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Learn Advanced Remarketing Techniques with Rob Sieracki

9:00 am in Marketing Nirvana, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

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Retargeting, also known as Remarketing by Google,  allows you to serve ads based upon a user’s behavior on your website.

This is an excellent marketing technique to serve custom ads to users based upon their behavior. For instance, if someone added products to your shopping cart and then abandoned your site, you can serve an ad to that user to remind them to revisit your cart and checkout.  As this user almost converted, often a nudge from a remarketing ad can be the difference between another abandoned cart visit and a new sale.

That is a very simplistic example; and remarketing can become quite complex, and very effective, if used properly.

Rob Sieracki, someone I’ve known for several years, and who’s opinion I highly trust (which is not something I say often), is doing a lot of interesting things with remarketing. As I find that many remarketing campaigns are poorly built and optimized, I thought that Rob could share some of his remarketing wisdom on Marketing Nirvana and he graciously accepted to be on the show.

Rob is the Founder of Ox Optimal, a digital marketing firm based in Milwaukee. He brought one of his analysts on the show to add another viewpoint to the discussion, Nick Morgan.

The show was going so well as we were recording it that we decided to expand it to cover two episodes. Episode one aired this past Monday and is currently available in the archives, on iTunes, or in your favorite much app that has WebmasterRadio.fm shows. The second episode will air on March 3 at noon EST.

In the first episode we discuss:

  • What is remarketing
  • Advanced remarketing tactics
  • How to combine dimensions and segments to create remarking lists
  • and much more that gets into how the ads are served
  • What they Know, an interesting privacy report from the Wall Street Journal

In the second episode, we cover:

  • Creating remarketing ads
  • Dealing with ad fatigue
  • How Google serves image versus text ads
  • Crafting remarketing offers based upon segments
  • Time delays and other must-knows about remarketing

You can listen to the first show right now at Webmaster Radio, download it from iTunes, download the WebmasterRadio.fm Google Play App and listen on your Android phone. You can also check your favorite music player to see if we’re streaming there yet. We are currently on many stations, such as TuneIn, and will be on iHeartRadio very soon.

Learn more about Rob:

After you listen to the first show, you can check our past episodes while waiting for part 2.

  • Quality Score with Fred Vallaeys
  • Mobile advertising best practices with Lisa Raehsler
  • Google AdWords Flexible Bid Strategies with John Lee
  • Adapting to the Overhaul of Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns with Melissa Mackey
  • Starting & Growing your PPC Agency with David Szetela
  • Everything You Need to Know About Bing Ads With John Gagnon
  • Off Page SEO Factors with Todd Mailcoat
  • On page SEO Factors with Todd Mailcoat
  • And many more..

I hope you enjoy the shows.

The Complete AdWords Audit Part 5: Impression Share & Auction Insights

9:00 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by netsociety

This is a continuation of the AdWords Audit Series. You can see previous parts here: Introduction, Goal setting, Measurement, Campaign Settings & Bid Adjustments and Ad Extensions.

 

Whenever I think of impression share (IS) in AdWords, these quotes come to mind:

“If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
For the keywords (and ad groups & campaigns) in your account that meet your goals, you’ll want to be as visible as possible. Every missed impression is a missed opportunity to generate additional clicks and conversions to further increase your profit.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to be in the top position all of the time, as the CPC of those positions may not be profitable. But it does mean that if you’re profitable at the current level, you don’t want your ads to show up some of the time, but all the time.

“If it’s not worth doing right, it’s not worth doing at all.”
Maybe a campaign isn’t meeting your goals and you decide to lower its daily budget, which leads to lost impression share due to budget.
This, of course, is just damage control and not solving any underlying problems. In that campaign there are probably profitable and unprofitable keywords. So lowering the budget also leads to less impressions for the profitable keywords, while still leaving impressions for the unprofitable ones.
To prevent this, make sure you fix your problems at the right level: adjusting bids, adding negatives, pausing keywords, improving ads and landing pages, etc.

“If it can’t be done right, do something you can do right instead.”
If you’ve tried everything to improve the performance and impression share of a keyword but it doesn’t pay off, your time is probably better spent at improving other areas of your account. Don’t obsess over Ad Rank and quality score for every one of your keywords, and certainly don’t indulge yourself into ego bidding to ‘solve’ the problem.

Also, don’t obsess about reaching a 100% Impression Share, once you’re above 90%, you’re in great shape. A 100% Impression Share is almost impossible to reach, with the exception of your branded keywords.

With these philosophies in mind, let’s dive into detecting and solving various IS problems, starting with the easy to solve Lost IS due to budget to the harder to solve Ad Rank issues. I’ll use Search Impression Share in the discussion below, but the same logic can largely be applied to Display Impression Share (with the exception of Exact match IS).
Display however, is much less predictable than search and could have an almost infinite number of impressions, depending on the targeting settings. Nonetheless, for profitable and narrowly targeted Display campaigns (e.g. Remarketing), you’ll also want to make sure your IS is as high as possible.

Are you losing Impression Share due to budget?

To find out in which campaigns you are losing IS due to budget just add the IS columns, look at a recent time frame and sort by the ‘Search Lost IS (budget)’ column. I like to look at the last 7 days for the most recent IS data as search volume may fluctuate:

lost-is-budget

For some campaigns, Google may also show the ‘Limited by budget’ status, including a daily budget estimator (click on the graph icon to see the estimates):

limited-by-budget

Once you’ve found the campaigns that are losing IS due to budget, there are 3 possible scenarios:

  1. The campaign is meeting your goals and you have enough budget to spend more.
    In this case the solution is very simple: just raise the daily budget with the percentage of Lost IS (budget), or a bit more to be sure.
  2. The campaign is meeting your goals, but you don’t have enough budget to spend more.
    This can be a frustrating situation. If you have other campaigns that are performing worse you could lower their budget and use that budget for better performing campaigns. But that isn’t a sensible growth strategy, especially if you have a mature account where all campaigns are performing well.
    In that case you can quite easily build a case of missed conversions or revenue by keeping CTR, CPC, conversion rate and average order value constant and applying those to the missed impressions. Benjamin Vigneron’s article How To Estimate Incremental Revenue Opportunities With Impression Share Data gives in-depth examples on how to do that.
    Show the missed revenue or conversions to whoever decides on the budget, and chances are you’ll get the needed budget to capture that additional revenue.
  3. The campaign isn’t meeting your goals.
    Whether or not you have sufficient budget is of secondary importance in this case. As mentioned under the second quote in the introduction, you should fix any underlying problems first.
    Next to adding negatives, lowering bids, pausing keywords and improving ads and landing pages, you can also use bid adjustments to spend your budget more wisely. Investigate your performance in different locations, on mobile devices, days of the week and time of day and use a negative bid adjustment for underperforming segments, or even exclude your worst performing segments. You could also opt out of Search partners if these underperform.
    In any case, make sure your best performers don’t suffer from a too low daily budget. One solution could be isolating your best performers in their own campaigns and make sure these always have a high enough daily budget.

Do you have a low Exact match Impression Share?

A low exact match IS is a very bad sign, as it means your ads often didn’t show up, even when users exactly searched for your keywords (regardless of the actual match type).
You added those keywords for a reason, and if your ads often don’t show when users exactly search for those keywords, your bid or quality score (or maybe even both) is probably way too low.
Since the summer of 2013, Impression Share data is available at the keyword level and that’s exactly where this metric is most useful. To find your low exact match IS keywords simply go to the keywords tab of your account and create a filter:

is-exact-match-filter

In this view, it can also be helpful to add the Quality score column so you can directly see if quality score is low as well for those keywords. If that is the case you’ll need to do some work to increase quality score. More about this in the next post of this series.
But maybe you just need to raise the bid (or budget, as discussed above) for a higher exact match IS. Obviously, don’t raise bids any higher than is profitable for you (and fix QS first if it’s below 6).
To quickly find out if you just need to raise bids, you could create the following filter for your keywords:

qs-6-below-fpb

Now you could simply select all these keywords, click Edit > Change max. CPC bids… > Raise to estimated first page bid and set an upper bid limit of your choosing.
If you’re uncomfortable with blindly raising your bids like this, you can also review these keywords manually.
In any case, realize there’s usually just crumbs left of the pie when your bid is below the estimated first page bid.

Are you losing Impression Share due to Ad Rank?

