next point.

The industry is shifting away from keyword-based strategies altogether. More and more advertisers are dedicating significant budgets to networks using identity-based targeting. For example, through paid Facebook ads, you can market to an audience that fits very specific criteria. These settings range anywhere from basic demographic/geographic/interest-based categories to custom lists (based on prospect information that you already have).

Here’s an example—last week, I got the (somewhat bizarre) ad below while I was perusing Facebook.

5 "Smart" PPC Strategies That are Actually Dumb | SEJ

At first, I was like, why the heck is Facebook encouraging me to attend an EGG FREEZING PARTY?! And then I realized, the platform knows I’m single, I live in Boston and at 27, I fall right into the “baby fever” age group. Boom. This advertiser hit their perfect target. Pretty savvy, huh? As these methods continue to become more sophisticated, I predict that they’ll become even more widely used.

Worst Practice #2: Using DKI for All Ad Groups

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting that Dynamic Keyword Insertion(DKI) is a bad technique, but it should never be your go-to method for creating ad text. DKI is a fundamentally lazy approach to ad copy. When you’re pressed for time and looking to bang out some halfway decent ads, DKI is a temporary, quick-and-dirty solution.

However, it can introduce quite a few problems in your account. For example, if you are bidding on misspelled keywords, you could end up with disastrous, sloppy looking ads. Or, if you’re bidding on your competitors’ branded terms, you could end up with a nasty disapproval (or lawsuit, god forbid).

5 "Smart" PPC Strategies That are Actually Dumb | SEJ

The reality is, you may see decent performance for DKI ads, but they will never be your superstars. You’re much better off taking the time to create tightly knit, granular ad groups centered on distinct keyword themes. This enables you craft highly relevant ads that are guaranteed to be a good fit, regardless of the keyword match.

5 "Smart" PPC Strategies That are Actually Dumb | SEJ

If you’re attached to DKI because you love the idea of automated customizations, let me introduce you to the new “DKI on steroids,” ad customizers. These scripts give you the ability to tailor your ads based on sophisticated custom attributes, such as product brand and model, pricing and even a countdown functionality urging users to make a purchase sooner than later. Layering this on top of well-crafted ads is a true slam dunk for advertisers.

Worst Practice #3: Using the Same Strategy on Domestic and International Campaigns

Often when companies are ready to expand their marketing to international markets, they assume that whatever works in their current account will generate similar performance abroad.

What’s worse is their inclination is to dump their account into Google Translate and bid on whatever it spits out. This is PPC seppuku! Google Translate may suffice for basic translations, but it neglects to account for regional nuances. Mistranslated keywords can result in little to no traffic or worse — unqualified traffic – making a mockery of your PPC efforts.

Moreover, when targeting a different audience, it is critical to take cultural trends into account. For example, Americans tend to be attracted to bargains, so we commonly highlight deals and discounts in our ad copy to encourage high CTRs. This tactic would actually negatively impact CTRs in Switzerland, where consumers prioritize quality and are more likely to click on ads offering high-end, luxury items.

Given these cultural diversities, it’s critical to design campaigns that are catered toward your target marketplace. If you’re looking for guidance with this, I highly recommend checking out Katy Tonkin and Michael Stricker’s recent presentation on International PPC from HeroConf, which breaks down cultural marketing trends by location.

Worst Practice #4: Focusing All Efforts on Google’s Search Network

The Google Search Network is a wise place for advertisers to launch their initial PPC efforts, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of the PPC universe. In fact, if you’re solely targeting searchers on Google, you’re likely missing out on tons of opportunity.

