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Does Quality Score Transparency Just Show More AdWords Data Problems?

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

imageGoogle recently changed how they displayed the Quality Score tips inside of AdWords. The biggest change is that some of the factors will now be relative to your competition. While this is a huge, and very welcome change, it also opens Pandora’s box to show where quality score might not make much sense.

How Much Does Landing Page Matter?

First off, landing page speed is no longer being displayed. That’s not really a huge issue as I’ve never seen a problem with landing page speed. They instead rolled the landing page issues into one single ‘landing page relevance’ score.

For years, if your landing page was dinged by quality score, you were in trouble. Rarely would you ever see a quality score above 3 or 4 if you had landing page issues. That no longer seems to be the case.

Now, when I see a 10; this is what I was expecting:


But this is what I was seeing across several accounts as 10s as well:


I was floored when I saw this keyword. A below average landing page experience, and yet the quality score was a 10. It didn’t take me long to find dozens of examples where this was occurring.

The problem with relative data is that Google doesn’t tell you what fits into above or below average. For example, if average is 1, is below average 0.99 or 0.9 or 0.8. If average was a .8 to 1.2 range; then below average is meaningful. If below average is 0.99; then below average might not mean that much.

It is Mostly CTR

For a long time, landing page was more of a negative than a positive to your quality score; and it was all about CTRs. That seems to be the case. In this example, everything is average or above average; yet the QS is still a 4:


So, in example 1, the landing page was below average, but the CTR was good enough to get a 10. In this case, having an expected CTR above average, and everything else as average meant the QS was a 4. That seems quite counterintuitive; especially when you see this keyword which is also a 4:



There’s no way that both of these keywords should be a 4. The first one is all above average or average. This one is below average. This should probably be a 4; but not the first one.

‘Relevance’ Still Matters

While relevance is technically another set of CTRs, its usually best to think of this as semantics. And they matter:


The majority of quality scores I saw at a 2 had issues with relevance, not CTR.

‘Average Ads’ Can be 3s to 10s

Google has made enough claims over the years about 7s being good and 6s needing a bit of help; but what is average?




I’m seeing words from Quality Scores 3 to 8 where everything is ‘average’.

I’m seeing quality score 7 words that are all average, or 1-2 items is ‘above average’.

I’m seeing quality score 9 words that that have less above average items than quality score 5 & 6 words:


You Can’t Diagnose Paused Words



If a word is paused; the metrics will all be below average. This does lead credence to the theory (that I subscribe to) that a paused word can’t hurt you. Google isn’t collecting metrics; therefore it’s below average as there’s no data coming in. A better error message here would be a good idea instead of just ‘below average’.

So, What Can You Takeaway?

A good landing page is necessary for conversions. A bad landing page (in Google’s eyes – not the searchers) could have a negative quality score affect; or it could not.

An ad with ‘below average’ expected CTR can have a quality score of 1 to 6. I didn’t see any quality score 7 or higher words with below average expected CTR.

Ad relevancy matters. You can have a 10 with a high relevance, but average everything else. I didn’t see any higher quality score keywords with below average relevancy.

The ‘average’ benchmarks seem to be different for each of the displayed data sets. The fact that landing page can be below average and get a 10; yet relevancy and expected CTR can be average and be anywhere from a 4 to a 10 is either an error in the quality score algo; or the ‘average’ range is quite large.

In the end; while these numbers are relative; I think we need a better scale than average, above average, below average. A 1-5 range (if you want to make it semantic with bad, poor, average, good, excellent – that will also work, Google) would be much more insightful.

The quality scores I’m seeing don’t make sense in many cases (and I only spent 10 minutes looking for these examples, they aren’t the strange ones – they are the norm); and I think it’s a range issue.

So, kudos to Google for showing some relative data; however, my hope is that Google goes much further with the ranges. The new quality score transparency is not that useful and will raise more questions that it answers.

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by brad

How Google’s New Match Types Can Actually Help You

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

Google recently announced that in May they will be adding certain queries to your current phrase and exact match keywords labeled "near phrase" and [near exact]. A lot of debate and frankly hysteria has ensued about what this will mean for advertisers. While each case is different, here’s a specific scenario in which Google’s new match types can actually help you and your account:

Broad Match Reduction

Advertisers have long struggled with the limitations of phrase and exact match vs. the unpredictability of broad match. While exact match is always the advertiser’s goal match type, broad match was a necessary evil, fishing for keywords that weren’t known to us yet but that could be potential gold mines. Along the way, though, a lot of money was wasted on trying to find these hidden gems. Modified broad match came along and has been able to take away some of the power of old broad match.

And now, by taking queries that are closely related to our phrase and exact match keywords out of the broad match realm, we can reduce the budget for broad match and re-invest it.

Currently, your account might look like this:

Match Type




Conversion Rate



$ 1,000.00


$ 2.00




$ 1,000.00


$ 3.00




$ 1,000.00


$ 4.00



Re-Invest in Exact Match

So then, if your account is structured in a way that you’re bidding most for exact match, second most for phrase and least for broad, then these new match types can really help you. By re-routing these near phrase and near exact queries to actual phrase and actual exact match types, an advertiser will be able to utilize a higher bid and attain traffic for possibly better converting keywords than if they showed up under broad match. Think about it this way: prior to the change, if you bid $2 on broad, $3 on phrase and $4 on exact, the $2 bid would be used for the near match type queries. Now those queries would fall under either a $3 or $4 bid giving you an opportunity for a higher ad position and more impression share.

