AdWords – What You Pay is Not What You Bid


Setting up an AdWords account can be a daunting task. Not everyone is willing to throw their money into the competitive world of PPC Marketing.

Whether you’re working with a small budget or a large one, bidding for a better ad placement can be tricky. After all, what you bid isn’t what you pay, and getting your ad in the number one spot depends more on the ads below you.

Before you start bidding, it’s important to understand that your ads have a better chance of being shown if your keywords and ad copy are highly relevant to your landing page and to the needs of your audience. You also want to make sure, if applicable, that you’re utilizing features such as day parting (showing relevant ads only at relevant times), geo-targeting (showing relevant ads in relevant places), and network targeting. Settings will help Google determine the best times and “places” for your ads, but that’s only a piece of the AdWords puzzle.

Once Google determines whether or not your ads will be shown, they must determine where they will show up on the page. This is where your bids come in.

Once upon a time, ad placement was determined by how much money you were willing to bid for your audience to see your ad first. Then, Google Ad Rank was implemented, altering this system. Now, what you bid is no longer what you are paying for clicks.

Ad Rank is a dimension determined by your Max CPC (bid) x Quality Score. This ultimately means that the better your Quality Score is, the more likely you are to achieve higher Ad Rank with lower CPC’s than your competitors. The higher your Ad Rank, the higher Google will place your ads. This will increase your visibility and hopefully your profits/leads. Experiment with your account to keep your Quality Score / Ad Rank high.

Your actual CPC (what you pay for your clicks) is derived from the following function:

GoogleAdwords CPC formula

Below is an example of how this system works with three ads at the top of a SERP.

GoogleAdwords table

*This chart assumes that the ad below Advertiser 3 has an Ad Rank of 11.

As you can see, advertisers with the best quality score have the lowest CPCs and often pay less for clicks than their competitors. The lower your Quality Score (and thusly, Ad Rank) as compared to your competitors, the higher your bids need to be and the higher your actual CPC is. No matter how high your Ad Rank is, it is the Ad Rank of the ad below yours  that determines what you will actually pay (in relation to your Max CPC) for clicks.

In conclusion, the higher you bid, the higher your Ad Rank and the higher your ad will be placed on the page – sometimes. If your Ad Rank is running a close race with your competitors, higher bids will give you an edge.  But remember, you can keep that bid low if you focus on your Quality Score. The better your score, the less you will likely need to bid (and pay!) for your clicks and ad placements.

Welcome to the New Wave of PR



Gone are the days of sending out press releases via “snail mail” and physically cutting newspaper articles out with scissors and pasting them into a clip book. No one uses a rolodex to look up contacts or land lines to check into the office. While the essence of public relations has remained the same over the years – to protect, manage and improve a brand or company’s reputation – the introduction of the web and social media has drastically transformed the way PR professionals operate.

In order for our PR efforts to continue to be successful in the changing market, PR professionals now have to change who we pitch and how we pitch depending on the media outlet. While pitching to newspapers, magazines and broadcast is still a crucial component to the PR industry, the web has introduced another extremely valuable media channel: the blog. Blogs allow PR professionals to locate and target niche markets for nearly every topic imaginable which gives insight into trending topics and online influencers.

The introduction of blogs has changed the way PR professionals write their press releases today. As pointed out in the book, The New Rules of PR by David Meerman Scott, in the past, press releases were only pitched to press. They were only written when major news occurred and were only made public if a journalist chose to make the news into a story. Today, however, press releases are created to reach consumers directly, include links to other sources of valuable information and are sent out much more frequently.

Frequent and “digitized” press releases are the most successful in today’s world, suggests the PRSA in a recent post. Digitized releases include links and social media outlets so readers can easily share news. Digitized press releases, as PRSA explains, also incorporate carefully chosen keywords to improve search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO is a key element of a press release that PR professionals never had to think about just a few years ago. However, having a keyword-rich copy is crucial today since a great press release is useless if the right people can’t find it. To further increase the chances of a press release being found, the PRSA explains that the new wave of PR professionals turn to social media to tweet their releases and post their releases on Facebook for optimum exposure. But sharing news is just one of the many ways PR professionals employ social media on a day-to-day basis.

