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by Chris

2 Little Known Ways To Increasing CTR And Quality Score

9:00 am in Google AdWords by Chris

This is a guest post by Chris Thunder, who just launched a platform that helps Adwords advertisers improve their Quality Scores for cheaper Google Adwords traffic. Check it out at Follow him on twitter and see if can be useful to you.
Overwhelmed Advertiser

With the amount of work required for building and managing PPC campaigns, it's easy to forget the importance of optimized targeting.

If I ask you what you need to do in order to increase your ads’ click-through-rates (CTR) for higher quality scores, your immediate answer might be: write a better ad.

And you’d be right.

But it’s not the only way and too often advertisers rely on ad spit-testing when trying to achieve a higher CTR.

If you’ve read a little about quality score (QS), you know that the biggest factor that influences it is CTR. When we plan about increasing CTR, new ads in more focused ad groups come to mind, sometimes we even remember to include and keep expanding a good list of negative keywords (although we know that that has no direct impact on QS).

What we often forget is that ads have varying performances depending on the hour of the day or the geographical region in which they are displayed. Two things that Google takes into account when calculating quality score but are rarely talked about.

If you’ve hit a brick wall and can’t improve your CTR no matter how hard you try, these are the 2 targeting settings that might get you the results you want.

Day-Part Targeting

Day Part Tageting

Ad performance can vary greatly depending on the hour of the day. Although the data above has not reached statistical significance, it may suggest 9pm (21h00) to be bad hour.

You may be getting lots of impressions at 2 in the morning but very little clicks and conversions without even knowing it. If that’s the case, it would be very beneficial to prevent your ads from showing at those times of the day.

To find out how your ads are performing by the hour of the day:

  1. Choose a campaign in your adwords account.
  2. Click on  the “dimensions” tab (or make the dimensions tab viewable in the sub menu).
  3. Click the “view” sub-menu and select “hour of day”.

You should now be able to see at what times of the day your ad group is under performing.

The next thing to do is to exclude your ads from showing at those times  by changing your campaigns settings: Advanced Settings > Ad Scheduling. Make sure your data has reached statistical significance.

When you do that, the average CTR recorded for your keywords will start to increase and your quality scores will slowly rise.


Geo targeting

Ad performance may also vary by specific geographical regions. Notice the difference between Texas and Ohio.

If you’re like most advertisers, your adwords campaigns are probably set to show on the whole territory of your chosen country right now (or even many countries at once). If you run a geographic report in adwords, you will find that your ads perform better in some specific regions than others.

You need to find the regions where your ads perform really poorly and exclude your ads from showing there.

To find out how your ads are performing by specific regions in the country you’re targeting:

  1. Choose a campaign or an ad group in your adwords account.
  2. Go to the “dimensions” tab once again.
  3. Click on the “view” sub-menu and select “Geographic”.

Now you can see the specific regions where you might be receiving lots of impressions but low clicks and conversions compared to others.

Exclude those areas in your campaigns settings: Under Locations and Languages>Locations click edit.

A window will pop up, look for the Exclude areas within selected locations link at the bottom of that window and exclude the areas that are poorly performing for you.

If you don’t want to completely exclude those areas, you might consider creating a separate campaign for them.

When you do that, your average CTR will also slowly rise since it won’t be affected by low performing locations and it will result in better scores.

Those are two quick but very rewarding actions that you can take right now to achieve higher CTR’s and better scores.

In case you’re wondering how effective these two little techniques can be, here’s what Brad confided to me in email conversation (don’t tell him that I told you):

“I can’t agree more with your two points – I do it all the time – in fact I have an account that just by changing the geo settings and splitting up the ads by their geo CTRs, the accounts CTR almost doubled.” ~ Brad Geddes

If you want to track how these actions affect your keyword’s quality scores and your first page minimum bids, I’d like to invite to you to try our Quality Score tracking tool… sign up here and I’ll send you a quick email the next time we open doors.


  • Before excluding your ads from showing at a certain time of day, make sure you have enough data to make the right decision. Use to see if your data has reached statistical significance.
  • DO NOT use CTR as your only measure of performance. Google uses CTR to increase or lower your scores and as a result, increase or lower your CPCs… however, it is not a measure of your profitability. Learn about Profit Per Impression and use it as the final verdict.

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

Get Valuable Insights into the Google Display Network with Shelley Ellis

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

Shelley EllisI’ve known Shelley for several years and she’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met when it comes to Display Advertising. In fact, she’s earned the name Display Advertising Evangelist due to her dedication to the space.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Shelley for Marketing Nirvana. The episode will air June 6th at noon EST (9am PST). You can hear it live at

While we covered a range of display network topics; we mostly focused on topic targeting.

Topic targeting allows you to serve ads based upon a topic – no keywords or placements are required. Choosing just a topic can bring in more inventory that most companies can handle (and convert). This feature only works across the Google display network.