Again this could lead to a reduction in your broad match strategy and expansion into your exact match, which is what you really want!

Here is what your account could look like when moving budget away from broad match:

Match Type




Conversion Rate



$ 500.00


$ 2.00




$ 1,000.00


$ 3.00




$ 1,500.00


$ 4.00



The same $3000 budget garnered 7 more conversions by investing more into exact match!

Tying It All Together

It is very possible that you have accounts where showing your ad for a simple misspell or plural version of a keyword could be very detrimental. In my experience, however, misspellings most often convert pretty well especially if it is a brand term. And if a plural or singular version could hurt you that much you could always negative match it out. The rest of the additions, including stemmings, accents and abbreviations, I would want to test anyway.

That aside, imagine your account with a lot less reliance on broad match and a ton more emphasis on phrase and exact match due to these changes. Bidding would be a lot more straightforward. Ad to keyword relevance would be a lot easier to attain which equals higher initial Quality Score and should lead to a higher CTR and a secondary bump in QS. This causes a rise in Ad Position and reduction in CPC’s. Profits should then increase as well as number of conversions. Just imagine!

This is a guest post by John Ucciferri, Search Engine Marketing Manager at The CollegeBound Network. John has worked in the PPC industry for over 7 years, specializing in lead generation in the education space. You can follow him on Twitter @johnucciferri.

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.
Related Entries: Google launches near match, should you use it?

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by brad

Working with an overall CPA target: how to calculate your non-branded target

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

This is a guest post by Wijnand Meijer, a Paid Search Strategist at Netsociety, an online media agency based in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Brussels (Belgium). 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.


If you’re managing an account with an overall CPA target and you’re also advertising on brand terms you’ll probably see two types of keywords in your account: brand terms with very low CPA’s (and CPC’s) and non-brand keywords with much higher CPA’s (often 10 to 20 times higher). Both CPA’s are usually not even close to the overall target, nor will they be for most keywords, even if you tried.

However, your boss or client is still mostly interested in the overall target. So if you consider your branded conversions as a given, what should the target CPA be for the non-branded keywords?

Let’s start by saying that this is not an ideal situation. Far from it. George Michie even calls it ‘the cardinal sin of paid search’ and gives 4 good reasons not to mix brand with non-brand results in his excellent article. Please tell your boss or client about these 4 reasons and hopefully you can switch to working with a non-branded target. That would be in everyone’s best interest.

Working with a non-branded target would indeed mean you’ll no longer get credits for the branded conversions. But neither will you be blamed if they drop.

If you think your non-branded campaigns often assist branded conversions, you might be right, but I’d say the burden of proof is on you. Analyze Multi-Channel Funnels in Google Analytics, Search Funnels in AdWords or even request a Campaign Insights report at Google if you’ve been very active on the Google Display Network. Then take credit for the additional branded conversions you find in these reports. Those would be the ones that are preceded by a non-branded click with the subtraction of the conversions that started with a branded click and ended with a non-branded click (this also happens).

So let’s hope this article will become obsolete sooner rather than later. In the meantime, if the overall target is the situation you have to work with, I’d like to show you how to create your non-branded target based on existing conversion data in your account. This will help you evaluate the performance of your non-branded keywords and give you a more realistic target for them.

Especially if branded conversions are significant in your account (or maybe even make up the majority of the conversions) the overall target will not be suitable for your non-branded keywords, so you’ll need a target that will work together with your branded conversions to reach the overall target.

I’ll use Google AdWords in the examples below, but if you get your conversion data from another source, the calculation works just as well, as long as you’re able to distinct brand from non-brand terms. Calculating your non-branded target works best with mature and stable accounts, but if your account isn’t, you’ll just have to recalculate more often to make sure the calculation holds true.

I will provide you with the steps to calculate your non-branded target for both of the following situations:

  1. You have clearly labeled and completely separated your branded campaigns from the other campaigns, and added your brand terms (including misspellings) as negatives to all the other campaigns (for the past year).
  2. You’re not 100% sure all branded search queries were only triggered by branded campaigns (for the past year).

1. The steps for the first (and ideal) situation in which you have completely separated branded from non-branded are as following:

  1. Log in to your AdWords account and select the past 12 months as the date range:
    The reason for choosing a full year is to prevent a possible seasonal bias when choosing a shorter period. If your account is running for less than a year, select ‘All time’ in the date range field.
  2. I assume all your branded campaigns contain the word ‘brand’ or another common and unique combination of letters you can filter on. Search for this in the search field:
  3. Now scroll to the bottom of the page, you will find the aggregate statistics for your brand campaigns in the yellow row:
  4. From the image above, we just need 3 metrics (highlighted in red): the number of branded conversions, the number of total conversions and the branded CPA.
  5. Now divide the number of branded conversions by the total conversions, in the example above that would be 23,886 / 34,488 = 69%
  6. Now let’s say our overall target CPA is $40. Given the metrics above, what should be our target for the non-branded keywords?
  7. If our target CPA is $40, then 100 conversions can cost us $4,000. Now we know that out of every 100 conversions, we get 69 conversions for $2.19 apiece. So we get 69 conversions for $151.
    That leaves us with $4,000 – $151 = $3,849 to spend for the remaining 31 non-branded conversions. Therefore their target CPA would be $3,849 / 31 = $124
  8. To make it easier for you, just fill in your overall target CPA, your amount of branded conversions and their CPA and the total number of conversions and this Excel file  will calculate your non-branded target.