The number one reason advertisers are hesitant to break out of this space is because they’re unsure of which avenue to pursue next. Don’t be paralyzed by choice, embrace it! Here’s a breakdown of some of your top options:

  • Bing Ads Search: Bing Ads is easy to experiment with because it follows a nearly identical format to AdWords’ search marketing. In fact, you can even go as far as to import your AdWords account into Bing and adjust it from there. On Bing, you can expect less volume, but cheaper CPCs.
  • Google Shopping: If you are an e-commerce advertiser, you should be running Shopping campaigns, which allow you to display images of your products on the SERP. While setting up and maintaining your feed can be an onerous task, the results are typically stellar.
  • Remarketing: I’ll be honest, I think remarketing is one of the most genius things you can do with digital marketing. It allows you to launch ad campaigns targeted to those who have visited your site in the past and therefore are more likely to engage with you. It works well for a wide variety of businesses and is easy to set up.
  • Google Display Network: The expansiveness of this network alone is appealing—it reaches nearly 90% of online users and nearly 2 million sites. This makes it a great venue to pursue a more passive, top of the funnel audience and promote your brand.
  • Paid Social (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn): Paid social advertising is becoming an increasingly popular way to build brand awareness and entice users to your site. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this channel is that you can layer in sophisticated targeting to reach your most ideal audience.
  • Yandex/Baidu/Seznam/Daum/360/Sogou/Yahoo! Japan: Living in a Google-obsessed country, it’s easy to forget that the Goog isn’t actually the top dog in other countries. If you are focused on foreign markets, it’s critical to understand the user behavior in those zones and adjust your strategy accordingly. The engines listed above are some of the most popular engines in Asia and Europe.

Worst Practice #5: Basing Account Management Decisions Solely on Quality Score Data

Before I giveLARRY KIM (our Quality Score-obsessed founder) a heart attack, let me quickly point out that I don’t want to downplay QS completely. It IS an important metric to keep an eye on, and the savings associated with higher scores are palpable. However, when optimizing an account, I believe that managers should first consult more concrete data, such as conversion rates, CPA, etc.

It’s important to remember that Quality Score assignments are somewhat subjective. It’s Google’s way of incenting advertisers to create customer-centric experiences free of spammy, irrelevant ads and landing pages. So, if you have a history of poor performance, even new keywords will start with low scores. We’ve even noticed that certain industries have lower average QS than others. My point is, just because a keyword has a low Quality Score doesn’t mean it’s necessarily yielding a low number of conversions (and vice versa). So, you should never look solely at QS when making big decisions.

Instead, Quality Score should be used as a secondary, “health-check” metric. I like to think of it as an indicator of which keywords need a little extra attention. For example, if you have a keyword with a low Quality Score, it may be worthwhile to assign it to a new, more targeted ad group with more catered ad text and relevant landing pages. By making changes to strive for better scores, you are cutting costs and taking action to improve your searchers’ experience—a win-win.

How Effective Is Your Ecommerce Campaign?

Are you getting the most bang for your buck?

PPC management for ecommerce campaigns tests the skills and bidding strategies of even the most seasoned expert. You may be thinking “my campaign is doing ok right now,” but take a step back – Is it as effective as it can be? Is it efficient and structured in a way that isn’t a chaotic mess? Are you continuously enhancing your ROAS?

At Hanapin, we ask ourselves these questions all the time and with some big brands as clients, we have to be up to snuff with our tactics, strategies, and expansion ideas. We also realize how important conversion rate optimization is when it comes to any PPC campaign and making sure that everything is cohesive (particularly for ecommerce…I mean how mad does it make you when you click an ad for those cute red high heels and end up on a product page with Nike running shoes??). And even more, optimizing your product pages, category pages, and your product feeds.

So we teamed up with experts from Visual Website Optimizer (also known as Wingify) for a new webinar today to lay out some advanced tactics for both PPC and CRO to supercharge the effectiveness of your ecommerce campaigns

Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect from the webinar:

We’ll be talking about how you can front-load your most valuable terms utilizing SQRs and how to highlight the differentiators.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.13.53 AM

We’ll be talking about why looking at just the last click is misleading and could negatively impact your sales if you aren’t careful. We’ll also be going through different attribution models you SHOULD look at and the important info you can glean from it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.15.26 AM

A Visual Website Optimizer expert will be talking about how you can optimize your product pages and your category pages and the specific areas you need to focus on for these pages to improve effectiveness.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.14.32 AM

Pros And Cons Of Hiring A PPC Agency Or Traditional Agency To Manage Your PPC

Hanapin is running into more and more sales deals where the prospective client is basing their decision on whether they want to hire a specialist, which is us, or a generalist, which is sometimes their traditional agency of record and sometimes a full-service digital agency. This post will go through the various aspects of that decision-making process.