Social media has allowed PR professionals to join the conversation with key consumers in real-time. In the past, groundbreaking news meant something that happened yesterday. With the introduction of social media, groundbreaking news has to be instantaneous – or real-time – to be newsworthy and to garner media attention.

For example, when the Superbowl dome lost power, Oreo took full advantage of the situation and the power of social media and tweeted, “You can still dunk in the dark” just moments after the blackout occurred. Oreo’s real-time tweet generated over 10,000 retweets in less than an hour, showing us just how important it is to think on your feet and react instantly in the PR industry today.

The fact that Oreo could instantaneously see the media attention, retweets and comments, brings up another significant change in PR over the last few years: the ability to measure the success of PR efforts. In addition to counting retweets or “likes” on Facebook, a post on Marketing Land explains that websites and programs such as Klout, Google Analytics and Technorati, allow website click-throughs and social media followers to be tracked, monitored and managed. It has finally become possible to show the ROI of public relations and social media campaigns.

As PR success becomes easier to illustrate, it’s no doubt that the role of public relations within organizations will continue to grow in coming years. In the past decade alone, the industry has changed so much that common PR operations in the ‘90s are almost unrecognizable today. The changes in the industry have allowed PR professionals to reach wider audiences and communicate directly with consumers. As technology continues to advance it seems that pubic relations will also continue to evolve with it.

How do you think the industry will change over the next 5 years? How about over the next 10 years?

This infographic created by InkHouse Media + Marketing looks deeper into the ways PR has evolved over the years:

pr infographic


*Written by PR Intern Shelby Hickox. Shelby is a senior at Boston University, graduating in 2013 with a degree in Public Relations.


Google Analytics for Beginners

Google Analytics is a great tool for understanding how users interact with your website, but the data can get overwhelming. What numbers should you look at and what do they mean? Let’s walk through some of the basics together.


One of the easiest things to monitor is how many people are visiting your site. This can be done in the “Audience Overview” section of Google Analytics. There’s a handy graph at the top of the page that shows the change in visits over time. (As a general rule: more is better.)

It’s very easy to jump to conclusions here, so play with the dates and times to make sure you have a full understanding of what’s happening.

For example, I recently logged in and saw that this happened last week:

Is traffic declining?! Look at Nov 17th. Yikes!

 I was worried, so I expanded the date range to view the whole month:

Traffic dips every Saturday, and Nov 17th was a Saturday. No need to panic.

Then I decided to compare this year’s traffic to last year’s:

Year-over-year traffic is improving. Good! 

Traffic Sources

Once you know how many people are visiting your site, the next thing to learn is where those visitors are coming from. This can be done in the “Traffic Sources” section of Google Analytics.

The main “Traffic Sources” page will give you an overview. Direct Traffic refers to people who got to your website by typing in the url. Search Traffic counts people that came to your site from a search engine. This traffic could be from PPC campaigns or organic results, and it includes search engines like Bing and Yahoo! in addition to Google. Referral Traffic includes people who came to your website by clicking on a link from social media or somebody else’s website.

Now that you have an overall picture of how people are entering your site, you can narrow in on more specific traffic sources: websites and search terms. First, look at referral traffic. Under “Sources” on the left side bar, click “Referrals.” Here will be the list of websites that drive traffic to your site. It’s likely that social media sites will be at the top of the list. (Note: traffic is from Twitter.) Though you won’t know which individual posts or profiles are leading people to your website, this list can help you prioritize your social media time and budget. You can also use this section to find “regular” websites that are bringing you visitors. Is there a blog that you were unaware of? A thank you note might impress the blogger and lead to more traffic for you.