2. The steps for the second situation in which you’re not 100% sure to have completely separated branded from non-branded take a bit more time, but at least you will be sure to get the right numbers by separating on the search query level:

  1. Go to the Dimensions tab of your account and select the past 12 months as the date range
  2. Select ‘Search terms’ in the view menu.
  3. Customize the columns and only select Clicks, Conversions and Cost. Remove all the other columns.
  4. Create a filter to show only search terms with at least 1 click:
  5. Download this report and open it with Excel (if it gets too big, use a higher number of clicks in the filter).
  6. Delete the first and last row of this report (title and totals)
  7. Name column E (the first empty column) ‘Keyword Type’
  8. Set a filter on the first row
  9. Apply a filter on the first column (Search term) to contain your brand name
  10. Fill in ‘Branded’ in the new Keyword Type column for all these keywords (make sure they all really are branded)
  11. Remove the filter from the Search term column
  12. Select the empty cells from the Keyword Type column
  13. Now you should see all your non branded queries.
  14. Now fill in ‘Non-branded’ in the Keyword Type column for these queries.
  15. If all went well, all your queries are now labeled as branded or non-branded.
  16. Create a Pivot Table based on this data. If you need to learn (more) about Pivot Tables for PPC analysis I can highly recommend reading Master Pivot Tables by Josh Dreller.
  17. In this Pivot Table use Keyword Type as Row Label and the sum of conversions as Values.
  18. Create a Calculated Field called CPA that divides Cost by Conversions
    and add this to the Values field
  19. Create a Calculated Field called Conv. Rate that divides Conversions by Clicks.
    and add this to the Values field
  20. Now you should have an Excel file similar to this one.
    Now you have all the data you need to calculate your non-branded target. Just fill in the numbers in this Excel file and it will calculate it for you.
  21. In the Pivot Table you’ve also calculated your branded and non-branded conversion rate. Though you don’t need these metrics for your non-branded target, they’re quite useful to know for the following reasons:
    • When you add a new non-branded keyword, you can use the average non-branded conversion rate as a benchmark for when to expect the first conversion. If your non-branded conversion rate is 1%, your non-branded keywords need 100 clicks to convert (on average). So you can optimize accordingly.
    • By regularly comparing your branded and non-branded conversion rates you can look for interesting trends in these metrics, for example: if one rises, does the other rise with the same relative amount? If not, why not?

It goes without saying that your calculated non-branded target holds true as long as the proportion of branded conversions and its CPA does not change in your account. But it probably will, so it would be wise to recalculate it regularly (at least once every 3 months I would say).

And if you’re not sure your current CPA (non-branded or overall) is realistic and want to reevaluate it, this guideline explains how a target CPA can be calculated. If you just want to estimate your CPA based on metrics like CPC and Conversion Rate, you can use this calculator.

I hope this guide is helpful for all of you working with an overall CPA target. I also hope this will be a temporary situation for you ;-)

This is a guest post by Wijnand Meijer, a Paid Search Strategist at iProspect|Netsociety, an online media agency based in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Brussels (Belgium). 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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by brad

Google Launches Near Match – Should You Use It?

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

Near Match a Miss?

Google just announced they are taking near match out of beta and rolling it out to everyone.

What this does is match you to close variations of search queries. It’s pretty similar to modified broad match, only it works for phrase and exact match.

What Near Match Does

For instance, if you are advertising on the keyword: “buy plasma TV”; you will NOT show for these queries:

  • buying plasma TV (stemming)
  • buy plasma TVs (plural)
  • buy plasa TV (misspelling)

With the near match options, you will show for those keywords.

Dartboard Image credit: Velo Steve

Google Does It Again – Auto Opts You In – You Have to Opt Out

I really don’t like when Google does this – they opt you into something instead of leaving existing campaigns alone. I logged into an account today and all the campaigns were changed to the new match type by default.

So, if you don’t want to use it, you need to go through every campaign and disable it. It’s not in the AdWords editor yet, so you have to do this campaign by campaign. You do have until mid-May (supposedly) to change this.

To change the settings; just go to the campaign settings, and near the bottom of the page you’ll see the Exact and phrase matching options:


From there you can turn it off (or enable it if you turned it off earlier).

Update:  Various readers are seeing a large variety of things going on in their accounts. Some are seeing that all campaigns were opted in, and now only half are opted in. Others are seeing that they are completely opted in, yet others are changing the setting only to have it changed again after a couple hours (without them doing anything).

It seems that Google should not have launched a setting that wasn’t in use this far in advance of it going live. It’s only making people more confused and annoyed.

Will Exact Match Trump Near Exact Match?

I’ve talked to several people at Google about the near match ad rank issues to see what will trump what. I don’t have a clear answer. This is what I hear:

  • Google always uses the most precise matching option, so if you have the exact match version of the word and the near exact match version of the word; then the exact match will be displayed
    • This isn’t true to begin with (always uses most precise match); so the extrapolated answer seems incorrect; but it could be correct
  • Ad Rank is max CPC x QS. Since QS will be the same, then if your near exact match bid keyword is much higher than the exact match version of the word, then the near exact match will show and not the exact match
    • I’m guessing this is correct; and it could mess up stats.

How Stats Can Become Corrupted

Let’s say you have these two words:

  • [Restaurant waiter clog]
  • [Restaurant waiter clogs]

There are usually less ads on the ‘clog’ version of this keyword, and the CPC is generally lower than the ‘clogs’ version. However, it also has a lower conversion rate. Therefore, you bid the ‘clog’ version down a little bit, but as there are so few ads, it doesn’t matter.

