Exclusive Acquisio Interview With Marc Poirier

Dec. 24

I’m a huge fan of Acquisio, one of the absolute best SEM Platforms around! I recently posted about Acquisio’s amazing Display Advertising eBook and highly recommend checking it out. Today, I couldn’t be more excited. I’m honored to interview Marc Poirier, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Acquisio! Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview!

Marc Poirier

Ian: Marc, thank you so much for interviewing with me. As someone who’s been following Acquisio for quite some time, I’m convinced this is going to become one of the most popular and exciting posts on PPC Ian! It’s a real honor!

Marc: The honor is all mine!

Ian: For my readers who are new to Acquisio, could you please give some background on what you guys do?

Marc: Acquisio is a performance media platform. Currently we provide more than 250 agencies with a complete solution to create, manage, automate, optimize, monitor and report on all of their clients’ campaigns across all search engines, saving them up to 90% of the time they spend on reporting to clients and preparing dashboards for themselves – it means going from 2 weeks per month on reporting to 1 or 2 days at the most. The other major benefit is the variety of automation tools available in the platform that lets Acquisio users automate campaign changes and boost performance results. Tools like the Optimizer, or the incredibly flexible rule-based system, and the easy to use and very powerful campaign automation algorithms, all of these can and do help our clients significantly improve campaign results while saving loads of time.

Acquisio Optimizer Preview Panel

Ian: How about yourself? Co-founding a company as successful as Acquisio is quite inspiring. How did you get started in the SEM industry? When did you decide to start Acquisio?

More Than 300 Clients Leveraging Acquisio

Marc: I started in search a very long time ago, around 1997. I provided internet marketing services as a consultant to pay for University, but search was only a small part of my job as an internet marketer. In 2001-2002 I became obsessed with building websites that ranked well in search engines, did pretty well as an affiliate marketer, and in 2003 I founded Acquisio, which at the time was a pure search agency. As the business grew, our biggest pain by far became putting proper reports together for all of our clients, on time, every single month of the year. It paralyzed the entire company for 2 weeks at a time, which left our staff with very little time to do their jobs. We looked for solutions but at the time, all that was available on the market were bid management platforms, which we dabbled with, but they did not help us at all with the specific issues we had.

At some point in 2006 I knew we had an opportunity. We raised money, sold the agency business altogether, and took that money to hire the people we needed to get the first version of Acquisio in place. Originally it was basically a platform that provided our agency clients with a solution to consolidate their clients’ data from all search engines and to automate the entire client reporting process by leveraging gorgeous white label report templates. We launched officially in February 2008 and signed our first 2 clients who are still using Acquisio today. We have been quite aggressive at building out the feature set, and today we have more than 300 clients, about 250 of them are agencies.

Ian: That’s really great stuff! What an awesome story. I’m just about the biggest fan of SEM automation around. In fact, I can’t imagine living without it! What are some of Acquisio’s most popular features? How does the Acquisio SEM platform empower search engine marketers?

The Best Reporting Solution For Agencies, Period.

Marc: The most famous feature I think is the reporting automation system, it creates reports that look better than anything our clients have ever done before, and best of all, the reports are all prepared fully automatically, every day, every week, and every month, freeing up very important time their account managers can spend more time on campaign strategy and leverage to handle even more clients. We help agencies become profitable and scalable.

The KPI tracking is unique and provides highly useful insight. With its beautiful dashboard and incredible ease of use make it is a very popular tool.

Acquisio KPI Budget Panel

The Only Real Rule-Based Campaign Automation

Of course all the campaign automation and bid management functionality is key and a huge reason for our success. I would argue we have the only real rule-based campaign automation in the industry. I have seen many black box systems that leave no room for the expert campaign manager to express their needs and have them automated. Ours is a business rule engine which we built ourselves and lets users create extremely sophisticated business rules based on absolutely any metric, meaning they can build rules to manage their cost per page view for example, or their cost per phone call. They can even use the rule engine to set the max CPC to any formula they can come up with. And for users who are reluctant to create their own rules, we implemented some pre-built rule templates they can use to optimize their max CPCs against hundreds of common business metrics, such as margins, cost per phone call, inventory levels, ROI, cost per conversion.