 

Client Request – “We Want A Single Point of Contact”

 

Pros: Clients are rightfully concerned about their workload. They’re outsourcing the work, which is one of the main reasons why – beyond expertise – they’re hiring an agency in the first place. The thought is that by hiring an agency for all of the various disciplines they need help, there’s a single person they can communicate with, streamlining the communication process and also decreasing the chances of miscommunication. It’s also a single point of contact that, in the case of poor performance, you have one person to “yell” at.

 

Cons: Various digital disciplines are becoming so competitive that, while having a single point of contact is ideal for communication, it’s not practical for performance. The person communicating with you cannot be an expert in every discipline, so they’ll bring in a subject matter expert (SME) to speak with you. In many of those cases, while that single point of contact can coordinate meetings on your behalf, which is one less thing you’ll have to do, you’ll still need to speak with the SME in those meetings and one-on-one in follow-ups to get the type of detail you may need.

 

Client Request – “I Want An Agency Who Knows My Entire Business”

 

Pros: For obvious reasons, you want an agency that knows as much about your business as possible. You want them to understand:

 

  • Your branding
  • How you want to be presented to the world
  • How various parts of the business interact with each other

 

In general, you want a confidant who can help you with big problems or troubled parts of the business because they know as much about your business as you do.

 

Cons: Agencies, by their very nature, will never know as much about your business as you do. Because they’re not working in your business on a day-to-day basis like you are, they will only know what you tell them. Boutique agencies, like Hanapin, will know their discipline extremely well and while they won’t know your business as well as you do, to win your business, they should know it better than other agencies. The confidant that prospects are looking for when they want a generalist is actually a business consultant, someone who is trained in the art of business and management consulting and has a good financial background to help you make and think through those decisions.

 

Client Request – “I Want Somebody Who Can Manage Both My PPC and SEO Because They’re Both Search”

 

Pros: From a macro perspective, PPC and SEO are both information retrieval, aka library science. And while one is advertising and one is public relations, in their most basic forms, they’re both website traffic. And, because the results for both PPC and SEO are intermingled on the page, the client feels they need an agency that can manage and understand both.

 

Cons: Managing PPC and SEO require different skill sets, even though to the client they’re both based on keywords.

 

PPC is analytical and requires a person who can sit in front of a computer in Excel for eight hours a day. There are some creative aspects to it, i.e. ad writing, but it’s less of a marketing / creative activity and more of an analysis activity.

 

SEO, while some aspects are analytical, is much more creative and nonlinear in nature. The goal is to create enough good content that attracts links and visitors to your website, which in turn increases your rankings. There are also many more technical aspects of programming and web technologies that are required in SEO than PPC. So while a PPC agency works with and builds landing pages, there are fewer technical aspects because those pages aren’t required to be crawled by a search engine.

 

My last three points aren’t so much pros and cons about whether to choose a specialist or generalist. They are about how certain characteristics of your account should inform your decision to hire a specialist or a generalist.

 

Small Budgets

 

If you have a relatively small budget, let’s say $15k monthly or less, and you already have a traditional agency of record, I would advise you to hire the traditional agency of record (or full-service digital agency) to manage your PPC. The reason for this is because no matter how good the PPC agency is, if you’ve hired a traditional agency of record, it generally indicates you’re a larger business and a $15k monthly budget would have a very small impact on your business. And regardless of the impact that a PPC agency has on that portion of your budget, it’s not likely to offset the cost in a meaningful way.

 

(If you’re spending $15k monthly or less and don’t already have a traditional agency of record, the advice in the previous paragraph doesn’t apply to you. Consider hiring a specialist or generalist based on the advice I give in the rest of the article.)

 

Large Budgets

 

If you have a relatively large budget, let’s say $500k annually or more, regardless of whether that is a small or large portion of your overall marketing budget, it’s a large enough number in and of itself that you should likely hire a PPC agency. The agency will be able to impact your business enough, spending between $40-$50,000 a month, that they should be able to make up for their fees both in terms of saving wasted spend and increasing account performance overall.

