Why Don’t Clients Understand Search?

Tell me if this has ever happened to you: You’re talking to a client, and they mix up PPC and SEO. Or, they don’t understand how keywords work. Or, they’re confused where and how ad copy appears. Or, they submit Facebook images that look like banner ads. Why don’t clients understand search?

I get that the inner workings of PPC and SEO are complicated, and the average person doesn’t understand them. Heck, when I’m talking to our SEO team, and they start talking about keyword density, domain authority, and redirect handling, my eyes start to glaze over. Why is that?

Clients understand media.

Concepts like reach, frequency, and impressions are clear to clients – I’ve never heard a client ask what these things are. Nor do clients find media ads confusing – a banner is a banner. But show them a 140 character PPC ad, and they’re lost.

PPC and SEO are relatively new.

Is it because PPC and SEO are relatively new? I think that’s part of it. After all, digital media ad buys are patterned after radio and TV. In another life, I sold radio ads. We talked all the time about reach and frequency. I won’t tell you how many years ago this was, but it was a long time ago. Radio and TV metrics have been around for 60 years or more. Everyone understands them.

Clients also think of banner ads as online print ads. That’s really what banners are – glorified, and maybe animated, print ads. So the concept of designing a banner ad is familiar to them.

No client would mix up a newspaper ad with a magazine ad, though. So why do they mix up PPC and SEO?

Why do PPC ads confuse clients?

Why don’t they get it?

It’s our fault.

Yes, it’s the fault of the search industry itself. Much of the fault lies with the engines. Just take a look at this search for Bluetooth speakers:

Show this to your spouse, your mom, or your neighbor and see if they can tell you which are the ads and which aren’t. $10 says they can’t. Everything looks the same. The only thing distinguishing the ad from the organic content is a tiny “ad” notation. And what about those images? Are those ads? People don’t know.

Social is little better. Take this LinkedIn example:

The ad is a little better labeled than on Google, but if you’re scrolling through your feed, it’s easy to miss the “sponsored” notation. Ask your friends if they can spot the ads in their social feeds. I bet many of them can’t.

We as practitioners have to take part of the blame too. We have so many levers we can pull in PPC and paid social, I think we sometimes forget about the basics. We assume everyone knows what a keyword is. We assume everyone can tell the difference between ads (PPC) and organic listings (SEO). We throw jargon around with big words and confusing names.

And PPC hasn’t been around that long. Google Adwords didn’t launch until 2002. Overture was around before that, starting in 1996. In 1996, I’d been doing traditional marketing for, well, a few years. Many of our clients probably had been too. And even if they hadn’t, they don’t think about search in terms of keywords and ad copy. They just Google their questions and get answers.

We need to do better. We need to stop wasting time by assuming clients understand what keywords and ad copy are, and explain the concepts to them. Show them examples. Create a glossary for them. I created this one:

Combine the glossary with illustrated screen shots. Take the time to walk through it and answer their questions. Demystify it for them. It’ll go a long way in helping clients understand search.

How do you handle client confusion over PPC and SEO? Share in the comments!

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Expanding Your Adwords Account With The Google Display Network

When you want to expand your Adwords account, and you’ve exhausted your options in Google Search and remarketing/RLSA, you may want to consider the Google Display Network. The Google Display Network, or GDN for short, can be a great way to generate incremental traffic and sales.

Approach the GDN carefully, though. Ads in the GDN are not search. They’re shown based on the relevance of advertisers’ ads to the content on the website. Users viewing the ads are reading content, not actively asking questions.

That said, the GDN offers high impression volume and incremental exposure for your business.

Targeting on the GDN.

To target your ads on the GDN, you can use keywords, placements, topics, interests and remarketing, or demographics; or any combination of these.

Keyword targeting.

Keyword targeting sounds just like keyword targeting in search. It’s similar, but not exactly the same. Keyword targeting in the GDN enables advertisers to tell Google what keywords represent the topics and interests they’d like to reach. For example, if you sell cookware, you may choose keywords like:

• Gourmet cooking
• Recipes
• Cookware
• Food network

This list of terms seems random, but it’s not. Websites with this type of content will be relevant to your target audience. Remember, users aren’t searching on these keywords – they’re used directionally by Google to help match your ads to site content.

Placements.

