Sound Stories #013 – Becoming a Search Engine’s Best Friend

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    If you’ve ever wanted to hear words of wisdom from a Google Adwords Guru, this is the episode for you! Learn why good keyword research is always the foundation of an effective search engine campaign and more, from episode guest Liz Gray. Listen in as Liz, provides a myriad of tip and tricks for optimizing your Google Adwords campaign so you make it to the 1st position of paid ads on the Search Networks. And who doesn’t want to be first?

    TRANSCRIPTION SOUND STORIES #013

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Hi there, and welcome to another episode of Sound Stories, an inspirational podcast for creative professionals and storytellers who want to improve their lives at home and at work. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli, your host and co-founder of Voices.com. Today I’m joined by Liz Gray. Liz is a Google AdWords and analytics guru. She sits on the global academic panel of judges for the Google Online Marketing Challenge. Liz is a board member with the London Small Business Center and a graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University. She holds a Master’s degree in Digital Experience Innovation from the University of Waterloo. Liz speaks regularly on search engine marketing and web analytics. She also teaches at Fanshawe College. Welcome to the program, Liz.

    Liz Gray:

    Thank you for having me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    All right, Liz. So to kick things off, can you give us a description of what search engine marketing or SEM is?

    Liz Gray:

    Yes. So when you go to a search engine like Google and type in a query related to something that you’re looking for, at the top of the page you’ll see ads, and those ads are what we refer to as search engine marketing. Below the ads you see organic or natural listings, and that’s what we refer to as search engine optimization, is the optimizing of your website to rank organically in search engines. Search engine marketing ads may or may not be present for every keyword query that you might input into a search engine. It all depends on the search engine’s way of analyzing whether the advertiser is relevant enough to the search query and whether the search query deserves advertising to be served up. So for example, on queries like what was the score of the Jays game, you will not see any ads, but you would see ads if you queried by a picnic basket, for example.

    Liz Gray:

    Search engine marketing can include the little product boxes that you see at the top of the search engine results page that are Google Shopping ads, and that also falls under the umbrella of search engine marketing.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    So Liz, what does SEM or search engine marketing tell us about the power of storytelling in the digital space?

    Liz Gray:

    Well, the search engine results page is often the first touch point that brands have with prospective customers and it’s where brands have a chance to solidify and reinforce brand messages and offers that have been introduced in other channels. So by bidding on search nomenclature that represents how prospects are looking for you, brands can capture valuable screen real estate and get in front of their customers. But to do that, it’s really important for brands to understand how people are searching for them and the language that they use. So good keyword research is always the foundation of an effective search engine marketing campaign.

    Liz Gray:

    Once you compel a prospect to click on your ad, it’s really critical to drive to a page on your website that reinforces the promises or messages that you have delivered upstream of the click. So the landing page should confirm to the searcher that they will be able to find what it is that they’re looking for and that the brand and their story and any promises that have been made will be upheld.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    And those are very important. I added “the promise will be upheld” because the ad copy that you’ve shaped or some kind of messaging around these ads, the search engine marketing ads, they have to tell a story, a very short story but be true and to guide people. And so that conversion that you want to see happen on the landing page, it absolutely has to follow suit with whatever it was they saw there and to continue to build that trust.

    Liz Gray:

    Mm-hmm (affirmative). And that’s something that we call information sent online. So when you build a promise or an offer upstream of a click on an ad, it’s really critical that you maintain that information sent for the customer as they go forward through all of the touch points with the brand.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    So when you’re crafting these ads, whereabouts are you in kind of that customer’s journey? Have you mapped out what this person did before they even came to the search engine and how they would have gotten to your ad in particular?

    Liz Gray:

    Sometimes. It depends. So there is a process today called retargeting that is a part of search engine marketing. So in the event that the customer has had an interaction with our brand before by coming to our website but perhaps has not completed the conversion funnel, we have the ability to pixel their browser and follow them with ads in other websites that they might be looking at on the internet. So the remarketing process allows us to serve a very specific advertising messages based on prior behavior. For example, if I visit a website and view information about a Jamaica vacation but don’t purchase that vacation, later on that week, I may see an ad for a Jamaica vacation reminding me that I was interested recently and I might get some kind of a special offer book in the next 48 hours and save 10% as an example. So that’s a way that we as brands can connect with consumers based on prior behavior.