 

Complexity

 

If your account has an array of technical issues (i.e. tagging or tracking), or:

 

  • There are multiple accounts with multiple brand managers
  • There are a million keywords or a million ads
  • You need to track from click to sale for lead generation
  • If there’s any demonstrable amount of complexity

 

I won’t say that you should hire a PPC agency, *but* you should at least speak with them to validate the depth of complexity in your account. Maybe they’re simple problems that, to someone not familiar with search, seem like complex issues and can be fixed easily. Or maybe there are blind spots you’re not aware of that a PPC agency could identify and help you manage.

How to Advertise on Pinterest

So you’re interested in learning how to advertise on Pinterest?

Rand Fiskin from MOZ is predicting that Pinterest advertising will be a juggernaut in the upcoming 2015 year for social media advertising. He’s predicting that advertising spending on the social media site will reach $50 million dollars.  And I predict that the amount of advertising dollars on Pinterest will continue to grow as well. So how do you take advantage of this juggernaut opportunity?

The Tale of Two Promoted Pins

Currently Pinterest offers two types of advertising systems, also known as Promoted Pins.

The first type of Promoted Pin, is known as reservation style Promoted Pin.

This style of Promoted Pin was in beta testing in the later half of 2014, and a few select Pinterest partners, that had millions to spend on advertising, such as the Gap, General Mills and Target were part of this exclusive club.

As of January 1st, 2015, all U.S. based Pinterest advertising partners were allowed access to the reservation style promoted pins.

What’s wonderful about reservation style promoted pins is that these promoted pins can be seen within a user’s board.

For example, Kraft, one of Pinterest’s advertising partners, may want to advertise a new BBQ sauce. They create a pin for it, and using the reservation style promoted pins, the BBQ sauce promoted pin may show up in boards titled, “BBQ Ideas, BBQ Chicken, BBQ Party” and more.

Pinterest announced that reservation based promoted pins were open to “all U.S. based partners.” What this means is this type of advertising is NOT open to everyone, just people who have been established as advertising partners and have a pre established relationship with Pinterest.

These types of promoted pins are charged based on the number of times the promoted pin is shown, also known as CPM (cost per thousand impressions).

In an article written by AdAge, the reported price to become this type of advertising partner requires that your company have at least one million dollars to spend on Pinterest advertising. Now if you don’t have the funds for this type of advertising then the second type of promoted pin is more for you.

Could Promoted Pins be Shown Next to Clicked on Pins?

However, it seems that Pinterest may be changing the way that people see their pins on the desktop version of Pinterest. The picture below hasn’t been rolled out to everybody yet.

With the new version, related pins are shown on the right hand side, which takes away attention from the main pin. This is prime real estate for a Promoted Pin since this is above the fold and doesn’t require scrolling.

How to Advertise on Pinterest by @mcngmarketing

I believe it’s truly something to watch out for in 2015. But if you don’t have millions to spend, but you still want to get in on the action as a small business, then read on my Pinteresting friend.

How Small Businesses can Advertise on Pinterest

Before you start reading everything. I have to make it clear that Pinterest advertising and Promoted Pins in all its glorious forms are only available to U.S. based businesses, so good hearted Canadians like myself who have a Canadian based business, or if you’re like my friend Maarten Boribedi from Spain, well…we’re out of luck.

But if you’re like my friend Jeff Sieh, of the Manly Pinterest Tips show, who happens to be from the U.S. and has access to them, then you’ve got better luck than me.

The second type of Pinterest advertising is known as auction based Promoted Pins or self serving Promoted Pins. These types of pins are based on a bidding system. The more you pay for your advertising, then generally the better the position of where your Promoted Pin will be placed.

These type of ads are based on how much you’re willing to pay for per click, also known as cost per click. You don’t get charged unless someone clicks through to your website.  You don’t get charged based on impressions, nor does Pinterest charge you for repins when it does happen.

If you are a U.S. based business here’s a step by step guideline on how to get started with Pinterest advertising and Promoted Pins.

Step 1: Get Your Pinterest Business Account

First you have to have to have a Pinterest business account. If you have a personal account, all you have to do is switch over to a business one and fill in the new information.

Step 2: Get Approved for Promoted Pins by Pinterest

Once you have a Pinterest business account, what you want to do next is apply to be approved for promoted pins. One of the most common questions I get is how long it takes to get approved.