Targeting by placements allows advertisers to choose the websites or placements on which they’d like their ads to appear. In the cookware example above, you might choose placements like:

• Foodnetwork.com
• Cookingchannel.com
• Epicurious.com
• Gourmetmagazine.com

Remember that high-traffic, well-known placements will have significant competition for ad space. If you choose popular websites for placement targeting, be prepared to bid quite high to be able to generate impressions. Still, for advertisers who know where their target audience hangs out, placement targeting can be an efficient way to target on the GDN.

Topics.

Instead of choosing keywords or placements, you can target ads in the GDN by topic. Here are some of the food-related topics for our cookware example:

You can select as many topics as you’d like. Make sure they’re relevant, of course.

Interests & remarketing.

In addition to remarketing, the GDN also offers interest targeting, based on either affinity audiences or in-market segments.

Affinity audiences are developed by Google, based on long-term behavior of users. For example, the food-related affinity audience is made up of people who frequently visited food and cooking-related sites over time. Here are some examples of affinity audiences:

In-market audiences, on the other hand, are users who Google has determined are actively shopping for a particular product or service. Affinity audiences tend to be focused around high-ticket, high-consideration items like autos and finance:

If you are an auto dealer, think how valuable it would be to serve ads to people who are actively looking to buy a car!

Demographics.

If you took marketing courses in college, you probably studied demographic targeting. Advertisers can target GDN ads by gender, age, and parental status.

You can also exclude demographics; for example, an advertiser targeting business owners might exclude users in the 18-24 and 65+ age groups, as these ages are less likely to be business owners.

Using multiple targeting methods.

If you find that you’re getting too much untargeted GDN traffic, you can combine multiple targeting methods to narrow down your audience. In the cookware example, you could target by placement, and then add keywords to cover the items you sell: cast-iron skillets, saucepans, utensils, etc. This will help prevent your ads from showing on pages that aren’t relevant to what you sell. Combining keywords and placements works particularly well on large sites that cover a lot of topics, such as CNN and YouTube. Adding keywords helps your ads to show only on relevant content.

Be aware that layering multiple targeting options will greatly reduce the number of impressions you’ll receive in the GDN. Try to strike a balance between quantity (impressions) and quality (targeting).

Watch your performance and adjust.

The GDN drives much high impression volume and lower click-through rates than those seen in Google search. CPCs are usually lower than search, as well. But it’s important to monitor performance and exclude any targeting options that are not driving converting traffic. While this is true in any search campaign, because ads in the GDN lack the intent of a searched keyword, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on GDN campaigns to avoid wasting money.

Many search pros avoid the GDN, but I’ve found it to be a valuable add-on for many clients. When targeted correctly, the GDN is an effective way to expand your Adwords account.

For more on the GDN, check out these posts:

3 Ways To Profit From The Google Display Network
Yes, The Google Display Network Can Drive PPC Conversions!

How have you used the GDN successfully? Share in the comments!

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PPC Data Analysis and PPC Goals

This week’s PPC Chat was all about PPC data analysis. It was an interesting chat, as they usually are. (If you’re not participating in #ppcchat on Twitter, stop reading right now and go mark your calendar for Tuesdays at noon Eastern time! You’ll learn something new every week.)

This week’s chat was about data analysis in PPC. We got into what types of data you analyze (anything from time of day to locations to product-by-product results) and whether a PPC manager can handle the data analysis vs. bringing in an analyst.

One of the intriguing questions was this:

Most people said they spent about 70% of their time doing analysis and 30% new builds. For me, it’s probably 80% analysis and 20% new builds. If you take your time to analyze a problem or situation in a PPC account, the optimizations themselves take little time. Unless you’re constantly adding new products to a PPC account, most of your time should be spent on analysis.

Another interesting question centered around analysis paralysis:

People made good suggestions such as stepping away for a while, asking someone else for perspective, and using a preset amount of time to work on PPC data analysis to help focus.

As I thought about my answer, I realized I rarely have analysis paralysis. Partly because I’m so busy I don’t have time to! I do remember the days of working in-house and losing hours diving into data, only to realize I couldn’t draw any meaningful conclusions. Interesting data is not always useful data.

But I think the bigger reason why I rarely have analysis paralysis is because I’m almost always working on accounts with specific goals and KPIs. If your campaign goals are clearly defined, your PPC data analysis is easy – you’re digging into whether you met your goal or not, and why or why not.

