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Pay Per Click Essentials

The results of launching a paid search campaign can be seen virtually instantaneously, making it an easy marketing investment for many businesses. Having a basic understanding of how pay per click campaigns function is essential for making sure ad dollars are well spent and deliver results in line with your business’s marketing goals. We’ve put together a short list to get you started on the right track:

Pay Per Click Essentials from the Pure Visibility Team



Book of the week: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Integrated digital marketing is an ever-changing field. Our field is competitive, and technology, competitors, and a kaleidoscope of tactics keep us all on our toes. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. “Learn and Teach” is one of Pure Visibility’s core values, and someone who wants to work on our team without a love of learning will not fit nor will that individual succeed.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading recently, including books on mobile content strategy, and yet Thinking, Fast and Slow (Amazon affiliate link) stood out to me as the work I’d most recommend. Although I might be a little late to the party (it came out in 2011), it feels fresh. Its content on how people make decisions will help us be better content strategists, integrated digital marketers, persuaders, and thinkers. Oh and the Kindle version is inexpensive ($2.99).

The book’s unifying theme is exploring how we think. Essentially our minds have two systems – one which operates automatically and unfiltered, for the other we allocate focus to more complicated thinking tasks. The first might be broadly called intuition or even innate prejudice and the second we identify as our reasoning self. Yet they are interconnected and inseparable, relying on the second system for most decision-making would be tedious and take too long, so basically we are not as reasonable as we imagine ourselves to be.

An image of a page of text after being shredded

Shredded, the inverse of legibility.*

So applying this insight in the chapter on “Cognitive Ease” Kahneman writes “how to write a persuasive message” in which there is really one recommendation that takes many actionable forms. That recommendation is Maximize Legibility. It’s forms include:

  1. design for readability (if the message will be read),
  2. promote audibility of your message (if in a spoken or recorded setting),
  3. “keep it simple…”,
  4. make it easy to remember (think of the mnemonics you used to cram for exams – make it rhyme, for example), and lastly (most surprising to me)
  5. make sure your words are easy for your audience to pronounce!

Yes, it makes common sense, yet common sense isn’t always applied. The concepts in this chapter and throughout the book are a great refresher, and sometimes surprising, and little tidbits like these would make a great checklist to review before sending that client email, drafting that paid search ad, and/or revising that blog post.

Let’s make acquiring this book an easy decision for you:

Make a quick decision to learn about fast and slow thinking. How can you go wrong?

* Photo made available via creative commons license via Flickr user Daniel Kulinski.

Pure Visibility greens our Commute with GetDowntown

Here in Ann Arbor, MI, Pure Visibility benefits from the GetDowntown program. Among other perks, GetDowntown gives us low-cost annual bus passes for our employees to help them get to work in a lower-impact way than driving, avoid the hassles of parking downtown, yet still enjoy the benefits of our downtown office.

GetDowntown also has two annual challenges – the Commuter Challenge in May, where teams from different companies compete to save more CO2 emissions and trips downtown by logging alternative methods of commuting (including commuting via a walk, a bike, a bus, and a carpool). All count. In January, just to further inspire us, GetDowntown sponsors Conquer the Cold! which encourages winter commuting. As a part of this, they offer classes on winter bike commuting, and host another competition for companies to see who has the hardiest alternative commuters.

Here at PV, we love participating in the Commuter Challenge and a few hardy souls participate in Conquer the Cold as well. We just got our Commuter Challenge statistics from last year. Here are some highlights – we logged more miles, saved more CO2, and had more employees participate in 2013 compared to 2012. However, we logged fewer total commutes, so we have a goal for 2014!

graphs for Pure Visibility's participation in the Commuter Challenge

Pure Visibility’s Commuter Challenge stats for 2012 and 2013.

