Bubbl.us rocks for brainstorming and mind mapping!

I have started playing around with using mind maps to try and brainstorm, group my thoughts, and organize everything overall but I hate the fact of having to download and install software, then having to spend a bunch of time trying to learn it.

Awhile back I ran across Bubbl.us which describes itself as a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online.  Within 15 seconds of hitting the homepage I was already brainstorming and creating a mind map online with and actually somewhat enjoying it.  This application is simple to use, very user friendly, and has a great gui.  Definitely an benefit to the web in my opinion.

Not only those benefits, but from looking at the front page I noticed I can embed the created mind maps into my blog.  Maybe I will have to try throwing a few mindmaps in a post here and there.  I think they can really help to explain some things that can’t be said in words.

Anyways, I wanted to start posting some useful tools here and there so there you go.

How do I preview my adwords ads without increasing impressions?

There are actually many ways to answer that question, but the best answer would be to use Google’s Ad Preview Tool.

By using this you can view the sponsored ads results from any location in the world!

I am working with some ad campaigns out of Canada and the UK and was having troubles using other methods of viewing international ads.  I remembered I had used Google’s ad preview tool before so after a few google searches I found it again.

This tool has saved me a few times and just thought I would pass it on to you guys!

Not very many, get adwords clicks for a penny!

So awhile back I posted about my $0.02 clicks in AdWords because I wanted to prove to people that it is still VERY possible to obtain cheap CPC prices in adwords as long as you are going about things in a responsible manner.

After I made that post showing the cheap clicks, I thought to myself a couple days later…Yeah they are cheap clicks…but most people get slapped a week later and the bid prices go sky high, unable to obtain a profit anymore, the campaign is shut down.  Your now once profitable campaign has dogged out a week later and isn’t making you a penny…

Welllllll I went back to check the CPC of that campaign a bit ago to make a post here showing that I don’t get Google slapped and realized that my bid prices HAVE DROPPED TO $0.01!!!  Yes that is one penny per click!

adwords cheapest cpc

(Click Here For Full Photo)

This campaign has been running for quite some time now and the clicks only got cheaper.  This is the cheapest they can possibly go.  So if you doubt the methods I go over here, this should be PROOF that they work and do what I say they do .

Poor CTR in adwords? Fix it with this SINGLE tip!

So everyone is coming to me complaining about getting google slapped and high bid prices allllll the time.

I have never really had any problems at all so I started playing around with methods and strategies that could maybe help the normal marketer be able to get lower AND KEEP low bid prices.

This is simple so I will keep it simple.

First, start by creating your campaign with the related keywords in the campaign name.  Next create your ad group again with the keywords your going to be bidding on as the name.

Second, add your keywords as EXACT MATCH ONLY!  Do not add phrase or broad match yet.  Let these keywords run for a coulpe of days and keep a super high CTR, next add your phrase matched keywords into the ad group for a few days and continue to monitor, tweaking as needed.

I would highly recomend almost never using broad match keywords, but sometimes its just needed.  If this is the case, then add these keywords last, monitoring them like the rest.

This simple little trick of adding your keywords in this 3 step process will keep your CTR extremely high, while keeping your bid prices low.  I have found that as long as I keep my CTR high I have no problems at all with any google slaps.

Secretly discover profitable Adsense opportunities.

While working within the PPC engines, you most likely will go over thousands if not millions of keywords over your career.  What you DON’T know is that there are many times that perfect opportunity to profit from AdSense are actually falling into your lap, and you don’t even know it!

Here you go…

When working within these engines, anytime you are bidding on keywords in the search engine and content network both, you can compare the CPC between the two sources and analyze this data.  What I have found is that anytime the CPC on the content network is 70% or higher than the CPC on the search network, this opens up a perfect opportunity to create some sort of a mini site, blog, or content based site.  Now you can monetize these sites with AdSense and you are almost guaranteed to get high click price.  If you have any knowledge of SEO this should be a pretty simple for you to do.

If you really want to take advantage of this (or don’t know anything about SEO), you could than go to any smaller PPC networks such as looksmart, enhance, miva or 7search and drive traffic to your page with the adsense on it. 