There are nearly endless ways to slice and dice PPC data. That’s what makes it so much fun. But few of us have time to just poke around to see what’s there. In order to be efficient, goals must be defined. Goals are your roadmap – without them, you’re just driving around aimlessly!

If your client (or you, as the advertiser) lacks specific PPC goals, that’s ok. You can set goals at any time. Many of our clients come to us with goals in mind, and even specific KPIs if they’ve been doing search for a while. If not, start asking questions.

We ask new clients to fill out a brief. The first question is “What is your business challenge – the problem you’re trying to solve?” This gets them thinking about why they want to use PPC in the first place. Everyone has a reason – you just need to get them to articulate it.

We also ask for their primary business goal: what does search need to accomplish? Is it awareness, traffic, lead capture, sales, or something else? The answer drives campaign setup and data analysis. If the primary KPI is lead generation, all data should focus on showing how many leads were generated, how much they cost, which keywords and ads drove the most leads, and so on. Recommendations should focus on how to get more leads: by increasing impression share, improving conversion rates, etc.

PPC data analysis is relatively easy if you know what questions you’re trying to answer. Sure, the nitty gritty of pulling data, especially if it’s coming from multiple sources, can be a challenge. But you’ll spend your time gathering data, rather than going down the rabbit hole of endless numbers that may or may not be meaningful.

For more on crafting your PPC strategy, check out my Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Strategy.

Do you always establish goals with your clients, and do you find it makes PPC data analysis easier? How do you make analysis more efficient? Share in the comments!

 

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Learning Adwords Scripts

Adwords Scripts have been around for several years. Scripts are basically a little snippet of code that you add to your Adwords account, and they do several things, including:

• Run reports and email them to you or output into a Google Sheet
• Notify you of changes to your account performance
• Make changes to bids, ads, campaigns, etc.

Scripts are a type of account automation, and can be highly useful.

I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t ever set up a single script.

I have a couple PPC accounts using scripts that other people set up, but I’ve never done one myself. I know from conversations in PPC Chat that I’m not alone, either. So, let’s learn Adwords Scripts together.

Finding a Script

Thankfully, there are several resources where you can find free Adwords Scripts without having to write your own. (If I have to write my own, I’m done, right now.) Here are a few resources I’m aware of; I’m sure there are more.

Free Adwords Scripts. There are a bunch of free scripts on this site. We’ve used a few of them, including the ad test significance script. It’s not perfect, and I like AdAlysis better for this task, but it’s better than cranking ad copy test data by hand.

Optmyzr. Frederick Vallaeys, a former Google employee, has some free scripts on his site you can use. If you’re an Optmyzr customer, there are many more scripts available. There’s also a how-to on installing scripts.

The Adwords interface. Adwords has a whole library of free scripts, helpfully organized by task.

Koozai’s big list. A list of 100 free scripts.

Using a Script

OK, finding a script is pretty easy. Implementing it is what scares me. I’m going to walk through the steps here, so we can learn together.

I’ve decided to try the Declining Ad Groups Report from the Adwords script library. It seems like a helpful script, and it doesn’t make any changes to your account – it just outputs the results into a Google Doc that you can review.

The instructions are all at the script URL, so I won’t re-copy them in detail here. The first step is to copy the Google Sheets template, and save it:

OK, that was easy enough. Now, we go to Scripts in Adwords to create a new script. It’s in the Bulk Operations menu in the left nav.

Click the +Script button, give the script a name, authorize it, and save it.

Then, paste in the code for the script from the Adwords site:

For this script, I also had to make one change to the code to paste the URL of my Google Sheet in the designated spot. It was easy to do, based on Google’s directions. Click save, and then Preview to preview your script results.

The results will populate in the Google Sheet:

OK, this is cool. I now have a list of ad groups whose performance has been declining over the past 3 weeks. The account to which I added this script is large, and also fairly new to us, so we’re still getting the feel of it. This script will help me pinpoint ad groups that need attention.

I scheduled the script to run once a week:

I set it for Sunday so it will be ready for me every Monday morning. The script sends an email to me every time it runs, so I don’t have to remember to go check the Google Sheet for updates. You can also click the “Run” button to run the script immediately.

So, How Was It?