Daily motivation with DayScore

Some background: I’m kind of a productivity freak. I go to sleep happy when I know I got a lot done that day. And as a result, I’ve tried out pretty much every productivity tool known to the internet, from advanced to-do lists like ToodleDo to goal-tracking software like GoalsOnTrack. But my recent fascination is with a free tool made by programmer Peter Ellis Jones that doesn’t even require a login: DayScore.net

DayScore default page

Here’s how it works: when you visit DayScore.net, it gives you a unique URL for you to bookmark. The premise of the app is that you create a list of activities that you want to perform on a daily basis. They could be personal or professional. Here are some from my list:

  • Read an SEO-related article
  • Jog for 20 minutes
  • Take a fish oil supplement
  • Floss
  • Read an article from The Economist
  • Commend a co-worker on something they did well


And then once you do that activity, you check it off, and it adds to your score for the day. The goal, of course, is to get the highest score you can – certainly higher than yesterday. And it graphs your daily score (along with a weekly and monthly average), and the bottom of the page. Want to weight some activities as being worth more than others? Just add them twice or break down the increments. For instance, I could have four items saying “Jog for 5 Minutes” instead of one “Jog for 20 Minutes,” and I’d get four points for then completing them. That way you can entice yourself to do the things that matter most.

DayScore graphs

While it’d be easy to think of DayScore as a habit-building tool (and indeed this is how it is branded), I tend to view it more as a daily motivation tool. Because there’s always the desire to beat the score from the day before, it provides intense motivation in short 24-hour periods – which, for most of us, is about how long motivation towards a single goal can last.

Of course, something like DayScore won’t replace a to-do list or defining your goals. But it supplements them in a really nice way. I’ve found that if I take a goal that I’ve defined (i.e. Write 3 songs by January 1st) and give myself points for working on it each day (i.e. Spend 20 minutes writing music), they tend to get done a lot faster because I’m working on them consistently. Some tasks, especially creative ones and exercise, seem to perform intrinsically well in 20 minute increments.

Now, there are a few things that could be improved with the tool (hopefully not at detriment to its simplicity and $0 price tag). Firstly, it doesn’t function perfectly on mobile devices – clicking to mark tasks as complete has an awkward time delay on my iPhone. Secondly, it’d be great if it were possible to weight tasks without having to list them multiple times. Finally, I know that some people are motivated by social sharing functionality, so a way to do this (aside from taking screen shots) would probably have some appeal.

Well, that’s about it from me. Hit the comments section and let us know if you’ve used the tool, or if you’ve found something even better.


Cloud Collaboration with Google Docs

Collaborating In The Cloud

As an agency involved in integrated online marketing, much of our work here at Pure Visibility requires working with our clients on certain tasks. By that I mean that many project’s success depends on:

  1. Our clients ability and willingness to implement our recommendations
  2. Our (PV’s) ability to define clear tasks, ownership and expectations clearly, and then guide and follow up on their implementation.

Efficiency and accountability in this process can be challenging – because there’s usually a long list of action items with multiple owners, located within two (and sometimes more) separate organizations, and can easily lead to things falling through the cracks.

Efficiency and Accountability Control

Frequent meetings are one way to address this issue, but with multiple stakeholders involved, frequent meetings tend to quickly take their toll, costing everyone time, and often shifting the energy from “doing” to “talking”.
Email updates all around are another way to address this, but again – enough has been said about the mental strain of continuously writing and sifting through emails. No one likes a loaded inbox.
Project Management tools and CRM’s can work, but:

  1. Many corporations only use CRM systems on a partial or fragmented basis
  2. Rarely do multiple organizations share the same CRM’s
  3. They tend to cost a buck or two (at least)

So in an effort to keep things simple, cost effective and actionable, I wanted to share a simple tool we’ve had some success with here at Pure Visibility for client collaboration:

Collaborating with Google Documents

First, I’d like to clarify – Somewhere, there may be superior software which is infinitely more accessible, secure, free, and easy to use than Google Docs. Additionally, using any Google product has its pros and cons (know what you’re getting into and make sure read Google’s terms and conditions before you start), but for now I’d like to focus on some of the advantages Google Docs brings to the table:

A Brief (Google Doc) Background:

Google Docs is a free cloud based office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. While Google Docs offer nowhere near the functionality you might be used to from Microsoft’s Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), they have one (very important) thing going for them – the cloud;
It makes remote-real-time collaboration easy as ever by (literally) making sure everyone is on the same page.
That’s not to say this always works – It requires a certain level of understanding and commitment from all the collaborating parties, and it only holds value when updated frequently and revisited regularly to track progress.