While most people won’t want to use topic targeting all by itself; it can be a fantastic restrictive marketing technique when used in conjunction with placements, remarketing, or even keywords.

In fact, I so much enjoyed the topic with Shelley that I also wrote my most recent Search Engine Land article on 3 Ways Topic Targeting Can Improve Your Display Advertising.

If you can’t catch the show live, you can always subscribe via iTunes.

Please note, if you’re a premium member, you can watch the Topic Targeting Video Lesson and receive more insights on topic targeting.

If you’d like to learn more about Shelley, you can see her blog or content network insider training site.

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by Chris

Improve Quality Score Or Die

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

This is a guest post by Chris Thunder who pretends to know a thing or two about SEM. He’s a quality score freak, and if you want charts like the ones presented in this post for your own data, it’s easy to get them with TenScores: The Quality Score Tool.

From 10 to 8, it’s in fabulous health…

At 7, it is still in great shape…

6, 5, 4 are signs that it’s getting weak…

At 3 or 2 it is seriously sick…

At a 1/10 quality score, your keyword is dead.

A craftsman uses his hands to do the labour and without them he cannot make a living. He trains them, makes them stronger and hones his skill… but if he ever gets a heart attack those hands are useless.

The same is true in Adwords.

Your landing pages and products make you money, you can tweak things here and there, optimize continuously but if your quality scores drop low enough… all advertising become meaningless. You’ve just had a  heart attack.

Quality score is the heart beat of every Adwords account. It defines how much  search share a keyword’s ad receives and how expensive or cheap the advertiser pays for it. Although it is not the metric that makes you money, it is the one that will stop anything from happening if it goes down low enough.

How Low Quality Score Kills Your Advertising

Unprofitable Advertising Costs

The differences in costs between one score level to the other can double, triple, quadruple and even be ten times higher at the lower end of the scale.

Here’s a graph that shows the average first page minimum bid for keywords at each quality score in one of our adwords accounts:

Average first page minimum bid at each quality score

Average first page minimum bid at each quality score. Plotted by

Notice how first page bids double from 7 to 6, then from 5 to 4 and how they quadruple from 3 to 2.

Surprising? Not really.

If you’re a math geek too, you surely have already reverse engineered the formula for first page minimum bid and you know that it is minBid = minAdRank / QS which is a simple rational function thus the shape of the resulting curve.

And… the only purpose of that last sentence was to make me sound clever  :-)

Forgive me.

Here’s the graph that says it all better than any mathematical gibberish. It shows the average cost-per-click (CPC) at each quality score for the account:

Average CPC at each quality score chart.

Average CPC at each quality score. Plotted by

Notice how the price doubles from a 10/10 quality score to a 7/10. And 7 is considered to be a great score to have. Notice the sudden bump between 5 to 4.

Could that mean the difference between profit and loss? Absolutely.

Now imagine two advertisers in this same market advertising on the same keyword. One has a 10/10 and the other has 4/10. The chart above tells us that the advertiser with a 4 could be paying 10 times more that his competitor.

Now imagine that the advertiser with a 4/10 is… well, you. Yes, right now you might be paying 10 times more than you should on those keywords you’ve neglected to optimize.

Little To No Traffic To Your Website

You can set up ads in 5 minutes and reach 1 million users with Adwords, right?!

Well, it’s not that easy… and quality score will shatter your dreams of traffic orgies in an instant.

Let’s talk about Impression Share (IS).

Impressions Share is the percent of traffic that Google is willing to send you for a given campaign versus the amount of traffic that is actually available for that campaign. (You can view the impression share of all your campaigns by customizing the columns in your adwords account at the campaign level)

Impression share depends on two things: Ad Rank and Budget.

If you have a big budget to spend, obviously Google won’t really stop you from throwing money at them and if you want more Impression Share, just pay more.

Increasing your Ad Rank, however, is the smarter way to go. Ad Rank – a (secret) number Google uses to rank ads in sponsored search results – influences Impression Share and itself is greatly influenced by quality score. It’s formula is AdRank = MaxCPC x QS.

The higher your quality scores, the higher your Ad Rank, and the more impressions Google  is willing to send your way. The lower your quality scores, the lower your Ad Rank, the less generous Google is with traffic.

Every time your keywords’ scores drop, traffic is chocked, the pipeline gets thinner until ultimately the flow is completely clogged.

I don’t know about you, but I hate paying more than I should and I despise getting less than I deserve. And that’s why I don’t ever settle for low scores — ever.

How To Increase Low Quality Scores

It all boils down to relevance.

Yes, we all know that click-through-rate (CTR) is the main factor that influences quality score. But what is behind a great CTR? It is having the most relevant ad shown to Mr Searcher. CTR is Google’s best measure of relevance. The importance of understanding relevance beyond what Google tells you is really crucial. The relevance I’m referring to has NOTHING to do with having the same keyword appear in the ad, the ad group or the landing page.