Now, with everyone being opted in by default into this option, the ‘clog’ version is going to get a lot more competitive; so the CPCs will go up. As the ‘clog’ version has a lower conversion rate, you just accept the fact that you’ll get fewer conversions from this word and bid the word based upon ROAS.

However, the bid is so low for the ‘clog’ version that when someone searches for ‘restaurant waiter clog’ Google no longer triggers the exact match version; they trigger the ‘clogs’ version as it is a ‘near exact match’.

Now, the search query report should show that the ‘clog’ version received the click; but you can’t bid on a search query. You have to add it as a match type first. But, this keyword is already a match type with a lower CPC. So, you’ve now lost ad serving control.

How Often Do “Near Exacts” Have Different Conversion Rates?

That really depends (yeah, I hate the answer too).

I’ve dealt with accounts where the singular and plural versions sold different products, or used different pages.

I’ve dealt with accounts where everything similar behaves the exact same way.

Only you can find out this data for yourself. Take a look through the search query report and see if there are any commonalities amount singular words, plural words, misspellings, and stemmings.

It’s the stemmings I’m more concerned with that the plurals or misspellings.

What will this be matched to (note: phrase match): “Cleveland Driver”

  • Cleveland driver (brand of golf club)
  • Cleveland drive (the 1987 John Elway Game ‘The Drive’) or a street name
  • Cleveland driving school
  • Cleveland drivers license (drivers vs driver is a huge difference here)

And I’m sure there are much better examples that will come to those who have had more coffee than myself.

Can You Test It?

You can test almost anything; but this will be really hard to test. Cross campaign ACE (AdWords campaign experiments) would be really useful. That is among my top 5 wish list items for AdWords.

From a conceptual standpoint, there seem to be two ways to test it.

Exact Match Positive & Negative Keywords

Sometimes, Google won’t show you when you have the same word as a positive and negative in the same ad group or campaign – so this might not work.

  • Copy/paste your exact match keywords to a new campaign
  • Copy/paste those same keywords as negative exact match keywords
  • Enable the setting
  • See if you get traffic (uncertain if you will)

Since the new campaign’s keywords say show me for this, but don’t show me for the exact same item – then only if it’s a near match should the keyword be displayed.

In the old campaign, leave the ‘near match’ setting off so that it will capture the true exact match data.

Collect some info and compare the two campaigns.

Duplicate Campaigns w/ Lower Bids

This method is how you use to control search partners:

  • Duplicate the campaign
  • Change the setting to ‘near match’
  • Lower the bids by 10%-20%
  • Collect the data
  • Examine the results

Now, this method is not as good as the other one. As the bids are lower, you will receive fewer clicks. And as you’re not controlling the info with negatives, you’ll get some corrupted data. However, it’s much faster than trying to match up all the negatives.

Should You Use It?

I have very mixed feelings about near match.

I work with some accounts that have loaded up on so many exact match and phrase match variations of words for their auto-bidding system; that the setting really isn’t that useful. In this case test it or leave it off.

I work with some accounts that have loaded up on exacts and phrases when it seemed useful, but they don’t spent enough time really controlling all of the display and they prefer to let the bidding system handle it. In this case, test out the setting to see how it performs.

In some accounts modified broad match is doing great, and when there’s a lot of traffic they also add the keyword as an exact match. For these accounts, it might be more useful to let the modified broad catch the ‘near match’ impressions and then use search queries, negatives, and true exacts to manage the bids – when there is a lot of traffic.

I think that might be the difference, the above management method is great for medium to large accounts. It is very difficult for accounts with little traffic.

So… are you a control freak? Then leave it off or split it out into another campaign.

Do you want the most exposure for the least amount of work, or do you have a small data set? If so, turn it on.

Are you in the medical jargon industry where misspellings outnumber correct ones? If so, turn it on.

Time vs Control

With these new betas, such as Display Campaign Optimizer, it comes down to control vs time. If you want lots of control, then it’ll take you longer, but you have control.

If you don’t want a lot of control, or have very little time, turn them on, benchmark how they do, and then decide to keep or turn off the setting.

As Google tries to make AdWords more appealing to the masses who don’t have lots of time, or sophistication; expect to see even more features that offer time saving methods, but at the cost of losing some control.

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by brad

Change to Quality Score Factors

11:46 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

The overall Quality Score Factors haven’t changed in several years. Some of the weightings and algos have changed; but Google’s page about QS has remained relatively static.

There was one change in October of last year that pertained to landing pages and how they would receive ‘more’ weight; where ‘more’ is very undefined. Overall, most companies did not see a difference when this factor was changed.

I noticed that recently there is another change, and that is:

Your keyword/search relevance: How relevant your keyword is to what a customer searches for
Source: AdWords Help

This is an interesting change as it shows that if your keyword isn’t related to what they are searching for; then your QS can be lower. But, if your keyword was triggered – isn’t the searcher looking for something pertaining to your keyword?

This seems like a catch-22 and something is amiss.

Is this a match type problem?

On the surface, it might seem that this is a strike against broad match as in that case, you can often show for something totally unrelated to your keyword. However, Quality Score is only calculated when the query matches your keyword regardless of match type. So, that can’t be the issue.

Isn’t this against the point of search marketing?

Now, this new factor doesn’t care about the landing page or ad copy, just how related ‘what someone is looking for’ is to your keyword.