This can be a perfect opportunity to take your research from your PPC campaigns, analyze it, then profit from it, all in a days work!

Yahoo Allows Affiliates to Direct Link in YMS!

At 8:44 PM tonight I received this email from CJ Wire, CJ.com’s e-mail service, informing me of a recent Yahoo update (which actually occurred awhile back as I will show you)…

Yahoo! Search Marketing Becomes More Publisher Friendly

After more than six months in the making and much customer feedback and testing, we are pleased to announce that Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM) has recently updated its editorial policies and will now allow U.S. publishers to direct link to their advertisers. In the past, YSM’s editorial policy prevented publishers from linking directly to their advertiser partners and required that traffic be sent first to the publisher’s Web site. The new policy eliminates this restriction and opens a much broader search marketing opportunity for publishers.

This YSM policy change is the result of a strong relationship between Commission Junction and YSM. We have spent more than six months working with YSM to enact the new editorial policy and are very pleased that this effort has resulted in changes that are sure to create opportunities for our publishers and advertisers.

We find this policy change exciting on several levels. First, this is a significant shift for YSM and could be a great opportunity for your search marketing campaigns. Second, you heard it here first – YSM has asked us to communicate this change to the affiliate community. Third, the work we’ve done with YSM on this policy change is just another example of our commitment to listening to and speaking up for our publishers.

So, if you’re running search marketing campaigns but have left YSM out of your marketing mix, now is a great time to expand your efforts.

Now Here is an email I actually received on February 7th from a smaller CPA network who informed me of this change…

Take note of the interesting terms they use….search arbitrage?….just sounds blackhat to me.


Hi Trevor – I wanted to let you know that Yahoo claims they have adjusted their affiliate marketing restrictions so that affiliates NO longer need to create an interstitial page to do search advertising on Yahoo.  They can buy key terms and promote them directly to 3rd party websites. 


Search arbitrage is on!  This change was made Feb 1st without any public announcement.

 Now thanks to gmail archiving all of my mail, I went back and found the actual date of the email I received from Yahoo notifying me of the upcoming changes they were going to be making to their terms of service…

Here is the email which was from December 4th, 2007:

Yahoo! Search Marketing

Dear Advertiser,

Our advertiser Terms and Conditions and Program Terms have been
modified to reflect recent enhancements to our products and
services. Please review the new version via the link below, as
your continued use of Yahoo! Search Marketing products after
December 19, 2007 constitutes acceptance of the modified Terms and
Conditions and Program Terms.

Also, please note that certain Program Terms within the new Terms
and Conditions will not apply to you if you have not enrolled in
those Programs.

If you have any questions about this notice, please use the Support
Request Form, which may be found at the upper-right corner of each
page once you are logged in to your account at:


Your Partners at Yahoo! Search Marketing

 Isn’t it amazing how long it takes for information to get to certain end users and how THEY decide to relay that message across to everyone?  Not only that, but wow it really took CJ a long time to get to me as their affiliate to inform me of this.  Thanks, months after, when everyone has already planned and executed picking up all of this possible prime ad space.

Maybe this shows something…maybe this means cj.com is behind the pack.  Yeah, I know, I am going to hear it about this one, but come on CJ does not care about their affiliates unless you are making a SUBSTANCIAL amount.  The payouts are also quite low so it is extremely hard for anyone who would be a beginner to come into the market and produce much of a profit promoting cj products through ppc. 

I don’t know….but I do know one thing.  I didn’t make a substancial increase in my earnings until I moved my focus from commission junction over to some of the CPA networks.

I kind of went off on a bit of a seperate topic there, however, I do want to get one thing out to all of you.  Apparantly this information about Yahoo’s TOS doesn’t concern people, or they aren’t aware of it.  You should definately be taking advantage of this! 

You can now direct link at Yahoo with no problems whatsoever or having to worry about your keywords or ads getting declined!

There I said it, so now if you don’t take advantage of this information…then you aren’t built to be in this game.

