How to Advertise Online and Survive in a Brutally Competitive Market

I remember a children's book called "How to Make Your Own Computer Controlled Robot"

I remember a children's book called "How to Make Your Own Computer Controlled Robot"

Thursday was library day.

My sisters and I would frantically look for our books from last visit. We’d check them against a list in a notepad dad made us keep in the car. When we were ready, we’d buckle our seat-belts and wait for dad to finish brushing his teeth and take us.

It was a sacred family ritual.

He only let us check out 3 books each. Sometimes, if I begged hard enough, I could get my father to make an exception for one more book. And before we took our week’s reading home, we were made to write the titles and authors into dad’s notepad.

I remember this one book. It was part of a dated British series made for children on technology and computers. Its title was “How to Create Your Own Computer Controlled Robot” by Usborne.

For months, I was obsessed with the project. I came home from school, headed straight for the yellow pages, and called every electronics shop in Auckland. I asked about foreign brands and old component names no one had ever heard of.

I spent my afternoons in the dark amongst the spiders under my family home–Searching for the exact colour combination or code on some tiny electronic part.

That’s where all my projects got their parts.

The technician for the Architecture college where my father worked was kind to me. He passed onto me junk radios, amplifiers, and computer circuits he didn’t need.

Mum didn’t like my mess. So she made me keep my “electronic junk” under the house. There, I’d meticulously scan every soldered component on every circuit board trying to find what I needed. It would take hours. But under the house I usually had more luck than with the electronics shops.

I would take the parts I wanted from other circuit boards and use them in my own electronic projects
I would take the parts I wanted from other circuit boards and use them in my own electronic projects

When I found the part, I’d excitedly get out hunched, scratched, and sore. I’d take the entire board to my room, and unsolder the component. Sometimes I made mistakes. Sometimes I just forgot the colour code or part number I needed. And I was usually back under the house within minutes, repeating the exercise for another part.

Electronics and pieces of solder were scattered all over my bedroom–on the table, in the carpet, sometimes in my blanket. It was a mess that frustrated my mother to no end.

I scavanged for those parts until I gathered all the resistors, transistors, and motors that the book said I needed. And finally, I was ready to build my robot.

Sometimes, when looking online today, I’m reminded of being 13 crouched under the house scanning for parts. Unlike the library, the Internet has no order. It’s a giant mess of pages and sites all linked together. Could you imagine what it would be like  without search engines like Google?

Search engines bring order to an otherwise disorganised and messy medium.

They make it easy for us to find answers to pressing questions with a quick search. We’ve gotten used to having every answer we ever wished for, only a few key-strokes away.

Maybe we’ve grown spoilt. I mean, we expect a lot from our search:

We expect it to read our minds and know we’re looking for a recipe when we type ambiguous queries like “enchiladis”. Or that we’re looking for a printer cartridge when we type “UR-1320C”.

  • We want the search engine to correct our spelling mistakes
  • We want it to ignore our typos
  • We make it define words for us
  • We want it to calculate conversions from metric to empirial units
  • We expect it to give us the weather forecast
  • We’re so darn lazy, we don’t even bother to type website addresses any more, we just search for them and ignore the “com” or “net” extensions.

Yet, few advertisers make the effort of targeting keywords besides the most obvious. If a keyword requires creativity or leg-work to think of, it’s overlooked.

Well, searchers don’t stop searching or spending just because no one bothers to show them an ad. They’re just more likely to buy from the handful of advertisers who do show up with an answer when the searcher asks.

Had Google been around when I wanted robot parts at 13, imagine the havoc I would have brought to the search…

I wouldn’t have looked for something obvious like “electronic components”. I would’ve looked for transistor codes and weird words from the book like Veroboard instead of “circuit board”. I would’ve been searching for “100K ohm” and “green cap capacitor”. Sadly, most advertisers wouldn’t have found me.

Few merchants take the effort to bid on measuring units, common variations on the names of components they stock, and the names of their brands and model numbers.

Yet, these are the kind of searches that the average internet user expects to find answers for.

There’s an infinity of queries your website might match. Searchers come from all walks of life, all ages, all levels of literacy, and have different cultural backgrounds, language, and ethnicity. They all deserve answers to their question.