    Liz Gray:

    Also, the keyword that searchers use to find us can be really indicative of the point in the customer journey that customers are at. So for example, we pay very close attention to the intent behind keywords. For example, somebody searching on GIC rates might be in the beginning phases of their investigation. They’re thinking about what rates are, they’re investigating where they might purchase a GIC, where somebody who is searching on by a GIC is closer in the customer journey to actually making a purchase. So those are two very different keywords. For me as a search engine marketing advertiser, I’m willing to spend a different amount of money on those keywords because they point to different intent and different conversion probabilities. And so my return on investment is probably very different for those two different keywords.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    So you have to get into the head of the person who’s searching. So that being the case, do you have maybe personas of different sorts of customers in saying, “Well, this person is at this stage, and so we’re going to shape content or campaigns around that kind of leg of the customer journey to help them along.”? Have you kind of identified who maybe those personas, those characters are?

    Liz Gray:

    Yes. Sometimes we can do that. And again, with the intent of the keyword, that really can shape the content of the landing page that you drive traffic to. If a searcher is in the informational stages, then we want to drive traffic to a page that’s further upstream of the conversion funnel that gives consumers information about comparison prices, for example, more product information. Whereby if I’m ready to purchase, then I can be driven further into the sales funnel where a conversion is more likely to occur immediately.

    Liz Gray:

    In terms of shaping personas in terms of demographic and interest information, that certainly is information that Google tries to gather and report to you in the AdWords interface. So certainly we’re able to get some information about what people are interested in based on the content that they have viewed previously online. And so that allows us to then serve up our ads on related content when we know what our prospective customers are interested in.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    All right. So I just know that I use Google, I look for things just like anyone else making search queries. Google knows all the other things that I’ve looked for and possibly where I am at that stage in the journey. And so they are likely, I would expect, to show me maybe your ad if they know it is more relevant to me because they’ve already got this history of, ooh, Stephanie tried to look up the temperature for what to pick the turkey at for however long and it’s this many pounds. So if you are selling something else like, I don’t know, a baster or who knows what, with that information that Google already has, feed into helping to serve up your ad if it is the most relevant one for me to see.

    Liz Gray:

    Yes, sometimes it does. So your prior behavior online can impact the content and the information and the ads that are served up to you, and that’s called personalization. So my search engine results page when I’m logged into my Google account could look entirely different from yours based on prior behavior. So Google does endeavor to serve us what it thinks that we want. And so, for example, if we have executed many searches around a particular topic and have not clicked on ads, then Google might elect not to serve us ads for the next little while because it is detecting that that’s not something that we are interested in. So personalization plays a big part in what we see on the search engine results page.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Well, that’s great. So as you can tell, I’m a little interested in this part of the discussion around the pay-per-click and the ads and just how those become relevant to us, but also as people who are advertising, how we can use pay-per-clicks. So some people relate pay-per-click ads or PPC, you might hear that terminology, everyone out there, relating these ads to a really, really short story. We’ve kind of talked about how this messaging is pretty tight, right? So it’s almost like a micro story in effect. So can you tell us, Liz, how stories are told through pay-per-click?

    Liz Gray:

    Yes. We have a very tight character limit in the Google AdWords platform, as an example, so you are limited to two title headlines, each with 30 characters including spaces and punctuation, and then a description line that is 80 characters in length. So in total, 140 characters including spaces and punctuation to tell your story, which as I mentioned before, could be the first touch point with a prospective customer. So it is really critical to be able to get your messaging across in a clear and concise way.

    Liz Gray:

    One of the most important things to do is to ensure that your ad is relevant to the search query that was originally input. So when we’re telling that brand story in 140 characters, our primary concern is to ensure that the ad copy speaks to the nomenclature that was just input. So if I have just typed in “Buy a picnic basket”, I as the searcher will be scanning the search engine results page for that wording, and when I see it, I am more likely to click be it on a paid ad or be it on an organic listing or a shopping ad or a knowledge graph ad or perhaps in a local listing, if that’s most relevant to me if I’m looking to purchase locally.