We also have fantastic campaign automation algorithms that help our clients campaigns reach their goals on any given performance metric.

Ian: Those are some true time saving and revenue generating features. What types of advertisers are best suited to leverage Acquisio? How about agencies? How about direct advertisers? What spend level makes the most sense?

An Ideal Platform For Agenices and Large Advertisers

Acquisio was designed for agencies – companies that have to manage multiple campaigns for multiple stakeholders across multiple accounts with different goals, budgets and strategies. Our advertiser clients are those larger companies who have these challenges as well. In my opinion, smaller advertisers are better off using a platform like Clickable, hiring an agency or doing things manually.

Ian: Sounds great. How about your pricing model? How does it work?

Marc: We take a small percentage of the ad spend on the media that is purchased through our platform – search, social and display. I definitely encourage all of your readers to check out our website. It’s loaded with valuable information including a page on pricing.

Ian: SEM automation is hot right now. It’s a dynamic and growing industry. What sets Acquisio ahead of the pack? What are some of the top reasons to go with Acquisio?

Marc: First off, our clients include some of the world’s largest and most recognized search agencies, as well as hundreds of smaller boutique agencies. In that specific segment, I think we win more business than all of our competitors combined, simply because of all of the work we have done to make their specific job as service providers easier.

Sample Acquisio Report (Click Image To Download Full Sample Report PDF)

Sample Acquisio Report

So to answer your question, the most important difference is in the amount of time an agency will save using a platform that will completely automate all of their reporting for all of their clients. Imagine a typical situation where you have 6 or 7 account managers who spend the first 2 weeks of every month building reports. We cut that right down to 1 to 2 days at the most. That’s what we do for our clients. It’s very tangible. We make their business scalable, and most of all, much more profitable. Thanks to our platform, their account managers can easily double their capacity, which as far as I know is not at all the case for any other vendor out there. (Click here to download a sample Acquisio report.)

I think our competitors have mostly focused on managing bids to improve campaign performance, which I think they do quite well for the most part. We also do that very well, obviously. In fact, according to some of our clients who have used products made by the competition in the past, in many cases, the Acquisio rule system succeeded very well where others failed because it is so highly customizable and gives account managers so many more options.

Ian: I’m sold, those are some great reasons indeed! What’s in the pipeline? What are some of the next big things for Acquisio?

Cross-Chanel Tracking, Facebook, and Display Just Around The Corner

Marc: Cross-channel tracking and attribution and FB are in late Beta (I mean these things should be available to all of our clients in the coming weeks). Our display offering, which has been in the works for almost a year now, starts in January with a handful of clients. If all goes well, this should be available to all of our clients in Q1.

Ian: Those are some really exciting features. How about the industry? Where do you see the online marketing industry headed in the coming years? I couldn’t be more thrilled and am so happy I ended up in this exciting industry.

Marc: Search marketing as a discipline has transformed itself into performance marketing. As more and more channels follow search’s example and provide price discovery and biddable media, search marketers will add these weapons to their arsenal. Now we need to strive to understand the dynamics that exist between different channels and to learn how to build strategies that incorporate all media.

The Amount of Data Will Be Staggering

Also agencies and advertisers will need to start hiring data people – statisticians and mathematicians, database administrators, business analysts, people who have a knack for numbers and can make sense of the immense flow of data that is about to hit us all when we merge display, social, search, email and everything else into one platform. The amount of data available will be staggering, and so to help make sense of it all, platforms like Acquisio will be imperative for any serious agencies and advertisers managing so many online campaigns on so many different channels. Else, you will absolutely need to change your hiring practices and pick up a few less history majors and a few more PhDs in statistics.

Ian: Very cool. Marc, I’m betting a ton of PPC Ian readers are going to be interested in arranging an Acquisio demo. What’s the best way to contact you guys to learn more?

Contact Acquisio Today For A Live Demo

Marc: Of course, simply head over to our website, tell us a little about yourself, and we’ll book some time with you to answer all your questions and show you how the platform works with a live demo.