As an advertiser, you can only guess at the way your target customer will word his or her queries. Because of this, I usually test hundreds of thousands of keywords to find 4 or 5 that result in sales.

While this guessing and testing is a bit of a drag, it is worth the effort because competition will NEVER be a problem for the creative advertiser. No matter how competitive or saturated a market gets, there will always be new questions, and infinite ways people will word them.


To learn more of Jim’s PPC advertising techniques, check out PPC Domination.

Author: Jim Yaghi

Jim Yaghi is an advertising consultant and traffic expert, with a background in Artificial Intelligence.

25 thoughts on “How to Advertise Online and Survive in a Brutally Competitive Market”

  1. Very few people have your tenacity Jim, which is why very few will achieve the level of success you have. Unfortunately, as with wanting the search engines to do it all for us, and do it instantly, there’s the same ‘want’ in marketing. The biggest results for the smallest amount of effort in the shortest amount of time. If only it were possible?

    You’re spot on when you say that the searcher doesn’t stop searching just because you’re not there to answer them. But that’s ok, cos it means the rest of us will be. : )

  2. Well, to be honest Jim this hasn't really given me any ideas of new keywords YET. I believe it's pushed me in the right direction though when I begin to think of some new keywords/ keyword groups.

    Thanks for the post though, I think it'll help a lot of people to understand how to win at adwords and what you really mean when you say "don't pick battles you can't win". Hopefully this will give some advertisers that "aha" moment that Oprah always talks about.

    Cheers

  3. Well, to be honest Jim this hasn't really given me any ideas of new keywords YET. I believe it's pushed me in the right direction though when I begin to think of some new keywords/ keyword groups.

    Thanks for the post though, I think it'll help a lot of people to understand how to win at adwords and what you really mean when you say “don't pick battles you can't win”. Hopefully this will give some advertisers that “aha” moment that Oprah always talks about.

    Cheers

  4. Great article Jim! I can relate to your electronics experiences, I worked for several electronic component companies in my day. Corning, Inc, Sprague Electric Company.

    Yes, search is an amazing tool we all take for granted these days. Researching keywords is critical to online success.

    I guess I am the first to comment, always is good to be first!

  5. Great article Jim! I can relate to your electronics experiences, I worked for several electronic component companies in my day. Corning, Inc, Sprague Electric Company.

    Yes, search is an amazing tool we all take for granted these days. Researching keywords is critical to online success.

    I guess I am the first to comment, always is good to be first!

  6. Thanx for this post Jim,

    It has opened up my eyes for my own campaigns. I always eem to get stuck on the main keywords to bid on instead of drilling down to find related keywords. This post has been very helpful to me!

    Keep thinking outside the box Jim.

    Andy

  7. Thanx for this post Jim,

    It has opened up my eyes for my own campaigns. I always eem to get stuck on the main keywords to bid on instead of drilling down to find related keywords. This post has been very helpful to me!

    Keep thinking outside the box Jim.

    Andy

  8. Unfortunately you are absolutely right about how lazy people have become. We our all guilty of typing in the fewest amount of words into search engines for our searches. We expect to much out of search engines.

    As advertisers we should beware of the fact that most people don't know the first thing about typing. Those majority hunt and peckers are going to do the least amount of typing possible. We have to go broad with our keywords and try to keep them under at least three words.

    John

  9. Unfortunately you are absolutely right about how lazy people have become. We our all guilty of typing in the fewest amount of words into search engines for our searches. We expect to much out of search engines.

    As advertisers we should beware of the fact that most people don't know the first thing about typing. Those majority hunt and peckers are going to do the least amount of typing possible. We have to go broad with our keywords and try to keep them under at least three words.

    John

  10. It's funny you mention electronic parts. About two weeks ago my 61" rear-projection TV fizzled out. Not wanting to trash it, I began a search for repair options. At first, I looked for forums offering advice on DIY TV repair, and then searched within the site for my specific problem. When that didn't work, I decided to get very specific.

    I typed in my model number, along with "chirping" and "no picture". I got an organic result which led me directly to <a href="http://www.tvrepairkits.com” target=”_blank”>www.tvrepairkits.com. They had a kit for my specific model, with my specific problem! Best yet, the kit cost about 1/3 what it would cost just to have a repairman come look at the set, let alone fix it. The kit came with complete instructions, including guided pictures, and a copy of the service manual, if I needed it. I ordered without hesitation. The kit arrived within 3 days, and my TV now works beautifully, and I have the satisfaction of having done something like this myself.

