How To Improve Your Google Grants CTR

You need to maintain a 5% CTR in order to keep your grant account active. I’ll share with you some of the items I look at to increase CTR in this article.

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Joe Balestrino July 23, 2018 0 Comments

Do’s and Don’ts When Hiring Someone to Manage Your PPC account

Do’s and Don’ts When Hiring Someone to Manage Your Adwords Account

Adwords is in many cases is a must for new websites. Simply because SEO takes time to kick in and if you want traffic from users performing certain keyword searches, PPC is the way to go. Adwords works well in many cases – providing the paid search manager knows what he or she is doing. Which is not always the case.

I’ve been managing Adwords accounts since 2004 and I’ve seen a lot of mistakes made by website owners when it comes to working with paid search agencies or managers. I’ve created a list of some of the basic things you should ask and do before hiring anyone to manage or create your Adwords campaigns.

(Do)– Speak to a real person

Never “order” a paid search management service like you would a pair of socks. You want to speak with a live person with paid search experience. A good paid search manager will ask you questions about your goals, target CPA and past PPC performance. You’ll also want  to have your existing account audited. Find out how your current campaigns are performing and what the new manager / company will do to improve upon it.

(Don’t)- Management costs

You’ll also want to inquire about any set up costs and monthly maintenance fees. Many agencies try and offer you flat rate pricing based on your spend (which you should never do. I’ll explain later) or by the number of keywords. Freelancers my charge you by the hour.

If you have an existing account get an audit. Some agencies will take a look at your existing campaign to determine how much revamping a campaign may need. They will also have a sense of how much time they will spend in your account.

Too good to be true management fees are just that. Too good to be true. If you have 10,000 products in your Google shopping campaign and your management fee is $300 a month, I guarantee you that your account will not be managed properly. Every account I’ve looked at that had a ridiculously low management fee suffered from lack of management. Every time!

Also avoid paying anyone a percentage of your spend. It’s very easy for a manager to increase what you’re spending on Adwords and which in turn will increase what they get paid. Also an increase in spend is not an indication that they are sending more time managing your Adwords campaign.

I recommend either a flat monthly rate or a percentage of revenue. If the fee is a flat rate, you know exactly what you’re fees will be. If you go with a percentage of sales value – you pay more money only if you make more money.

You can also go hourly. Just be sure to set a limit to how many hours you can afford a month so there are no unexpected fees.

(Do)- Does certification matter?

Certification isn’t an indication that a person or company is good at managing Adwords. It does indicate that they understand the fundamentals. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for the certification. Always ask for case studies and for references. Reach out to those references and ask them about what the management company’s reports on and how responsive they are.

If you are working with an agency that is certified, be sure that the individual you are working with is certified. Don’t assume that if an agency is certified that everyone in that agency is. Ask to see certification of the people managing your account.

(Do) – Own your accounts

Never, under any circumstance allow an agency or manager to create an Adwords account for you. Create one yourself and grant them access. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to clients who had their accounts held for ransom. You want to be able to revoke access to anyone at anytime. You want to retain all of the data the account has for the next manager.

You don’t’ want to lose valuable data that you’ve spent money on. Even if you decide to rebuilt the account from scratch the data that has already been collected is very valuable. Without it, you have to start all over which will cost you even more time and money.

(Do) – Reporting on progress

One area I see lacking from some agencies is reporting. Many times a client will only receive a screenshot of the account or a spreadsheet showing the campaign’s performance. However, an ideal report comes with an explanation of what was done the previous month and the game plan for the next month.

In my mind PPC accounts should evolve. We call ourselves paid search managers, but what we should be doing is more than just manage. The goal is to grow the campaign and continue to improve performance and growth.

It’s always good to shop around and to see what agencies can do for you. Some may offer landing page optimization others may specialize in e-commerce. Find the agency that fits your needs and goals.

(Don’t) Avoid contracts

When it comes to PPC,  performance is the goal. Over time you should see your campaign improve. Sure, there will be times it may not perform as expected, but there is usually a reason for it. It could be a new site went live. Perhaps your testing new landing pages or a new offer. Whatever the case may be know and understand why things are improving or why they may not be.

Don’t flip out if you have a bad month. Just understand that somethings things won’t go as planned. However, if you have several months of poor performance and your management company or manager isn’t able to improve performance it may be time to have an audit done by a third party and possibly a new manager. Getting locked into a 6 – 12 month contract could be costly.

Did I miss any tips? What have you learned in the past from working with agencies or managers that you can share?

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Joe Balestrino January 14, 2018 0 Comments

SEO Mistakes to Avoid During a Website Redesign

I recently received an email newsletter from a design agency that was touting their recent clients. One of them being a law firm. This of course peaked my interest since I have had a ton of experience working with lawyers and law firms.