Ian: Marc it has been a true honor. What an exciting interview! I know this is going to be one of the top posts on PPC Ian. Thanks so much for everything. Any closing thoughts you’d like to leave PPC Ian readers with?

Marc: I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year filled with better data, deeper insights, improved margins and most of all, more free time to spend with your friends and families.

Ian: Thanks again Marc! PPC Ian readers, as you can tell, I’m a tremendous fan of Acquisio. It’s all about leverage: Getting more done with less, getting better results through platforms (as opposed to manual work). Leverage is where Acquisio shines! I highly recommend checking out this amazing search marketing platform today!

All Images In This Post © Acquisio
Sample PDF Report In This Post © Acquisio

Dot US Domain Spam Taking Over Yahoo

Dec. 22

Let me start off by saying I’m a huge fan of dot us domains. Dot us is the ccTLD (country code top level domain) for the United States. It’s one of the few TLDs that does not allow private registration. The user needs to enter their full contact information for all to see who run a whois lookup. It’s really for that reason that I respect dot us so much. It’s a high quality TLD since there’s no way to hide!

US Flag

Also, I’m a huge fan of dot us domains because they rank really well in Yahoo and Bing (Yahoo organic results are now powered by Bing). I’m not really sure why they rank so well, but I’ve got to think that the engineers behind the algorithm add logic that probably takes into account the fact that all dot us domains must contain valid publicly viewable whois information.

Recently, however, I have been seeing an unparalleled amount of spam in the Yahoo and Bing organic results, especially around product-focused dot us domain names. Below I’ll go through just one specific example. My takeaway: I’m still developing dot us domain names but am also treading with caution. The spam is getting bad enough that it could catch up with the TLD. I’m betting once Yahoo and Bing take notice, they’re going to take action. Now, I’m hoping they just address the violating sites, but it’s also possible they slap the entire TLD. We shall see…

I Recently Launched NarrowDishwasher.com

I’ve been developing a lot of product domain names on the Epik platform. One of these sites is Narrow Dishwasher. This site sells all kinds of narrow dishwashers including Avanti and Whirlpool dishwashers. Moreover, I offer some great articles about narrow dishwashers. I’m already ranking on the first page of Yahoo and Bing for the term "narrow dishwasher" which is great.

Dot US Domains Are Dominating The Results

So, who am I competing against in the narrow dishwasher vertical on Yahoo and Bing? Is it the dishwasher companies themselves such as Avanti and Whirpool? No. Is it the big shopping engines such as NexTag and Shopping.com? No. Is it authority retail websites like Amazon.com? No. Surprisingly, I’m competing against a ton of strange dot us domain names that appear to be spamming the Yahoo and Bing search results. Check out the screenshot below and visit a few of those dot us websites. Most of them look the same. They are old school looking websites that include a bunch of AdSense ads and Amazon product feeds. As I navigate around, it’s impossible to find a privacy policy, terms and conditions, or even a contact us.

The really interesting part: A lot of these dot us domains aren’t even that good (they’re not expensive exact match domain names and don’t really have any resell value). It’s not really the root domain that’s doing the ranking. It’s the combination of using smart subdomains with the root domain that’s building keyword-rich domains which end up ranking for important keywords. I’ve been seeing these types of dot us domains across most of the product verticals in which I’m competing.

I’m Still Investing In Dot US Domain Names

I’m fascinated with this stuff! At the end of the day, I’m a huge fan of dot us domain names. I continue to buy and build dot us domains, especially in the financial services vertical. At the same time, I do wonder what will happen when Yahoo and Bing recognize the depths of the dot us domains taking over their search results. While I’m hoping they will just penalize these domain names, it could affect the entire TLD.

Yahoo Dot US Domains

Image of US Flag © iStockPhoto – MistikaS

Three Easy and Practical SEO Tips

Dec. 20

If you’ve read my last two posts about my Epik product portal websites and my Epik development tips, you know I’ve been building out quite the portfolio of niche websites. Just last week, I acquired 5 more Epik product portals at a deep discount because they’re offering a 35 percent discount holiday special on websites listed in the Epik store. In parallel to all of this great Epik development, I have been working closely with my friend, and domain industry guru, Morgan Linton from Linton Investments to develop custom niche websites across many services and finance oriented verticals. In fact, Morgan has developed over 25 websites for me so far this year and I couldn’t be happier with the results!