    Could this example be applied to PPC? Of course! The keywords are VERY specific, but when someone is searching for those specific keywords, I imagine the CTR and conversion rates are incredible.

    If I understand PPC correctly, the beauty of it is that if you are incredibly specific with your keywords, the worst case scenario is that no one will see it, because no one is searching for it, which means you pay nothing. But, if even a few people type in your exact long-tail keywords, you are MUCH more likely to convert them, because you are delivering exactly what they want.

    Do I have this right, Jim, or am I missing something important in the equation?

    Lane Romero-Reiss

  11. It's funny you mention electronic parts. About two weeks ago my 61″ rear-projection TV fizzled out. Not wanting to trash it, I began a search for repair options. At first, I looked for forums offering advice on DIY TV repair, and then searched within the site for my specific problem. When that didn't work, I decided to get very specific.

    I typed in my model number, along with “chirping” and “no picture”. I got an organic result which led me directly to <a href="http://www.tvrepairkits.com” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://www.tvrepairkits.com” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://www.tvrepairkits.com” target=”_blank”>www.tvrepairkits.com. They had a kit for my specific model, with my specific problem! Best yet, the kit cost about 1/3 what it would cost just to have a repairman come look at the set, let alone fix it. The kit came with complete instructions, including guided pictures, and a copy of the service manual, if I needed it. I ordered without hesitation. The kit arrived within 3 days, and my TV now works beautifully, and I have the satisfaction of having done something like this myself.

    Could this example be applied to PPC? Of course! The keywords are VERY specific, but when someone is searching for those specific keywords, I imagine the CTR and conversion rates are incredible.

    If I understand PPC correctly, the beauty of it is that if you are incredibly specific with your keywords, the worst case scenario is that no one will see it, because no one is searching for it, which means you pay nothing. But, if even a few people type in your exact long-tail keywords, you are MUCH more likely to convert them, because you are delivering exactly what they want.

    Do I have this right, Jim, or am I missing something important in the equation?

    Lane Romero-Reiss

  12. Jim,

    I love your metaphorically correct analogy. We live in a microwave society. Popcorn in 2 minutes, oil change in 10 and forbid the fact that people get agitated waiting more than a few minutes in the grocery store line.

    People think they are going to dive in and have immediate results just because they throw a few grand at google and thats so the wrong way to go into the gun battle. It is a battle out there and only few will win.

    Josh Boxer

  13. Jim,

    I love your metaphorically correct analogy. We live in a microwave society. Popcorn in 2 minutes, oil change in 10 and forbid the fact that people get agitated waiting more than a few minutes in the grocery store line.

    People think they are going to dive in and have immediate results just because they throw a few grand at google and thats so the wrong way to go into the gun battle. It is a battle out there and only few will win.

    Josh Boxer

  14. Hey Jim – to be clear, when you say "keywords" you're talking about long tail and phrases too, yes? For example, my product provides instruction on how to successfully start an MLM business. So bidding on the KW's of MLM or Network Marketing are obviously too broad and too competative. My item is all about how to get involved with MLM not what to do when you are already involved. So for me, it would be to try and figure out what the newcomer is asking themselves: "how do I start an MLM business", "where do I get free MLM training" and so on. So when you use the term "keyword" in your post, you're also talking about these types of phrases too?

  15. Hey Jim – to be clear, when you say “keywords” you're talking about long tail and phrases too, yes? For example, my product provides instruction on how to successfully start an MLM business. So bidding on the KW's of MLM or Network Marketing are obviously too broad and too competative. My item is all about how to get involved with MLM not what to do when you are already involved. So for me, it would be to try and figure out what the newcomer is asking themselves: “how do I start an MLM business”, “where do I get free MLM training” and so on. So when you use the term “keyword” in your post, you're also talking about these types of phrases too?

  16. Jim,

    As always, you provide great comment. Your emails generally prompt me to click and read more.

    Thanks again.

  17. Jim,

    As always, you provide great comment. Your emails generally prompt me to click and read more.

    Thanks again.

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