Tag Archives: Meghan McDonnell

PPC & SEO – How Well Do They Play Together?

The age old question: am I wasting media dollars advertising via PPC when my listing also appears in natural results?  It’s a completely valid question– why would I, as a marketer, waste any media budget on traffic and revenue I would pick up anyway via organic search?  This has been a concern for years now and there is a lot of research on the subject.  Theories that oppose paid search advertising argue that people value the perceived “editorial integrity” of organic listings, saying they are more trusted and unbiased; therefore, conversion rates should be higher (Hotchkiss et al. 2005). On the flip side, others stress the importance of paid search ads in being able to display controlled advertisements that speak more to the user and what they are specifically in the market for (Jansen 2007).

Both Google and Bing came out with their own case studies to address this hot topic.  The Google study looked at the impact of organic listings on click incrementality across paid results.  They found that the click-through-rate of paid ads with associated organic search results was higher and that this impacted the position of the organic result on the page (Google, 2012).  This research was built on another Google study, which found that 89% of traffic generated by paid search ads isn’t replaced by organic clicks when the paid ads are paused (Google, 2011). The Bing study also investigated whether paid ads provided a source of lift or was cannibalizing organic search results.  The result was that the organic click-through-rate increased whenever the paid ads were active, leading to the conclusion that paid ads were not cannibalizing natural results, but were driving more clicks through paid ads, as well as incremental clicks to the natural results (Roth, 2010).

Well that’s great, you say.  So, the search engines themselves conclude we shouldn’t hold back from giving them money and buying paid media.  As a marketer, we need validation from research that is completely unbiased and stands nothing to lose. On top of that, as marketers, we need to know how much running paid ads affects our overall revenue and net profit, not just traffic, something that neither of these studies addresses.

Marketing Science published an interesting article about a study from two professors at the Center for Digital Economy Research at NYU Stern, which analyzed not only the effect of paid search on incremental clicks, but also on conversion rate, and overall profitability.  The study was conducted on a major nationwide retailer store chain over the course of eight weeks and found that whenever paid and organic listings were grouped together, click-through rate was 5.1% higher (Yang, Ghose 2010).  This positive interdependence was found to be much stronger for brand terms.  The conversion rate was also 11.7% higher during times when paid ads were running alongside natural listings.  Interestingly, the study found that the overall profitability of the search programs combined was up between 4.2-6.15% during times when the paid listings were live.

So, is paid search worth it? IgnitionOne has heard this question before and one case study in particular hones in on this very query.  IgnitionOne analyzed brand terms across Google & Yahoo, answering whether paid search brand advertising is worth the cost.  We found that live paid search ads led to an increase of 17% more natural clicks, and the overall net profit for this particular client was over $24,000 (backing out paid search media spend).  The revenue increases came directly from paid search ads, as there was no revenue increase found from organic search when paid ads were on.  This indicates that paid search attracts more qualified traffic than natural.

The key takeaway is that all signs point to paid media fueling search traffic overall and that revenue will increase by running on brand terms in both your paid and natural programs.  The jury is still out on the impact on the generic terms, so the best thing you can do is isolate a certain portion of your nonbrand terms and TEST, TEST, TEST! The simple reality is that each company’s advertising media has a variety of products, as well as goals, which will certainly impact how well both search programs affect your bottom line.

Insights from an Attribution Queen

A series of interviews will give our readers and IgnitionOne customers a behind-the-scenes look at the people who make up IgnitionOne, exploring their professional roles and what interests them on a personal level. This week, Meghan McDonnell of Attribution Services discusses her background, the evolution of attribution and analytics, and childhood memories and discover why we think she is absolutely royal. 

1. Please introduce yourself

My name is Meghan McDonnell, (Supervisor, Attribution Services). I work in the Client Services team in IgnitionOne’s Atlanta office.

2. What do you do?

I started January 20, 2009 as an Algorithmic Media Analyst (affectionately called a Bid Scientist) on the Advisor team.  The Advisor team is part of Client Services and helps clients who want their Paid Search media spend optimized toward a specific goal.  They are also responsible for weekly status calls with the client to go over performance, as well as providing strategic recommendations and analysis.

