Welcome back to aimClear’s coverage of #SESCHI! We just didn’t feel right moving past Day #2 without paying tribute to a session that truly rocked the SES crowd, Building Brands Without Big Brand Budgets. It was positively packed with tactics and takeaways, so much so we needed a full 24 hours to digest them all.

Ryan Urban, Director of Acquisition at Bonobos and Michael Mothner, Founder and CEO of the SEO & PPC Management Firm WPromote Inc tag-teamed this super actionable session, and while these two like having big Fortune500 brands with big budgets, they claim to have the most fun taking new, smaller brands, such as Bonobos (which has Awesome Mens Pants, BTW!) and getting creative while staying lean. Read on for ready-to-go tips straight from the sesh!

PPC: Brand vs. Non-Brand Keywords
Clients often ask these two, which sometimes results in arguments, about brand vs. non-brand keywords. Paid search on brand keywords are a defensive play, especially if you don’t show up organically. Another bonus of bidding on brand keywords: you control the messaging.

For example: a Black Friday Sale may not be relayed on the tags & meta in organic, this is where PPC can be very powerful.

PPC Pro Tip: track your brand and non-brand keywords separately. Hopefully your branded ppc would have a much higher CTR, lower CPC and thus a lower CPA, while non-branded keywords can be more expensive, possibly with a lower CTR. It just does not make sense to optimize on the average.

As brand awareness grows, the importance of segmenting increase.

PPC Pro Tool: Google Insights for Search is a great tool for search trends. Use it to understand the seasonality and search trends for your  brand and verticals.

Leverage & Make Your Email “Bullet Proof”
Pro Note: Big brands don’t do email well, so DON’T COPY THEM!

  • Most email subscribers (95%) have images “turned off” by default
  • “bullet proof” = focal points (navigation, Call-To-Action and border) of the email are visible by default
  • Make a template that’s readable and consider what outlook provides as a preview.
  • Text links are still super effective, not everything has to be a big, huge green button.


Test Open Rate Click Rate
Standard 24.5% 28.2%
Bullet-Proof 24.4% 33.3%

19% click-through lift!

Hold a Subject Line “Bake Off” Internally
The best thing to test in email is the subject line. Often, marketers use the same person to write all the marketing messaging and it can be difficult for them to get out of their own head and come up with a different angle. The best way to test: have lots of people on your team come up with different ideas.

  • Have internal “fun” competition on email subject lines
  • Crowd source: involve VP’s, graphics, copywriters, other depts.
  • Helps everyone absorb what language your audience response to

This can literally change brand direction.

Bake Off Results:

Open Rate: 


Open Rate: 

at 1 Month

Open Rate: 

at 3 Months

10.5% 14% 15.5%

That’s a 47.6% Open Lift!


  • User, though whatever means, arrive at your site
  • You feed them drop a cookie
  • They leave & you can serve them ads on other platforms

This adds steroids to your site. Retargeting will make your PPC campaign more effective. It’s a great thing to sprinkle on top of your campaigns.

Retargeting has about the highest ROI because it’s based on the assumption that a user who goes to your site is more likely to return and buy. Just because they didn’t convert on your site right away, doesn’t mean they’re a bad visitor. Use retargeting to reach out to that visitor again.

Eventually email will become a wore-down channel, which is where a lot of retargeting comes from (a pixel in an image). If you can hit users more often, (because you can’t send them an email every day) they’re more likely to buy.

Retargeting is especially important if you have a small market with a high price product because it’s incredibly important to be able to reach them again when they browse. Retargeting is not limited to consumer wide-reaching brands. Small business can take advantage of this too.

To utilize remarketing, set specific rules based on user actions eg:

  • If a lead filled out a form, don’t bother retargeting them
  • Be aggressive when people first buy
  • Put them in a different bucket
  • If they’ve bought a couple things, it’s likely they were thinking of others
  • Send then an additional offer to get them to buy again quickly!


  • Improve your email program by 50% overnight – the easiest way
  • Take top performing emails for the week & 48 hours later, send the exact same email to “non-openers” with a drastically different subject line
  • All big sale/coupon emails should have a final day reminder sent out to everyone on the list as a remail
  • Be green and recycle old emails: if a product/category email was successful six months ago, resend it now! (could be as recent as 3 months, people forget…)

(Too soon?)

More is More: Add a Bottom Nav’
Use the real estate you have & templatize it

  • Take your current email template & add length to it
  • This can be:
  • best sellers
  • new products
  • popular cats
  • duplicate the navigation
  • smaller “hero graphic” (your specific campaign eg: “Black Friday Sale!”)
  • In 100% of (the speakers’) A/B tests, the extra “length” version NEVER lost. Period.

Avoid Over Segmentation for Email

  • Segments under 10,000 are usually a waste of resources
  • Do broad segments:
  • male/female
  • business/consumer
  • pets/humans
  • Use personalized automations to do 1-1 email marketing.
  • MyBuys, Bronto, Listrak, iGoDigital offer these services.
  • Send these on Sunday!

Hyper Email List Growth
Capturing emails on the site: everyone kind of stinks at this… No one cares about being “the first to know.” Jolt your email list growth:

  • Popover list (can get creative & brand-friendly)
  • Wait 30-60 seconds into a user visit (engaged in your side)
  • Come up with something super compelling (eg: 15% off next purchase!)
  • Don’t make the data capture too complicated. Name and email will suffice

New Ad Formats & Beta Tests
Google is always coming out with new ad formats. Some don’t work at all and some work great. Almost always, they give you more real estate in ads & give you a bump in CTR and conversions. You’ll rarely ever pay more for these. Don’t be afraid of Beta.