    Liz Gray:

    So we want to make sure that our ads speaks to the query. We also want to make sure that the ad has something really compelling in it and differentiates us on the page. So, as you know, for any given search query, there’s thousands, if not millions of results that are returned and it’s important for us on page one to differentiate our stories from other stories. So we need to really make sure that our value proposition is very clear in that 140 characters and that we are providing some kind of a compelling offer. So if we are an eCommerce shop, for example, can we offer free shipping or buy one get one free or what have you? So we have to do everything in our power to ensure that we are driving a good click-through rate.

    Liz Gray:

    Click-through rate is really important in determining your overall ad quality score. So if we serve up ads as advertisers that don’t get clicked on, that’s a signal to Google that we’re not relevant, and Google’s primary concern is to serve up advertising and organic listings that are hugely relevant to its searchers. If the search engine results page is no longer relevant, we then turn to another search engine, and that’s the last thing that Google wants. So, as advertisers, we need to make sure that we are concerned with that relevance that is measured through click-through rate.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Okay. So we’ve got our copy that we’re trying to attract people through in our ad. If it’s effective copy, you’ll get a click-through, and that’s wonderful. That’s what we all want to have. Now, that landing page where hopefully the conversion takes place, it should, as we said earlier, have content that relates to that ad, that even uses those keywords that were typed in, the input originally because that will help to build trust and it’s more relevant to the person there. So how important is it that that page has authority of its own? Is this just a page that we can just tack on, and oh, this is a landing page and it doesn’t matter in terms of organic SEO, or is it more beneficial to have maybe side by side someone who’s searching, basically we answer the same question that we do in our ad but in an organic ranking, and then to have our ad on the side? Would that just reinforce the validity of our ad that we rank well for that kind of message that we’re trying to get at cross?

    Liz Gray:

    So I think I hear you asking two questions.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Yeah, probably.

    Liz Gray:

    So the first one is how important is it for you to select landing pages that have a high page authority, which means that Google believes that they are authoritative, have lots of backlinks pointing to them and would rank well organically. And that’s not necessarily important because that’s not the goal of a pay-per-click ad landing page. The goal is not to get that page to rank organically. The goal is to get that page to convert our traffic. And so the pages that you use as landing pages for PPC ads could actually be indeed non-indexed pages, but pages rather that are solely served up for the purposes of your pay-per-click advertising campaign that really are very streamlined and whose conversion goal is immediately clear, highly targeted to the keyword searched that drove the traffic there to begin with.

    Liz Gray:

    The second question I think I heard in there was how important is it for a brand to occupy as much screen real estate as possible on the search engine results page, and does that do good things for the brand as a whole? And the answer to that question is yes. So for a brand like eBay to occupy a pay-per-click ad spot and an organic ad spot and potentially a spot in the knowledge graph and maybe even some shopping ads, studies have been done to show that occupying multiple spots and lots of screen real estate on the search engine results page will lift overall click-through rate and increase searcher’s perception of brand authority. So yes, it is a good idea to try to capture as many spots as possible on the SERP.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Thank you for taking both of my questions and answering them so well. I’m sure everyone is really excited to know that not only do their landing pages for conversions off of their ads not have to be like really authoritative because for some of us it’s like, “Oh no, more work to be done. How am I going to ever make this ad convert if it isn’t ranking really well already?” Well, that doesn’t matter. It just has to be an effective page where they can land to, have a conversion occur. But it is also really wonderful to know that all the hard work that we’ve done to craft story around various topics that may relate to those ads will actually bolster the authority, or at least the perceived authority of those ads when they are taking up the real estate on both the organic and the paid side.

    Liz Gray:

    Correct.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    All right. So assuming we have multiple campaigns, we’re probably all over the place trying to get customers to do this, that, or the other, it could feel like we’ve actually achieved a lot just by having a campaign. I know that kind of sounds funny, but for some of us, we’re not necessarily as technical, and so it might feel like, “Wow, we’ve really made it. We’ve set up all of these different campaigns, we picked our keywords, we’ve got our landing pages. I feel really proud of myself. We must have accomplished something.” But that might not be the case at all because it really does matter about the conversion and metrics to know that we’ve been successful. So how can we go about setting those up and what really tells us that what we’ve been doing is effective?