Next, look at the search traffic. You’ll notice that the Search section has three categories: Overview, Organic, and Paid. Organic traffic includes the “natural” search results. Paid includes your paid search campaigns. Overview is a combination of the two.  Let’s look at Overview.

The first chart that Google Analytics shows you isn’t that helpful, so click “Keyword” on the chart to get more information about what terms people are using to find you.

It’s likely that (not provided) will be at the top of your list and some keywords with your brand name will be next.

You can use this information a few ways. First, if you’re running paid ad campaigns, you can get an idea of which ones are bringing you the most visitors. Second, you can get content ideas. Are a lot of people coming to your site because they’re searching “How to use [product]?” Maybe you should write a how-to guide. Are people searching for “[Product] reviews”? This may be a sign that you should add some reviews or testimonials to your site. Third, you can use this list to write better ads and website copy by incorporating the words that your customers use into the words that you use. For example, if you’re selling tennis shoes, but your customers keep searching for “sneakers,” you might want to rewrite your headlines to better match their needs.

Most Popular Pages

Google Analytics can also show you which pages on your site get the most visitors. To figure this out, click “Content” in the side bar, then “Site Content.” You’ll get a list of the most popular pages. (Again, be sure to play with date ranges to get a full picture.)

Next, select “Landing Pages” from the sidebar to see which pages people visit first (or land on.) It’s likely that the top page will be “/” which is Google Analytics code for your home page. You might learn some interesting things from this list, like maybe a lot of people are coming to your career page. Average Visit Duration is a good metric here. Is there one page that has an especially low visit duration? It might be time to redesign that page.

“/”means your home page in Google Analytics

Now move on to “Exit Pages” in the sidebar. These are the last pages that people visit on your site before closing the browser window or going to a new site. If you have an e-commerce site, hopefully your shopping cart “Thank You” page is toward the top of this list. If there are any surprises here, it might be good to consider redesigning or rewriting some pages.


In-Page Analytics

For those of you who are more visual thinkers, “In-Page Analytics” is for you (it’s also under “Content” in the sidebar.) This section shows you where people are clicking on your site. Select Show Colors and you’ll get a sort of heat map.


Red areas are the “hottest” and get the most clicks.

Use this section to learn where people are clicking and where their attention is when they look at your website.

Advanced Analytics

These are just basic insights. You can also use Google Analytics to check things like conversions, mobile traffic, and site speed.  To learn more, check out Google’s handy learning center or read some of our previous posts.


Written by Stephanie Beadell, Master of Science in Mass Communications major at Boston University Dec 2012

adword feature

Google’s New AdWords Feature

Once again Google hits the nail on the head with their intuitive data for marketers. Without any bells and whistles, they have rolled out a new feature that gives us a deeper understanding of how useful proper keywords can be.

A new keyword feature allows users to see what search terms (and their match type) triggered specific ads running in a campaign. Users can also gain insight into which keywords a search query triggered. This feature is helpful for a number of reasons, but more importantly Marketers will be able to more efficiently trim the excess when it comes to their phrase and broad match keywords.

Why it matters: This feature can save money moving forward. If you find that one of your keywords or ads has been repeatedly triggered by irrelevant searches, you may want to refine that keyword’s match type or add it to your list of negatives. You can also see which keywords have stronger potential and bid on them accordingly.

How to do it: To view which keywords were triggered by a search query, first log you’re your AdWords account. Click the “Keywords” tab. Once there, find the “Keyword Details” drop down and select “All.”  Then look at the “Columns” drop down menu and select “Customize Columns.” Click “Attributes” then click to add “Keyword”. Your report will now have a new column at the far right. Now you can compare that keyword (in the new column) to the search terms that are triggering it!

This is a snapshot of what the keywords report looks like with the new feature enabled. You can see that the search terms in the box on the left all triggered the same broad match keyword in the box on the right. With that you can see which campaign and ad group were shown in the search results. This is particularly effective if you are A/B testing the same keyword for different ad groups or campaigns.