I clicked over to the design agencies website and read the case study. The site looked great, so I clicked over to view the live site. That’s where my excitement ended. (more…)

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Joe Balestrino August 30, 2017 0 Comments

SEO Franchise Case Study – Improving Organic Rankings

SEO Franchise Case Study – Improving Organic Rankings

Franchise SEOLocal SEO is a more involved when it comes to franchise search optimization. It has it’s own challenges that other single locations based businesses face. I should know, I’ve worked with some of the largest franchise brands in the business.

When I was the head of SEO at yodle’s YBN department,  I worked with brands such as Maaco, Miracle-Era, Hand & Stone and many others. This is a case study about some of  the common issues I saw while there and other companies since then. Hopefully, you’re not making the same mistakes.

Numerous Challenges

One major benefit of being a large national chain is that many of these websites carry a fair amount of  authority. The longer a franchise has been around the more trust they have, typically. However, the longer they’ve been around the more likely they are in using old and outdated SEO methods.

One Site Per Location

One of the most common strategies I’ve seen with franchise locations is the method of building individual sites for each location. This becomes problematic because many of these sites are littered with duplicated content. The location sites are built with the same template and they use the same content with just the location(city+state) swapped out. Why is this a problem?

Google will typically only rank one site for the content that is duplicated. If many sites have the exact same or nearly identical content – Google can penalize some or all of these sites as it violates their terms of service.

Another Reason This Method Fails

If you want to rank organically and not just in the map listings, you’ll need incoming links. Imagine working on link building on a hundred websites. In my experience, it’s rare that anyone links to these local sites. In most cases when a franchise is mentioned even if it’s from a local source the link will point to the corporate main site.

Now, I’ve seen some attempts at workarounds such as a directory on the corporate site that links to these individual sites in order to pass some “link equity” to the smaller sites, but it rarely helps boost rankings.

Why Was This Method The Method Of Choice?

There are several reasons, the first being that some companies felt that since each franchisee was its own business it should have its own site. Other franchisees didn’t offer websites to their business owners and so they had to go out and create their own.

Another reason is that franchisee’s wanted to be able to customize their site and offers. The best way to do that was to allow owners to manage their own site.

What Needed To Happen?

Google didn’t like these micro sites and hit them with a penalty as they were made up of mostly duplicated content. Even after writing unique content, rankings improved very little. In very competitive markets these micro-sites also lacked authority, age and links.

sThe best option was to consolidate sites into a single page on the corporation’s main website. This was a bit more difficult than you would think. You have to build these locations into the site. You would need to build state pages which then would link to city pages and then list out the locations in each city.

I’ve seen brands that just added the pages on the backend and have people search to find these locations. However, Google doesn’t use a search function. Also, for the user’s sake, if the search function is broken – how does one find a location? Create a way for people to navigate locations that make sense if search is broken and the search engines will be able to crawl it as well.

Another not so great idea was that a franchise wanted to just upload new locations through a xml sitemap directly through Google’s search console. Not all of the locations were a part of the site navigation. Those that were –  ranked far better than those that just had a link in a sitemap. Why? Well, if Google is the only source that can navigate to these pages because you “fed” them the pages then there is no way for a user to find them. Showing Google pages users can’t find won’t help your SEO.

The Ultimate Fix?

Adding locations to the main website and tying them together with a sitemap, using breadcrumbs (marked-up with schema) and placing a link  in the main navigation to the “location’s” sitemap improved rankings in those locations drastically.

There were many other scenarios I came across. If you have a problem with your locations ranking or need help with franchise SEO contact me. I’d be happy to speak with you.

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Joe Balestrino November 19, 2016 0 Comments

Why A Mobile Friendly Website Is A Must

Mobile Friendly DesignMobile friendly websites load quickly on mobile devices and are designed so that they adjust to the screen-size of whatever device is being used to browse.

This ability to adjust is termed “responsiveness” because the website is responding to the device. (more…)

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Joe Balestrino May 27, 2016 0 Comments

Are customers accessing your digital products for free?

Digital DownloadsBeing in digital marketing for over 11 years and an affiliate marketer, it’s hard not to pick a part a site and evaluate it.

I’ve been noticing that many sites (especially digital products typically sold through Clickbank and jvzoo) have their confirmation or “thank you” pages easily accessible through search. I randomly picked a site from Clickbank and searched Google using

I’ve blocked out the site’s name and urls to protect the site. I’ve reached out to the owner to make him aware of this issue.

FireShot Screen Capture #1078 - 'site_http___makechocolateforprofit_com_ - Google Search' - www_google_com_search_q=site_http___makechocolateforprofit_com_&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org_mozilla_en-US_official

Even if a visitor doesn’t use advanced operators as I did. These pages can still be found in search. Which means users could still stumble upon your “thank you” pages and access your products for free!