    Liz Gray:

    So every advertiser who’s running any kind of pay-per-click advertising should have a goal in mind. What is it that they would like the traffic to do when the traffic lands on your website? Google analytics provides you with the opportunity to set up what are called goal conversions, and those goal conversions can be engagement based, so did the traffic spend a minimum amount of time on the website or view a minimum amount of pages, or did the traffic do something like fill in a lead generation form? Did they make a purchase? Et cetera. When those goals are set up, they can be imported into the AdWords interface so that you can see per keyword how each search term that you have bid on is performing.

    Liz Gray:

    So not only are we concerned with metrics like click-through rate, upstream of the conversion, we also want to measure clicks right through to the end to understand what kind of value we were able to get from the keyword, and ultimately, we should be basing our success on return on investment, so how much did we spend overall on a keyword and what did it return to us in terms of revenue, or potentially if we’re talking about lead generation, prospective revenue in the future based on lead to sales conversion rates.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Now that’s awesome. Something that just occurred to me, is that obviously when you’re advertising on Google, you have a credit card assigned to your account and the ads are basically paid for using that card. Now, you could literally spend thousands of dollars a day on Google by accident if you don’t maybe set certain parameters around how much you’re willing to spend and during what time periods and in what countries and all these other different variables. How can someone who is about to set up their SEM campaign do it in a responsible way so that they know that their money is best spent?

    Liz Gray:

    Yes, you’re right, and that’s a great question. So Google AdWords offers you all kinds of opportunities to restrict spending and spend money in wise ways, and you mentioned one of them, which is geotargeting. So you always want to make sure that you’re only serving your ads to those geotargets that you’re most interested in yielding impressions. So if you are a bakery in Toronto, we don’t want to serve our ads up to people in New York necessarily unless we ship over the border. So Google offers you the opportunity to do that.

    Liz Gray:

    We can also set daily budgets such that if you had $10 a day to spend, Google will serve your ads up until your click charges accrue to the maximum daily budget, $10, and then your ads will cease to show until the following day when they will kick up again until your daily budget is depleted.

    Liz Gray:

    So there’s all kinds of ways that you can spend money intelligently, and those would be two of the primary ways. And certainly, bidding on keywords that are hugely relevant to your business is the other way to manage your spending and ensure that you’re getting a good return on your investment. Do not bid on keywords that are really broad and are going to bring in lots of potentially irrelevant searches. Pay close attention to longer tail keywords that have the right intent and are going to bring you the right kind of traffic.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Another great point you made that I just want to touch on. Now, we want to pick relevant keywords. And for those of us who may be in industries where it is very competitive, like there’s a lot of people doing what we do, our ad is one way to break through the noise there, but when a keyword is really popular, and therefore, really expensive, how can we best advertise in that area without breaking the bank? Are there any kind of tips that you can give us for being more relevant without spending as much, especially when there are competitors that are really gunning for the same words.

    Liz Gray:

    Yes. So there’s lots of industries like the one that you are talking about where keyword costs are very high and usually it has to do with the number of competitors, but also the perspective return on investment. So when we see that a keyword has the potential to yield a lot of revenue, any keywords related to finance or insurance, banking, legal terminology, all tend to be very expensive. One way as an advertiser you can combat that is to ensure that you have the best ad relevance out of the competitors. And so if you’re able to demonstrate to Google that your click through rate, your ad relevance and your landing page relevance is really high, you will be more likely to get a higher quality score. And Google, for every keyword that is in your account, assigns you a score out of 10 that is a measure of how relevant you are to the keyword query as an advertiser. The higher your quality score, the lower your overall costs. So it is possible to pay less for a keyword than a competitor would pay if your quality score is higher than theirs.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    But that also mean that your ad is ranking higher than theirs as on the page, even though you’re not paying as much technically?