For some it takes about three weeks (could be shorter), while other businesses never get approved.

If you’ve waited for a while, and haven’t heard anything back from them, then give Pinterest a shout and ask them about the advertising application. This may speed up the process.

Step 3: Create Your Pin for Pinterest Advertising

You can only advertise pins that have already been created onto one of your boards. You cannot custom make a pin exclusively for the use as a Promoted Pin and have it disappear into the night like a Snapchat after the campaign is over. 

Now before creating your pin, you need to ensure you follow Pinterest’s rules for advertising. It seems like a lot, but in reality it’s not too bad.

Some of the rules you need to be aware about are:

  • You’re not allowed to have a call to action button on your pins, such as “Click on this wonderful amazing pin, because it will lead you to Batman’s bat cave.” Not happening.
  • No advertising drugs, booze, guns or porn.

Say No to Drugs!

  • Can’t have more than one hashtag in your Pinterest description, and that hashtag should be related to your brand, not a generic one, like #SocialMedia. (One of my most popular articles on my blog is about best practices with Pinterest hashtags.)

How to do Pinterest Advertising.

Step 4: Choose the Right Pin to Promote

Once you’ve created your pin, you need to have that pin belong to a board you created. Then you can select that pin to be promoted.

How to Advertise on Pinterest by @mcngmarketing. Discover the two types of Promoted Pins on Pinterest, and which one is right for your business.

Here’s what not to do….

It’s important to ensure that you choose a pin coming from one of your own created boards, not from a group board you joined.

A client I worked with in the past didn’t pay attention and chose one of their pins that happened to be pinned to a group board that he didn’t create. So when his Promoted Pin started getting pinned hundreds of times, it also attracted new followers to the board.

Guess who got the new followers? Unfortunately it wasn’t my client, it was the person who created the group board. Make sure it comes from your Promoted Pin is chosen from your own board because every time that happens I shed a tear in my dreams.

Step 5: Choose Keywords Your Customers are Searching For

Choose the keywords you want to target that customers are searching for.

Pinterest offers some estimated numbers for weekly searches for search terms, but for any search that’s lower than 5,000 then it won’t tell you.

If you don’t have access to the advertising platform, then you won’t have access to the search numbers.

The good thing is that if the search terms you want to advertise for add up to more than 5,000 Pinterest will tell you these estimated numbers.

When I typed in the search term, natural make up, the estimated amount of times it was searched on Pinterest was approximately 10,000+ times each week.  However if you choose more options such as city, device, gender and language then you’ll get a lower number as you’ll see in step 6.

How to Use Pinterest Advertising by @mcngmarketing. Find out the two types of Promoted Pins on Pinterest and which one is right for your business.

However, while some of your promoted pins will show up for searches, you may also find that some of them will be put into specific category feeds. For example if you choose the search term, “coffee table” for your Promoted Pin, the pin may show up in the Home Decor category as well. So along with being shown in search results, Promoted Pins will also be showing up in category feeds on Pinterest.

Nifty Pinterest Tip for Finding Out Estimated Numbers:

When you’re using estimated Pinterest numbers, you’re probably going to run across a lot of searches that are less than 5,000.

The search term, marketing ideas, is searched for less than 5,000 times a week. But I still want to know how many people are searching for it.

How to Advertise on Pinterest by @mcngmarketing.

I will then search for a term that has move than five thousand weekly searches. In this case I decided to use the search term Pinterest fail. The total amount of estimated searches then jumps up to 15,000 plus for both terms, this because you can choose multiple keywords for your promoted pin. There’s no limit to the amount.

From there, I delete the search term “marketing ideas” on the side, and it tells me that the estimated amount of search is 11,000 for the search term Pinterest fail. I then subtract that number from the cumulative total from both terms and I’m left with knowing that the search term marketing ideas has approximately 4,000 weekly searches.

Which means that marketing ideas is searched for approximately 16,000 times a month on Pinterest.

Step 6: Choose Your Location, Language, Device and Gender.

The next part is where you can choose some of the nitty gritty details of who you want to target.

With your promoted pin you can choose which U.S. cities to target (not all are available, but major ones are), which language the Pinterest users have chosen for their account, as well as their device such as iPad, or desktop and their gender as well.