It is about having a deep understanding of who the searcher behind the keyword is. Understanding what led him to typing those words in Google. Understanding his emotions, his frustrations and the short or long series of events that caused him to turn to a search engine for a solution.

It’s about understanding what relevance means to him, NOT what it means to you.

Only when you have that kind of understanding can you write an ad that instantly resonates with him and lift your click-through-rates.

I’ll give you an example.

Once upon a time, in a distant land, an affiliate marketer decided to try the dating niche. One of the products he wanted to sell was a book about how to be better in bed – more specifically, the book claimed to have “500 Love Making Secrets”.

After trying out a few ads, he found one that worked pretty well in terms of click-through-rates, it said:

Adwords ad with medium CTR

2.04% CTR

The last recorded click ratio was 2.04%, the average cost-per-click was $0.21. Not too bad, wasn’t it? The quality score was 7/10 and it stayed at 7 for a very long time.

But profits weren’t that good.

He had no control over the website he was sending traffic to so landing page split-testing for better conversion rates was not an immediate solution.

The answer came from the following ad:

Higher CTR Adwords Ad

3.84% CTR

Click-through-rate jumped to 3.84%, quality score swelled up to 10/10 and the cost-per-click was cut in half: $0.10.

Profits got better and he lived happily ever after.

The successful ad wasn’t the result of looking at the website and trying to think up ways to write a better ad. It wasn’t born by trying out tricks like putting keywords in the title, adding a question mark or putting capital letters in the display url.

It was born after intensive research on the person behind the keyword.

I pictured myself being a man looking for love making tips. “What images would be flowing in my head, what do I secretly want, what experiences led me to this search and what is the ultimate result that I’m looking for?”, I asked myself.

Then I typed the words in Google. I took a look at all the websites that were returned, and I asked myself why those results would be relevant and why some wouldn’t be. I looked into blog comments and forum threads to read what people on the same quest were saying about it and how they were expressing themselves.

What I realized is that no man really wants to learn 500 love making secrets just for the sake of it. Instead, they want their partner to be the happiest woman alive and they want themselves to be the source of fulfillment a woman craves for. (And they want to witness her inner animal – grrrrrr!).

This exercise can be done for any type of website, any type of offer, any type of product. Whatever it is you are selling, figuring out the deepest needs buried in the searchers mind will give you the competitive advantage you need to dominate your market.

It will help you discover the features and benefits you need to put forward about your offer to align it with what searchers are looking for, resulting in above than average click-troughs and conversion rates.

6 Steps To Getting Into The Searcher’s Mind And Writing The Perfect Ad

Step 1 – Possess their bodies
Choose a specific keyword in your list and sit in front your computer. Close your eyes and put yourself in the shoes of your prospect. Imagine what happened to you just before you decided to type that keyword into Google. Imagine what you felt, the urgency of the matter or frustrations tied to it. Imagine what the best solution to your problem would be. It could be information about something, it could be a better price for the product, a better feature…

Step 2 – See it like they see it
Type your chosen keyword in Google and look at the natural search results. Glance over the 10 results and find the general theme of the results. Are they mostly commercial in nature or are they informative. What are the words used and how, as a searcher, do you feel when looking at them. What are the ones that grab your attention?

There’s a reason why google is the number search engine, one of those reason is that they do a great job at showing searchers what they want. Researching the natural search results helps you understand better what is happening in the mind of a searcher. Google has already done half the job for you.

Step 3 – Experience what they experience
Visit each of the websites returned and try to understand why the first website is number 1, why the second is number 2 and so on. Take a look at what information is offered and understand how each is relevant to your quest – and if it isn’t, find out why it isn’t. Start thinking of ways each website could give you, as a searcher, the solution you desire in a better way.

Step 4 – Eavesdrop on their conversations
Find blogs or forum related to you keyword. Read what people are saying about it. Learn how they express themselves, how they talk about the subject. Figure out what they want, what questions aren’t answered and what solution would make their live easier. Amazon reviews of a similar product as yours is a great place to start.

Step 5 – Spy on your competitors (quietly)
Now look at the sponsored results. You could use a spying tool that tells you how long each ad has been showing for your particular keyword. This will tell you – just like the natural search result – what searchers are really looking for. Your competitors have done the other half of the work for you so you should piggy back on their efforts and do a better job than them.

Step 6 – Hit ‘em!
Write 2 or 3 ads to test with what you’ve discovered. It should now be clear to you what type of message resonates most with your prospect. If you’ve taken notes during your research phase in the previous 5 steps, that will help.

When you have done this exercise, you will know who is behind your keywords and what they are looking for. You’ll be able to segment your ad groups according to your ads and searchers desires. You’ll be able to fine tune your campaign settings to target the right person for the message you’ve written.

Your ads will be sharper, Google will be happy and your wallet will feel it.