    Liz Gray:

    It could, depending on your quality score and your bid vis-à-vis theirs. So your ad rank on the page is determined by those two factors.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Yes. And to come up with a budget, like a real budget that you want to get so many customers in the door by advertising on this particular word, you have to know how much you’re willing to spend to get a customer, right? That kind of goes into the whole idea of, well, our budget is determined based upon how much it costs for us to acquire a customer and what that customer lifetime value is of that customer. And so the greater the lifetime value of that customer, and hopefully you know this in your own business, dear listener, then you may be willing to spend more on certain keywords because you know that those ones have proved in the past to attract these people who over time will spend so much more than you’re paying to acquire them.

    Liz Gray:

    That’s right and that’s exactly the way advertisers should be thinking about bidding. And all too often, we think about bidding to the individual transaction instead of, as you say, thinking about the overall lifetime value of a customer and what that customer might bring in in terms of referral revenue and revenue time. And so, yeah, we always want to take those future streams of revenue and discount them back when we’re figuring out what that click is and what that conversion is worth to us today. That’s really intelligent bidding.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    It is. I often say we kind of learn from the best in certain ways. I know that Google AdWords is very old. This has been around for over a decade. People have been advertising online in this way. David, my husband, actually studied with Perry Marshall, who was one of the big Google AdWords people and probably still is today. But back then, there were very few people who kind of knew how to make Google work for you, right?

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    And so we learned back then just how important it was to basically not make the mistakes that could be so easily avoided if you have the right information on, like turn your ads off in this geographic area because you’re not really servicing them, or even something as simple as like, we don’t want to have our brand associated with this parked domain or we don’t want to be on other websites that are like Google AdSense. We don’t want to be there. We want to be just in the search engine here and we had to be really smart about that because we all make mistakes and in the past, we had seen campaigns kind of go crazy, like oh, my gosh, we forgot to maybe determine when we would shut this ad off or whatever the case might be. We all learned through that. But my question around this particular topic, Liz, is just how has Google AdWords changed over the years and how has that become better for the advertiser?

    Liz Gray:

    Over the years, I’ve noticed that Google is serving up on the advertising platform much more relevant to ads. And so its assessment of quality score and relevance has become much more intelligent over the years, and that’s good for everybody, the searcher, the advertiser. It also means that small advertisers with small budgets don’t get pushed out of the auction by large advertisers who would, if it was up to them, bid on every search term under the sun because they could afford to do so. Google prevents that now because it knows that doesn’t make for the best user experience on the search engine results page. That has gotten better over the years and I see it just continuing to do so.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    We’ve talked a lot about how we can create ads in more of a text sort of environment, you got your words there, there’s no pictures, that sort of thing. But then we all know that there are banners, there’s images that that people use as well to kind of target you as the person searching to help bring you over to the landing page, I suppose, and we know that an image is worth a thousand words, right? It’s kind of an interesting area to talk about. So could you explain a bit more about that display network and how we can get into it?

    Liz Gray:

    Yes. So as a part of the AdWords platform, you have the opportunity as an advertiser to serve your ads up on the search network, which is what we’ve been talking about up to this point. Those are keyword triggered ads based on exactly what the searcher has typed in. I bid on specific terminology that I would like to trigger my ad.

    Liz Gray:

    On the other hand, there’s the display network, as you mentioned. This is a collection of thousands and thousands of content sites out there that have signed up to use Google as their advertising broker through a system called AdSense. As an example, if I have a blog all about knitting and I write a piece on knitting every week and I, over time, find that I’m getting lots of traffic to my site, there’s ways to monetize that traffic and I could go out there and myself track down advertisers who were interested in serving ads on my website, or I could use Google to be the broker and the person in between me and the advertiser. So Google shares in click revenue with the content website and connects content producers with advertisers who are interested in serving their ad up against that content. As an example, if I am the manufacturer of a yarn and I would like to serve my ad for yarn up on a knitting website, Google will connect me with the knitting website and serve my ad up against that content.