Site Link Extensions:

  • Seen in organic

  • Will be seeing more in PPC

  • Adding site links increased CTRs anywhere from 100-324%

Site links often pick from categories but you can customize it

Most important thing: more SERP real estate!

If you’re competitor is doing it, YOU NEED TO, TOO.

Product Listing Ads

  • Upload your SKUs
  • Product pictures significantly increased CTRs
  • This beta was in a CPA model (so the click was free, unless the user bought! Beta rocks!)

Offer Ads

  • User clicks on the + box to expand the offer included in the ad text
  • Any action taken by the user (eg: printing) is charged like a click on the ad

Longer Headlines Increase CTR!

  • Ads with longer headlines have 2-5% increase in CTR.
  • As long as you have a grammatically correct 1st subject line with the headline & the phrase makes sense

Google Call Tracking

  • Calls are FREE
  • Get phone calls without paying for a click!

Mobile Ad Formats – Call-Only Mobile Ads

  • Advertisers only receive calls instead of clicks

Mobile Ad Formats – Bid by Distance!

Allows you to bid more for users who are closer to your location

Mobile Ad Formats – Store Locater Ads:

  • Allows for more granular control by selecting specific operating systems to target

Dynamic Remarketing Ads:

  • Dynamically personalize experiences using Google Merchant Center Product Catalog

Reminder Extensions

  • Allows users to send themselves an email reminder for the event your advertising (movie release, launching a new product)
  • Users enter their email for a reminder for your event

Mobile App Extensions:

  • Users can directly download your app

Hammer to get BETAS!

How Tweaking Meta Titles Can Improve Your Google Traffic By 20-40%

Steps to Optimizing Meta Titles:

  • Go to Google Analytics & export your top 100 panding pages into excel
  • Make a column for: current meta title, top 5 KWs (w/ position) persuasive statement, new meta title, character count (excel formula: =len(cell) )
  • All you Meta Titles should be 64-70 Characters (in some cases, you can have more than 70)
  • 6-25 characters should be your Persuasive Statement

Meta Title Formula:

Main keyword + persuasive statement + secondary keywords + User proposition/Brand = Meta Title Formula

Do this for your top 100 LPs = 10-40% overall lift in organic traffic

If you have a persuasive title, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

What is Your Viral Coefficient?

  • Lightning in a bottle
  • Brands grow so quick because their viral coefficient is greater than 1
  • Types of VIRAL growth:
    • Direct network effects (FB, words with friends – need 2!)
    • Word of mouth (dropbox, trader joes, zappos)
    • Casual contact (hotmail, Branded Merchandise)
    • Incentives (curebit, Bonobos, T-Mobile)

Viral coefficient = # of additional customers you acquired (virally) for every new customer initially acquired

All new customer growth is not attributed to an acquisition initiative, is Viral Growth.

Viral Coefficient Formula:

[Total new customers last 3 months – new customers this month from marketing channels last 3 months] / [total repeat customers last 3 months]

Once your viral coefficient = 1 your brand will continue growing virally

Mobile Ads & Compatibility
When campaigns aren’t separated you are forced to optimize on the average and this is not ideal. Target different devices. Eg: Ads for Blackberry cases & skins targeting Blackberry users. Target different carries. Eg: a Verizon ad targeted for AT&T Customers. (“Hate Dropped Signals?”)

Optimize your website for mobile experience! It makes a huge difference when converting. If your mobile site stinks, you’ll lose conversions. Actually think about the usability. You don’t need to give them all the options of the site.

Your CPA is Too Low!

Calculate your optimal CPA:

  • Determine your viral coefficient
  • Determine contribution margin per customer over 10 months

Optimal CPA Formula:

[12 month customer contribution margin dollars] + viral coefficient dollars [viral coefficient x 12 month contribution margin dollars ] / 1.4

This may be higher than you are comfortable with, but is optimal to scale. If your company is lean, decrease the 1.4 or vice versa if you need more short-term profit focused.

Deadlines & Seasonality & Urgency

You may not have a “season” but… really we all do have seasons in selling products/services.

Include a sense of urgency.

Urban & Mothner have a coupons that expires EVERY DAY. It drives the purchase that day.


4th of July wine sale. Most people don’t buy wine on the 4th of July, they’re buying beer or vodka, but this created a seasonality demand.

Take Aways:

  • Many of best opportunities are hiding in plain site
  • Deadlines, discounts, and freshness = super important
  • Always look at data granularily
  • You don’t have to spend money to make money. Tap existing channels!
  • Execute these!

And with that we leave you with some of the most actionable takeaways from SES Chicago for Brands without a Big Brand Budget! See you next time,#SESCHI!

photo credit: katerha
photo credit: petechons
photo credit: eschipul
  • Kelly

    Very informative blog, wonderful information. Thanks for sharing, I found this very useful.

  • RvE

    First time on your blog, somebody recommended it i should read.
    I love it, i have some reading to do this weekend, hope to interact with you about your posts.

  • Eric Garrison

    Amazing content and a whole lot of items to implement. Thanks so much for sharing!