You can also choose the language in which you want to target users. So if a user has their account in Japanese, but living in U.S. you can exclusively target these users.

As you start getting more granular with your details, you will notice that the amount of searches for that search term will decrease.

Step 7: Choose a Max Cost Per Click Budget for Your Promoted Pin

This is where you can bid on how much you want to pay for your clicks. I would advise that as a small business to choose a low CPC. Not too many people are advertising on the site right now, so there isn’t a lot of competition.

Here’s a bonus tip. If you find that you’re not getting results for a CPC, slowly raise the prices of CPC bidding. You may be surprised to find out that just by adding one more cent to your CPC that you may see dramatic results.

Another aspect to keep in mind for these types of promoted pins is that each pin has their own rate for CPC. So if you want a particular Promoted Pin to show up in a more prominent position then you will want to up your bid for that pin.

Ensure that you have the right URL destination. If you want to see how successful a particular pin is at converting to sales, then you may consider using a UTM tracker.

Now if you were hoping that  Promoted Pins to lead back to a landing page that requires a sign up, Pinterest says that’s a big no no, because they want to preserve the user experience and integrity of Pinterest.

How to Advertise on Pinterest by @mcngmarketing.

Step 8: Create Your Pinterest Campaign

When you create your Promoted Pin they must belong to a campaign. A Pinterest advertising campaign should be designed around one particular theme.

So if you’re doing a campaign to promote a specific holiday sale, you may want to name your campaign Valentine’s Day promotion.

Each campaign can have as many promoted pins as you want and you can have several campaigns going at one time if you like.

From there you can set the duration of how long you want your campaign to go or you can let it go for as long as you like.  From there you would be able to choose a daily maximum budget you like to spend. There are no minimums and maximums from what I can see.

And then the Promoted for that campaign needs to be approved by Pinterest, and once it does, then it’s launched and ready for Pinterest users to see.

Oh there’s one thing, you’ve got fill in your billing information and then it’s ready to roll. There’s also some really great analytics that come with Pinterest advertising to help you understand which search terms converted best in terms of clicks, how many repins a particular Promoted Pin received and so forth.

5 Ways Social Data Can Enhance Marketing Data

Social Data

The nature of social media – public, real time, immediate – and the abundance of data collected on users, activity and engagement, provide a greenfield of opportunities to use social data to enhance and support marketing data.

Here are five ways social data can be used to enhance marketing data.

1. Use Social Data to Provide Added Value for Ad Selling

Online publishers have been selling ads based on data like visits, pageviews, subscribers, and impressions. But social data can be used to enhance the value of online publishers by proving larger circulation through social profiles, impressions on social networks and increased reach through shares.

Media kits should start to include social data as the added value the publisher provide to advertisers as well as post-advertisement reports that include impressions, reach, and engagement.

Additionally, publishers can add value by providing advertisers with the exact details on engaged-audience including the actual users who engaged with their content.

2. Use Social Data to Enhance TV Ratings Data

Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings

Nielsen recently add Nielsen Social as part of the TV rating offering by looking at people who tweet about TV shows and their audience. But social data can enhance more than just simple ratings and provide insight into the type of audience engaged with TV shows as well as the types of engagement.

Networks and cable TV can start looking at social data to make decision about the life or death of their programming beyond the traditional rating system and can provide the social data as an added value for advertisers.

In today’s DVR-heavy watching habits, ratings for live TV only give the networks partial information on how well their programming is doing with their audience. This data might have been able to save Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

3. Use Engagement Data to Test Messaging

Social media provides marketers with a cheap and quick way to test messaging with a highly targeted audience. By crafting several messages you can post to social media and measure the engagement levels each message generated with your audience.

Running simple A/B tests, poll questions, or even just asking your audience via tweets, LinkedIn messages, or Facebook posts, you can garner insight on the resonance of messages before you invest heavily in one message or another.

Companies that utilize social media as a testing field for messages, new product offerings, and validation of strategic direction can be better informed about their decisions by analyzing the engagement data in cross reference to the audience that engaged as well as to the way they engaged.