As I said, until now I’d never set up a script before. I have to say, this was a lot easier than I expected! I thought there would be complicated changes to the script language that I’d have to make, but there was only one, and it was easy:

I just had to replace “YOUR_SPREADSHEET_URL” with the URL of my Google Sheet. Easy! If you’re used to looking at website source code, simple changes like this are no big deal.

Of course, I immediately started to wonder if I could add metrics to this script. For example, I’d love to add conversions, cost per conversion, and conversion rate to the metrics, in addition to cost and CTR. I have no idea how to do that. I suppose I could copy the part of the code for CTR and change it to conversion rate, but I don’t know if that will work. For now, CTR and cost are fine – for this client, these are important metrics, so I can live with that for now. But for other clients, the only metrics I’d care about would be conversions and cost per conversion. I’d love to know how to modify the script to include those, or swap them for CTR and cost. Anybody know how?

I’m pleasantly surprised at how easy this was. Here I’d been scared to try scripts! So if you’ve been putting off trying out Adwords Scripts, stop waiting and give them a try.

What are your favorite Adwords Scripts? And seriously, if you know how I can add conversions and cost per conversion, share in the comments!

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PPC Bid Automation: A Must In 2017

Seems like every year, I write a post on PPC bid automation and bid management. Manually managing bids used to be practically a full-time job when I started doing PPC in 2002; now, it’s almost an afterthought due to automation.

Two years ago, I was asking if PPC bid management was still a thing. Adwords Scripts, automated bid rules, and bid management solutions were my alternatives to manual bid management at that point, and they’re still good suggestions. Last year, I talked about the best times to use automated vs. manual bidding. This year, I find myself wondering if anyone should be using manual bidding at this point. I’m thinking the answer is no.

10 years ago, the only way to use PPC bid automation was through a tool, like Marin, Kenshoo, or Acquisio. Today, with free tools like Adwords Scripts and bid automation rules in both Google and Bing, even smaller advertisers can take advantage of bid automation.

Google was the first PPC engine to launch bid automation within the interface. Several options are available, including:

•    Maximize clicks
•    Target page location
•    Target CPA
•    Target ROAS

Most strategies are available both as individual campaign strategies, and as portfolio strategies across multiple campaigns. Portfolio bidding is a useful strategy that helps advertisers maximize profits across campaigns or sets of keywords. I used a homegrown type of portfolio bidding back in 2005 when I worked in-house; we created a spreadsheet that calculated our profitability on every product we sold, and cranked out the right PPC bids for each product. It was a manual process, but very successful for us. Read more on portfolio bidding in Adwords at Search Engine Land.

Not to be outdone, Bing Ads rolled out with PPC bid automation shortly after Google did. The rules are essentially the same as Google’s.

If you’re going to use scripts or engine automation, you’ll want to do some homework first. Frederick Vallaeys has a great article on Search Engine Land with an overview of setting up bid management rules. If you’re using scripts, or Frederick’s tool Optmyzr, you’ll need to think about things like lookback windows, ROAS, and target CPA. These metrics are important to understand, even if you’re using a paid tool that does some of the calculations for you.

Automating bids in the engines seems easy – and it is. But you’re giving up some control to the engines, which is a little like the fox guarding the hen house. Not all experts are in favor of using PPC bid automation through the engines. Wordstream has a thought-provoking post on why you should never use Adwords automated bidding. It’s from 2014, but I still tend to agree with most of the article. We’ve often seen automated bidding hurt client performance, either by limiting impressions or click volume, or by inflating click cost to where campaigns become unprofitable.

We’ve had the best luck with paid bid management tools. The benefit of a paid tool is that it’s a third party, so there is no vested interest in gaming the system or inflating CPC. Paid tools tend to have algorithms built in that reduce the number of manual calculations PPC managers have to make. The tools learn quickly, yielding performance improvements within a couple of weeks. Here’s a typical example of results seen before and after implementing a paid bid management solution:


Bid management was implemented in April 2014; immediately the client saw an increase in clicks and a large decrease in CPC. All else equal, this is a win for any client.

Bid management solutions can also optimize mobile bid adjustments. We use Acquisio, and here’s an example of how mobile performance improved with their Bid and Budget Manager tool:

Prior to implementing the bid management solution, mobile performance was erratic. With bid management, cost per conversion stabilized, and total conversions increased significantly.