    Liz Gray:

    You can, as an advertiser, target your ads on the display network on the basis of demographics, topics, keywords, and you can also cherry pick specific sites on which you would like your ads to be displayed. For example, if as an advertiser I would like to see my ad on Kijiji, I can input Kijiji as a specific website on which I’d like my display ad and then I create image ads that have clear calls to action and images that are specifically related to the content against which I’m serving my ad, hoping to get the click and then hoping that that traffic is qualified traffic that will convert on my website. Of course our expectations are lower on the display network because the ads were not triggered from somebody specifically looking for me. I was reading knitting related content. I did not input “Buy yarn”. I may be interested in buying yarn, but I did not search specifically for that. So our expectations in terms of click-through rate and conversion rates are much lower on the display network, but nonetheless, it can be a great source of qualified traffic if you manage the campaign properly.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    So we know that messaging should be clear to be effective. Obviously you want someone to do something. You’re to spell it out, this is exactly what it is, there’s no ambiguity and that’s wonderful. But so far as actually touching the heart and making people want to do something more aspirational, are there certain words that really are effective for drawing someone into your ad, be it an image or text base? Is there’s just maybe something that you’ve found works particularly well to help convince someone through those words, connects with them in a different way to help them get to the landing page?

    Liz Gray:

    Good question. I think it all depends on what the search engine results page looks like, so never to be forgetting that you’re competing against lots of organic listings and other ads and so forth. So you really want to have a good handle on what are other people saying on the page and how can you be different. One tactic that we have found has worked sometimes is to ask a question. And so if somebody has typed in “Buy a mattress”, maybe you could try a headline like, “Not getting a good night’s sleep?” And you are asking question and potentially speaking directly to a problem that your searcher has and indicating that if they were to click on your ad, that would be the answer or solution to their problem.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Are there words similarly that we would want to avoid? Are there just words that maybe Google has flagged as being spammy or inappropriate or don’t use too many exclamation marks? Is there something that maybe like some guardrails, some boundaries that you can give us when crafting this messaging?

    Liz Gray:

    Well, certainly Google has lots of editorial guidelines that we need to abide by or our ads will be disapproved. You can’t use language like “Click here” as an example. That’s an unacceptable call to action. You can’t use exclamation marks in your headlines. You can’t use more than one exclamation mark in the description as an example. So there’s all kinds of verbiage and punctuation that is not allowed, nothing like multiple asterixis in a raw just for the purposes of drawing someone’s eye to your ad. Google doesn’t allow anything of that nature. So it very much wants its ads to look and feel like organic listings, very natural and normal for the purposes of drawing a click, an intentional click.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    So it’s like being the believable expert, the real person, the authenticity piece. It seems like it all ties together to just being real and something that someone would want to go and explore further. So should your ad behave almost more like a friend? I’m just trying to get into the psychology side of this. If I see an ad, and I don’t want to feel as though I’m being told to do something by a company. I want to know that this will meet my need, you are going to solve my problem. So when we’re writing our ads, how important is it that we also adopt that same mentality that this is not just an ad. If I’m writing this ad, I want to feel like I’m their teacher, I want to feel like I’m this trusted friend or whatever that character persona is. Do you find that people write their ads that way?

    Liz Gray:

    I think that, again, it comes back to the nature of the keyword that is related to the ad. So every keyword that you bid on, you should pay very close attention to the ad that is associated with it. You would never, as an example, write one ad for all of your keywords. Your keywords are separated into themed ad groups to which there are ads associated at the ad group level. So the intent and the persona, if that’s possible to detect in a keyword, should be represented in the ad copy.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    And all of that should also tie into your brand, right? It should be singing from the same song sheet, right?