How we use Google Docs at Pure Visibility

In a previous post, Gayathri gave some examples of client collaboration tasks managed with Google Docs, and from my experience, the more I use Google Docs, the more ways I come up with for applying it to new and existing projects.
Implementing SEO best practices is a great example – many times, we will tailor an SEO roadmap for a client, delivering a checklist of action items based on our audit and recommendations.
So here’s a real-life example (click to go to the actual document, and yes – we’ll be honored if you decide to copy it for your own projects)

GDoc Collaboration Spreadsheet

I’ll be the first to admit this is a far from perfect solution, but it gets the job done. Simply.

And if anyone has a better solution – I’m all ears (literally, I have really big ears), so feel free to leave your suggestions below.

Call Tracking – from Basic to Advanced

Our Integrated Digital Marketing projects and client relationships live and die by our ability to prove the results of our efforts. We succeed when our client can prove hiring us and following our recommendations has been profitable.

Common questions include:

  • Was it worth it?
  • Should we do it again? More? Less?
  • What could be eliminated to allow us to invest more in [successful activity A]?
  • How does [activity A] affect [activity B]?

When we’re performing AdWords optimization, search engine optimization, and other services for clients, tracking customer actions that start and end entirely online are easy. Google Analytics and other web analytics tools provide great data and visualizations to show the results of paid search campaigns, content creation and optimization, and linkbuilding efforts. Google Analytics also allows for us to see the interactions between these efforts in multi-channel funnel and attribution reports.

Yet, with the increasing proportion of web searches and purchases done on mobile devices (25% of all online Black Friday sales came via mobile devices – via TechCrunch), and since mobile phones are built better for making phone calls than navigating shopping carts, order forms, or filling out web contact forms, we’re seeing the proportion of phone calls in our web conversions increasing. And this means we need to track phone calls with the same precision as we do web form submissions.

Photo of man in office on a cell phone

Some people use their cell phone to respond to online campaigns. Here is our very own Todd Hall on an ancient cell phone, a gift from Ann Arbor’s Recellular. OK, this one is a little larger than the ones currently in market.

In the future world phone call tracking will be perfectly integrated with web analytics. There are some types of click-to-call and call extension initiatives in AdWords that flow data well into Google Analytics. Call tracking vendors such as Mongoose Metrics also allow phone call pingbacks to Google Analytics. Yet, for now, integrating web actions and phone call from online activities takes a little bit of effort on the interpretation side and a little bit of custom or third-party coding on the website end.

The scale of phone call tracking that is right for you and your business depends on the mix of tactics you have in play and your need for granularity in reporting.

Levels of Tracking Granularity

The most basic kind of phone call tracking is using a different phone number for calls from your website from all other marketing activities (e.g. trade shows, direct mail, email campaigns, what have you). This doesn’t differentiate online campaigns from each other, but will separate calls that originate from someone looking at your site. You can have a custom 800# available on your site and count calls that come in through that route. Yet, that’s still much less granularity than is available through web analytics, which allows web form submissions to be categorized by the medium (e.g. cpc/paid search, organic search, direct, etc.) and for some channels by keyword (paid search).

A second gradation is to use a system that identifies information about the incoming web visitor and shows a custom phone number by medium, by device, by whatever you need to track. We use Mongoose Metrics for this, and there are many vendors such as Who’s Calling, ifbyphone, and telmetrics. We then analyze the web form and phone call data together, doing daily data exchanges with our client’s contact center, to see how our initiatives do in acquiring leads and sales for our clients. While we can see the calls coming in by medium in our dashboards, only they know the conversion rates of calls and web forms to sales. We see differential conversion rates from inquiry (web or phone) to ultimate sale and tracking through the entire process is important!

These systems can be configured with increasing granularity – using unique phone numbers for paid search ad groups or keywords or even to generate a unique phone number for a unique visitor.

Be careful, tracking may disturb performance

Of course, phone number substitutions and tracking phone numbers wreak all kinds of havoc in local search optimization, as consistency of name address and, yes, phone number remain important. So it can be best for companies with brick and mortar locations to use a form of call tracking that does not interfere with their SEO. Services like Mongoose Metrics and its competitors can perform the phone number substitution in a way that does not affect the search engine results (dynamic number insertion via JavaScript), and this would be our recommendation for anyone needing to be found for [keyword] + [geolocation] and needing to track their phone calls.