There are many paid bid management solutions out there – here’s one list, although I don’t agree with their rankings. For instance, they list Marchex, which is a call tracking software, not a bid management solution.

Most bid management software providers offer a free trial. I’ve found that the time I save in calculating targets and setting up rules more than pays for the software.

Paid PPC bid automation tools aren’t for everyone. With all the great free options out there, there’s really no reason to be manually managing bids these days.

Can you think of a situation where manual bid management makes sense or where automation has gone wrong? Or is automation the only way to go? Share in the comments!

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Yes, Google Still Hates B2B Advertisers

Google’s annual big Adwords announcement conference call was held this past Tuesday. As usual, I held low expectations for any great news for B2B advertisers. And as usual, I was right – Google still hates B2B advertisers.

I’ve written about this before, in 2015 and in 2016. It’s getting to be an annual event, as here I am in 2017 still talking about the fact that Google still hates B2B advertisers.

As per usual, Google’s announcement focused on features that are great for large, B2C, ecommerce-focused advertisers, with little to nothing of use to B2B advertisers. One new feature I was interested in was Google Attribution, a machine-learning model for attribution. Attribution can be a bear for B2B lead gen advertisers with long sales cycles. It’s hard to decide which model to choose, because there are so many touches across multiple channels in the buyer journey. Machine learning could be helpful in answering the attribution question for B2B.

Problem is, there are huge minimum data standards to be able to use this feature. According to Marketing Land, “In order to use it, accounts must have at least 15,000 clicks and a conversion action with at least 600 conversions within 30 days.”

Wow. Many of our B2B clients, even those with high click volume, struggle to get 60 conversions in 30 days, much less 600. 600 conversions on 15,000 clicks is a 4% conversion rate. That’s really high for B2B, where search is often one of the first steps in a long journey towards making a big-ticket business purchase decision. And with CPCs in B2B approaching $10-20 or more, that’s a huge monthly budget – $150,000 at an average CPC of $10 per click.

In essence, all but the largest B2B advertisers with high conversion rates are priced out of machine learning attribution.

So many of the other announcements just don’t apply to B2B: measuring store visits is a non-starter, for instance. Google Surveys is an invitation to a customer service nightmare for B2B businesses that are often ill-equipped to handle online badmouthing.

AMP for Ads is a head-scratcher for me – not only are there documented issues with AMP, as Julie Friedman Bacchini describes in this post, but we’re still struggling to get several of our B2B clients to even think about mobile, much less dip their toes into AMP. I know it sounds crazy that in 2017, advertisers are still not equipped with mobile-friendly landing pages, but it’s a fact. We have more than one client who is opting out of mobile entirely until they can get mobile landing pages up and running. The thought of introducing AMP to them gives me a headache.

Buying through Google Assistant, or any other voice search technology, is laughable for B2B. No one is going to ask Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri: “Find me an enterprise level data management system, please.” These are large, considered purchases – you’re not ordering books or hair care products, you’re ordering multi-million dollar business systems, medical equipment, software, etc. While we do see voice searches in B2B, they’re early-stage queries that have little impact on immediate purchases.

Nor do most B2B advertisers care about in-store visits. Many don’t even have a store. Those that do have customer-facing locations are not equipped to handle large volumes of foot traffic or phone calls. While in-store traffic is great for retail and pizza, these features just don’t make sense for B2B.

The announcements weren’t all bad for B2B. Google Optimize is ok, although many B2B advertisers prefer to use a third party like Optimizely or Unbounce. Unique reach metrics are good for media-heavy advertisers who use the Google Display Network – I actually had a client ask me for this number last week, and I was unable to provide it. In-market audiences for search looks interesting, although I’d need to see what audiences are available. In the past, I’ve found few choices for B2B in in-market audiences in the GDN.

In short, Tuesday’s event left me feeling left out. Again. As I do every year. It’s clear that yes, Google still hates B2B advertisers.

What did you think of Tuesday’s announcements? Anything you’re excited about? Any B2B applications you saw that I didn’t think of? Share in the comments!

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PPC Audiences: Audience Segmentation

Back in March, I wrote about defining your PPC audience. It’s the first step in setting up audience targeting for PPC, including search, remarketing, or paid social. Once you’ve defined your audience, it’s time to think about audience segmentation.