    Liz Gray:

    Yes, it should. Certainly in order to solidify any offers and messages that you might be communicating in other channels, you want that consistency for sure. The degree to which you leverage your brand in the copy of the ad I think depends on the brand equity that you have. So brands like Hallmark, for example, that speak to people, would want to leverage their brand name, whereas a brand that isn’t so well known might want to focus more on keywords in order to drive a higher click-through rate. So it’s important to consider how your brand speaks to people.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    So something that I just took from this, it’s that we really do need to know that customer, the customer journey, kind of what it is that they might be searching for next, and that’s why we need to know all the different steps of how they might even come to the conclusion that they need to search at all, right? Be it a new mattress that they might need, or maybe it’s a picnic basket, or who knows what it might be, they have a goal and we want to make sure that we’re there. Persona wise, it’s really, really hard to kind of match people up with our ads, but the intent, however, is there. We can write to their motivation. We know what their needs are, what they are searching for, and that can help us to write really persuasive copy that will open the door to achieving their goals.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Okay. So earlier on, and I hope we all remember this, but from the top when I was talking about Liz and all the great things that she’s been doing, I did happen to mention something really cool. It’s called the Google Online Marketing Challenge. I’m intrigued. What is that?

    Liz Gray:

    The Google Online Marketing Challenge is an exciting international competition whereby Google will provide teams of university and college students from around the world with $250 in cash to run live pay-per-click advertising campaigns through the Google AdWords platform. So students in teams from around the world gather themselves together and find a company that has not used AdWords in the last six months, and we approached those organizations and those organizations agree to become a part of the project whereby the students do all of the keyword research and all of the ad copywriting, run the campaign over a 21-day period and optimize it and vie against other teams. Usually in the vicinity of 2000 teams participate every year, and these teams are competing against one another and Google’s algorithm determines which team has run the best campaign. So it’s a great way for students to get hands-on experience in the AdWords platform and become job-ready for careers in search engine marketing, search engine optimization and web analytics.

    Liz Gray:

    So we at Fanshawe College have been participants in the Google Online Marketing Challenge for several years. A few years ago, we were the top winner in North America and our students were the recipients of a trip down to California and a trip to the Googleplex in Mountain View. And the following year, we were the top prize winners in the world in the not-for-profit category, so our students were able to win a $15,000 donation to the London Museum. And then the following year, we won the same award for the London Children’s Museum. So Fanshawe College in the worldwide Google Online Marketing Challenge has ranked very high over the years and we’re excited to be participating again this year with 20 teams.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Wow, that is awesome. When you mentioned the Googleplex, I just lit up, I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve been there.” Now, did you get to go with them, Liz?

    Liz Gray:

    I did, yeah. We flew down to San Francisco and then rented a car and drove down to Mountain View and we were treated to a full day at the Googleplex and it was one of the most exciting days for all of us. It was really exciting to feel the energy and the vibe, so many people working towards the same goal with great energy. It was a great place to be and I would love to be able to go back one day.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    One last question on this because I know as a teacher, you want to see your students get work, and clearly anybody who teaches, wants to see their students get work in this market, and companies listening right now may not have the expertise in-house to do their own AdWords campaigns and so on. They could always try to be part of a program like what you just mentioned. How would they apply to have somebody help to run their campaign in the way that you just mentioned?

    Liz Gray:

    Yeah. So organizations can approach their local educational institution to inquire as to whether there are any live client opportunities. Fanshawe College prides in partnering with community based businesses all the time. So we have lots of opportunities in search engine marketing and other kinds of client projects. So that would be where I would start. And certainly, Fanshawe College works with companies from around the world in the Google Online Marketing Challenge. So they can always find me online and I’ll find them a spot for next year. So you can connect with me on Twitter. My handle is Liz_Gray, G-R-A-Y.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming in, Liz. I’m just so grateful that you’re here. We’ve had so many students come from the programs that you teach at and they’ve just been amazing and we’ve even hired some of them. So I just want to tell everybody out there that you may not have a Fanshawe College in your neighborhood, but you will have a school similar to Fanshawe and there are really great students who are on the cutting edge, they’re learning all these things, they’re being taught by people like Liz, and if you don’t have a strategy yet for your online advertising, then to really look into that and especially that Google Online Marketing Challenge.

    Liz Gray:

    Thank you for having me today, Stephanie. I really appreciate it. I had a great time.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Well, that’s it for this week. Thank you for joining us on Sound Stories. If you’d like to subscribe to Sound Stories, there are two really easy ways to do that. You can either go to iTunes, look us up there, really easy, you’ll get every episode as soon as it’s ready, or you could go to our website, voices.com/podcasts/soundstories.

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