I’m on a roll with my niche websites because of the leverage I’m achieving through smart partnerships, and will soon have over 100 active sites. As I keep developing more and more sites, I have been learning some really great SEO strategies. Today, I’d like to share just three of these SEO tips with you to help you take your own niche sites to the next level!

SEO Tip 1: Exact Match Domains Offer SEO Advantages

SEO Tips

As someone with a portfolio of nearly 200 domain names, I’m a huge proponent of exact match domains especially with the dot com and dot net TLDs. It’s simple: If you have the exact match domain name, search engines will give your domain priority. Sure, you still have to work super hard in building out a great site, optimizing on-page SEO, and building quality inbound links (off-page SEO). However, we’re all looking for advantages over fierce competition these days and the exact match domain gives you that secret advantage! At this time, I’m really only building out exact match domains. Most of them are non-hyphenated domains, but from time to time I’ll go after hyphenated dot com domains such as Cheap-Desk.com.

Now, even if search engines change their algorithm and give no advantage to exact match domains (not likely in my opinion), I’m here to say that exact match domains have another benefit: They attract amazing anchor text associated with inbound links! Just think about it: When someone links to my site PetiteJacket.net, what anchor text are they likely to use? You guessed it, Petite Jacket.

SEO Tip 2: Leverage Smart Anchor Text With Internal Links

Over the years, I’ve gotten very far with my on-page SEO strategy. You’d be surprised: Smart on-page SEO and especially internal link structure can get you amazing results in search engines. As I built out my niche sites, I’ve made it a point of using great internal linking to show search engines which terms are most important to my site. As a simple example, my article about buying a motorbike jacket links back to the homepage of my site with anchor text Motorbike Jacket.

Even on the very homepage of this site, I link back to the homepage (in the top blurb) with the same anchor text. Now, you don’t want to go crazy, but a few smart internal links with appropriate anchor text can get you very far. Another tip: Never link back to your homepage with the anchor text "Home". Instead, use the name of your site. Of course, if you are leveraging an exact match domain name, the name of your site will be a highly desired term (this is why the exact match domain strategy makes so much sense).

SEO Tip 3: Create Tumblr, Live Journal, and Yola Accounts

While my first two tips are all about on-page SEO strategies, my final tip for today is an off-page one. All sites require inbound links to get recognized by search engines. It’s rare these days that you’ll rank well without at least a few inbound links (although this can happen with the right exact match domain name). However, it also doesn’t take all that much to start ranking a strong domain name. Recently, I have been having a ton of success with Tumblr, 350.com, Live Journal, and Yola. These are all great platforms that allow you to create accounts which can add great value to the user while linking back to your niche site. Just remember to post good stuff on your social media accounts, they’re an extension of your brand. So, there you have it: Three simple SEO tips that provide great leverage with minimal work!

Image of SEO Tips © iStockPhoto – Warchi

Epik Product Portal Domain Development Tips

Dec. 14

Epik product portals rock! Last time, I wrote all about my personal Epik product portal websites. I currently own 45 developed websites on the Epik network, three of which I highlighted in my last post. Another few examples include Motorbike Jacket, Velour Tracksuit, and Cheap Desk. My last article was a real hit and I’m especially thankful for the awesome comments from all of you! Today I’m thrilled to continue the Epik discussion. Specifically, I’m going to share actionable tips that will help you make money with Epik.

It All Starts Out With The Right Domain Name

Velour Tracksuit

So you’re convinced and ready to launch your first Epik product portal website. Great stuff! Whether you’re new to domain names or a seasoned domainer with hundreds (or even thousands) of domains, there are some important things to consider when choosing which domains to develop on Epik. First and foremost, you’ll want to pick a name that is an exact match of a product sold online. If you have other types of names, Epik can still help, but you’ll want to look at their other platforms instead of the product portal that I’m so familiar with.