Isn’t the point of search marketing that the keyword is always related to the query?

To answer this question, we might have to think a bit more about keyword intents.

Search Query Intent

When you have a keyword such as:

  • Nike tennis shoes
  • Caribbean vacation packages
  • Chicago accountant

Then the query is quite obvious; but what about these words:

  • TV
  • Radio
  • Lawyer

In those cases, you could be looking for TV repair, TV guides, Plasma TV, family planning lawyer, how to become a lawyer, Pandora, Spotify, or any number of items.

In this case, your keyword will rarely be related to the query.

Device Types Change Intent

If you search for ‘movies’ on a mobile phone; you usually want near by theatres and movie times.

If you search for ‘movies’ on a computer, you could be looking for online movies, movie reviews, or any number of various items.

This factor could help Google better understand how to serve ads by geography or device types.

Search or Display

Google doesn’t do nearly as good of job at breaking down Quality Score factors between search and display as they use to. It might be that this is only used on display and is part of the new display initiative to show you keyword level stats for display. In that case, it could be a way for them to start showing quality score information for display (which they don’t right now).

Displayed or Used Quality Score

You see the Quality Score in your account as its rolled up across all of the factors to a keyword. You don’t see the real time Quality Score. For instance, if you are advertising for ‘TV Repair’ you could have a QS of 7. However, if the query is ‘Chicago TV repair’ your QS might be 8; and when the query is ‘Fix my TV Set’ your QS might be a 3.

If this goes to the real time QS; then it makes a lot of sense. If it goes to the displayed QS; then there must be some bad matching or keyword selection happening that forced Google to add this change.


I didn’t see this change until today when I was examining some feed information. However, this change was made about a month ago.  In fact, it was made right around when the new display changes were taking place. That could be coincidence; but something to keep in mind if you saw some odd changes to display.

Yet, Google didn’t mention anything about the change. There was no mention by reps, agency newsletters, or even blog posts about this change. I did reach out to some reps, so I’ll see what they have to say about this change. If anyone else has any info – please leave a comment.

Regardless of the change – it isn’t earth shattering. It might cause lower quality scores on ambiguous keywords, or on words that normally have a different intent by device type or geography; but as a month has gone by and no one has seen anything crazy; the effect can’t be too drastic.

However, when you start working on Quality Scores and are wondering why certain words might have lower or higher scores than other keywords regardless of the CTR – this is a factor to now keep in mind.

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by brad

Display Campaign Optimizer: Some Recommendations from a Beta User

8:00 am in Contextual Advertising, Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog, PPC News by brad

Google just announced that the Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO) is open for everyone. Before you start jus using it, I wanted to give some feedback on how its worked for a few accounts as I’ve been using this feature for more than a year.

Please note, these are large accounts that participated in the beta. Some of them have spent more than $40 million on DCO all time with monthly budgets of a few million just for DCO. Other campaigns have spent somewhere in the $5-$10 million range.  I think the smallest campaign was spending around $10,000/month on DCO. So, there was a lot of data available.

First, you should know how successful display campaigns are run, and then we’ll look at the differences of how DCO works.

Successful Display Campaigns

Most successful display campaigns use a few steps in optimizing their overall performance:

  1. Choose a handful of keywords by ad group
  2. Let the ad groups collect data
  3. Examine the placement data
    1. If a site does not meet your goals – block it
    2. If a site meets you goals – make it a management placement (often in a new campaign)


As your goal is to find sites that meet your target CPAs, and you’re constantly playing with ads, bids, and exclusions and that can be quite time consuming.

Note: Another way to manage display is to just use managed placements, which is usually best for small budgets.

The main question is: can DCO take out some of this work? Let look at how DCO has worked.

How Display Campaign Optimizer Works

With DCO, you only write ads in the campaigns and set a CPA. You do not choose keywords, placements, topics, interests, or other targeting options.

Based upon your ads and landing pages – Google does all the work.

So, what you lose is control. What you gain is time.

The Big Change to DCO: Minimum Conversions

During the beta, you needed at least 150 conversions a month to be eligible for DCO. Google just opened it to everyone as they lowered this threshold to 15.

This is similar to CPA bidding. When it launched you needed 60 conversions/month. Then it was lowered to 30, and finally 15. While CPA bidding is wonderful if you have 60-100 or more conversions each month in your campaign, it does not work well if you have 15 conversions and 10,000 keywords. There just aren’t enough data points for Google to optimize.

Because you set a CPA, you must be using the Conversion Optimizer bid system with target CPAs enabled.

Should You use DCO?

If you have a large budget and are willing to try DCO out with a budget of at least $5,000/month AND you have found some success on the display network; then please give it a try – you’ll probably see some good results.

If you can spend at least $10,000-$100,000/month on a DCO campaign and have had some success on display – then definitely try it.

If you have a budget that is only going to receive 15-50 conversions a month on the display network, you can either:

  • Proceed with a lot of caution as it really might not work
  • Use DoubleClick adPlanner to find managed placements and maintain lots of control

You are giving up control. So if you have a well organized display campaign that is working well and you don’t have ‘new budget’ to add to DCO – meaning you’ll be moving existing budget – then proceed with caution as you’re pulling budget away from effective advertising.

I’ve found more success with DCO when you give it a new budget and then as it works, you can transition budgets from existing display campaigns that are working marginally to the DCO campaigns.

How to Enable Display Campaign Optimizer

Enabling DCO is easy. Navigate to the campaign settings and then at the bottom of the page, change the targeting options as seen in this screenshot.