Audience segmentation sounds complicated – and it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. In the simplest instance, for a remarketing campaign, you’ll have two audiences: site visitors, and converted visitors. If you want to remarket to those who haven’t purchased yet, you can set up a remarketing audience of site visitors, and exclude converted visitors. This way, only those who didn’t purchase will see your remarketing ads.

But what if you want to get more sophisticated?

Brad Geddes wrote a great article on audience targeting for PPC Hero back in January. Here’s his list of targeting options:

This is a helpful list of thought starters for thinking about audiences. Think about the various types of offers you could show to someone who hasn’t bought in a year, for example. Maybe they’ve run out of whatever it is they bought, and it’s time to reorder. Or maybe you just want to lure them back with a special deal. For users in a free trial, you can show them an ad with a discounted price for the product they’re trialing. The applications are endless.

In B2B, sometimes the use cases for audience segmentation are not so cut and dried. You’re usually not selling anything online, so cart abandoners and purchasers are off the table. It’s not unusual to have a huge audience of people who visited your PPC landing pages, and a very small list of those who filled out a form. What do you do with that audience? If you don’t know anything about them other than the fact that they visited your landing page and didn’t sign up, it’s hard to do much segmenting.

Content marketing is a great way to nurture prospects through remarketing. Think of it as a way to talk to those who haven’t raised their hand yet. It’s also a useful way to start segmenting your audience further. The more times they visit your site, the more you’ll learn about them.

We like to use time-based remarketing with our clients. Time-based remarketing shows different content to users over time, which is especially valuable for long sales cycles. Let’s say your sales cycle is 90 days. You might show one piece of content during the first 13 days, another for days 14-59, and another for days 60-90. Here’s what that can look like:


In this example, the offers start out as informational: white papers with information about access control (which is controlling access to your place of business). Then there’s an offer showing how the product is easy to use. Then it gets more urgent with a mention of workplace violence. Finally, for those who still haven’t converted, there’s a price-point offer.

Depending on which offers users click through, you can start to segment your audience based on what they responded to.

The content and journey will look different for every client. The important thing is to look at your buyer journey to see how long each segment should be targeted. If you don’t know, you can play around with it – test! See how people respond.

Get creative with your audience segmentation. Just make sure to plan it out first. Think about which audiences make the most sense. Think about what content or offers you have available, and which make the most sense for each audience. You may uncover some gaps, meaning you’ll need to create content or offers to fit.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and test! Think of audience segmentation as another PPC test you’re running – just like ad copy testing. If something isn’t working, just shut it down. Test both remarketing and RLSA. With RLSA, you can run “bid only” tests, where you’re simply adjusting bids for the audience. In many cases, this alone can be profitable, or at least informative – again, helping you to create additional audiences. Play around with it.

What are your tips for audience segmentation? Any out-of-the-box segments you’ve tried that work well? Share in the comments!

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Expanding Your Adwords Account with Remarketing and RLSA

I’ve written before about expanding your Adwords account with ad extensions. Using remarketing and RLSA is another effective way to market to people who’ve already visited your website.

Remarketing ads appear across the Google Display Network, “a collection of websites — including specific Google websites like Google Finance, Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube — that show AdWords ads. This network also includes mobile sites and apps. If you’ve ever seen an AdWords ad on your favorite news site or in your Gmail account, and wondered how it got there, now you know: websites like these are part of the Google Display Network.”

RLSA ads appear within Google search results themselves.

Setting up remarketing and RLSA

To use remarketing and RLSA, you’ll need to tag your website. There are two ways to tag your site: with Google Analytics, or with the Adwords remarketing tag.

If you’re using Google Analytics, remarketing is included as part of the code. There is no further code setup needed.

If you’re not using Google Analytics, you can get a remarketing tag in your Adwords account. Navigate to the Shared Library and choose Audiences:

Once in the Audiences section, you’ll see a prompt for the tag at the upper right hand corner of your screen:

Click “Tag Details” to get the actual tag to place on your site.

Remarketing and RLSA use the same tag. Be sure to place the tag on every page of your website to provide the most opportunities to reach previous site visitors.

Setting up audiences

Once your site is tagged, you can start creating audiences. Audiences are groups of people with similar behaviors. For example, you might create an audience of converted visitors: people who completed a sale or reached the “thank you for signing up” page.