Yahoo Marketing Solutions, Google Adwords, MSN Adcenter…Who’s the best?

Giving a specific answer of who is "the best" in this category would be nearly impossible.  However, I have played around with traffic from nearly every PPC engine out there and would definitely say these 1st tier engines are the only place that most of you will want to play.  Most of the PPC engines outside of the 1st tier tend to have much poorer quality traffic, which is never fun to get.

So what IS the difference between these 3 big dogs? (soon to be 2 possibly)…

Yahoo! Marketing Solutions

Yahoo doesn’t get nearly the amount of traffic that Google contains, but I have noticed that most of the traffic I receive from yahoo converts better than my traffic at google.  I have never had any problems with Yahoo and they have been improving their PPC system dramatically over the last year.

One drawback of Yahoo that I, and other marketers, have noticed, is that many times keywords that have been approved and running fine…will all of a sudden become disabled, or declined, or simply disappear.

When this first started happening to me, I was worried…called Yahoo, and got some BS excuse like always.  After asking around…this happens to almost everyone I know who uses yahoo and keeps tabs on their accounts to notice it happening.

Other than this small drawback I would say Yahoo is probably the best PPC engine for any PPC beginner to start out at since the traffic is generally cheaper than adwords and the clicks usually convert better.

MSN Adcenter

It took me awhile to get used to MSN.  I get quite a few campaigns in MSN that convert pretty well also, however it seems to be much more hit or miss than Yahoo.  Bid prices at MSN are comparable to Yahoo, maybe a bit lower.  However the traffic seems to flow even less than Yahoo.

Another downfall I feel is that MSN’s interface is really hard and confusing to work with.  I have been quite surprised to not see MSN make any decent changes like Yahoo and Google have.

I think MSN will continue to slowly grow in this area, however with the recent news that they may be purchasing Yahoo, that would help them tremendously.

MSN is also a good engine for beginners to dabble with since their is less traffic, cheaper prices, and it still converts pretty well.

Google Adwords

Here is the REAL big dog.  Google has the largest mass of traffic compared to the other engines.  Google’s traffic can convert really well or poor depending on how you run your campaign.  One thing is for sure, if you are a newbie, you need to be extremely careful when setting up your campaigns.  Make sure to use negative keywords, only exact and phrase match for your keyword types, and run everything through a tracking program to make sure you aren’t paying out loads of money on traffic that isn’t converting.

Unlike Yahoo and MSN, Googly’s adwords has sort of revolutionalized the way PPC works.  They continually are working with things and changing their algorithms to produce the best user experience.

Because of this, I recommend not to use adwords unless you know what you are doing.  Take your time testing and learning using Yahoo or MSN and then after you get some experience under your belt, then come back to Google and start pounding at its door.

Let me know what your favorite PPC engines are.  I know there are a few 2nd tier PPC engines out there that are pretty decent, leave a comment and let me know what you have found in your experiences.

Filter Out Junk PPC Traffic With Negative Keywords…

When creating your PPC campaigns I sure hope you are using negative keywords wisely.

The ONLY way you won’t have to use negative keywords are if you use exact match keyword phrases only!

Anytime you are doing your keyword research, you should keep your eye out for any keyword that doesn’t relate to the product or service you are promoting.  You should also read through the keyword phrases and see if there are any phrases that don’t really qualify for your specifications.  So for example, if you are promoting something and you are seeing support or cancel in some of the phrases, these are also keywords that should be added to the negative keyword list.

You should also go search Google and Yahoo (even MSN if you want ) to look for any results in the SERP (search engine results page).  Like before, anything you see here that isn’t related to what you are promoting should be added to the negative keyword list.

This negative keyword list you have generated will now do quite a few helpful things for you.  First of all, it will prevent your ad from being shown to unqualified visitors, which will result in your ad getting a much higher CTR since the ad will be targeted so much better than before.  Also, by having this negative keyword list you weed out any unqualified clicks to your ad by not even allowing the ad to be show.  This results in a lot of saved money from wasted clicks.

If you do this, and see your impressions go WAY down…this means you were definitely not managing this campaign effectively or efficiently.