The Confusing Part – You Can’t have Keywords, Placements, or other Targeting Options so How Do You Get to 15 Conversions?

In the beta test you needed a rep to enable this for you. So, you or your rep made the campaigns, you added your CPAs, budgets, and ads and then the system went to work.

You could not have keywords, placements, topics, interests, or other targeting options enabled.

Now, in the new system you must have at least 15 conversions – which means you must start with placements, keywords, topics or some targeting option that will get you enough conversions so you can enable CPA bidding and DCO.

So, it would seem that once you meet the threshold you have to delete all your targeting options for it to work or pause your old ad groups with targeting options, make new ones, and then let it go to work.

This step seems very odd at the moment. I reached out to Google to see how this is going to work. If anyone knows, please leave details in the comments.

In the beta, you really needed to give the tool a couple weeks to collect data and really get going. Sometimes it worked immediately, other times it took a while. Most of those reasons were based upon Google collecting enough data to show your ads. As the new system requires a campaign that already has conversion data, the wait period for success or failure determination could be much lower.

Overall Success

So far, I have put several accounts into the beta. In almost all cases (there was one exception) DCO did a great job of finding new conversions and acceptable CPAs.

It did fail for one account; but I have a feeling that part of that issue was it was a product with a landing page that didn’t have lots of text data on it (it was images and video) and DCO mostly had the ad copy to work from for targeting purposes.

As DCO uses only ad text and landing page data to serve your ads, landing pages with at least a few paragraphs of descriptive text seem to do a little bit better overall – at least to start. Once the system gets going, it has enough historical ad serving data that the landing page info matters a bit less.

The landing page importance of DCO for small to mid sized budgets that won’t have lots of conversion data might (again, I don’t know as there haven’t been small accounts in DCO yet) really come into play for proper ad serving. In other words, if DCO isn’t working and your landing page doesn’t have much text, changing the text of your landing page might help DCO serve your ads better.


If you have additional budget that you aren’t spending and have found success on display – definitely try it out.

If you have had marginal success on display and a healthy budget, then put some budget into DCO to see if it outperforms what you have been doing.

If you have a small to mid-sized account and are an experimenter – try it out – it could be really good (or not).

If you have a small to mid-sized account and prefer to let others fail or succeed first so you can make a highly informed decision about trying it out – then wait until some more results from these types of accounts are published.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed it – but I have been working with large accounts with lots of data. If DCO works for small to mid-sized accounts, then the display network just got a whole lot more attractive.

Additional Resources

Google video on Display Campaign Optimizer:


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by Chris

Ad Rank: What Everyone Ought To Know About The Jungle In Adwords

9:00 am in Google AdWords by Chris

This is a guest post by Chris Thunder who likes to think of himself as an Alpha Advertiser in the AdWords jungle. He can help you become one too. Visit, the Adwords Quality Score Tool he uses for cheaper traffic, follow him on twitter to be updated when he’s got some good stuff to share or read more of his concepts on the tenscores blog.
Elegant elephant representing alpha adwords advertiser

Alpha males have the highest Rank. Alpha advertisers have the highest Ad Rank.

Ever heard of the alpha male?

It’s a term used to describe the dominant male among  animals that live in groups. Usually the alpha male has special privileges like eating first, drinking first, being the first to mate or even the ONLY  one to mate.

Wikipedia refers the alpha male as being the animal with the highest  RANK.

What does this have to do with AdWords?

Well, remember how Google ranks ads on search results… Using a mesure called Ad Rank.

Ads with high Ad Rank take high positions while ads with lower Ad rank sink at the bottom.

But that’s just half the story and like social animals, Alpha Advertisers (advertisers with ads of high Ad Rank) get benefits that their competitors don’t. If you can increase your Ad Rank, Google will be generous in terms of traffic, position and cost.

Ad Rank Formula

You can do it.

The formula is very simple…

Ad Rank = MaxCPC  x Quality Score

… and very important to understand.

Anytime you change your bid (maxCPC), Ad Rank goes up or down. Every time your Quality Score (QS) changes, Ad Rank goes up or down.  Every time Ad Rank goes up or down, your ads get preferential treatment… or not.

Where To Find Your Ad Rank

Where to find ad rank


Well, you can’t find it. We know that Ad Rank exists but there’s no place in adwords where you can see exactly what ad rank each of your ad is receiving. However, it is possible for you to find out exactly what you’re missing out with a low Ad Rank using the Impression Share metric.

Impression Share is the percentage of the times your ads where shown out of the times they were eligible to be shown.  By customizing the columns in your Adwords account, at the campaign level, you can see how much impression share your ads have lost due to a lower Ad Rank. That’s one way to tell if you have great Ad Rank or not.

How To Get Higher Ad Rank And Dominate The Jungle

In order to have high Ad Rank, you need the ability to bid high and get high Quality Scores. It’s important to have both and it can be a challenge to obtain them. Although you can work your way up with high QS, it will be much easier and more profitable if you can afford bidding high as well.  Let’s get into more details…

Jungle Rule 1: Earn The Ability To Bid Higher


It’s all about your conversion rate. Every time you increase your conversion rate, you increase your ability to bid high. In fact, you should figure out the bid that yields maximum profitability for your business (yes, there is one) with every conversion rate you achieve.

How to have better conversion rates?

The offer. The copy. The design.

Those are my personal ingredients to high conversions…  in that order.