Second, I suggest picking an exact match domain that gets at least 700-1,000 or more global exact match searches per month according to Google’s keyword tool. My site Velour Tracksuit gets 1,600 global exact searches per month. If you start venturing below this level, you won’t have enough searchers to make it worth your while.

Focus On High Quality Dot Com and Dot Net Domains

Motorbike Jacket

Third, you’ll want to pick a name name that’s either a dot com or dot net domain. You’ve heard me talk a lot about dot me, dot co, and other TLDs here on PPC Ian. I’m a huge fan of many TLDs and have developed sites on dot com, dot net, dot org, dot me, dot co, dot info, dot us, and dot biz. However, for the purposes of Epik product portals, they’re looking to really preserve the integrity of the network and stick with high quality dot com and dot net for product portals since the main purpose and intent of these TLDs is commerce. This surprised me a bit at first, but now it totally makes sense. I have a ton of dot org product domains and have been building them out differently – I’m going the article route with my dot orgs and making them more informational whereas I’m going the product sales route with my dot com and dot net domains. The strategy has been working great! Have a killer domain that’s not a dot com or dot net? Share it with the Epik team! They’ll definitely let you try alternate TLDs for product portals if they’re category defining names.

Dot Com Domains With Dashes Are OK

As a side note, you may be wondering about domain names with hyphens in them. Whereas a few years ago, these domains were looked down upon, they seem to be in everyone’s portfolios these days. Taking myself as an example, I developed the domain Cheap-Desk.com on Epik. This exact match hyphenated domain name has 1,900 global exact match searches per month, it’s a great name! Here’s the rule when it comes to hyphenated domains on Epik: Epik totally allows and supports great hyphenated domains on dot com but does not entertain them on dot net. Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking that rules are meant to be broken! Have a great dot net domain with a dash in it? I would certainly run it by Epik, but it’s going to have to be a killer name to get accepted.

Content Is King On Epik Product Portals

So my first few tips today focused specifically on selecting great domain names for development on Epik. Now, I’m going to shift gears and discuss a few high leverage tips for making the most of your sites once they’re live on Epik. My strategy is really a three tiered one. First and foremost, I always make sure to upload custom articles to my Epik sites. Taking Motorbike Jacket as an example, you can see that I have custom articles about Buying a Motorbike Jacket and Motorbike Jacket Purchasing Tips. I had these great articles written for me on ELance (always go with the more expensive writers, they do better work) and were super easy to upload with Epik’s WYSIWYG editor. My golden rule: Each Epik product portal needs at least two custom articles.

Custom Blurbs On All Epik Product Tabs

Each Epik product portal has a variety of product tabs. On MotorbikeJacket.net, for example, I have tabs for Summer Motorcycle Jackets, Winter Motorcycle Jacket, Leather Motorcycle Jackets, and Motorcycle Rain Jackets. Check out the blurb at the top of each of these pages! They’re all custom and unique. They all differ from the custom blurb at the top of my main homepage. Moreover, if you view the source code of these pages, you’ll see that each has a custom meta title and meta description as well! I have my ELance writers write this custom content when they’re writing the articles. This is really your chance to personalize your Epik Product Portal and get rewarded by the search engines! To summarize, my second content tip: Write custom blurbs, meta titles, and meta descriptions for all product tabs on your Epik sites. It’s super easy to upload this custom content via Epik’s back end tool.

Leverage The Epik Team

It’s really as easy as that! These simple tips will get you off to an amazing start on Epik. Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s all about repeating with more domains and also continuing to add more content to your existing domains. Search engines (and users) love to have as much useful content as possible. As my final tip for today, don’t forget to reach out to the Epik team. They can help with an amazing number of things and are partners in your success. Leverage their expertise to make as much money as possible on Epik.

Image of VelourTracksuit.net © VelourTracksuit.net
Image of MotorbikeJacket.net © MotorbikeJacket.net

My Personal Epik Product Portal Websites

Dec. 08

Hey Everyone! I really enjoy reading affiliate marketing blogs that discuss first hand tips about making money online. I enjoy those blogs even more that are open about current initiatives the blogger is working on. In that spirit, I’m going to share one of my major affiliate marketing initiatives today and also some of my personal domains that I’ve been developing! Drum roll please… I have been hard at work developing my domain portfolio on the Epik.com platform! Today, I’m going to discuss my personal experience developing 45 domains so far on Epik.