3. How did you get involved in attribution and analytics?

I’ve always been really interested in analyzing data.  I graduated with a Mathematics degree and every job I’ve had since has always been extremely focused on data and analysis, mostly in the marketing realm.  Attribution started off as a side project for me, but I have obviously grown into this role.  I loved the idea of incorporating data across multiple media programs and analyzing the process behind getting users to ultimately convert.  There are so many interesting data points involved and it’s only going to continue to get more robust in the coming years.  I’m excited to see where this will eventually take us.

4. Speaking of the coming years: what are your predictions regarding Attribution and Analytics over the next 5 years?

I think it’s only going to get more complicated as more features are added around each digital media channel.  We’ve come a long way toward developing a better understanding of what drives users to convert, but there is still a lot of data that marketers are just getting into, such as on-site metrics (how long they are on the site, what specific pages on the site they visited, at what point did they move from “interested” to “ready to buy”).  These types of metrics are already starting to add value to the attribution process.  I also think that the incorporation of offline data will be crucial to attribution, such as someone searching on their mobile phone for a specific store or product and linking this to this same user going into a store and making a purchase.

5. People around here call you the “Attribution Queen.” How did you get this nickname?

Ha, that’s a good question.  I think Eric Carlyle (our Chief Knowledge Architect)   originally coined the phrase. When I first started working under the Advisor group, IgnitionOne had recently introduced attribution, and Eric tasked me with working on coming up with the reporting logistics and developing a process for our clients.  Since I was one of the first people working on this, he started calling me “Attribution Queen” and the phrase stuck.

6. Can you tell me about the team you work with?

My role now focuses specifically on attribution across all of our clients in multiple verticals and regions of the world. The entire attribution process is very consultative. The practice begins with an initial background brief on the specific client and type of business they have, addressing what business objectives they are ultimately trying to achieve. The team then begins compiling data and reporting in order to get a complete picture of how all of their media channels are working together and how much crossover there truly is (and in most cases, there is quite a bit).

The next step is to take a deeper dive into the data to analyze all of the various marketing components of the conversion paths.  The insights gained from the data combined with the business objectives of that particular client provide a complete analysis, pointing out what is working well (and in what order) and what isn’t.  This helps the client understand not only what type of media mix they should implement but also how they should be attributing their data.

7. How have the solutions evolved since you started working with them?

One of the most important aspects is getting a more comprehensive understanding of what the client is trying to achieve for their business (i.e. driving more new customers to the site, driving higher AOV purchases, etc).  Earlier on, this was something talked about, and on a high level. I think most clients were interested in attribution but didn’t really have a full understanding of what it was and how they could utilize it in a way that would benefit their business.  Now the discussions are much more in depth so we are able to factor in a lot of important information that the data itself was not able to tell us.

Additionally, there are some new attribution reports that I’ve developed to acquire some of the details that were previously missing, such as which types of Display are driving conversions (remarketing, behavioral, etc.) or which types of creative (both display and paid search) are getting users who, say, clicked on an organic search result to finally convert?  Prior to this, the analysis was more focused at the channel level, which is useful, but doesn’t tell us what within these different digital media channels is driving users to convert.  There are so many different levers within each channel that need to be considered when analyzing conversion paths, and we are now able to utilize them  at a much more granular level than ever before.

8. Who is your favorite super hero and why?

Not sure if they are considered “super heroes” but I think I have to go with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!  I probably watched that show more than any other show growing up and can’t even count how many times I watched the movie.  It was one of my brother’s favorites as well, so it’s a bit nostalgic for me.

9. Which is the best vacation you ever went on?

I’d say my best vacation was to Ireland.  I am Irish on both sides of my family so it was something that was at the top of my places to visit list.  It was amazing.  I’m actually considering going back next year and running the Dublin half marathon and then taking time to travel around to some of the other European countries.  Keeping my fingers crossed it works out!

10. What is your favorite book?

Outside of Harry Potter?? Haha. I’d probably go with The Bell Jar.  I thought the book did an amazing job of portraying the characters in a way that made it extremely real.  A little disappointed in the movie, but the book I would read over and over.