If a keyword is losing IS because of a low quality score and/or bid, you’ve probably already spotted it by looking for keywords with a low exact match IS. In those cases you should raise the quality score (easier said than done) or the bid to increase Ad Rank. And don’t forget to add relevant ad extensions if needed, as these are now also part of Ad Rank.

However, even if your exact match IS is high (at least 80% I’d say), you could still be losing a significant amount of IS due to Ad Rank.
Those situations can be quite puzzling: you have a high position and quality score, but you still lose IS due to Ad Rank. See the stats below of one such keyword (it’s a broad match keyword):

high-qs-low-ad-rank

In these cases, the only explanation for a low impression share is that your ad didn’t show up for all possible search queries that your keyword could have triggered.

The question remains: do you care? To find out, you should analyze the search terms for that keyword and add all search terms as keywords that are relevant for your business, especially if they’ve converted within your target CPA or ROAS. From that moment on, you can track the exact match IS for those keywords, so you’ll know how often you show up for queries you really care about.

Auction Insights

While Impression Share shows you the size of your slice of the pie, Auction Insights shows you who else is eating that pie. Launched in May 2012, this provides very welcome additional insights to see who you’re up against and how your visibility stacks up against theirs.

Your most visible competitors are worth investigating:

  • Are they bidding on your brand name?
  • Is there anything you could learn from their ads and extensions?
  • How about their website? Could it be it converts better so they can afford to bid higher?
  • And of course: their products and pricing. Is their offer more competitive than yours?
  • Or are they just big spenders with more money than brains? In that case, don’t go into a bidding war, as you’ll probably lose. Let them increase Google’s profits, while you focus on increasing yours.

If you want really cool insights from Auction Insights you should trend competitor data over time so you can see how they manage their budgets and how new competitors may enter the auction and move their way up, while others may leave the auction.

Sean Quadlin at PPC Hero wrote a great guide on how to do so with Pivot Tables in Use Google’s Auction Insights to Find Your Competitors’ Mistakes. The good news is that since June 2013, you can get data for multiple keywords (or ad groups or campaigns) simultaneously. If you filter your keywords in a meaningful way before pulling the Auction Insights report, you’ll get a good view of your competitors for different topics.

Third-party tools for competitive intelligence

Spying on the competition is addictive, I know. And so do many third-party tools that will give you give more competitor data than you’ll know what to do with. I’ll simply alphabetically list the most used tools for spying on advertisers below. Many offer a free trial or demo that should give you a good idea if the tool fits your needs.

To learn more about these and other tools, there’s a great post on the KISSmetrics blog by Chris Kilbourn: How to be the James Bond of the Web: 37 Best Marketing Tools to Spy on Your Competitors. Also check out Matt van Wagner’s post with Tips For Spying On Your PPC Competitors.

Although you can learn a lot from studying your competition, in the end you should worry more about bettering yourself.

 

Impression Share & Auction Insights: Your Audit Checklist

checkbox

Aren’t you losing any Impression Share due to budget?
checkbox Do all your (important) keywords have an Exact match IS of at least 80%?
checkboxDo all your high Quality Score keywords have a bid that is at least the first page bid estimate (unless this has been proven to be unprofitable)?
checkboxHave you added relevant search terms from keywords with high Exact match IS and a high Lost IS (rank)?
checkboxHave you analyzed the most visible competitors from Auction Insights to gather any learnings?
checkboxBonus: do you use one or more of the mentioned tools to keep a close eye on your competition?

This is a guest post by Wijnand Meijer, Quality & Learning Manager at iProspect|Netsociety, an online media agency based in Amsterdam. He created his first AdWords campaigns in 2006 and is currently helping advertisers and coworkers alike to get their Paid Search to the next level.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

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Should You Create Ad Group Sitelinks in Enhanced Campaigns?

9:00 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

One of the nicest things about AdWords enhanced campaigns is that you can now control sitelinks at the campaign or the ad group level. From a feature  standpoint, this sounds great. However, when you start considering the execution phase of creating sitelinks for every single ad group, the task can suddenly seem quite daunting.

First we’ll cover how sitelinks work. Then, we’ll need to examine if we should upgrade our ad groups, and if so, create a priority order.

About Sitelinks

Sitelinks allow you to add additional information below the ad.

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Each sitelink can also be customized with ad scheduling, destination URLs, and mobile preference options in enhanced campaigns.

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Sitelinks can be created at the campaign or the ad group level. If you have a campaign sitelink, that sitelink will be used for every ad group in the campaign, unless the ad group also has a sitelink, in which case the ad group sitelink will be used.

Therefore, if you have a campaign showing to mobile devices and to desktops, you have only 20 ad groups, and you want to create 6 sitelinks per ad group, you suddenly can have 240 sitelinks to create and manage.

If you have 10 campaigns with 100 ad groups each, that suddenly becomes 6000 ad group sitelinks to create an manage. You can see how this quickly becomes a lot of work. So the question is, should you create ad group level sitelinks?

A Quick Case Study

The Case Study Layout

For this case study, I took 9 ecommerce accounts that spend $75k to $200k per month and combined spend around $1 million per month to get a cross section of mid-sized ecommerce accounts.

The way the sitelinks were created at the ad group level depended on the keywords in the ad group:

  • For low value items, the sitelinks were focused on cross sales
  • For high value items, the sitelinks were focused on upsells
  • For ambiguous searches, the sitelinks were focused on the specific items to narrow down the user interest

For each of these types of sitelinks, I calculated these metrics:

  • CTR
  • Conversion rate
  • Average order value

These metrics are not completely apples to apples. There isn’t a good way to test ad group level sitelinks versus campaign sitelinks as you can’t easily rotate what type of sitelink is being used. The only other way to test these items would be with two identical campaigns that had different sitelinks. At present, the effort to do this is not worthwhile due to how difficult ad group sitelinks are to create (more on this later).

Therefore, I compared a month of ad group level sitelinks versus the previous month where only campaign sitelinks were used. None of these accounts had any ‘peak periods’ during those two months and the ads remained static for the entire test. So there aren’t any outliers affecting the data. However, this isn’t a 100% scientific test as its examining different timeframes.

The Results

Low Value Items

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The low value item sitelinks focused on cross sales to try and increase the average order value by getting the user to buy more total products. The CTR and conversion rate changes for the low value ad groups was negligible. However, using more cross sale ad groups did have a positive impact on the average order value, even though it was quite low.

In a high volume account, this is a potential great strategy. In low volume account, you might make better use of your time with landing page and ad testing over spending hours creating lots of sitelinks.

 

High Value Items

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The high value ad group used upsells in the sitelinks to try and increase the number of accessories bought with the expensive product. In all cases, the upsell products were  50% or less than the average value of the product being searched.

The high value ad groups saw a bit of a bump in both CTR and conversion rate. However,, there was a negative effect on the average order value. What happened is that some people ended up buying just the upsells and not the actual product.

For some of the accounts, the increase in CTR and conversion rates more than made up for this negative average order value; however, in 3 of the 9 accounts, the average order value change made it so this type of sitelink was less profitable than just using standard campaign sitelinks with new items, shipping policies, etc.

Ambiguous Queries

image

The ambiguous ad groups are the ones I had the most hopes in increasing with ad group sitelinks. These were commercial type queries for which the sites had to send the traffic to fairly generic category pages as they could not guess the type of product the user wanted.

For instance, a query such as ‘Women’s Dresses’ could use sitelinks such as evening dress, cocktail dress, summer dress, etc.

Using these specific sitelinks lead to a positive change in both CTR and conversion rates. The average order value dropped an insignificant 0.5%.

Within this test, the ambiguous ad groups were definitely the ones with the best overall change due to using ad group sitelinks.

The Difficulty of Creating Sitelinks

If you are dealing with hundreds of sitelinks, in the UI, you have to hunt for each individual sitelink you want displayed in a UI that does not have a sort or search feature. While this can be difficult in ecommerce examples, its very difficult in lead generation campaigns where the sitelink name might be the same for multiple geographies, but the destination URL changes by geography.

Just to create sitelinks for an ecommerce account with 50 ad groups takes this type of effort:

  • List out the ad groups
  • Choose the sitelink per ad group
  • Go into the UI for every single ad group to create ad group level sitelinks
  • For each ad group, hunt through the list of sitelinks to add them to the ad group
  • Save the ad group sitelinks and move on to the next ad group

In a campaign of just 50 ad groups, it took about two hours to customize all of the sitelinks.