Managing Mobile URLs and Their Use In Paid Search Ads

If you’re running an AdWords account and haven’t set your mobile bid adjustment to -100%, there’s a good chance your ads get a significant amount of mobile traffic – especially if your business is local and consumer-oriented. In any account where mobile traffic is significant, you want to target visitors with landing pages that are designed for mobile. Given AdWords editorial policies, tracking requirements, and differences between the two major paid search platforms – Google AdWords and Bing Ads – getting visitors to the proper landing page can be a difficult task. Assuming you’re working with a website that has mobile variations of its pages, here are some pitfalls and solutions to implementing the proper mobile URLs in your ads and getting visitors to those mobile-designed pages. Each case outlined below is based on the type of mobile site, whether it shares the same top level domain as the non-mobile site, and whether it uses redirects.

Case 1: Responsive or dynamic design, same URLs

If your website uses responsive design, detecting when a visitor is using a mobile device and serving a page formatted to be easily read from that device, you are typically all set. You’ll still want to look at ad performance from mobile devices separately but since your visitors will not be going through any redirects or do not need different ad URLs based on the device they are using, you can serve the same ad URLs for desktop and mobile and not worry about editorial rejections or broken URLs.

Case 2:  Separate mobile site, no redirects, same domain

If your website has two versions, one for mobile and one for desktop/laptop/tablets (btw Google recommends you use your regular website for visitors on tablets, not your mobile site), you’ll need to create “mobile preferred” ads in Google AdWords. Each ad group will have two ads: one for all devices and one that is mobile preferred. The mobile preferred ad will use the appropriate mobile URL. Inside AdWords this will cause the mobile ad to be displayed only to visitors from mobile devices, and the other ad to be displayed to visitors from all other devices. However, if you are running ads in both AdWords and Bing Ads, your accounts now have a compatibility issue. While Bing Ads supports “mobile preferred,” it behaves differently than in AdWords. In Bing your mobile preferred ad should display more frequently on mobile devices, but it might also display for non-mobile users. In this case, you never want that to happen – non-mobile users should never see a mobile landing page. In order to get around this, you need to create a separate mobile-targeted campaign in Bing Ads (something you are not able to cleanly do in AdWords). It’s counter-intuitive that in the paid search platform that is less likely to have significant mobile traffic, you need to separately target mobile with new campaigns, increasing the size of your account, but that’s the way it works. Alternatively, you could turn off mobile-targeting entirely in Bing Ads, as it is less likely to produce the amount of traffic that justifies doubling the size of an account.

Case 3: Separate mobile site, automatic redirects, same domain

If your website has a separate mobile version and it automatically detects when a visitor is on a mobile device and redirects them to that version, you might think this is the same as Case 1. It can be, if the redirects are done well. The first thing to check is that all of your regular pages that you use in your desktop/laptop ads redirect appropriately from a mobile device. Sometimes interior pages do not have a mobile variation and mobile visitors will be getting redirected to a 404 page. It’s quite easy to setup a campaign, leave mobile bids the same as desktop/laptop bids, use the same URLs in all of your ads that all return a 200 status from non-mobile devices, and not realize that all of your mobile visitors are seeing a 404 page. Those ads won’t get rejected in AdWords, and you will just be wondering why mobile is doing so bad in your account. The second thing to check is that all of your pages keep their tracking parameters when they redirect. If they don’t, you won’t be able to see your paid search performance in third party platforms like Google Analytics. Often times tracking parameters will get stripped out when a URL redirects.

For example:


…might redirect to this URL:


…when it needs to redirect to this URL:


If your redirects aren’t as good as you thought, then you’re stuck treating Case 3, like a Case 2, creating separate mobile-preferred ads in AdWords and worrying about compatibility in Bing Ads.