To view which ads are triggered by specific keywords, click the “Ads” tab within a campaign. From there follow the same steps to customize your columns and add the new keyword column to your report.



The feature is currently available in the US on the keyword level but will extend to ads and campaigns in the coming weeks. Some lucky folks have the feature enabled on all levels (such as UK users). Test it out on your account to see if this feature is available to you!

More Details: Read more about the keyword feature in the AdWords Community or learn more about PPC ads.

Does Your Site Need SEO Help?


When you hire an online marketing or SEO agency, the agency will “audit” your site and look for errors and opportunities to increase your rankings. But how do you know whether or not you need an agency? Pick a few pages from your website and perform your own mini-audit with this checklist:

Headers & Titles

Every page on your site should include a title, a strategically-written meta description, and an H1 header. You could view the source code for the page and search for each of these elements, or you could use a free, convenient tool that does it for you. Here’s how:

  1. Drag this [SEO] bookmarklet to your toolbar.
  2. Navigate to the desired page on your website and click on the “SEO” bookmark that’s now in your toolbar.
  3. You’ll get a pop-up like this:

SEO Bookmarklet

This was pulled from a post about using keywords. The title is relevant and the description makes sense. There’s also only one H1. Yay!

First, look to see that the title and description are relevant to the content on your page. Next, confirm that there is only one H1 present. Without an H1, you’re missing a big opportunity to give information to search engines and readers. With too many H1s, you can create confusion.

Image Alt Text

Alt text is a behind-the-scenes opportunity for you to provide information about your images and your website to the search engine crawler.

How does it work? Even though your website shows something like this:

 New York Skyline

The search engine robots see something like this:

<img src=”new-york-skyline.gif” alt=”New York Skyline”>

If you name your files well and use descriptive alt text, your pictures might start to appear in search results, which could, in turn, drive traffic to your website.

How can you tell if your images have alt text?

  1. Easy: Hover your mouse over the image. If there’s alt text, it will appear.
  2. Intermediate: Use that same search bookmarklet to check whether any images on your page have alt text.

SEO Alt Text     3. Advanced:

        a. Press Ctrl+U to view the source code for the page you’re on

        b. Press Ctrl+F to open the search dialogue

        c. Search for .jpg, .gif, or .png to locate images. Then look for a nearby alt=”some phrase” to see if there is alt text present. You can also look to see whether the filename is descriptive, because a good file name never hurts.

How Shareable is Your Site?

There are two parts to shareability. First, do you have buttons on your website that make it easy for your visitors to tweet about you, post your site to Facebook, or even pin one of your images to Pinterest? If not, you could be missing out on great social sharing opportunities.

Second, figure out if each page is worth sharing. Would customers find it useful? Do you provide relevant information? Not every page needs to be a content-rich resource, but all of your pages should meet a customer need and be worthy of being passed along.

How Does Your Website Look to Other People?

Open your website in other browsers. Resize the window. Visit your site from an iPad or Android device. Check to make sure that your website looks good on every platform that your customers are using. If your website adjusts to different sizes and forms, then you’re in great shape. If it doesn’t, you might want to consider a more responsive design.

Analyze your Competitors

How does your web traffic compare to your competitors? One easy way to figure out is to use a browser toolbar built for SEO. SEOBook’s is free and easy to install. There is a ton of data available on the toolbar, and it can get overwhelming. I recommend just paying attention to the Compete Uniques and SEMrush Traffic Value numbers (the blue/green circle and the red sun.) There are no hard and fast rules here; everything is relative. If your numbers are similar to your competitors’, then you’re probably on par with your industry in terms of web traffic. If your numbers are lower, you can assume that you have room to grow your web presence


Here’s a traffic comparison of two of Boston’s major newspaper sites

If your site falls short in any of these areas, it might be time to get help from the experts. Remember, this was just a mini-audit. Professional site audits check every page of your site and include a number of other vital SEO factors.


Written by Stephanie Beadell, Master of Science in Mass Communications major at Boston University Dec 2012.