4. Use Social Ads Data to Test Creative

The emergence of social ads offers brands access to audience without the efforts of building that audience organically. In addition, most social ad platform include ad optimization as an integral part of the platform.

Marketers can utilize these platforms to test ad creative before they roll out major, expensive ad campaigns. Use engagement data to evaluate how well your ads are doing and what creative works better with your audience.

The hyper targeting the social platforms offer can ensure that your test is being done on a select, targeted audience without “tainting” your entire addressable market with test campaigns.

5. Use Social Trends to Research Keywords

Unlike in search, social media provides immediate feedback on keyword trends. Using data from the social networks you can uncover keywords and phrases that are on the upswing before they become completely apparent on organic search and this way create content that will get a head start on organic search.

Use tools like Twitter Trends, hashtag research tools, or social media measurement solutions to learn what keywords are getting more traction with your audience and what keyword trends are forming.

You can later insert these keywords into your editorial calendar and create content that will be optimized for queries and phrases that are already in use by your audience.

Summary

The integration of social data with traditional marketing data can enhance your understanding of trends and user behavior, and also can be used as an added value for publishers and advertisers.

The trend of incorporating social data into other data sources is only beginning; do you have any other ideas on how to use it?

How to Build Links Using Expired Domains

Expired

Many people have had great success snapping up expired domains and using those sites for link building purposes. One of the main reasons for this was that it saved work, as you could grab a site that already had content and backlinks and at least a baseline established presence.

However, after the past year with all the Google changes that make link building trickier than ever, this process is no longer as easy and safe as it once was, but it can still be valuable if you think about what you’re doing and don’t just buy every domain that has your desired keyword in it then hastily 301 redirect it to your own site or trash the content with links to your main site, expecting miracles.

Affiliate marketers are also fond of expired domains to use for their work so while we won’t go into detail on that, we will cover some topics that are relevant for that specific use.

How to Find Dropped/Expired/Expiring Domains?

Domain Tools is one of the main places that I check but there are many sites that list expired or about-to-expire domains that are up for grabs. Network Solutions has custom email alerts where you can put in a keyword and get an email when domains matching that are expiring so that’s a nice option for those of you who like a more passive approach.

Network Solutions Expiring Domains

Snap Names is also good, as is Drop Day. You may find that there are certain sites that are best for your purposes (whether it’s keeping an eye on ones you want or getting ones that just expired) so look around and figure out what best suits you.

Want a domain that’s at least 9 years old and has a listing in DMOZ? Domain Tools is where I’d go for that, for example:

Domain Tools Dropping Names

Of course if you come across a domain that you like and it’s not set to expire any time soon, there’s nothing wrong with emailing the owner and asking to buy it.

Domain may be for sale

How to Vet Expired Domains

  • Check to see what domains 301 redirect to them. I use Link Research Tools for this as you can run a backlink report on the domain in question and see the redirects. If you find a domain that has 50 spammy 301s pointing to it, it may be more trouble that it’s worth. Preventing a 301 from coming through when you don’t control the site that redirects is almost impossible. You can block this on the server level but that won’t help you with your site receiving bad link karma from Google. In that case, you may have to disavow those domains.
  • Check their backlinks using your link tool of choice. Is the profile full of nothing but spam that will take ages to clean up or will you have to spend time disavowing the links? If so, do you really want to bother with it? If you want to buy the domain to use for a 301 redirect and it’s full of spammy links, at least wait until you’ve cleared that all up before you 301 it.
  • Check to see if they were ever anything questionable using the Wayback Machine. If the site simply wasn’t well done 2 years ago, that’s not nearly as big of a problem as if you’re going to be using the site for educating people about the dangers of lead and it used to be a site that sold Viagra.
  • Check to see if the brand has a bad reputation. Do some digging upfront so you can save time disassociating yourself from something bad later. You know how sometimes you get a resume from a person and you ask an employee if they know this Susan who also used to work at the same place that your current employee worked years ago and your employee says “oh yes I remember her. She tried to burn the building down once”? Well, Susan might try to burn your building down, too.
  • Check to see if they were part of a link network. See what other sites were owned by the same person and check them out too.
  • Check to see if they have an existing audience. Is there an attached forum with active members, are there people generally commenting on posts and socializing them, etc.?