The AdWords Editor now supports campaign and ad group level sitelinks. I find for large sites, its easiest to get some type of website export and then manipulate the data in Excel before importing the data into the AdWords Editor. For smaller sites, you can easily create the sitelinks in Excel and then use the Editor. Regardless of your initial data set, the AdWords Editor and Excel are a much better combination than the AdWords interface to use for creating many ad group level sitelinks.

Conclusion

For most accounts, it is not worth the time and effort to create sitelinks for all of your ad groups right now. This is not because of the results, it is because of the difficulty in creating mass amounts of ad group sitelinks

At the moment, the best course of action is to examine the ad groups with the most impressions in the ‘top’ positions that are ambiguous types of ad groups and create sitelinks for those ad groups.

image

Once the AdWords editor supports the bulk import of ad group sitelinks, it will be worthwhile to create ad group sitelinks for most of your ad groups.

Just once you create them, compare the results to what you were getting to make sure that your ad group sitelinks are helping you reach your overall account goals.

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by brad

Join us at SMX West or SMX Munich for AdWords Training

9:00 am in Conferences, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

smx.east.logo

The first two AdWords Workshops of 2014 will be in San Jose, CA and Munich, Germany.

Both of these workshops will be in conjunction with SMX (SMX West in the United States and SMX Munich in Germany).

The basics of the San Jose agenda can be seen below; however, I try to leave a bit of ‘wiggle room’ for in-depth Q&A and/or to add a topic at the end of the day (favorites so far have been Remarketing, pivot tables, large scale organization, and team organization).

The Workshop Agenda

Comprehensive Keyword Research: The absolute center of every PPC campaign is keywords. Learn the effective methods to discover and research keywords. While keywords are the lifeblood of PPC, perfecting your match type’s usage while controlling your negative keywords can drastically increase your overall revenue.

Writing Compelling Ad Copy: You will learn how to sync your ad copy with both your keywords and buying cycle stages. Testing ad copy is essential to any AdWords account’s success. You will takeaway several ideas for ads to test by the time you leave the session.

Demystifying Quality Score: Quality Score has a larger effect on your account’s visibility than any other setting inside of AdWords. Quality Score can be a challenge to increase. Receive step-by-step instructions in how to prioritize Quality Score improvement, and what actions to take to increase your Quality Scores.

Increase your Reach Through the Google Display Network: Consumers spend about 5% of their time with the search network. The rest of their time is spent on content sites. Learn how to effectively reach users beyond search with contextual ads, placements, and enhanced campaigns.

Control Your Ad Display with Location Targeting: Do you think that geographic targeting isn’t relevant to a national business? Think again! Whether you are a brick and mortar local business, or a global e-commerce site, learn how geographically targeted campaigns can create additional connections with searchers.

Increase Your Landing Page Conversions: The first impression to a potential customer is the landing page. With only a few seconds to engage the buyer this may be more important in your conversion funnel than anything else. This section of the course will not only go into best practices and usability, but how to test landing pages in a simple and effective method.

More Info

Lunch will be included. The presentations will be available for download during and after the presentation. The WiFi should work (you can never make 100% guarantees when you don’t own the venue).

You can learn more about the conferences here:

SMX West in San Jose on March 10th

SMX Munich in Munich on March 24th

In case you can’t make it, we have some dates for our 2014 trainings which can been seen on the AdWords Workshop Schedule.

Hope to see you there.

PPC Bid Management – To Automate or Not

9:00 am in PPC Info, PPC Marketing Blog by lauryanfeijen

As search engine marketers it is our job to always be on top of changes in the market and changes in the various search engines. With the increasing number of features at hand for the search engine marketer it also becomes more attractive to use tools and software to automate the easier and more repetitive tasks. By automating these tasks we can save significant amounts of time. This time can then be spent on the more challenging and creative tasks. In this post we’ll have a look at the various ways to perform bid management, from manual to fully automated. We’ll go over the pros and cons of each method.

I’ll start by quoting Craig Danuloff: “Great bids can’t fix a lousy campaign”. Let’s assume your campaigns are well structured and optimized. There are many ways to make sure you don’t have to spend hours on your PPC bid management, I’ve narrowed them down to the following categories:

  • Manual bid management (either in the interface or in AdWords Editor)
  • Bid management by using Excel
  • Bidding with automated rules
  • Bid management with AdWords scripts
  • Bid management with Google Conversion Optimizer
  • Bid management with 3rd party platforms

Manual bid management

The most basic form of bid management would be going the manual route and is probably where every PPC professional once started: changing bids in the AdWords interface or by using AdWords editor. The new bulk edit features are an improvement here, but still it means you have to go through your keyword list manually. This is not a complete downside, as your top keywords deserve this amount of attention. For your other keywords, which can amount up to several thousands to millions depending on your account, you aren’t able to spend that much time and if you are you probably can spend it better by performing other tasks.

Pros

  • Attention for your keywords is high. This leads to a good insight in the performance of your account and how the most important keywords are developing.
  • It’s also easier to include the value of assists when assessing each (individual) keyword.

Cons

  • Impossible to manually perform this task over the bigger accounts (although the bulk edits are an improvement).
  • Time consuming

Bid management by using Excel

The easiest and most accessible way of managing your PPC bids would be by using AdWords Editor, Excel and either your CPA or ROAS target. If you (or your client) haven’t defined these yet I’d like to refer you to this article to learn how to calculate them.

By copying your keyword view from the AdWords Editor to Excel you are able to add a calculation for each keyword which results in a new CPC bid for each keyword. With the good compatibility between AdWords Editor and Excel it is then really easy to copy the keywords with their new bids back to the Editor and upload the changes to AdWords.

CPA target and historical data
For each keyword that has had a conversion we use the historical conversion rate and the desired CPA to calculate the maximum CPC we are willing to pay. To do so just add the simple following calculation to an extra column:

clip_image002

Example: Goal CPA $ 50, historical conversion rate 0,5%. Your new maximum CPC bid would be 50×0,5% = $ 0,25.

Wijnand Meijer has written a thorough post with more detailed steps in this article.

ROAS target and historical data

This one is similar to the CPA version, but now we’re using a ROAS target instead of CPA. Follow the same steps, but now use this formula to calculate the new maximum bid you are willing to pay:

clip_image004

Example: Desired ROAS 2000%, average value per click $1,5. Your new maximum CPC bid would be $ 0,08.

Your total conversion value divided by the total clicks leads you to your average value per click. In both calculations you can use the conversion rate from converting keywords to guestimate the conversion rate for keywords that did not yet convert. This could be a fraction of your converting keywords or you can go the fancier route by using probability models (Bayes’ theorem for example).

Pros

  • Able to change bids for large amounts of keywords

Cons(iderations)

  • Manual check on outliers is necessary (example; a 100% conversion rate would result in a bid equal to your CPA target)
  • Maximum CPC is not your average CPC. In the calculations above we are calculating the maximum we are willing to pay, which actually is corresponding to the average CPC. By increasing the outcome of the calculation with 10-20% you’re bidding more than you are actually willing to pay, which should turn out just fine in most cases.

Managing bids with automated rules

Automated rules in AdWords have been around for some time now and definitely have their uses, but they are limited in possibilities. Some scenario’s where I’ve found automated rules to be useful in managing bids:

  • Ensure top positions for mission critical keywords (or at least for keywords a HiPPO thinks are important; Ego bidding). Keep in mind that in general you should bid for profit, not for position.
  • Bid up/down based on average position, can be useful if there is a budget restraint or if a season is starting to ramp up
  • Pause non-converting keywords. If a keyword has reached a certain threshold (which can be clicks or cost) it becomes unlikely for that keyword to become profitable. You can then have the rule pause this keyword, or have these keywords mailed to you for manual review.

I’ve left out all the scenario’s where automated rules can save you time (or save your weekend) that are not related to bidding. With these kinds of rules it’s important to always keep notice of the rules that are active in an account. The combination of several rules is golden here: if there is a rule that is bidding up for good performers then there should also be a rule that bids down bad performers to ensure a good balance.