Case 4: Separate mobile site, no redirects, different domain

If you have a separate mobile site that uses a different top level domain than your regular website, you have a bigger problem. Google AdWords does not allow you to use different domains in your display URL for the same ad groups. So if you tried to treat this like Case 2, your mobile-preferred ads with different domains from your ads for all other devices would get rejected. To get around this, you can use keyword level URLs like these (with the appropriate mobile and non-mobile URLs entered of course):


Bing Ads supports these ValueTrack parameters, so there shouldn’t be compatibility issues. Setting keyword URLs has at least two major drawbacks: you can’t test different URLs in ads at the same time, and they’re easily a source of error if you’re not careful with how they’re managed.

Case 5: Separate mobile site, automatic redirects, different domain

Like case 3, how this is handled depends on how good your redirects are. Even though AdWords’ redirect policy is for the destination domain to match the domain of the original URL, ads that redirect to a different domain for mobile will get passed by editors (from my experience). So if your redirects work, and they pass tracking appropriately, you’re fine with treating this case like Case 1. However, if tracking parameters are not passed (and you don’t want to sacrifice tracking), or if the redirects create 404′s, you’ll want to treat this like Case 4.

Compatibility and Editorial Issues

These are the major cases I have come across when dealing with mobile landing pages and the solutions I’ve used to maximize compatibility between programs while avoiding editorial rejections. Clearly there’s a huge advantage to having a responsively designed website, but this isn’t always how sites exist in the wild.

Good error pages anticipate user needs – Zingerman’s real-world signage

Zingerman’s Delicatessan is an institution here in Ann Arbor. It’s packed on football Saturdays, homecoming weekend, and the lunch-spot of choice for students to be taken out for yummy food during a parental visit.

Zingerman’s growth strategy has focused on expanding into related areas rather than scaling its core business larger. They never expanded the deli outside of Ann Arbor but food aficionados all around the country (and the world) can get Zingerman’s items express shipped to them through Zingerman’s Mail Order. The Deli gets its bread from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and some of its cheese from Zingerman’s Creamery. Zingerman’s caters and now has a Zingerman’s Events space near the Deli. They also opened ZingTrain, where they teach the principles and techniques they use to manage – interesting to other food businesses as well as those looking for Open Book Management training and other techniques that apply to many businesses outside the food world.

Zingerman’s Deli is a neighbor of ours here in Ann Arbor, and we hope someday soon they will become a client (give us a ring – will work for food! ;)). Their expansion has given them multiple storefronts and offices, potentially increasing confusion for those just looking for a sandwich.

And so I was charmed to see this sign on the Zingerman’s Events space helping the hungry and lost seekers of sandwich nirvana find the Deli if their GPS or feet took them to the Events space.

Sign helping people find Zingerman's Deli

A sign guiding people from one Zingerman’s business to another.

This sign has lots of great elements. First, it celebrates what the person has found – a Zingerman’s business, just maybe not the one they were seeking. Second, it provides a diagram showing the path to get to the Deli along with a visual of the distinctive brick storefront of the Deli so the seeker will know it when they’ve found it. Third, it gives options. If all that fails, it gives a phone number to call, just in case the map is not clear enough for that particular visitor. Fourth, it is entirely consistent with the Zingerman’s brand – it looks and feels like other signage, menus, and collateral from Zingerman’s.

The organic growth of Zingerman’s businesses might just mimic the growth of content on your website, requiring more helpful navigation and perhaps a redirect when things go awry. This sign is a great model for that kind of redirect – a.k.a. a 404 error page on a website:

  • Confirm you’ve arrived somewhere and give you options for how to get where you intended to go.

Zingerman’s does it on their website too: Zingerman’s page not found error page. So take a cue (and maybe go get a sandwich or order some bread) from our neighbor at Zingerman’s and welcome people even when they go awry on your website with good, clear, and brand-consistent signage.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads: Add On for E-Commerce

AdWords now offers remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). Previously, remarketing was only available for targeting ads to the display network. But now, account managers can use lists to target visitors on Google Search. The way remarketing typically works is you place some tracking scripts on the pages of your site that set cookies. These cookies make it possible to target visitors who have already been to your site before: you can modify bids, targeting, and ad messaging based on the pages a visitor has seen in your site. Unfortunately, remarketing relies on third-party cookies. A web browser movement is forming to block third-party cookies by default, so remarketing, as it is now, might not have much of a future in the long term. But in the short term, it’s still a nice little addition to an account.