The offer is by far the most important component and it impacts everything else you do. To have the best offer, you need to know what your potential customers actually want. This is important and most people assume they know and fail to take the extra effort to “really” find out. If you’re interested in having a method to discovering what customers want, I always recommend The Perfection Of Marketing by James Connor, a book that I think every business owner/marketer should own.

Once you know what your prospects want, you need to know how to convey it with powerful copywriting. Spend time crafting a message that resonates  with your target market  in simple words.

Then comes the design. Crappy won’t do it (most of the times). Though some great copy writers can pull it off with crappy web design, you should leverage every tool at your disposal. A clear, clean and simple design wins. And by the way, simple and clear is usually better than beautiful.

Jungle Rule 2: Get The Highest Quality Scores


Ah, that little number we love to hate loving over at Are you still wondering how to increase Quality Score? Can’t blame you. There seem to be a conspiracy around the web to put people on the wrong track at every turn.

I wonder who started it…

Here’s the ONLY  thing you need to know about QS and it’s not complicated:

If you have low QS… unless the diagnostic bubble tells you otherwise, Quality Score  EQUALS click-through rates. Nothing else.

Let me explain.

The diagnostic bubble is that little place besides keywords that give you some indication about why you have low scores. Take a look at the screenshot on the lower right.

adwords diagnostic tool

Adwords diagnostic tool

The “keyword relevance” part is key. What they really mean is keyword click-through-rate (CTR). So, unless that bubble tells you of landing page problems or load time problems, all you have to focus on is CTR. That’s it. The tricky part is, the CTR is not necessarily yours, it is sometimes other advertiser’s CTR. But even that is no big deal if you focus on increasing your own CTRs continuously (without sacrificing conversion rates of course).

So unless things change, as of today, November 2011, there’s no such thing as semantic relevance in calculations of quality score. And if there is any at all, it is small enough to simply dismiss it. Since the day I stopped worrying whether my landing page was relelvant or wether my ad had keywords in it and simply sharpened my ad-writing skills for higher CTRs, quality score has become the least of my challenges. All that Google cares about in regards to QS is CTR. Thanks to Craig Danuloff for confirming this in his book on quality: Quality Score  In High Resolution.  Anyone who wishes to disagree should read that book in its entirety first.

So please, will you give more attention to your Adwords ads CTR?! I beg you, for the sake of your business.

And here’s where the circle is closed: the best  way to get higher CTR is to figure out what searchers want and give it to them. Just like increasing conversions.

Once you can afford bidding high because your conversion rates and profit margins are so good and you understand quality score well enough to increase it, the snow ball starts to roll, your ads get more exposure, you get more traffic to your website, your costs are reduced and you become an Alpha Advertiser.

Don’t wait any longer… rule your jungle!

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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by brad

Attend the Top 11 AdWords Mistakes Webinar Next Tuesday

1:29 pm in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Updated: Doh! It’s on Tuesday, 9/13/11

Next Wednesday, 9/14/11, I will be conducting a free webinar on the top 11 AdWords Mistakes as part of my Market Motive PPC class.

What I find top mistakes lists are useful for are learning what you don’t know so that you can focus on the areas where you can improve your PPC campaigns.

I often talk to advanced marketers who are unaware of modified broad match or aren’t using the display network properly. The webinar will be geared to all experience levels.

This workshop will cover the top 11 mistakes in about half an hour; and then we’ll leave plenty of time open for Q&A afterwards.

You can register for the webinar here.

I hope to see you there.

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by brad

The One Minute AdWords Account Diagnosis

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

Every PPC account wants to know how to increase their exposure, especially if they feel there aren’t new keywords they wish to add.

There is a simple way to determine how to increase an account’s exposure that can be accomplished in less than a minute.

Generally, when looking to increase your exposure you need to know why your exposure is being limited. There are three common reasons why your ads are not being displayed:

  • Budget
  • Quality score
  • Bid prices

In this article, we will look at how to determine what is limiting your exposure, and show how you can do this analysis in less than one minute.  In this analysis, we will assume you have expanded your keywords a few times and that you do not wish to add new keywords.

Impression Share Report

Start by running an impression share report. This is a report that can be run at the campaign level and shows you why you’re ads are not being displayed. If you need help running reports or finding all the features, please see this video that walks you through creating reports.


You will now have a view of why your account is not being displayed, through either budget or rank.

Budget Loss

In this first case (above image), the biggest reason that impressions are being lost is because of the budget.

When you lose impressions due to budget, then raising your budget can help get you more clicks that should have the same quality as your current clicks. When you see that you’re losing clicks due to budget you should be careful. If you cannot raise the budget, then you are probably overpaying for each click.

For example,, if your budget is $100 per day and you are paying $1 per click, then you usually receive 100 clicks per day. If you could lower your CPC to $0.80 and still spend all of your budget then you should get 125 clicks. That’s a nice increase in traffic without doing too much work.

Eventually, lowering your CPCs will put your ad in too low of a position to get enough clicks to fulfill the budget. When that happens, then you need to find other avenues to receive more traffic.

Rank Loss

The other main reason you lose impressions is due to rank. When you lose an impression due to rank, it means that your ad rank was not high enough to be displayed on a page.



Ad rank is comprised of both quality score and bid. Therefore, when you see impressions are lost due to rank, you need to examine the quality scores. There is a simple way to view the quality scores across the account:

  • Run a report that contains spend, quality score, keywords, etc
  • Download the report to a spreadsheet program
  • Create a pivot table that keys off quality score numbers
    • If you need help with pivot tables, please see Josh Dreller’s excellent column on pivot tables.