Pros

  • Automated, so it can run at times when you aren’t able to login
  • Change bids for a large amount of keywords

Cons

  • No manual review (although you are able to check the results of automated rules)
  • Calculations aren’t possible in the rules, so you may have to define several rules to cover your entire account

Using AdWords scripts to manage your account’s bids

With the roll out of AdWords Scripts in 2012 the possibilities of automating all sorts of things became easier for the tech savvy PPC account manager. The coding examples available in the AdWords help center such as this powerful bidding spreadsheet which basically is all of your account automated rules in óne spreadsheet!

With AdWords scripts it is also relatively easy to code a script that would take over the bids for all keywords that are in campaigns that contain label ‘bid script #1’. This means we now can use the rules and models we have talked about in the Excel section and automate this in an AdWords script that will run automatically every day, week or month. We can configure the script to send updates on the altered bids, so you can review them at the start of your working day to check for bids that are too extreme.

Pros

  • More advanced possibilities than automated rules offer
  • Can easily cover an entire account within one script
  • Possibility to have a report emailed with a summary

Cons

  • No manual review (although you are able to check the results of the scripts and undo this, manually)
  • AdWords scripts, so a basic knowledge of scripting is required to set the target, more advanced scripting skill are required for a complete AdWords script

Using AdWords flexible bid strategies or Conversion Optimizer

If your campaign has at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days you are able to use the Google Conversion Optimizer. 15 conversions in 30 days are not that much, so in general we would try the Conversion Optimizer when there are more than 100 conversions in the last 30 days. This also depends on the number of keywords: if the number of keywords in a campaign is low Google would be able to manage this better then when the conversions are spread over a larger amount of keywords. The Conversion Optimizer takes into account several factors that aren’t (easily) available to us as users. Examples of this are match types, the actual queries for broad matches, search partner sites, location of users, operation system, browser, language settings and more. When your conversion volume is big enough enabling the Conversion Optimizer can result in an increased performance.

With the launch of the Bidding Strategies Google broadens the possibilities within the AdWords platform. In short the routes-to-go are:

  • Maximize clicks
  • Target page location
  • Target CPA
  • Enhanced cost per click (ECPC)
  • Target ROAS

Cool thing about the Bidding Strategies is that they can also be applied on adgroup or keyword level, which allows you to select different strategies for different kinds of keywords. In case of a retail you could for example set a top-of-page strategy for your branded keywords, a maximize clicks strategy for branding keywords and a target ROAS strategy for your product campaigns.

Pros

  • · More levers to pull
  • · Flexible: selecting multiple bid strategies for keywords in a single campaign is possible (although if a different strategy is required you probably want to have a different campaign, for reporting purposes)

Cons

  • No control except for setting a target
  • Not really transparent
  • Requires a good conversion history on campaign level to work

Using 3rd party bid management platforms

There are a number of 3rd party bid management platforms available. According to Forrester (Nov. 2012) the leading platforms are Kenshoo, IgnitionOne, Marin and Adobe AdLens. I won’t go into the details that distinguish the various platforms here. In general all of them have their own algorithm in place that will take into account many variables and use multiple statistical models to predict the best bid for each individual keyword. For example it might work with a conversion attribution model or take your own backend data into account as well as predicted seasonality based on your input or last year’s results.

There are smart guys behind these platforms, all trying to develop the best bid management platform or even campaign management platform, as most of these platforms allow for a variety of things to be managed from within the interface. This means the platforms are showing good business cases where they really improved efficiency for their users, but of course the platforms come with a price. It depends on your desires and budgets whether one of these platforms would be an interesting choice. If you are managing a bigger budget it will certainly be interesting to talk to them to find out what they might be able to offer you (or your client).

As many others responsible for PPC accounts used to think ‘I can do it better than the machine’, but the platforms are now taking so many variables into account that I would take me too much time to consider my manual bids if I really wanted to compete with these platforms! I’ve had good experiences with several of these platforms.

Pros

  • More advanced settings than the AdWords conversion optimizer can provide
  • Take into account factors outside AdWords to manage the bids

Cons

  • Money, which in general means it’s only interesting for larger accounts
  • Most bid management (or campaign management) tools require tasks to be done though the tool’s interface, which may result in some delay from ‘copy write to go live’

Noticing conversion drops before they kill your account

I’ve seen a scenario where bids would be set by automated rules. One time the AdWords conversion tracker disappeared from the client’s website due to an error. The bids in the account where decreased every time the rule ran which resulted in a significant volume drop over the weekend. Luckily there are also automated rules or Google Analytics intelligence alerts that can warn you for this! The new automated rules that allow you to ‘send email when..’ a certain scenario is happening can really save your account, as you will be able to respond to a drop in conversions the minute the automated rule notices this. Ideally you’ll have one of these rules in place and scheduled to run before your other bid management actions will start, so you are able to intervene.

For all of the methods above manual review of the adjustments would be necessary, as these are really simple formulas and models which won’t be able to predict seasonality.

  • Downward spiral, where seasonality might go up
  • To check match type bids
  • To prevent a passive attitude
  • Even the best platforms aren’t able to predict the future

More on in depth details on why at least some form of human review is necessary can be found in this article from Andrew Lolk.

Summary and remarks

I strongly believe bid management will take a growing role in the PPC world. The various platforms still have room to evolve, if it isn’t for their algorithms it would be for the feature set and support of the various AdWords extensions and features. On the other side bid management for the PPC individual without a big budget is also possible with the use of either the omnipresent Excel or can be even further automated with AdWords scripts.

I challenge you to check if your current bid management and/or bid rules are up to par with the possibilities in the market, as you’ll be able to win so much time if you don’t have to think about each individual bid. This time would be much better spent on writing good creative ad text, specifying an (ad) test schedule, coming up with new features and ideas to test and to set up and follow a good strategic PPC plan.

This is a guest post by Lauryan Feijen, Online Advertising Strategist at iProspect|Netsociety,an online media agency based in Amsterdam. He has been managing PPC accounts since 2009 and is now responsible for the knowledge sharing, quality and efficiency of the online advertising department.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

The Complete AdWords Audit Part 4: Ad Extensions

9:00 am in PPC Marketing Blog by netsociety

This is a continuation of the AdWords Audit Series. You can see previous parts here: Introduction, Goal setting, Measurement and Campaign Settings & Bid Adjustments.


Remember when the Google SERP looked like this?

old-google-serp

How boring was that? And did you see how much real estate those organic results took up, including unpaid shopping results? That’s no way to run a profitable search engine.

I hope the sarcasm here is obvious, especially for my dear SEO friends that have an increasingly hard time showing up above the fold.

As you’ve noticed, things have changed and now the SERP for the same search looks like this:

current-google-serp

To use Google’s own words, they have been “Giving customers more reasons to click your ad”.
Most of these reasons come in the form of Ad Extensions. I’ll leave the prominent Shopping results for a later post in this series.

Ad Extensions come (and go) in a fast pace. Since 2010, Google has been releasing one extension after the other and there always seems to be at least one extension in beta at any given time.

How different each of these extensions may be, they all have one thing in common: they increase the CTR of your ads. How much depends on the extension, but it’s usually in the 5-30% range.

As I do not know an advertiser that isn’t interested in a higher CTR (for the same position & CPC), the advice here is simple: use any extension that makes sense for your business. And besides, Google wants you to use extensions so badly, they explicitly made it part of Ad Rank recently.

This was big news in the PPC industry, and interesting posts have been written about the effects, recommended strategies and why Google adjusted the Ad Rank Algorithm.

The best practice however, hasn’t changed due to this Ad Rank update: if you aren’t already using all extensions that are relevant for your business, you definitely should by now.

To help you get a quick feel for the current Ad Extensions, when to use them and what to expect of them, I’ve created the features comparison chart below.

You won’t find product or offer extensions, since these have been quietly retired. You also won’t find image extensions as only a very small minority of advertisers seems to be eligible to use these. Neither will you find Dynamic Search Ads, even though it can be found in the Ad extensions tab in AdWords, I consider it more of a campaign type that will be covered in the Testing part of this series.

However, you’ll find 8 other extensions (of which 1 is currently in beta) that will provide you with more than enough possibilities to stand out and increase your CTR.

ad-extensions-comparison-chart

You can also download a pdf version over here

The CTR improvement numbers above are the numbers that were published by Google when releasing that specific extension, based on their initial (but significant) findings with beta users.

The actual numbers will vary by country, industry, advertiser and it will especially be dependent on how many competitors are already using a specific extension. For example, if you’re the only advertiser with seller ratings for a specific search query, chances are this will greatly benefit your CTR.