Of course there’s more to it and there are other little ways to tweak ads for higher CTR. But there’s nothing I have found that improves  ad efficiency better than deeply understanding who you are marketing to.

How To Keep High Quality Scores

Understand That QS Varies — A Lot!

The search market place is constantly changing. Advertisers come and go, competitors rise and fall. So do quality scores:

Adwords quality score tracker

Adwords quality score tracker

The  graph above shows the  quality score evolution of one of our keyword over a period of 23 days. The blue line represents quality scores progress and the green line represents first page minimum bids evolution, both having their numerical values displayed in the table below the chart.

Notice how QS has been jumping from 4 to to 7 to 10 and back to 4.

There are many reasons you may wake up one day and find that costs have doubled for your main keywords due to a decrease in quality scores.

Knowing the main causes of quality score rise and fall will help you react fast when it happens.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Unsuccessful ad split-tests
    When testing new ads, bad ads can have nefarious influence on your keyword’s average CTR.  Your quality score will drop even when one of your ad is performing very well. That’s why it is sometimes a good idea to have one test ad being tested against 3 copies of the successful ad in one ad group. This ensures that your average CTR doesn’t drop too much due a bad test.

  • The competition beating you
    The competition for your keywords may suddenly start performing better. Google compares your CTR to the average CTR being achieved in your market. You get rewarded for performing better than your competitors, you get punished for under performing. If your competitors suddenly start showing more relevant ads to your poll of prospects, and if that goes on for a while, your quality score will drop since you’re no longer on top of performance. Keep an eye on what others are doing, and try their ideas on your ads.

  • Keywords changing meaning
    You keywords may change meaning. It’s not uncommon. In his AdWords book, Brad gives an example with the word “Bleach” which shows results for a cartoon. Before that cartoon existed, you would have probably found results for the detergent. There was also a time when typing the words “make the cut” in google would show results of movies and amazon books. Today it mostly shows results for a scrap booking software that was created about a year ago. This all means that your keywords may suddenly start attracting searchers that have no interest in what you’re offering due to a change in keyword meaning. Keep a special eye on what your broad and phrase match keywords are triggering, make sure they stay relevant to your ads.

  • Uncrawlable landing pages
    Forgotten to renew your domain name? Or did you remember to check that the new landing page was actually uploaded correctly? Or maybe you work in a large organization in which different people work on the same set of pages. Working on a website can sometimes lead to errors not caught in time. When spiders come for a visit and find nothing, you get slapped with 1/10 quality score — a heart attack. Make sure your landing pages are always available and crawlable.

The fact is: quality score varies and it can vary a lot. Those variations may mean the difference between good ROI and great ROI. They may mean the difference between profits and losses.  So whenever you think you don’t need to keep an eye on quality scores, you’re doing a disservice to your wallet (and making Google richer).

Track Your Quality Scores Changes And Optimize When Necessary

You went on vacation and left your ads unmanaged. “They’ve been quite stable and since revenue is steady there’s no risk”, you tell yourself. After 2 weeks in Hawaii, you come to find out that your top keywords have stopped generating traffic or that their costs have become unprofitable…

Oops, quality score did it again!

Having a system in place for tracking your daily scores and being notified of changes will prevent drops from sneaking up on you with serious consequences.

That’s one of the reasons why we developed TenScores, which is a web platform that automatically tracks quality score changes of an entire adwords  account. (It is still in beta and we open doors infrequently, please sign up here to be notified next time we’re open).

A free way to do it is with Excel sheets. I really like this little quick guide Jacqueline Dooley put together, in it she explains how her excel sheet shows her at a glance where she’s lost quality score points. If I didn’t have TenScores, I would personally use her method weekly – instead of monthly like she advises – on all my main keywords until they are all above 7.

How To Start With High Quality Scores In The First Place

Start With Your Brand’s Keywords

People who are searching for your brand’s name, your domain name or product name aren’t shopping around, they want you and they know it. The CTR you achieve from those keywords sets a foundation for your accounts history that influences the scores you receive for other keywords.

Build On Your Typical Visitor’s Profile

Start in first gear and shift gradually.

Before you go in and load millions of keywords and ads in your account, start small and test the waters with  a few ad groups. Although the searcher behind every keyword is different, people in your market place share common frustrations or needs that need to be met. Use the tips mentioned above to figure out the kind of message that resonates most with prospects in your market.

Once you have found the kind of message that generates above average CTR, it’s ok to scale and use the same message on millions of keywords if they fall under the same kind of market and same demographics.

A common mistake that many new advertisers make is to start in  5th gear with too many keywords without having a deep understanding of what their market responds to. They end up having poor performance in a short amount of time, quality scores drop and the account is almost doomed to failure. Don’t make that mistake.

I hope this helps you get closer to achieving your goals, if you have a friend who would benefit from reading this page, email it, tweet it or facebook it to hook’em up (it’s also a great way to give back to CK for the great content you receive).