How can you secure your site so users can’t access these pages?

  • First, you need to add analytics to your “thank you”and other conversion pages. Keep a look out for direct external referral traffic to these pages – there should be none. Schedule a report weekly just to measure this metric. This will not only makes it easy for you to identify issues, but the emails are a reminder for you to check that there is no one accessing these pages.
  • Then, add a “no,index” and “no follow” meta tag to all of the pages you don’t want found in the search engines.
  • Next, Verify that these pages aren’t found in your sitemaps as user can  find your pages through those as well.
  • Finally, do not add these pages to your robots.txt file. It’s easy for anyone to see which pages you are trying to restrict and go to them directly.

This may seem a bit extreme but it’s necessary to ensure that visitors either; submit the required information to access a download or, enter payment information to access a digital product. This is one of those little things site owners and designers easily overlook.

Did you find any of your pages in search after reading this article?

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Joe Balestrino July 13, 2014 0 Comments

How To Get a Google Penguin Penalty Lifted in 6 Days


Before I explain how to get this penalty lifted – I can’t emphasize enough the importance of diversifying your traffic sources.

You never want your business to be made or broken by one traffic source. You should strive to have a steady stream of traffic from other sources such as PPC (from a number of platforms) site referrals, other media buying, social and so forth.

Losing one channel won’t hurt your bottom line and will give you the time needed to find a replacement source.

Now back to…

Google penalties – they can cripple any online business. If more than 70% of your traffic comes from Google, your business couldn’t survive for very long without traffic from the world’s top search engine.

If you’ve received a notification in WMT regarding unnatural links to your site you’ve been slapped with a Google penalty, but all is not lost.

What if I told you that you could easily clear up that penguin penalty? It’s not as difficult as you think. Sure, you have to do some upfront leg work. You’ll have to go through your link profile and identify the “bad” links.You may even start to reach out to sites that have your link(s) on them. This however, can be an extremely daunting task.

Or, you can disavow them. You should always try and have the links removed, but when you have thousands of links – that could take months. Heck, maybe even years. So disavowing them is the easy and quickest way to go.

  • The first part is upload a disavow file with all the links you want to disassociate your site from.

Your disavow file needs to be formatted correctly. You can’t just upload a list of urls. The trick is to follow Google’s request format when uploading the file. If you need that format contact me.

The key piece after you’ve had your links removed off of these sites and disavowed the links is… your letter of apology to Google Yes, you read that correctly. Apology.

  • Google wants you to explain what was done, by who and that you understand that the actions taken (by you) was against Google’s guidelines.

You of course will apologize profusely and state that this will never happen again and that you now understand that the methods used by you (intentional or not) was not a strategy that should have been used. You’ve seen the error of your ways and will be going white hat this day forward.

This may seem excessive but trust me; Google wants you to grovel.

It works! I’ve had penalties lifted in as few as 6 days using this method.

If you sold links and haven’t been caught – I recommend adding no follow to those links ASAP. Also, make sure it’s easy for people to contact you for link removal. You want to remove links or no-follow versus having your site disavowed. It will hurt your trust with Google. As with life, trust is hard to build and easy to lose. You don’t want to lose trust with Google.

Even if none of this applies to you at this moment… can you say that your link profile is free of spam and all your links are natural?  It would be worth taking a look at you link profile and weed out any possible bad links. It’s always better to be proactive then reactive.

Let me know if these tips were able to get your penalty lifted. You can thank me with a LinkedIn recommendation. 😉

One last thing to remember. Unless you know a link is 100% legit or relevant – have it removed/disavowed. Otherwise you’ll go through several waves of inclusion requests which will prolong the process by weeks and possibly even months.

Still can’t get your penalty lifted? Contact me

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Joe Balestrino July 10, 2014 0 Comments

Call Tracking – Should You Use It and Why?

call-trackingCall tracking isn’t new. It’s been around for a while and I’m amazed at how many site owners refuse to use it. Call tracking is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to measuring your ROI. If you’re a business that receives a modest amount of calls, you should consider implementing call tracking.

Why is call tracking so important?

Imagine all the traffic your site brings in from all its sources. Traffic from social, paid search, organic search and site referrals all should be tracked. Local businesses especially need to track calls. If you’re a local restaurant how do you know how well your site is functioning if you can’t tell if your organic traffic is driving reservation cheaper than your paid search campaigns? You can’t!

There is no way to tell how many reservations were called in from each marketing channel.

Can call tracking hurt your SEO efforts?

Call tracking numbers are usually in java which the engines can’t read so that isn’t an issue. We do however want to ensure Google finds the same number on other sites such as Yelp, Google Plus and other sites. On your “contact us” page and footer use schema markup code to help Google and other major search engines identify your actual phone number. You can learn more about the tag here on W3C  This also helps with users who have java turned off on their browser.