Think about your customers and what behaviors they engage in. Do people who purchase usually browse several pages on your site before buying? Do they spend a long time on your site? Are there key pages you want them to visit? Create audiences for each of these behaviors.

To create an audience, click “+Remarketing List” from the “Audiences” section in the shared library. You’ll see a dialog box like this:

If you want to create a list of users who visited your Products page, for instance, you’d specify that in the “People who visited a page with any of the following” section. You might put “/products”, for example; or use the full URL if you only have one products page.

Think carefully about your membership duration. This is how long a user stays in the remarketing audience, and the number of days should correspond with the length of your buying cycle. If users usually purchase within a week, you may want to set your membership duration to 7 days. If you have a longer buying cycle, you might want to go 90 days or even longer – the upper limit is 180 days.

Don’t keep people in your remarketing audience longer than necessary – you don’t want to annoy users by pushing products to them that they no longer need.

Using remarketing

Once your audiences are set up, you can use them as targeting criteria in your Adwords campaigns.

To use remarketing, which shows ads in the Google Display Network, create a Display Network Only campaign in Adwords.

Then create the ad groups you want to use for remarketing.

Navigate to your first ad group and go to the Display Network tab, and then choose “+Targeting / Interests & Remarketing.” From there, select the remarketing audience you want to target.

It’s important to think about ad messaging before you start a remarketing campaign. You don’t want to just show the user the same offer they’ve already seen. Think about user behavior and what makes sense: should you show them a special deal? A piece of content to help them make a purchase decision? An ad for a complementary product? Putting some thought into your ad strategy up front will help make remarketing successful.

Using RLSA

RLSA is similar to remarketing, except the ads show in the Google search results, rather than the GDN.

To set up a RLSA campaign, you can start by copying one of your search campaigns and adding a remarketing audience to it. Navigate to an ad group, and then to the Audiences tab to add an audience:

You’ll add an Interests & Remarketing audience for RLSA the same way you did for remarketing. As with remarketing, be sure to think about your ad copy and what makes sense. RLSA is your opportunity to show different search ad copy to previous visitors of your site – take advantage of it!

About Target and Bid vs. Bid Only

RLSA has 2 different bid settings: Target & Bid, and Bid Only.


Target and bid will restrict your ad delivery to those who are in your remarketing audience. No one else searching on the keywords in your RLSA campaigns will see your ads. Target and bid will be your most common setting for RLSA.

Bid Only is an interesting setting that enables you to set different bids for the users in your remarketing audience, while still showing ads to everyone searching on the keywords in the campaign. For example, you may want to use Bid Only for high purchase intent keywords, setting a higher bid for those who have already visited your website to help improve the position of your ad against competitors. Be aware, though, that Bid Only ads will serve to everyone who searches on the keywords, so use with caution.

Before pushing your RLSA campaign live, here are a couple tips to keep in mind:

•    Use broad match keywords. Since you’re only targeting users who’ve visited your website and taken a desired action, you don’t need to worry about driving untargeted traffic from broad match. Broad match in RLSA allows you to cast a wide net to reach your audience.
•    Use higher-funnel keywords. In regular PPC, you probably wouldn’t bid on single-word keywords like “ink” or “toner” because they’re just too broad and untargeted. With RLSA, you can afford to bid on these keywords, because the audience is smaller and is already pre-qualified by their previous visit to your website.

Negative audiences

When using remarketing and RLSA, keep in mind that you can use negative audiences as well as target audiences. Negative audiences are similar to negative keywords: they prevent your ads from showing to people in the audience.

If you’re targeting people who visited your site but didn’t convert, it’s a good idea to add “converted visitors” as a negative audience to make sure your remarketing ads don’t show to them. You also may want to consider creating negative audiences for people who bounced from your site, or who visited customer service pages, because these visitors are likely not qualified.

Remarketing and RLSA are highly effective ways to convert customers who’ve already visited your website. What’s your favorite way to use remarketing or RLSA? Share in the comments!

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A/B Testing Is Alive and Well

A/B testing is the bedrock of a good PPC campaign. It’s so important that I’ve written about it on this blog 46 times. Just last week, I wrote a review of AdAlysis, an A/B testing and multivariate testing tool. And just 2 years ago, I asked, can too many ads ruin PPC ad copy testing?