How Should You Use Expired Domains?

Many people 301 redirect these domains to their main sites or secondary sites in order to give them a boost. Others turn them into part of their legitimate online arsenal and use them as a proper standalone resource.

Some people add them to their existing blog network and interlink them. Some people keep them and use them to sell links. Some people keep them and try to resell them. Some people use them to try their hand at affiliate marketing.

However that’s talking about how people use them, not about how they should use them, but how you should use them is up to you.

I once worked with an account where we used tons of microsites. They were standalone sites that each linked to the main brand site and we built links to them. It worked for a while (and still works for many people according to what I see in forums) but as far as I can tell, most of those microsites are no longer in Google’s index or no longer contain live links to the brand site. That’s because in that case, it stopped working and became more of a danger than anything else. They served no purpose at all other than to host a link to the brand site, and since they gained no authority, it just wasn’t worth the trouble of keeping them up.

I’ve also dealt with someone who successfully bought expired domains and redirected them to subdomains on his main site in order to split it up into a few niche subdomains. He didn’t overdo it, and each expired domain had a good history with content relevant to what the subdomain was, so it all worked very well.

As mentioned early on, affiliate marketers also use expired domains. One big benefit of this is that if you plan to just use PPC for affiliate marketing, you don’t have to be as concerned about the backlink profile of the domain as you might not care that much about its organic rankings.

Some Good Signs of Expired Domains

Some of these probably depend upon the purpose you have in mind, but here are a few things I like to see on an expired or expiring domain but please keep in mind that these aren’t discrete defining features of a quality domain; they are simply a couple of signs that the domain might be a good one to use:

  • Authority links that will pass through some link benefits via a 301 redirect (if I’m going that route.)
  • An existing audience of people who regularly contribute, comment, and socialize the site’s content (if I’m going to use it as a standalone site.) If I’m looking to buy a forum, for example, I’d want to make sure that there are contributing members with something to offer already there. If I want a site that I will be maintaining and adding to and plan to build it out further, seeing that there’s an audience of people reading the content, commenting on it, and socializing it would make me very happy.
  • A decent (and legitimate) Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) that is in line with where I think it should be. If I see a site that is 7 months old and has a TBPR of 6, I’ll obviously be suspicious, and if I found one that was 9 years old and was a TBPR 1, I would hestitate before using it, for example. I also have to admit that while I don’t rely on TBPR as a defining metric of quality, I’d be crazy to pretend that it means nothing so it’s definitely something I look at.
  • A domain age of at least 2 years if I was going to do anything other than hold it and try to resell it.
  • Internal pages that have TBPR. If there are 5000 pages and only the homepage has any TBPR, I’d be a bit suspicious about why no internal pages had anything.

A Few Red Flags of Expired Domains

  • Suspicious TBPR as mentioned above.
  • The domain isn’t indexed in Google. Even if you look at a recently expired site and see it has a TBPR of 4 with good Majestic flow metrics, is 5 years old, and has been updated in some way until it expired (whether through new blog posts, comments, social shares, etc.), it’s safe to ssume it’s not indexed for a good reason and you probably want to stay away from it.
  • Backlink profile is full of nothing but spam.
  • All comments on the site’s posts are spammy ones and trackbacks.

Bottom Line: Is Using Expired Domains a Good Idea?

As with almost anything in SEO right now, some tactics aren’t really great ideas for the long-term but since they work for the short-term, people still use them. Some tactics that won’t work in one niche will still work well in certain other niches and some sites seem to be able to weather just about any algorithmic change in Google.

That’s why it’s hard to say that you shouldn’t do this, or you should do that, because every case is different, every webmaster/site owner has a different idea about risk, and a lot of people have made a lot of money off doing things that I personally wouldn’t do.

I don’t have time to keep up the blogging on my own site so I would never expect that I could keep it up on five sites, each devoted to a specific area of my industry, but with the right manpower and the right people, this can be a successful strategy for many.

If you plan to use them for affiliate marketing and you’re going to use PPC for that, you don’t have to worry about some of the things that you would have to be concerned with if you planned to rank well.

In the end, it depends on what you want to do, how much time and effort you have to put into doing well, and how much risk you can handle, just like everything else.