On the other hand, if you’re the only one without seller ratings, you’ll still stand out, but probably not in a way that increases CTR.

As I mentioned in the introduction part of this series, implementing Ad Extensions can be considered a quick win. That’s why it’s pretty high up in the order of priorities in this audit series: it doesn’t take a lot of time to add, but the benefits will come immediately after adding the extensions.

Let’s dive a bit deeper for some recommendations for each extension.

Sitelinks

The mother of all extensions and the one anyone can use. Well, anyone except single page websites. You can learn all about how to set them up on the sitelinks support page and make sure you follow sitelink extensions policies as well.

example-sitelinks

The best practices for sitelinks can be summed up as following:

  • Make sure each of your search campaigns has at least 4 sitelinks.
    You can always add more if you want to, especially if you want to compare how the ad performs when different sitelinks appear (just make sure the position stays the same for a fair comparison).
  • Add descriptions to the sitelinks of your branded campaigns or add at least 6 sitelinks without descriptions to your branded campaigns.
    You could add additional descriptions to all of your sitelinks, but so far they seem to appear only on branded queries. So if you want 4 sitelinks with descriptions on your branded queries, add descriptions to those sitelinks.
    However, if you’d rather have 6 sitelinks without descriptions instead, well then add 6 sitelinks without descriptions.
    Either way, there’s no need to spend a lot of time adding sitelink descriptions in non-branded campaigns.
  • Create ad group level sitelinks for ambiguous and/or high volume ad groups.
    All paid search practitioners rejoiced when it became possible to add sitelinks on the ad group level with enhanced campaigns. However, it would be pretty time consuming to create a unique set of sitelinks for each of your ad groups.
    So the best course of action is to create ad group level sitelinks when the campaign level sitelinks aren’t optimal, given the keywords in the ad group. Especially in ad groups with:

    • Many impressions in the top positions.
    • Ambiguous queries, so you can narrow down the user’s intent. Read all about those (including an interesting case study) in Should You Create Ad Group Sitelinks in Enhanced Campaigns? by Brad Geddes. The good news is that by now, AdWords Editor fully supports ad group sitelinks (version 10.2 and higher).
  • Don’t worry too much about individual sitelink performance
    • Whenever you analyze the data in the Sitelinks Extensions view under the Ad extensions tab, you should realize that you’re looking at the performance of the whole ad unit whenever that particular sitelink appeared, not at the individual sitelink performance.
    • If you want to be shocked and see that, click the Segment drop-down menu and select ‘This Extension vs. Other’. You’ll see that very few users actually click on the individual sitelinks. What I usually see is a CTR of less than 0.10% per sitelink for non-branded campaigns and 1-2% for branded campaigns, but you should check your own numbers to be sure. Sam Owen at PPC Hero had similar findings in his Case Study: Do People Actually Click Sitelinks?

However, sitelinks significantly increase the CTR of the ad as a whole. So that’s how you should treat them: additional description lines that take up real estate and give you an opportunity to show additional options, features, benefits and USP’s. Even if most of the searchers won’t click on the sitelinks themselves, they will see them and they will impact the performance of the ad as a whole.

So the question is not so much: how many people click on this particular sitelink and what happens after that? But more: which combination of sitelinks generates the best performance for my ad as a whole?

Call Extensions

If you value calls to your business, you should definitely add call extensions to your campaigns, especially if you’re also advertising on mobile devices and have a local business. As Google research shows “70% of mobile searchers use click to call”.

And in case you’ve missed it, since April 2013, you’re no longer allowed to use phone numbers in the ad text, so the only way to show your phone number is by using call extensions.
The call extensions support page will show you how to set them up and monitor their performance.

example-call-extensions

 

 

 

Just a couple of best practices to keep in mind:

  • Consider a Google forwarding phone number, currently only available in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. This way you can track phone calls as conversions when they last longer than a number of seconds of your choosing.
    • The question remains if you’ll value such a ‘conversion’ just as much as any other conversion you’re tracking in your account. If you’re an e-commerce advertiser, that’s probably not the case. On the other hand, if you’re a lead-gen advertiser or a local business, phone calls may be your primary conversion. So, as is often case, it depends on your business goals whether you should choose a forwarding number or your own phone number.
    • If phone calls are really important to your business, you should also consider a call tracking solution that tracks calls to phone numbers on your website, as mentioned in the Measurement part of this series.
    • Also be aware of possible gaps in call tracking data, as discussed in Call Extensions: Beware the Data Gaps by John Lee.
  • Schedule your call extensions, so you only show the phone number (or call button) when there’s someone there to answer the phone.

 Location Extensions

If you have (a) brick and mortar business location(s) you’d like (mobile) searchers to visit, you should add Location Extensions. Just like call extensions, location extensions are especially effective for local businesses.
The easiest way to do this, is to link your Google Places and AdWords. The exact set up depends on whether you’re using upgraded or legacy location extensions, you can see how both work on the location extensions support page. And of course, make sure you comply with the with the location extensions policy. Once you’ve added location extensions to all relevant campaigns, there’s not much to it except monitoring the performance.

example-location-extensions

 

 

 

Though, there’s an extra option you may want to consider, especially for mobile searchers: apply a bid adjustment when people are searching within a specified radius around your current location extensions. Here’s how to do that:

  • Go to the Settings tab of the campaign you want to use such a bid adjustment.
  • Click ‘Edit’ next to Locations
  • Click ‘Advanced search’.
  • Click on the Location groups tab.
  • Select ‘Location extensions’ in the drop-down menu as location group type:
    location-extensions-radius-targeting

 

 

 

 

  • Specify the radius around each location extension.
  • Click the Add and Done buttons.

Now this radius has become a location for which you can apply a bid adjustment, under the Locations tab of your campaign settings:

location-extensions-bid-adjustment

 

 

 

 

Seller Ratings

Although you won’t find seller ratings as extension under the Ad extensions tab in the interface, it’s one of the most powerful extensions out there.

example-seller-ratings

To get these coveted stars in your ad, you’ll need to meet a couple of requirements:

  • Your business must have at least 30 unique reviews in the past 12 months and an average rating of at least 3.5 stars. These reviews should reflect customers’ overall experience with your business, not so much with particular products you sell.
  • At least 10 of these reviews must be in the customer’s Google interface language. Seller ratings currently show on Google.com, Google.co.uk, Google.de, Google.fr and Google.nl.

Once you meet these criteria, seller ratings will automatically show up in your ads. Obviously, the more reviews you have (compared to other advertisers on the same SERP), the more effect this extension will have.

So if you want those stars in your ads, the best thing to do would be to open an account with one of the mentioned review websites and solicit reviews (through e-mail) from your customers after they’ve received your product / done business with you. I’d recommend reading How Ratings Extensions Gave a Boost to CTR for Shop Bedding for an interesting case study on how to do this.

You could also join Google Trusted Stores, as this is one of the services that powers seller ratings.

Social Annotations

example-social-annotations

 

 

 

Just like seller ratings, social annotations are a trust signal that automatically appear in your ads when you meet certain requirements. These are:

  • You have to have a Google+ page with a verified URL.
  • The domain of your Google+ page URL has to match the domain of your ad’s URL.
  • Your Google+ page needs to have recent, high-quality posts and a significant number of followers. At least 100 followers for most companies.

And just as with seller ratings: the social annotations will appear automatically in your ads once you meet these criteria and the more followers you have, the better.

App Extensions

If you have an iOS and/or Android app you want to promote on tablets and/or mobile devices, you can add links to your app in the app store (Google Play or the Apple App Store).

example-app-extension

 

 

 

The cool thing is that Google will detect the searcher’s device, so it shows the Android link to Android users and the iOS link to iOS users.

Learn all about how to set them up on the app extension support page.


Review Extensions

example-review-extensions

 

 

If you have a positive third-party review, award or ranking in English and are able to fit the quote and the source in a total of 67 characters (and of course, meet all requirements in the review extensions policy), then you could add this as a review extension. Individual customer reviews won’t be accepted, that’s what seller ratings are for.

Especially if you’re in an industry people are skeptical about (think: weight loss, quit smoking, hair loss treatments, etc.), this extension could boost your credibility and definitely be worth the trouble. But so far, Google seems pretty strict in which sites they accept reviews from.

All the necessary info on how to set these up can be found on the review extensions support page.