First Things First, What’s Epik?

Epik

Have you heard of Epik? If not, don’t worry. It’s super new. I actually had no idea what the heck Epik was until I went to T.R.A.F.F.I.C. back in January. It’s at this awesome domaining conference that I heard Rob Monster Epik’s CEO speak. In my opinion, Rob delivered one of the most fascinating Internet Marketing presentations I have ever heard. It’s at this time that my interest in Rob’s company, Epik.com, took off.

What is Epik? It’s a revolutionary platform that allows domain owners to develop their domains with more scale, efficiency, and quality than ever before. They offer a variety of platforms to develop different types of domains: product, directory, reference, Q&A, and poll. Epik is probably best known for their product platform that allows anyone with a product-focused domain to quickly build an online store that delivers a substantial user experience.

My Personal Epik Development Plan

After the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference, I went home and added Epik to my to do list. However, it totally slipped from my mind and priorities for quite a few months. You know how it is, right? There’s 100 things to do and stuff slips. However, back in August, I got hyped up again. Time was passing fast and my domain portfolio was growing faster than I could keep up. Domains just sitting around don’t make money, after all. They’re liabilities and not assets! Parking doesn’t really work anymore. This all turned into my goal: Develop all (or at least most) of my growing product-focused domain portfolio on the Epik platform.

I Now Own 45 Developed Epik Product Portals

Petite Jacket

So I went for it! I developed 45 Epik product portals! Just a few examples include: Kids Computer Desk, the premier place to buy kids computer desks online, Petite Jacket, a store specializing in fashionable women’s petite jackets, and Narrow Dishwasher, your resource for finding space saving narrow dishwashers for your kitchen. Each of my sites has custom header text on each tab and sports custom articles. For example, check out my articles about Petite Jacket Sizing and Petite Jackets and Coats.

I couldn’t be more proud of these sites. They addsubstantial value to the user, they look great, and they’re making me money already! Better yet, I was able to develop them faster than ever before due to the power of the platform.

How Does Epik Work?

So, how does this all work? It’s quite simple. Each product portal costs $249 and carries with it a 50/50 revenue share arrangement (although the split shifts more in your favor as you hit higher revenue tiers). For $249 (discounts are available if you commit to volume development like myself), you get a custom logo, custom header, and your initial site fully built. Moreover, you get expert support from the amazing Epik team. I have been in very close contact with Rob Monster himself and have gotten a huge amount of help. In my opinion, this price is a steal! You can easily pay $249 for just a custom logo on other sites.

Once your initial product portal is live, it’s time to add articles, custom headers for the different tabs, and custom meta descriptions. Don’t worry! All of this is really easy with Epik’s cutting edge platform. Everything is fully hosted on Epik’s servers so you don’t have to do any work around server configuration or uploading of files. Moreover, this gives Epik the flexibility to make upgrades to your sites such as their current holiday deals. In my particular case, I have been outsourcing all articles and header text so all I have to do is play middleman. Please note that Epik is a total solution. They also offer a variety of packages to help you get content on your site if you’d like the help!

Epik.com Rocks and I Couldn’t Be More Excited

My conclusion: Epik rocks! I plan on developing another 55 sites within the coming year to round out my portfolio at 100 Epik sites. I have been able to get sites live that make money right away, sites that look better than others which took twice as long to build, sites that offer scale I have never before seen.

As the Internet evolves, it’s all about verticalization. As someone who’s worked extensively in the product shopping vertical at shopping giant NexTag, it’s my opinion that Epik is the future of online product shopping. Stay tuned, I’m going to write more posts about Epik.com in the future, including specific guides on how to use their system. I couldn’t be more excited, I already received my first check from Epik and can’t wait to see them increase in size as each month passes! Of course, I do have a lot of hard work ahead in terms of adding content and building quality inbound links.

Screenshot of Epik Website © Epik.com
Screenshot of PetiteJacket.net © PetiteJacket.net

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