I added the “percent of keywords by QS” column myself by just dividing the number of keywords in each QS range by the total number of search keywords in the account.

In this case, the vast majority of the keywords are a 5 or lower quality score. Therefore, many of these keywords are not being displayed due to low quality score or low ad rank that is caused due to low quality scores.

You can now be confident that this account needs to increase its quality score to be able to efficiently increase its exposure.

There will be times when most of your keywords have excellent quality scores:


In this case, there is some quality score work that can be done but as the majority of their keywords are a quality score 7 or higher; the main reason the account is lowing impressions is due to bids.

You can now be confident that this account needs to increase its bids to be able to efficiently increase its exposure.

There are many reasons your average position can be less than 3 and you still lose impressions due to ad rank. The two most common are:

  • No ads were shown on the page
  • Only a limited number of ads were displayed on the page, and you were below that

Usually when your impression share is above 90% – 95%, you are in great shape and you need to find new keywords before you can drive more traffic.


When you want to see account data at a very high level, the impression share report is a fantastic starting place.

It is common for accounts to see increases and decreases in overall traffic due to the natural changes in search patterns. Therefore, looking at overall traffic can sometimes give you an inaccurate picture of your search share. As the impression share report is a relative number, and not absolute, it is a good place to examine your account for changes to trends in your search share.

When examining how to increase your exposure, it comes down to: budget, bids, and/or quality score. What is your weak link? To increase your overall exposure, one (or more) of these items needs to grow larger.

This simple one minute analysis can quickly give you a starting place to determine where you should focus your time.

Avatar of Chris

by Chris

An Endless Supply Of Adwords Ads For Your Split-Test Experiments

8:30 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by Chris

I created the diagram below about a year ago. I use it every time I have writer’s block and completely out of ad writing ideas or when I need to brainstorm new ad texts quickly. It comes in very handy especially with content network ads since I can test as many of them as I want at the same time without fearing any repercussions on my quality scores.

Using it is quite straight forward. When you have figured out the main benefit that resonates with your customers, you navigate through the diagram brainstorming new ways to express the same idea – supplying you with an almost endless repository of test ads.

An example would be most suitable to help you fully understand how it works. Let’s say I had a business that sold a tool to help Adwords advertisers lower their adwords costs, here’s how I’d use the diagram to brainstorm new adwords ads to test…

I. Two Different Ways To Express The Same Benefit

We are always trying to go towards something or away from something. Every benefit you find can be written in the form of going towards a solution (gain) or going away from a situation (pain)., for example, sells the benefit of lower Adwords costs. That can be thought of as getting lower costs or going away from high advertising costs. And here’s how that would translate in 2 different ads:

Adwords Ads: Pain vs Gain

Going towards a gain or away from a pain

Notice how each variation can be said differently with synonyms. For instance lower costs can be called cheaper traffic and too expensive can be replaced by too pricey (or anything similar) thus creating new ad variations to test. Some words are far more powerful than others, up to you to find them through testing. But we’re just scratching the surface.

II. Compounding It With 7+ Different Ad Themes

Once you’ve decided in which direction you want to phrase your ad (going towards a gain vs going away from a pain), you can put a twist on them by putting the spotlight on what you offer instead of what the searcher gets.

Ad spotlights

Focus on you vs focus on searcher

In doing so you can then choose where to fall among 5 ad themes that have proven to be effective:

Informational Ad

Informational Ads
Searchers are looking for information – most of the time. Give them information that will lead them to buying your products or services. This theme is for ads that promise to teach about something.

Adwords Ad With Numbers

Ad with numbers

Ads With Numbers
People are conscious about details. Numbers that convey specific details about the benefits you can provide can turn clicks and conversions in your favor.

Curiosity ad

Ads That Peek Curiosity
Can you present your product in an unusual way? Is there something uncommon about your product? Even if there isn’t, you can find something that peeks curiosity and makes people want to learn more…

As you can see, these themes can also (actually they should) be mixed together to create multiple variations of ads to test and always keep improving performance.

More curiosity

Talking about curiosity, here’s one you may have seen everywhere on the web, I didn’t come up with it but I have used variations of it and it works impressively well in the weight loss niche.

Testimonial ad

Testimonial Ads
Trust is a major factor in the decision making process. Knowing that someone else has tried what you have to offer and got results helps customers trust that what you have works. It also puts a human being’s voice in the conversation rather than the formal tone of a company.

Review ad

Review ad

Review Ads
Review ads are almost like testimonials, only they invite users to read other users (or influential individuals) testimonials on the landing page. These might be easily mixed with the other types.

Ad with credentials

Ads With Awards & Credentials
Third party endorsements are very powerful especially at the end of the buying funnel where it matters most for the consumer. So are credentials in certain fields.

Of course, the themes suggest that you have a landing page that offers what you’re promising. I personally often test different themes even before creating a specific landing page for it. It allows me to find the message that resonates most with searchers and I use that information later on to create better landing pages. It saves me a lot of time.

Do you have other themes that can be added to the list? Let me know in the comments.

In case you were wondering, I do own a business that sells a tool that does help Adwords advertisers lower their costs and it does bear the name of We open the beta platform to the public about once a week, sign up here to be notified next time registrations are open or get the login details to our demo account here.

This was a guest post by Chris Thunder Co-Founder of, a web app that helps advertisers optimize their quality scores for cheaper AdWords traffic. Follow him on twitter, read his previous posts, then join Tenscores.

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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