If you aren’t using negative keywords with your campaigns, then get in to adwords, adcenter, YMS or wherever you use, and get these loaded into your account right away.  This will cut your costs down and get your ctr up…something we all need!

No more question marks allowed in Yahoo Marketing Solutions?

Not to long ago, Yahoo Marketing Solutions updated their interface used.  There were some minor changes made which I thought improved YMS.  This being said, I was helping a friend the other day with some PPC campaigns he was running and suggested he use an ad which contained a question mark in it.  He told me it wouldn’t allow him, and I passed it off as it probably being user error or something wrong with his browser possibly, who knows these days…

Now tonight I went through and was tweaking old campaigns and adding a bunch of new campaigns.  Towards the end of my workload, I was trying to ad an ad which contained a question mark in not the title, but the body of the ad.  Every time I would type in a question mark it would automatically be taken out of the text box immediately after it was typed.  It has come to my attention now that Yahoo must have made changes to their system which now forbids users of using question marks in their ads.


Are you kidding me???

It seems like these 1st tier engines are taking away every right that we as advertisers have!  I understand some of the changes, and even encourage them usually.  But some of the things, like not allowing question marks in an ad is ridiculous.  I can think of many situations (ads) that could be made 100 times more effective by being able to use a question mark in the ad.

PPC is my favorite method of getting traffic and has been for quite some time.  However, the way these big guys are treating some of us is getting to be just unfair.  I am making an attempt to really broaden my knowledge on different tactics of traffic generation this year and hope that many others will choose to also consider this route.

Let me know what you think… Are these companies really pushing some of these things or is it just me?

You ARE losing money by not properly tracking!

In the last year I have spent a lot of my time focusing on how I track and record everything with any of my traffic generation techniques.  There are many different methods to track the different types of traffic available to us.  I am going to talk more specifically about tracking traffic coming from PPC campaigns (even more specifically; direct linking CPA/Affiliate offers) as I think this is the most complicated for most and the least cared about by many.

When tracking with PPC campaigns, CPA/Affiliate networks use a script to track everything that their affiliates do.  These scripts consist of code to track where the traffic is coming from (by grabbing the referral URL) and then a redirection to the offers landing page.  Because of the demand for better tracking capabilities, almost all of the networks have given us marketers an area to track where the traffic is coming from.  This can be called many different things but is most commonly called a Subid.  How this works is when you grab your url from the network for whatever you are promoting, you can add &Subid= or whatever it is that the network uses, and whatever value you want after the = sign, and it will be tracked and recorded by the network.  Now like I was saying, each network uses different names for the subid area of the url.  So for instance a url from hydra looks like this: http://www.lynxtrack.com/afclick.php?o=6492&b=0yf8r68m&p=14353&l=1  Hydra does not use &Subid= as there tracking mechanism, what they use is &s= so my final url would look like this http://www.lynxtrack.com/afclick.php?o=6492&b=0yf8r68m&p=14353&l=1&s=EnterSubidHere replacing EnterSubidHere with whatever you want to pass along to remember where the traffic was coming from.  To find what you need to add into your url to pass along the subid data, you can just ask your affiliate manager or contact the CPA/Affiliate network if you don’t know your affiliate manager.

When you are tracking PPC traffic there are again more than one way to track this traffic.  More specifically, there are two main methods to this. 

The first method consists of giving every keyword in your PPC campaign a unique destination url.  This method is good because it is easy for accounting purposes, since you can match every keyword your bidding on exactly with the conversion.  However it does have a few drawbacks such as the fact that using this method you will never find out the TRUE searched for keyword that made the conversion.  For example, you may be bidding on the keyword "math book".  Now a user comes along, searches for "math book 101 for college" and buys the book.  You know that the conversion came from that keyword "math book" with this method but you DON’T know that it actually came from a different more specific phrase, "math book 101 for college".  Another problem with this is that in the PPC engines, when you use a unique destination url for a keyword, there is no way to test which ad is making the conversion since the unique destination url overrides the ad url.  There are scripts that make this process much easier for you and are able to import and export csv files, etc.  Most of the scripts out there that do this right now in my opinion are lacking in many areas, however I know there are a couple of tracking scripts coming out in the near future that will really help most marketers.