Form Extensions

example-form-extensions

 

 

This extension is currently in beta, so no official support page here. However, you can read the following article where it was spotted: Google Testing New AdWords Site Search Extension.
We’ve been using it for a couple of clients and seen positive results, especially on branded and generic terms for e-commerce advertisers.

This is how the Form Extension works:

  • It allows you to place a field and button in your search ads, in order to direct users to a landing page based on a URL parameter.
  • You choose the text in the field, on the button and the URL parameter you want to use.
  • When users fill in a keyword (or zip code) in the field and click the search button in your ad, what they’ve filled in will populate the parameter to create the landing page.

If you’re interested in this extension, ask your Google rep for more information.

I’m sure this post will need an update soon, so keep your eyes open for any new extensions that will be released.

In the meantime, if you have any recommendations or questions you want to share, please do so in the comments!

 

Ad Extensions: Your Audit Checklist

checkbox

Do all your search campaigns have at least 4 sitelinks?
checkboxDo the sitelinks of your branded campaigns include descriptions or do these campaigns have at least 6 sitelinks?
checkboxIf you value phone calls: have you added call extensions to your campaigns? Use a Google forwarding number if you want to count calls as conversions in your account.
checkboxIn case you’ve added call extensions: have you scheduled these to match your operating hours?
checkboxIf you have brick and mortar business locations you want (mobile) searchers to visit: have you added location extensions to your campaigns?
checkboxDo you encourage customers to write reviews on reputable sources (as defined by Google) in order to obtain seller ratings?
checkboxDo you have a verified Google+ page with more than 100 followers in order to obtain social annotations?
checkboxIf you have an iOS and/or Android app you want to promote: have you added app extensions to your campaigns?
checkboxIf you have third-party reviews, awards or rankings in English that meet Google’s requirements: have you added these as review extensions?
checkboxIn case your website supports a search parameter to be dynamically populated: have you asked your Google rep to join the form extensions beta?

This is a guest post by Wijnand Meijer, Quality & Learning Manager at iProspect|Netsociety, an online media agency based in Amsterdam. He created his first AdWords campaigns in 2006 and is currently helping advertisers and coworkers alike to get their Paid Search to the next level.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

Avatar of brad

by brad

Learn About Ad Rank Changes and Detailed Quality Score Information with Fred Vallaeys

9:00 am in Marketing Nirvana, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

1e7f0ff1bd3f5d8672af89099338fcfe

Throughout the history of AdWords, there a have only been three main ways that Google Determines Ad Rank.

  • 2002: AdWords Launches for everyone: Ad Rank = Max CPC x CTR
  • 2006: Quality Score introduced: Ad Rank = Max CPC x Quality Score
  • 2013: Ad Rank updated to include: Max CPC, Quality Score, and Ad Extension data. No simple formula demonstrates this change

In the fast changing world of AdWords, this simple formula, a very important one that determines where your ad will show on a search page, has undergone very little evolution over the past decade. However, a few months ago, Google made the first major change to Ad Rank since 2006 with the introduction of a third criteria: Ad Extension Data.

Quality Score in itself can be a highly confusing number to work with, and with the addition of ad extension to the ad rank formula, it’s easy for a PPC marketer to get confused over how to increase ad rank and quality scores.

To help sort out this confusion, the latest Marketing Nirvana show invited Fred Vallaeys to help clarify the changes and give some solid advice on working with quality score.

If you are unfamiliar with Fred, he was an early employee at Google where he spent 10 years building AdWords and teaching advertisers how to get the most out of it as Google’s only AdWords Evangelist. As a technologist at heart, he’s always on the lookout for ways that technology can simplify the lives of marketers. He recently founded Optmyzr with other Google and Microsoft alumni. Optmyzr’s goal is to give advertisers unique insights from their data and make optimizing AdWords really fast through One-Click Optimizations™. Fred is one 

Through all his work, Fred has a deep insight into how Google thinks and the AdWords system, so he’ll help guide you through all of the changes taking place:

In this episode we walk through:

  • Ad Rank changes
  • Why the changes were made
  • The CTR effect of ad extensions
  • Where Google holds quality score
  • The different types of quality score
  • Quality score diagnosis by device types
  • How bids can affect quality score
  • Quality score updates
  • Quality score tracking
  • And much, much more.

The show will air on January 6th at Noon EST / 9am PST.

While you’re waiting for the show to air, here are some of our past episodes:

  • Mobile advertising best practices with Lisa Raehsler
  • Google AdWords Flexible Bid Strategies with John Lee
  • Adapting to the Overhaul of Google Adwords Enhanced Campaigns with Melissa Mackey
  • Starting & Growing your PPC Agency with David Szetela
  • Everything You Need to Know About Bing Ads With John Gagnon
  • Off Page SEO Factors with Todd Mailcoat
  • On page SEO Factors with Todd Mailcoat
  • And many more..

You can see a list of shows on our Marketing Nirvana Radio Page; download them from iTunes, or stream them from Webmaster Radio.

You can find Fred at Twitter or take a look at his tools on Optmyzr.

I hope you enjoy the show.

New Year’s resolutions for PPC marketers in 2014

9:00 am in PPC Marketing Blog by lauryanfeijen

Every year there has been at least one blog post stating the New Year’s resolutions for that year in PPC.

I’ve gathered some examples from the past:

I’d advise you to go through these posts, as most of the topics and resolutions that are being made are still applicable to next year’s PPC management in 2014.

Building further on these lists I’d like to share these New Year’s resolutions for PPC in 2014 with you, refreshing some of the resolutions I believe to be important as well as adding some new ones to the list. I’ve added both PPC related ones as well as more generic ones that should increase productivity, efficiency or happiness at work:

clip_image002

Get the hardest things done first

Three reasons to get the hardest things done first:

  1. Once it’s done, it’s done
  2. You’ll have a good feeling and think of yourself as effective
  3. You’ve used your willpower (limited resource) in the most effective way

Good mornings, every day!

In line with the previous one: block your mornings to get through your to-do list. Brad touched this topic in this article on how to get all your tasks done while keeping up with the (industry) news, where he is referring to Paul Graham’s ‘Maker’s schedule, Manager’s Schedule’. When we take into account the three benefits of getting the hardest things done first this means you’ll have to block your mornings. No meetings with others before noon would be a good rule throughout many companies. Managers tend to go from meeting to meeting, which means an agenda with one-hour blocks is fine for them. Looking at the general PPC manager I believe him/her to be most efficient when they have longer blocks, two/three hours. As the productivity and efficiency would also be a main goal for the management this means meetings (1:1s) between manager and consultant should take place in the afternoon. This enables the consultant to clip_image004focus on their hardest tasks during the morning.

(Re)Define your purpose

Avinash Kaushik states “The single biggest mistake web analysts make is working without purpose”. I dare to state this isn’t only applicable to web analysts, but to all people and even all companies.

In his ‘Digital Marketing & Measurement Model’ Avinash goes through five steps:

  1. Identify business objectives
  2. Identify goals for each objective
  3. Identify the Key Performance Indicators
  4. Identify the targets
  5. Identify valuable segments for analysis

What better moment is there to check if all of the above are still clear for your PPC campaigns and if not thinking through these simple steps should bring back the purpose to your PPC campaigns and results and thus make 2014 a great New Year to work on the real objectives with good KPIs in mind!

80/20 still applies

Even though the Pareto principle is almost 100 years old, and known as such since 1941 it still is applicable in many of today’s situations.
In PPC you’ll pretty often see 20% of your keywords generating 80% of the clicks/cost/conversions. This would normally mean you’re spending your time efficient when you are spending 80% of your time on 20% of your keywords/ad groups/campaigns.

clip_image006If Data is King, let Creativity be his Queen

This has been in every single one of the earlier stated ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ lists, and now it’s on this list as well! As PPC marketers it’s easy to stray from creativity because of all the data involved. If Data is King then Creativity should be Queen in PPC. Without being creative the data will still show which ads are winning, which keywords are profitable, but dramatic increases are more likely to happen when you actually dare to try (dramatically) different things.

There are always things you can try, some examples as an inspiration to put on your test list:

  • Flexible bid strategies
  • Location bids
  • Mobile preferred ads
  • Sitelinks on ad group level (what is the impact of more relevant sitelinks?)
  • Product listing ads and optimizations to the feed (have you thought about the right descriptions and titles?)
  • Look outside Adwords (Bing, Yandex, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to name a few)
  • Have you tested all Ad Extensions?