Chris Thunder

PS —  ↓ or even ↓  (thank you for the love!)

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by brad

Did Google Just Say 3% of All AdWords Clicks Lead to Conversions?

8:28 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Google recently make a blog post about a free webinar they are hosting to teach people about remarketing.

However, that’s not the interesting part of the post. This is:

97% of new visitors do not convert the first time they arrive at your site.

To me, that says that if 97% don’t convert – 3% do convert.

I’ve long used a typical conversion rate as:

  • Simple email collection: 5-25% (unknown sites 5-10%, established sites 10-20%)
  • Whitepaper download (minimum data required) 10-15%
  • Lead Gen 0.5-5% (again, depending on data required)
  • Ecommerce – very expensive – 0.5% – 1%
  • Ecommerce – inexpensive – 1-2% for less established stores, 2-3% for established
  • and the list goes on (Premium members can see the full data here)

I mostly use those average conversion rates for establishing bids for brand new accounts before there is enough data to know your own conversion rates. Those numbers are based upon looking at tens of thousands of accounts over the years (and based upon direct keywords, conversion rate isn’t static – it’s based on the specificity and commercial nature of the keyword, referring site, etc).

Of course, some accounts do much better and others much worse – those are just starting places – not ending ones.

I have heard Google state before to use 2% overall conversion rates (which sounds like ecommerce to me – not everyone).

However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Google flat out state in public that 3% of visitors convert.

Evaluating the Impact of AdWords Sitelinks

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

This is a guest post by Chad Summerhill, Author of the blog PPC Prospector, provider of free PPC tools & PPC tutorials, and AdWords Specialist at Moving Solutions, Inc. ( and

Earlier this month, I was auditing data in our web analytics data warehouse when I came across some AdWords keywords that were being tracked improperly.

At first, I thought that AdWords was using my ad’s destination url instead of my keyword’s destination url.   After some investigation, it turns out I was wrong.

The issue was originating with clicks from AdWords sitelinks that have their own destination urls.  In my case, they just happen to look like the urls on my ads which caused my initial confusion.

While I was under the hood, I noticed that Google had disapproved my brand campaign sitelinks (without telling me).  Apparently, you can’t have your sitelinks all pointing at the same url (which is what I had done when I first got access to the sitelink beta).  If someone rats you out (a competitor I guess) then AdWords can disapprove them after a manual review process.

The truth is I just added the sitelinks without much thought.  Seemed like a no-brainer at the time—my brand ads would take up more SERP real estate. Yes! Sign me up.

After learning that the sitelinks had been turned off, I needed to understand the impact and determine if I needed to turn them back on.

Sitelink reporting in AdWords

There two places in your AdWords account for retrieving sitelink data: ‘Segment> Click type’, and ‘Ad extensions> Sitelinks Extensions’

By Click type Segment

Click Type Segment in AdWords

Click Type Segment in AdWords


When looking at your ‘Click type’ segment you can see the number of impressions, clicks, etc. on your actual sitelinks.  This view of how many searchers clicked on your ‘Headline’ vs. ‘Sitelink’ isn’t all that helpful when trying to understand the overall impact of having my sitelinks turned off.

Under the ‘Ad extensions’ Tab

Sitelink Extension Reporting in AdWords

Sitelink Extension Reporting in AdWords


When I turned to the ‘Ad extensions’ tab, I started to see a better picture of the performance boost of using sitelinks.  This view, reports all the ad performance metrics of ads clicked when sitelinks were displayed regardless of where the searcher clicked the headline or the sitelink. So, you can see the difference in CTR, etc. when sitelinks are present.  But it still didn’t really help me understand the overall impact of losing the sitelinks.

Trend your data to understand the impact of sitelinks

The best way I found to understand the impact of using sitelinks was to turn them back on and do a time comparison (pre-sitelinks & post-sitelinks).  This easily accomplished by pulling a campaign report segmented by day and analyzing it in Excel with a pivot table.  Of course, you can see your important metrics trended over time inside the AdWords interface as well.

Trended AdWords Data

Trended AdWords Data


In the image above the blue line is CTR and green is Conversions, so it looks like sitelinks made a big impact just as I had suspected.  In my case, turning on sitelinks improved my overall campaigns CTR by 40% while having no affect on my Conversion Rate.  Consequently, my overall daily-spend was up by 54%, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

Evaluating the impact of sitelinks on your organic traffic

Adding sitelinks makes your paid ad look more like an organic listing (at least I think it does) and it also takes up more real estate on the SERP, so I decided to look at what adding sitelinks did to my overall branded search traffic (both PPC & SEO).

This was easily accomplished using Google Analytics.

1.    Go to: Traffic Sources> Keywords (if you want you could also create an Advanced segment for just Google search)

2.    I filtered for keywords that contained my brand using a regular expression.

3.    I then downloaded both the paid and the non-paid report and analyzed them in Excel.

What I found was very interesting.  Overall year-over-year branded visit growth didn’t change at all.  Growth just switched from organic to paid after I turned sitelinks on.