There is also a great article on Search Engine Journal that gives a great break down on how to correctly use call tracking and avoid any adverse SEO issues.

Call tracking should be measured the same way you measure your site’s analytics. Being able to account for every lead and dollar isn’t truly being done if you’re not tracking calls.

Here is a list of call tracking companies worth looking into to:

At the end of the day you have to ask yourself – “Can I afford to now now how many calls are coming from which sources?” Which keywords? You could be potentially pause terms on adwords that produce calls, but no click-through conversions or sales. I don’t know of any business owner that would want to willing cut off their money making terms, yet business do it every day. On the other hand plenty of accounts do the complete opposite – leaving every term running wasting dollars because they just don’t know what’s working for them. Are you in the same situation. It’s time for a change.

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Joe Balestrino September 17, 2013 0 Comments

Is It Time To Change Your PPC Management Company?

ppc-management-PPC management is more than just looking at numbers; it’s also about the strategy. All too many times agencies work hard to get the clients and once they do, put the campaigns and clients on autopilot.

I’ve worked with enough clients to know why they left their old PPC management company to work with me. I created a list of 5 things you should look out for when working with a paid search company. You may not be sure just how much your paid search company should do for you. After reading this article you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. (more…)

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Joe Balestrino September 4, 2013 0 Comments

How To Improve Your Adwords Quality Score

Google Quality ScoreWe all want a high quality score in Adwords, but how does one go about improving their Adwords quality score?  Most of what I’ve been reading has been missing some of the more basic issues that can push down your quality score. You’ll find some tips and ideas that are easy enough to implement and can have an almost instant result.

I would suggest doing each one of these tips one at a time to see which one of these has a bigger impact on your quality score. Feel free to leave your tips in the comments below.

How To Improve Your Quality Score

I’m going to assume you’ve structured your campaigns and adgroups as tightly as possible – while sending users to the most relevant pages. All of these go towards your quality score. This is the foundation of your Adwords success and should be carefully thought out. In many cases a poorly laid out adgroup can’t be improved without being restructured, so keep that in mind.

Broad Terms

  • Using broad terms opens the flood gates to irrelevant traffic, which in turn drives up your CPA. Using Adword’s search query report weekly, will help you identify terms that aren’t relevant as well as helping you find additional terms that will help you convert for less.

Negative Terms

  • When running broad terms it’s very important to stay on top of your negative terms. Irrelivant traffic will drive up your CPA and lwer yout CTR. Stay on top of the negative terms and you’ll bring in more targted traffic.

Mobile DevicesMobile

  • If you are utilizing mobile campaigns then your site should be mobile friendly. Poor user experience in mobile will just waste your money. Opt out of mobile and focus on desktop and tablets only if the user experience is less than ideal for mobile users.

Content Network

  • It’s important to keep your content campaigns separate from your search campaigns. Reason is, Google’s content network will give you a high number of impressions and more than likely a lower CTR. You don’t want the content network to drag down your search campaigns quality score.

images (3)Get a Google Rep

  • Google reps are great.. they will help you out, not as much as a consultant or agency, but there are some benefits. New features, beta launches etc … can only be granted through a rep. Beta features such as an email sign up box in search results can be provided by your rep. Most agencies and consultants have their own rep as well, in case you don’t have one. Many small accounts aren’t provided with a dedicated rep.

Stop Checking Your Ad Positioning on Google

  • One thing you don’t want to do is go into Google several times a day and Google yourself to see where your ads are positioned. You’ll be driving up impressions on your ads which will drive down your CTR and hurt your quality score.


  • One way we increase CTR (Click Through Rate) on our ads is to add site links. Site links take up more ad space and provide users with additional links to click. If you are looking to bring your quality score up quickly this would be it.

Bid On Your Brand

  • Every PPC pro knows that brand terms convert the cheapest. However, I’m not just talking your own brand. If you sell a product that has strong brand, advertising on it will yield cheaper conversions and improve your quality score. Typically, branded terms have a high CTR and a lower CPA..

Calls to action!

  • Calls to action or CTA’s lack in many ads. CTR drives a big part of the quality score and having ads with a strong “call to action” will help do that. You need to tell users what to do. Click Now!, Call Now!, Buy Now!, should be in your ad. Don’t forget the exclamation point!

Hire a  consultant or agency

What do to if your quality score is very poor or has become poor over time?

The one thing you don’t want to do is create a new account. Believe it or not Google prefers an account with history and so should you. Revamping your campaign and landing pages is the best way to get your account back on track.

If you are still having trouble improving your quality score you can always contact me.


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Joe Balestrino August 22, 2013 0 Comments