Always be testing

The last one has been stated many times before and I’m doing so as well. Always make sure you have multiple ad text per ad group and make sure to have a good test plan. Not only will this bring you a more efficient PPC account in time, but keeping good progress of the tests you are conducting will also make it easier to show what you are doing to your client (or stake holders in case you’re in-house).

Jeff Allen wrote a good article on what could be in your PPC test plan. The great thing is it also includes an example Excel test matrix. Another great article on how to structure your PPC tests has been written by Melissa Mackey. In a clear way she breaks down the various options to test in a matrix, so you can keep track of what you have already tested and what still needs to be tested against the winner.

This is a guest post by Lauryan Feijen, Online Advertising Strategist at iProspect|Netsociety,an online media agency based in Amsterdam. He has been managing PPC accounts since 2009 and is now responsible for the knowledge sharing, quality and efficiency of the online advertising department.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

Avatar of brad

by brad

4 Life Lessons to Help Make CPA Bidding Work for You

9:00 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

I’m a huge fan of Google’s CPA bidding system. Setting bids is necessary; but it leads to only short term progress. Your bidding work is only useful until the data changes and you have to set bids again.

Now, the statement ‘your changes are only good until the data changes again’ can be applied to ads, landing pages, placements, and any data point within your account.

The issue that needs to be examined is frequency of data changes. Rarely do ads need to be changed every few days. An ad or landing page can perform for long periods of time. However, bids rarely do. Rarely do you have an optimal bid set for a keyword for a month straight. So, when you consider areas of your account where you can make long term gains, they are not in bidding. Bidding is a short term gain, but a necessary action.

Therefore, when CPA bidding works well for an account, the PPC manager can spend more time focusing on these long term gains and less time on bidding.

image

However, I often find a simple mistake with CPA bidding, or even with 3rd party bid systems. Once CPA bidding (or a 3rd party system) has been enabled, the PPC manager sits back and thinks their work is done.

For the purposes of this article, we will leave out all of the testing you should be doing regardless of your bidding methodology, and focus on making CPA bidding work for you.

I find that when CPA bidding fails, it does so for one of three reasons:

  1. The campaign’s conversion data is sporadic by keywords and ads. An example is when you have thousands of keywords; but only 20% of them receive a conversion in the past 30 days; however, all contribute to the total conversion amounts over the course of a year so you can’t really delete any to increase the conversions between fewer data points.
  2. ‘Best Practices’ of account management are ignored because the bidding is being taken care of by Google
  3. It just doesn’t work for totally unknown reasons. I do see this happen on occasion where everything is setup and managed perfectly, but for unknown reasons, the CPA bidding just can’t seem to get the bids correct

Let’s look at a few scenarios where CPA bidding failed, but with some minor changes, the bid system ultimately succeeded.

Data Problems

The first example is one that amazed me. I was doing an audit on an account that was using CPA bidding. The company had failed to put the conversion tracking on their mobile device (so it was not Google’s fault conversions weren’t being tracked) and the campaign was set to all devices. The desktop performance was high enough to ensure that CPA bidding had enough conversion data to keep running.

After using CPA bidding for 3 moths, 25% of all traffic was still being sent to mobile devices.

CPA bidding does take into devices into account when setting bids. However, it rarely ‘gives up’ on a device, instead, it keeps trying to find a bid that will work. By just adding the conversion code to the mobile site, CPA bidding because much more effective.

The Lesson: Make sure all your tracking is correct.

Using Call Extensions to Create Goals

The second example is an ecommerce site. They were B2B ecommerce, so they did use the phone extension as calls often converted into sales; however, they were all sales on the phone that were not put back into analytics to see the actual revenue per conversion.

When this company upgraded to an enhanced campaign, they liked the fact that they could count calls as conversions and thus used the ‘report phone call conversions’ option in their account.

image

They continued to receive phone calls, but their CPAs climbed considerably for all ecommerce goals and were well above their target CPAs. While CPA bidding didn’t technically fail, as it was getting calls, the ecommerce manager was quite unhappy as the overall site ecommerce was declining and there wasn’t data to show them exactly what data points were generating the calls.

They disabled the option to report calls as goals. After the disabling, they still received calls (as they did before going to enhanced campaigns); however, their CPAs went back to their target goals, and all the conversions were actual ecommerce checkouts

The Lesson: If you are going to add additional conversions for CPA bidding, make sure you really want the optimizer working off of those goals.

Keyword Expansion

The next lesson comes from a company who used CPA bidding for months, and they were very much enjoying the bid system. They had put so much faith in the system that they just kept adding keywords and thought Google would figure it all out.

Every month their CPAs went up; but not by enough that anyone cared enough to investigate. They just assumed it was bid pressure and kept adding more keywords.

After several months of expansion; it was time to give their quarterly report to the VP of Marketing. The CPA trend worried her, so she asked for a larger time frame for the CPA trend. Once she saw the CPA climbing for several months, she asked for a 3rd party investigation.

The answer was quite simple. They were adding keywords, but they were not paying attention to the search queries of those keywords. Just by adding a few hundred negative keywords, the CPAs quickly returned to an acceptable amount.

 The Lesson: You must still follow best practices of account organization, match type selection, query analysis, and adding negative keywords even when using CPA bidding.

Ad Copy Testing

The next example comes from a company who is great at landing page testing, but decided it was time to start doing more ad tests. So, they created a program for testing their ads, wrote lots of new ads and put them live into their account.

Their CTRs almost doubled. Their conversion rates almost dropped in half and their CPAs rose more than 30%.

The problem? They were using Google’s default ad serving option: optimize for clicks.

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If you are going to test ads in CPA bidding campaigns, you have two options:

  • Control everything: Use rotate indefinitely, watch the data, pick winners, delete losers, repeat.
  • Know you’ll forget to end tests: In this case, if your are going to create multiple ads and then forget about them, use ‘Optimize for Conversions’ for your ad testing. With this method, Google will pick the ad with the best conversion rate and show it the most often.

The Lesson: CPA bidding does not serve ads – it sets bids. If you are going to test ads, and you should, make sure you are using the correct ad rotation settings.

Conclusion

I find that much more often than not, CPA bidding is highly effective. There are times it does fail, but that now seems to be the exception, even for low conversion accounts.

Now, CPA bidding is great when you have a static CPA target for all keywords in each ad group. For many ecommerce sites, there isn’t a target CPA; but a target ROAS. In that case, CPA bidding is rarely the best bid method to use.

However, no matter how good CPA bidding is for you; if you don’t continue to follow best practices for optimizing your account, CPA bidding will often become ineffective.

Just because you have an automatic bidding system, either Google’s CPA bidding or a 3rd party bid management system, doesn’t mean you can stop working on your account. Those systems change bids based upon the system inputs. If you give them bad  data, they will make bad decisions.

Using automated bid management is great, it gives you back the time you would have spent setting bids so you can make sure you are using all of the best practices in your account. However, you can’t abandoned your account when you use such a system – you must still continue to follow best practices.

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by brad

4 Ways to Determine Your Your New Account’s Starting Bids

9:00 am in PPC Marketing Blog by brad

While ad testing, proper account setup, and conversion tracking are necessary for a successful account; you can’t get any data without a competitive bid.

If your bid is too low; then you ad never shows. If your bids are too high, then you can quickly lose a lot of money; and if you are new to PPC, then you might decide that PPC doesn’t work and abandon the medium.

With mature accounts with lots of data; bidding isn’t too difficult. It can be as simple as last click attribution, or as complex as using multi-touch attribution models. However, the reason you have options is because you have the data.

A new account doesn’t have any data. How can you effectively set bids based upon what you rely on the most – the data – if you don’t have any?

In this column, you’ll look at a few bid methods that can help get you started setting your initial bids.

Setting Bids Based Upon Estimated Conversion Rates

This model attempts to simulate traditional bid models by guessing first at your conversion rates and then using your typical bid formulas to set bids based upon your goals, such as CPA or ROAS.

Estimating conversion rates can be very difficult. If you offer a free white paper, your conversion rates can vary from 1%-20% based upon your form design. Many companies like to use 2% for ecommerce. However, its common to see ecommerce rates for less expensive items hit 5-10% and for more expensive items be around 0.1%-0.5%.