Effect of AdWords Sitelinks on PPC & Organic Search Traffic

Effect of AdWords Sitelinks on PPC & Organic Search Traffic


Now I need to decide whether or not to keep sitelinks running.  I’m almost certain that I will; the traffic is cheap and it seems like the right defensive move to protect my brand.

Now imagine what sitelinks could do for your non-branded, competitive ads (Google reports and average increase in CTR of 30%).  Sitelinks could help you take marketshare  from your competitors when you don’t own the SERP like you probably do with your branded keywords.

My next analysis will involve a non-brand, competitive, high-CPC keyword that I rank well for, in both PPC and SEO to see how much I cannibalize from SEO.  Maybe that’s a topic for a future post.

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

Waiting too long for Image Ad Approval on AdWords?

9:09 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

I often find that my image ads (for accounts without reps) get approved within 1 hour, 3 days, or they stay in the ‘review status’ forever.

The Google AdWords queue seems to break quite often as I’ve seen this trend for more than a year where most images are not either approved or disapproved – they just sit in the review status. This leaves marketers in a state of perpetual waiting.

There seems to be two quick ways to get images approved:

Use the Display Ad Builder

image Google’s display ad builder makes it easy to build image or video ads within their system.

When you select the display ad builder option, you can choose a template to customize and quickly build out rich media ads.

These ads are good, not great, as they are being built from templates. I do like the system for quickly creating and testing image ad messages.

There are two major advantages to using the Display Ad Builder:

          • It’s easy to create image ads
          • The ads seem to be approved very quickly

I can only count a handful of times when I had to ask Google to approve my display ad builder ads.



Contact AdWords Support

imageContacting Google for ad approval purposes seems a bit convoluted as Google has some pretty bad forms and explanations of what a form does. I do find if you contact them about approvals, the ads are almost always reviewed within 1-3 days. To contact Google to have your images (or any ads) approved, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the help link (make sure you’re not blocking popups as a popup window will appear)
  2. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click ‘contacting us’
  3. Navigate to Ad visibility, approvals and performance > ad approval and policies > how long does it take my ad to be approved
  4. On the side of the page, click email
  5. Fill out the very short form (contact info, ad group, campaign)
  6. Submit data

The form doesn’t really say what’s going to happen, but if you fill it out – then your ads will re-enter the AdWords approval queue.

Of course, if you have a rep – feel free to contact your rep as they can help put the ads back into the review process, and some can expedite the process.

Avatar of brad

by brad

6 Tactics That May Put You At Risk Of Being Banned From AdWords

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

My latest Search Engine Land article is out and examine the top ways in which accounts are being blacklisted from AdWords.

Every few months there is an outcry from advertisers because they received the dreaded notification email from Google – their accounts were banned.

Some accounts eventually get reinstated, some companies are never allowed to advertise on Google again.

There are several reasons accounts get banned; however, most accounts are banned for one of six reasons.

You should not that Google does not look at just your active information – they do consider paused or deleted items when scanning accounts for infringing items.

In this article, we will examine those six most common reasons so you can ensure that your account is not endanger of being blacklisted by Google.


Arbitrage Site with Too Many Ads

My very first column at Search Engine Land, almost four years ago, was about arbitrage. Arbitrage was a hot topic a few years ago, and while the topic has subsided in popularity, it still exits on the web today.

If an AdWords visitor lands on your site, and the only option above the fold is to click on an ad – it may be considered an arbitrage site. If the visitor then clicks on ad to then go to a merchant site, why shouldn’t that same visitor have just clicked on the merchant ad on AdWords and saved themselves some time from that extra click?

As the site did not provide any additional value to the advertiser, it is in danger of being blacklisted.

To save your arbitrage site from being blacklisted, add more content above the fold. If you are selling ads directly to advertisers, then add more options about the advertisers than Google provides. You need to provide additional value to the searcher with unique content, and not have a page where the content is just ads.


We can easily blame the acai berry / colon cleansing / get rich tomorrow / look beautiful forever marketplace for the rebilling nightmare that has caused membership sites to suffer the wrath of Google.

Many of these sites hid the fact that by buying a product, you weren’t actually buying a single product. In fact, you were enrolling in a membership site that would rebill you on a regular basis. There has been much written in traditional media about these sites where you had fourteen days to cancel, but the product arrived 21 days later, and because it was past the cancelation date you would be rebilled again. If you tried to cancel on one of these sites, you were often lost in a maze of forms, redirected phone calls, and chargeback requests.

Regardless of the roots of the rebilling nightmare, Google keeps a close eye on sites that do engage in rebilling. Rebilling is not inherently bad or good in Google’s eyes. Google looks at the disclaimers and notifications on the website to make sure the consumer knows they will be rebilled.