There are a few ways to get started with remarketing in Google AdWords:

1. You can visit “Audiences” under the “Shared Library” inside the AdWords interface. This will require you to install a piece of JavaScript on all of the pages in your site (all of the pages you want tracked). You can then build and refine lists by page URLs.

2. You can modify your Google Analytics script (if you’re already using Analytics), and build lists inside the Analytics interface, which you then link to your AdWords account.

3. You can use existing AdWords conversion tracking tags in your account to create a list.

If you have a large e-commerce site, here is a nice trick using method number 3.

E-Commerce and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

There are a lot of possibilities for using RLSA with an e-commerce site. The larger your site is, the more possibilities. Unlike lists for display ads, which require only 100 members, lists for search ads require 1,000 members. So you need to get a good amount of traffic before a list is usable, and really, you’ll want more than a 1,000 members to create an effective initiative. If you’ve already got AdWords e-commerce conversion tracking on your site, you can take advantage of that tag to quickly get started with remarketing, targeting visitors who have already made a purchase on your site. Creating a list for visitors who have already made a purchase on your site allows you to:

1. Bid higher on your keywords for those who have made a purchase before. You know they are already interested in your products, so when they do a search for something you offer, you’ll want to bid higher because you can expect your conversion rate to be greater than it is with visitors who have never made a purchase before.

2. Target more generalized keywords. You already know these visitors are interested in your niche. So when they perform a general query, you can have greater certainty that the keywords they are using are in reference to products that you offer specifically.

To do option 1, you’d need to add your list to each keyword-targeted ad group in your account, selecting to “Bid Only.” You can then specify a multiplier, so that your ads appear higher when a person who has made a purchase before does a search for one of your keywords. This can be a tedious process because Google does not offer a bulk way to do this yet, so start with your most lucrative ad groups.

To do option 2, you’d create a new campaign and add audiences to keyword-targeted ad groups, selecting “Target and Bid.” You’d then add general keywords.

For a list that has 5,000 or more members, you could see this kind of remarketing setup contribute 10% more revenue from AdWords.


What’s Important After Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Update

As you probably know, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm overhaul has been called one of the least disruptive major updates in years. While I agree that it hasn’t had a huge impact on rankings for our clients or their overall success, I think the implications are larger.  This isn’t about Google; this is about marketing success.

In short, I believe we (SEOs and marketers in general) need to continue to push ourselves even further away from keywords and keyword search demand and more toward content and holistic website themes to ensure visitors’ needs are met along the customer journey.

Google has been telling us for years to move away from keywords – and, truthfully, it’s possibly the world’s worst secret that Google says so partially to push its paid ads and make money – and there is good reason behind it.  Only caring about keywords and keyword volume alone is short-sighted.  Instead, there are three points that Hummingbird may now finally make us realize.

1. High quality content does not mean high value content

With renewed focus on content marketing there also comes increased emphasis on quality (or at least there should be). However, it’s easy to mistake quality for value. Your content may be the most well written, best executed, and prettiest looking piece of content there ever was, but if it doesn’t connect with your customers or prospects, it’s worthless. Instead, you need to build quality content that’s based on what your audience actually cares about, which brings me to my second point…

2. Listening and having conversations is more important than ever

You know you market a good product and that at least some of your customers love what you sell and what you do for them. But that doesn’t mean that your prospects have to respect that. You need to earn their respect and you do that by listening first and engaging in conversation second. Even as “not provided” becomes the new norm and other forms of easy prospect/customer information is harder to access, good marketers will find a way. This is where your marketing strategy should start.

3. There is value in structured data that is easily overlooked

Your internal structured data is a great place to find some of this information. Beyond that, structured data back to the search engines through schema.org or other microformats is a great way to share what you’ve found and what you provide. The real trick is in finding the right way to cull through your internal data and package it in an interesting way that appeals to prospects and is easily understood by search engines.

The point of this article isn’t to say that keywords are now worthless; however, their stock has dropped a bit. Good marketers will recognize that and turn to a more holistic approach to building their marketing strategy rather than continuing to simply chase rankings.