If you have historical analytics data, you that to help you make some good guesses as to your PPC conversions. If you have worked in a vertical before, that can help as you’ll. However, all you are trying to do is reach a reasonable assumption of a conversion rate so you can use your regular formulas to set the initial bids.

So, do some educated guesses and research to come to an estimated conversion rate, and then use that rate to set the bids based upon your CPA or ROAS targets. The method is fairly straightforward.

The advantage of this method is that you usually don’t lose too much money (and hopefully make some) when the account first launches. The disadvantage is that sometimes you launch an account and the traffic is so low that you immediately have to redo all the bids. That brings us to the second bid method, ensuring that you get clicks for the brand new account.

Accumulate Lots of Clicks to See What Works

In this model, you’re  looking for the most clicks possible so you can determine what is going to work and what will not work. By having some data, you can focus your future energy working in the correct places.

So, your goal is lots of data, clicks, and traffic regardless of how it converts so you can make decisions moving forward.

This does not mean you still should not spend time creating you’ll organized ad groups – you must give the system good inputs to get good outputs and useful information.

The end goal is data first and profit a distant second for the initial bids; later on those goals can change

In this model, you can use the estimates from the AdWords Keyword Tool or from the Bing Ads Intelligence plugin to get some starting bid information and use that in the accounts as the starting bids.

What will happen as soon as you put those bids live on AdWords is that some of the keywords will automatically be ‘below first page bids’; even though that was the bid suggestion in the tool. You can then use bulk edit function to raise all the keyword bids to the first page bid.

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A note of caution, whenever using a bulk edit tool to raise all keywords to first page bids – always put in a bid cap (upper limit or CPC bid limit in Google’s interface depending on the screen you are working with) so you don’t have a few keywords at $100+ bids.

If you really just want lots of clicks; you can even go a step further and use the budget optimizer for the campaign bid setting:

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I find that budget optimizer (AdWords will set my bids to help maximize my clicks…) setting is great for publishers or for just collecting lots of clicks regardless of the quality of the click. However, as its goal is to get the most clicks possible, if you have a few broad keywords (especially if they are broad matched), those few words could get all your clicks so that your data is not evenly spread throughout the new campaigns.

In the end, with this bid method – you’re taking suggested bids from existing data sources and using them as your starting bids; so there is no guess work involved.

The advantage of this method is that you will get lots of data. The disadvantage is that you might not make any money at all; so be prepared to lose some money while you determine what the bids should be based upon your target goals.

The Hybrid Approach: Traffic & Conversions

In this method, you want to estimate conversion rates so that you are hoping to make some money from the initial launch; but you also want to use the existing data from AdWords & Bing (using their cost estimations) to ensure that you will get some traffic.

Start by estimating conversion rates and determining your starting bids. Next, you’ll need to see if those bids are close to page one bids. If they are, then you can go ahead and set the bids live. If they aren’t then you need to reassess your goals.

For instance, if you do the math and guess that you can start the bids at $1 based upon your estimated conversion rates; but the AdWords tool says almost all the clicks in the industry start at $5-$10; then you might have a problem to overcome. There are some simple questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Can you realistically raise the conversion rate?
  • Can you raise the target CPA?
  • Can you raise the average order value?
  • Do you have a business model problem?

Personally, I always go through this bid exercise even if I’m not going to use this bid method as it will point out business model issues. I’ve seen times where the target CPA isn’t possible in an industry and you need to reevaluate how you are making money, the value of a lead, your upsell opportunities, and lifetime customer values in order to be able to be competitive. It’s best to evaluate the business model and how the advertising needs to be executed before spending money.

The advantage of this method is that it will give you a realistic expectation of traffic levels and conversions. The downside is that it might scare you away from keywords that could work you’ll and it can be limiting if you don’t take a few chances with some keywords (which could be at a later date) to see if high bids and competitive keywords do work for the business.

The other downside is that this can be a lot more work prelaunch; but I’ve never thought this exercise was a waste of time. It’s good to have an overall idea of conversions and CPAs before you start.

Just Bid High, Build History, and See What Happens

Another starting bid method is to bid into high positions, ensure you build up a great history for Quality Scores and for the account, and then make adjustments after you get some really good data.

This bid method is generally used by three types of people:

  • Novices who are new to AdWords and heard bad advice
  • People who engage in ‘ego bidding’; and tend to lose a lot of money doing this
  • Skilled experts who are bidding this way for a very specific reason and have set aside a budget of money they will lose in order to establish the brand and ads in the search results

The only group that should be using this method is number 3, the skilled experts. The other two should change their starting bid method.

This method is not for small budgets nor the faint of heart. There have been accounts we purposefully set aside $25,000-$100,000 as ”play the game money” just to establish a strong history and presence. The money can often be recouped down the road through the sheer volume of clicks that occur at the top of the page.

If you have a small budget, don’t try it. If you are new to AdWords or PPC in general – don’t try it.

The reason it can be useful gets into some interesting quality score theory. There are some of us that believe that Google does not normalize CTR for quality score purposes very well when examining the top versus the side of the page. This group does believe that Google normalizes CTR for quality score by position; but that there are some issues.

For instance, among the ads in the top of the page it is normalized well among other ads in the top of the page. Among the ads on the side of the page, the CTR is normalized well for all the ads that are on the side of the page. However, when comparing top versus side ads, the normalization often gives preference to top of page ads as it underestimates CTRs that occur on the top of the page, and thus giving some of these keywords higher quality scores than they deserve. Its through top of page exposure that you end up with entire accounts that have 8-12% CTRs through ad testing and keeping most of the keywords (assuming they are profitable) at the top of the page.

Of course, this is only a theory; and one that cannot be proven or disproven without understanding Google’s actual formulas. However, it seems to be true from an outsider’s perspective.

The advantage of this bid method is that you can build up a great history so that over time, it will cost you less to maintain these top positions that can bring in a significant amount of traffic. Before you ever try this, you must  have very well segmented account and great ads – an exceptional account build is necessary to try this bid technique.

The disadvantage of this bid method is pretty obvious,it can cost a lot of money to bid this way and it will not always work. It is a gamble. However, for those skilled in the game of PPC and have the budgets to work with – it is a good way to establish a presence.

For many companies, playing a long tail or geographic strategy is a better idea than a high initial bid strategy. I add the information here in hopes that more people will realize it is not always necessary to overbid and to caution anyone before attempting to try this on their own. The majority accounts do not need to start this way; but I commonly hear the advice so I wanted to address it and put it in perspective of other initial bid types.

If you have comments on this bid method, or another columnist who wants to write an article disproving this bid method – I welcome the input and debate (I don’t claim to be right – I just claim it’s a theory that has worked for me for many accounts).

Know Where You Want To Go

One of the tricks to bidding and creating the accounts is knowing how you want your PPC account to mature. If one of your goals is to get to a point where you can try CPA bidding, then you’ll first focus on getting as many conversions as possible, establishing a conversion history, and then letting Google do the work. This means that you will start with a highly targeted narrow keyword set and try to get traffic and conversions immediately after account launch.

If you are launching a new product, and your initial focus is to drive product awareness, then often you want lots of clicks and impressions across a wide variety of keywords, and then in a few months you’ll switch to a more ROAS focused approach. This account would use a lot more modified broad match and broader keywords to attain those goals than the account focused on conversions.

In the famous words of Lewis Carroll: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.“

You need to know where you’re going, and setting initial bids is just the beginning of the journey. However,set the initial bids based upon the road that you do want to travel.

Conclusion

There are many ways to set initial bids; including ones I didn’t even mention such as the $1/$5/$10 method in which every ad group starts with a semi-competitive number just to see what happens or the ‘instinct method’ where you’ve been doing PPC for so long, you’re just good at guessing some initial bids and don’t even bother to look up any numbers before setting the first bid.

Personally, I feel the hybrid approach is the best method for most companies. It will help to ensure you can get some traffic and to see if you can hit your target CPAs with your keywords, bids, ads, and landing pages.

When you first start accounts, you usually make few adjustments in the first week to month (depending on account size) as you are accumulating data to determine bids, negative keywords, tests, etc that you need to set bids that have a chance of giving you the data necessary to work with so that later on in the account’s history you can make data-driven decisions. Picking one of these solutions should help you find a way to set initial bids so you can take your PPC account from the beginning of the journey to a place where you are making informed, data-driven decisions.

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