If your site calls out the fact it is a recurring charge and is easy to spot, then you will most likely be OK. If your site hides the rebilling facts in the TOS or elsewhere on the page, then you may be endanger of losing your account. If you engage in rebilling, your best defense is to make it clear to the consumer that this is not a one time charge, but in fact they will be billed on an ongoing basis.

Free Offers That Aren’t Really Free

This is a large category that covers several different types of products.

The most common products in this arena are free downloads that have extremely limited functionality. You may see a free offer to download software that will speed up your computer. You download the software, run it,  and the software informs you that you have 1893 problems that can be fixed. However, you need to purchase the software to find out what the problems are. This is an example of limited software functionality.

In this case, it is also about disclosure to the consumer. If you call out the fact that the software will show you the top 20 problems, or will only give you a free diagnosis, then you are often OK in Google’s eyes. This disclosure cannot be hidden in a footer or TOS. It must be clear to the consumer that the product only provides a limited amount of functionality and that they have to purchase the product to unlock its full power.

Another category of free offers are ones where you land on a page and must fill out twenty offers to receive your free iPad. This was a scourge among ads a few years ago and Google has cleaned up most of them. If your ad offers something for free, it must be easy for the consumer to attain. Filling out a single contact or lead generation form to receive the free whitepaper is acceptable. Filling out twenty offers, or sending an offer to twenty friends who must then click on the link and fill out a form before the consumer receives their free product is not OK.

Jump Pages, Bridge Pages, Thin Pages

Jump pages or thin pages are almost always affiliate landing pages. These are pages that exist for one purpose – for you to end up on the merchant’s site with the affiliate’s cookie firmly attached to the visitor’s browser. These pages provide no additional functions, features, or information except to send the visitor to another website.

The reason Google doesn’t like these pages is the same as the arbitrage reasons above. Why shouldn’t the searcher have gone to the merchant’s site directly? There was just another click and wasted time along the way to the real information.

Google doesn’t hate affiliates. Google doesn’t like sites that do not enhance the search experience. If the site compares ten products, shows you the advantages and disadvantages of various merchants, provides advice about buying a product, etc – then the site will often pass Google’s TOS.

If the site does not enhance the search experience, expect it to eventually be banned from Google.

Double, Triple, or Quadruple Ad Serving

Before January 2005, often a searcher would see multiple ads for the same company. Usually one was the merchant and several more were affiliates. This restricted user choice in a search result. After the change, unscrupulous advertisers would create multiple sites and multiple AdWords accounts in order to have more than one ad on a search result page. This is clearly against Google’s TOS.

The problem with double or triple ad serving is that it often works for a long time before it is noticed and dealt with. This leads competitors to complain at first, then notice the accounts are not being banned, and it tempts the legitimate advertisers to try creating multiple sites and multiple accounts in order to compete with the unscrupulous advertisers.

It might work for a day. Often it works for much longer. However, if you get caught, you could lose the ability to advertise on Google forever.

Personally, I wish Google was better at catching this problem. I will see advertisers report these issues for months and nothing happens.  Sometimes it’s so blatantly obvious as there will be exact copies of the same website from multiple ads that you have to wonder why these reported infractions are not dealt with by Google. These ongoing issues lead legitimate advertisers to think that its easy to get away with multiple ad serving. The advertiser’s choice is to go to the dark side to compete, or play it safe and watch their competitors continue to benefit from multiple ad serving.


Usually the word cloaking is associated with SEO. It’s been an issue on the ad side for years. Googlebot and Google employees see one website, those who click on ads from other IP addresses see another website.  Sometimes, this means the landing page is actually breaking many policies, which the other advertisers see and wish to report; but when Google employees look at the site everything looks OK and no action is taken.

When combined with multiple ad serving, this drives other advertiser’s crazy. Usually, the other advertiser do not know cloaking is involved. They see the same site from multiple ads. Google employees see different websites from multiple ads.

If Google actually catches you cloaking, expect your account to be banned and any and all appeals to be reinstated fail.


There are other reasons advertisers get banned, such as repeatedly violating trademark policies, repeatedly violating image ad policies, etc. It is useful to take a look at Google’s site policies. However, the most common reasons ads are banned are not related to the AdWords account directly (except for multiple ad serving).

The most common reasons are mostly related to the landing page and website.

If your landing page provides:

  • Provides unique and good content
  • Provides user choice
  • Clearly informs users about any disclaimers regarding product functions or billing
  • Does not auto-install malware
  • Does not misuse consumer’s information
  • Does not make inaccurate or misleading claims
  • Does not violate other Google policies

Then usually your website is not in danger of being banned.

It is better to be clear to the searcher and lower your conversion rate and profit by a little bit than one day losing access to the largest source of paid traffic on the planet.

