Is Google Moving to Kill Retargeting?

This morning, Google announced an updated setting allowing users to turn off retargeting ads (which they euphemistically refer to as “reminder ads”.

“Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them,” – Jon Krafcik, Google

Note that in legal, these retargeting ads have been hit or miss – with some practice areas completely verboten due to privacy concerns (although some lucky PI advertisers still have been able to sneak through the Google ad review process. However, other practice areas that have a less personal nature (take business litigation for an extreme example), retargeting is incredibly effective, as the cost is extremely low to reach people who have already expressed an interest by being on a site.

CNN knows that despite living on the west coast, I’m an L.L. Bean fan….

Will this have a big impact? I’d say yes – Google accounts for roughly 90% of the retargeting market. However, it will ultimately be the ease (or difficulty) with which individual users can opt out of specific ads that will dictate the impact this change has on advertisers’ retargeting campaigns.

The Worst Legal Marketing I’ve Seen

What follows is the most abjectly stupid online marketing I’ve come across. From a company that really should know better.

I found a legal website proactively advertising the services of a direct and hated competitor.

Advertising simply does NOT belong on the website of any service provider.  You don’t want someone considering hiring you for their car accident to get distracted by a display ad for Nikes, the new Toyota Camry, a WonderBra . . . or worse . . . your competitor (more on that later.)  It seems pretty obvious . . . your site is there to sell your services and not generate some residual revenue as a publisher of display advertising.

Over the years, I’ve collected examples of law firm websites that contain third party display advertising . . . usually they are old, outdated or abandoned sites (frequently blogs). But sometimes they are a firm’s primary current site, hoping to generate a little extra income as a Google AdSense publisher. I’ve filed away a collection of screenshots with the intention of eventually writing this post; but just today I ran across something so spectacular that I dropped everything to write.

Check this out:

FindLaw Avvo
Ironically, the screenshot above is a “best marketing practices for small business” article from my good friends in Eagan, MN at FindLaw.  And there, perched brazenly on the right rail, is an advertisement for Avvo’s Ignite product. Avvo, the company that has dethroned FindLaw – advertising directly on the FindLaw site.  And as if it couldn’t get any better, the Avvo tagline reads:

“The antidote to clueless lawyer marketing.”

I can’t make this stuff up.

I know this is a mean-spirited post and generally I’m not so flagrantly cruel, but are you serious?

Now clearly, this is a remarketing campaign from Avvo and not a direct display ad buy.  But, at the very least, it is mindnumbingly easy to exclude competitors’ advertisements on your own website with even the most rudimentary ad vendor.  But really – this isn’t about appropriately configuring a website – its about recognizing that the primary objective of your site is to get people to engage with the services you provide – and ads on your site detract from that objective.  So if this is in any way unclear:  If you sell a service, third party advertisements do NOT belong on your website.  Doing so enables your competitors to directly target your audience.

As for FindLaw . . . think very carefully before placing your marketing investment in the hands of a company so spectacularly inept that they display competitor’s advertisements on their own website.  Clueless lawyer marketing indeed.

Just How Much Does Yelp Cost?

I got an urgent phone call from a client yesterday:

I have an advertising opportunity that I want to run by you, but I need to get back to them today or it is no longer available.

OK.

So I was contacted by Yelp and they are offering me 500 highly targeted ads – they can show up on competitor pages and highly targeted searches in my city.  Also, they’ll clear my profile of any ads and I get an account manager and reporting.

How much?

It’s only $350 – but I wasn’t sure if it was a good deal, so I wanted your input first.

Uggg – let me pour a fine glass of single malt scotch before I continue . . .

Key Metrics to Evaluate any Advertising Opportunity

When evaluating any advertising opportunity it is important to do some back of the napkin math and calculate some key metrics to establish an apples to apples comparison and estimate a likelihood that this investment will line your pockets instead of drain them.  I’ll work through this Yelp advertising opportunity to explain:

Most (non-PPC) advertising is  priced on a CPM basis – essentially the cost per thousand impressions. In this case, $350 for 500 impressions yields to a $700 CPM.  Now lets compare that to some other CPM rates: retargeting campaigns (which are highly targeted as they hit people who are already on my site) cost me roughly $2.40 CPMs.  That makes Yelp’s advertising more than 29,000% more expensive. You can also try to compare these rates to PPC campaigns.

CPM

Using the data above, we can back out a CPM from PPC data – there are 10,893 impressions costing $150.  Simply remember your 8th grade math and solve for Cost per Thousand (or if you’ve blocked out 8th grade use the CPM calculator at ClickZ . . .)

CPM Calculator

So no we are up to $13.77 CPMs – still a far cry from the $700 AND much more targeted.  (Granted my CPC rates here are relatively low, because I target a 5 to 10 times return on investment for PPC campaigns, but you understand the math and can compare with your own data.)

How to Estimate Expected Cost Per Client

Alternatively, we can try to back out expected cost per client.  At $350 for 500 impressions, let’s assume a very optimistic click through rate of 1% – which gives us 5 clicks (at $70 CPC).  Now assume those clicks turn into phone calls at a very optimistic rate of 5% – which gives us 0.25 phone calls (now at $1,400 per phone call).  Of those phone calls, 20% of them are prospects you actually want – thats now 0.05 qualified prospects ($7,000 per qualified prospect).  And of those prospects – you can close half of them – we’re now down to 0.025 clients for $350 – or stated in a slightly more understandable fashion – it will take 40 months at $350 a month (an overall spend of $14,000) to get one client.

Sign me up baby!

One last side note: if you hear the salesperson’s refrain “just one client will pay for itself”, hang up the phone and run screaming.  Your job is NOT to fund your advertiser’s stock price, but to pay yourself.  Target a minimum of 300% return on investment for your marketing activities.

Hey Lawyers: Be (Very) Careful With Retargeting

I happened to glance at the screen while my 5 year old daughter was playing virtual dress-up.

Legal Retargeting

Hello “Goldberg Jones – Divorce for Men”.  Nice to meet you.  Actually, nice to get reacquainted with you.

My daughter is getting these ads because I was on Goldberg Jones’ site last week researching some duplicate content issues.  And now the web thinks I’m thinking of going single.  And so does my daughter . . . and when she logs onto our shared computer, so does my wife.

Due to all of the legal searches I do . . . the search engines and advertisers think I’m a drunk driving tax evader with mesothelioma whose wife is about to leave me before I’m deported.

And these ads are going to follow my wife around the web for the next 30 to 90 days.  Let’s say she spends her free time looking at pictures of cute fuzzy seals . . .

Legal Retargeting III

 

Or oggling David Beckham in his one-size-too-small undies . . .

Legal Retargeting

You get the point.

Now of course in theory, users can change their privacy settings to (mostly) avoid retargeted advertising; however, we all know that in reality many users fail to do so.

Retargeting is a very effective advertising tool.  It sells Nikes, trips to France, car insurance and even SEO Agency services.  I’ve helped many of my clients implement retargeting – but, given the nature of legal work – retargeting should be considered very carefully.  Retargeting is a marketing channel that some practice areas should just steer clear of.