The second method also involves using a script, most commonly php/mysql, to grab a certain part of the referrer code which passes on the keyword as a variable in the url.  Here is an example of a referrer url grabbed by my tracking script: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en-us&q=sixflags&btnG=Search  Looking at this url tells us many things, for instance, that the visitor was using Safari as a browser, that they speak English, and that they were searching for the keyword "sixflags".

These tracking scripts then take that url and enter it into a database taking what it needs from the url and organizing the information into the database as it adds it.  By using these scripts, you just give your ad a url generated by your tracking script and then when it runs it through this script it adds the information needed, logs whatever needed, then does whatever you have it do (most likely redirecting it if you are direct linking).  I don’t know if most of these programs allow you to do this, but it is possible with this method to track which conversions are coming from specific ads.  You can give each of your ad a unique tracking url and since the keyword is pulled through the referrer url you can also find out the exact keyword that made the conversion.  Not only this but you can view the url and find other useful information to help you with your search engine marketing.  Many times the URLs will tell the exact location of the searchers.  Not long ago I had an offer up and found that like 80% of my converting customers were coming from California.  By Geo targeting this campaign, I bumped my CTR way up and lowered my click prices by adding the converting long tails that were showing up in my tracking script.

On the other side of the PPC table, you can also use the second tracking method with content network traffic and find out some very useful information.  For example, your referrer url will be where the site is coming from, so you will find every site that is displaying your ad as AdSense, and you can see how much it is converting.  You can find some goldmine opportunities here by weeding out the sites that aren’t sending converting traffic, and just show your ad to the sites that are sending that quality traffic.

Now that I have gone over the pros and cons of both of the different methods of tracking your PPC traffic, I want to bring up another point.  Why is no one tracking the conversion rates of their ads?!?!  I talk to many ppc marketers who just don’t understand why they would want to go through the work to know the conversion rate of their ads.  They figure the best CTR is the most clicks and that’s the best.  THATS WRONG!  People need to worry MORE about the conversion rate than they are.  I realize you always need to have a bit of balance and use your best judgement when choosing between traffic quantity and quality/conversion but why NOT know which ad is converting the best?

This happens to me time after time but I will give you one example of just last week.  I had an offer that was $40 per lead.  I was bringing in around 3 or 4 leads a day.  I was also split testing two different ads.  The ads were actually identical, except for the display url.  They were both getting about the same amount of clicks and had about the same CTR.  However, the ad that was getting a slightly higher CTR actually did not have even ONE conversion.  I started backing up and looking at larger groups of data and broadening things out to a week view on the traffic, the exact trend continued the entire time.  I was really shocked on this one but the numbers don’t lie.  Once I stopped the higher CTR ad, I found that I started to get almost double the sales.  This was ALL because I was tracking each ad separately so I could test my conversion rates.

I had my script custom programmed by a genius friend of mine, but if you have any knowledge of php/mysql or any web programming languages, you would be able to create something yourself.  There are also many other premade scripts out there that you could purchase, but in my opinion they just aren’t worth it.  For example, most of the scripts can’t import your CPA/Affiliate network csv files into the script so that it can figure everything out.  My script will bring in any csv for any network I am in and many more.  Now not only does my script do the tracking, but it imports all of my network data and compares it all to the data in the mysql database, which then reports back to me in an organized manner all of the information it had logged including additional information like the TRUE EPC of every single keyword, and the ad and ad group in a whole.

Knowing this sort of information is priceless and can help you save TONS of money by knowing which keywords are the money makers and which ones are the money drainers.  It can also help you find traffic you wouldn’t have known about otherwise along with other information.

I would recommend taking a look at your tracking strategy and maybe revamping it so that you aren’t passing up all the information you are paying for.

Let me know how you choose to track things when it comes to your ppc campaigns.  I’m interested to hear if anyone else out there agrees with me on this viewpoint.