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by brad

Google Changes Ad Display Rules & Creates a New Testing Opportunity

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

Google just announced they are changing the ad copy display rules:

For some ads where each line appears to be a distinct sentence and ends in the proper punctuation, description line 1 will be moved to the headline and separated by a hyphen. As a result, some top placement ads will have longer headlines

Here’s the example provided by Google:


I’d expect this to increase your CTR, but more clicks don’t always equate to more revenue.

A new test you might want to try is to find an ad group where most of the ads are displayed in the top positions. Then create two ads:

  1. Write one ad copy that ends in a sentence ending punctuation mark, such as a question mark, period, or exclamation mark
  2. Create another ad that doesn’t end in such a mark.

Then examine the difference in CTR, conversion rates, and of course, profit per impression.

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by brad

Brad Geddes Interviewed on Clever Clicks

9:40 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

I did an interview with Philip Shaw of Clever Clicks for their Marketing Secrets podcast.

The podcast is focused around AdWords beginners; and some top mistakes – but there’s good takeaways for intermediate users as well (it is 44 minutes long).

As Philip is based in Australia; if you are from that area – it’s a good show to listen to so you get some regional info and not just US based info.

You can listen to the podcast at the Online Marketing Secrets site or read the entire transcript.

If you are looking for Australian PPC management, I’d recommend talking to Clever Clicks about their online marketing programs as they definitely know what they’re doing.

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by brad

Understanding The AdWords Disco Dance

9:02 am in Google AdWords, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

This is a guest post by Chris Thunder, the founder of

Advertising is very much like a dance.

Two people (a business and a prospect) moving rhythmically towards a conversion. Ask any woman experienced in paired dancing and she’ll tell you there’s nothing worse than a bad partner. To listen is the way to lead.

How good of a dance partner are you with your customers?

The following is a concept I learned from Brad Geddes which has helped me increase conversions for my clients and myself. I put my own ‘twist’ to it and it goes something like this:

There are a series of steps a buyer goes through before deciding to purchase a product from a specific website. Some call it the sales funnel, the buying funnel, the sales process… let’s call it the Disco Dance: Discovery, Interest, Study, Comparison, Order.

Understanding each step of the Disco Dance and finding where a prospect is in the process – judging by the keyword they used or the web page they came from – helps tremendously in crafting the message that resonates most with him or her.

It helps decide whether to write a benefits driven ad, a features driven ad or one that combines both so you can lead your prospects seamlessly towards the conversion you both want.

Let’s dance!


Maggie is our stick figure and we’ll use her to explain the different steps in the dance so you can lead her to the sale.


Maggie becomes aware of her problem. At this stage she might not know much about the problem nor the solutions that are available, she uses very general terms to see what’s out there.

Your Ad – A benefit driven ad will most likely appeal to her. Tell her how you will solve her problem and make her life so much better. Do not confuse her with specialized terms she might not be familiar with.

Your Landing Page – Showcase benefits on your landing page and provide information about features leading her to the order. Since this is the earliest stage of the dance, you might want to simply ask for her contact information so you can slowly inform her through other means of communication. Most visitors from the display network (formely known as content network) are at this stage of the dance.


Once she has found the solution you propose and has grown a little (or a lot) of interest from the benefits she now knows about, she studies the offer and the offerer. She starts digging in and gathering more information to help her decide.

In this stage of research, she might use more specific keywords.

Showing her features is a great choice since she already knows a little about the benefits… but she’s still early in the Disco Dance so it’s important to remind her about the benefits as well.

Your Ad – An ad showcasing both features and benefits should do well.

Your landing page – At this point you should move quickly into showing the best features of your product and move her to comparing your offer to your competition (if necessary) since this is the next probable step she will take.


At this stage into the dance she knows quite a lot about the benefits and has decided to buy. It’s now a matter of who she will buy from. She’ll compare product features, prices, etc… She uses more specific keywords including comparison terms and product names.

Your Ad – An ad showcasing features and facts about your product will guide her better to the next step which is ordering your product. This is where you need to show what differentiates you from your competition, better prices maybe, a discount, free shipping, etc.

Your Landing Page - Provide details about what your product features are so she has everything she needs to compare you with others. Don’t leave anything out. A feature table can be great thing to do. Even better, you could have a comparison chart that highlights main differences between your product and those from the other guys… you know, the competitors (yes, those ones!).


She’s made her choice, she knows what she wants and gets it. Congratulations, you’re a great dancer!

At this point, Maggie could keep the product, talk about it to her friends or… ask for a refund.

Preventing that refund to happen and encouraging her to talk about you to her friends is a more advanced dance class. See you when you graduate.


When you know where a prospect is in the Disco Dance, your ad and landing page can quickly lead them through all the remaining steps until the order. It can happen fast or it can take a little more time… but as long as you lead them by listening, they will come back for another dance.

About The Author: Chris Thunder is a Disco Dancer himself. If you liked the content of this post, you can read more in the Ten Scores book available free at You will also have access to free tools in beta testing such as the Adwords Quality Score Monitor and the Bid Optimizer Tool.

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