Spoiler: The answer is yes. Testing too many ads at once creates a myriad of issues, including taking forever to reach statistical significance in all but the highest-volume PPC accounts.

And yet, in their infinite wisdom, Google is now recommending that advertisers forgo A/B testing, and instead run at least 3 ads per ad group. In fact, Google representative Matt Lawson, in an article for Search Engine Land, this week went so far as to claim that using more than 2 ads per ad group is a “foolproof step to excellent Adwords ads.” In the article, he says, “I think the A/B approach to message testing is becoming outdated.”

Wow.

I think what he means is: “At Google, we’d really rather decide what ads are performing best for you. We want you to use the ‘optimize’ ad rotation settings and let us choose which ad to serve.”

That’s right. Google is telling us to forget ad copy testing and just let Google pick the winners.

To a novice PPC advertiser, I’m sure this is music to the ears. Small business owners and in-house marketers who are dipping their toes into Adwords management are probably thrilled to hear that they don’t have to worry about A/B testing ad copy. They can just throw a few random ads into their account, and let Google pick the winner.

Really?

How many successful business owners do you know who let their vendors tell them what products to stock in their stores? When pharmaceutical companies started paying big bucks to get doctors to prescribe their medication over others, the public lost its collective mind. “How dare they buy off the doctors?” If you walked into a clothing retailer who claims to carry multiple brands, and only found Calvin Klein, wouldn’t you wonder about the store owner’s sanity?

It’s called putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s not smart business. And it’s not smart advertising.

I get it. PPC is complicated. And hiring a professional PPC manager is expensive. That’s why many novice business owners and in-house marketers try to tackle PPC on their own. But it’s too complex. PPC is not something you can DIY. You wouldn’t try to fill a cavity yourself. Or replace the roof on your house. Or do your own business taxes. Or elect a president who stands to personally line his pockets using the office. (Wait, did I say that out loud?). The point is, you shouldn’t try to do PPC alone. Years ago, you could. Today, it’s just too complicated. And Google is out there trying to get you to turn the whole thing over to them.

Don’t fall for it. Hire a professional. Use A/B testing liberally. Make your own business decisions.

Julie Friedman Bacchini wrote a great post breaking down the fallacy of the Google article on SEL – go give it a read. And let me know what you think about the Google article. Do you see any merit in it? Are we really heading toward a world where we just let Google make all the decisions? Share in the comments!

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PPC Tool Review: AdAlysis

PPC tools are a PPC manager’s best friend. We couldn’t do our jobs without the many free and paid PPC tools we use on a daily basis. Probably my favorite PPC tool is AdAlysis.

AdAlysis, an ad testing and analyzing tool, was created by Brad Geddes about 2 years ago. When it launched, it was a godsend. I’d been spending hours every month trying to manually analyze PPC ad copy data in spreadsheets. It can be done, but it’s so time-consuming that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with for all but the smallest accounts.

That’s where AdAlysis comes in.

AdAlysis uses the search engine APIs to grab data from all your PPC accounts each night. You can use AdAlysis for as many accounts in your MCC as you’d like. When you log in to the tool, you’ll see which accounts have winning ad tests.

There is so much to love about this PPC tool.

Pros of AdAlysis

Analyze PPC ad copy tests for a number of KPIs. The interface will tell you which ads are winning for CTR, conversion rate, conversions per impression, and cost per conversion. It will show you the confidence level of each test, and indicate with red and green the winners.


A note about conversions per impression: Brad has talked in several blog posts about why conversions per impression makes sense. In a nutshell, each time your ad is shown is an opportunity for a conversion. Conversions per impression takes both CTR and conversion rate into account, in essence. And you can see by the screen shot above why I like to use it. In the test above, the top ad is winning for CTR, but the bottom ad is winning for conversion rate and cost per conversion. Conversions per impression is too close to call. We need more data to determine the winner of this test.

Flexible test parameters and confidence levels. You decide, on an account by account basis, how many impressions, clicks, and conversions you need in order to determine a test winner. You also determine the confidence level. I usually stick with 90% – this isn’t brain surgery, it’s just PPC. But if you want a higher level of confidence, you can set it.

Multi ad group tests based on line of text or label. One of the things that’s so hard to do manually is to analyze ad tests across multiple ad groups. If your account is well-structured, chances are you have multiple ad groups for a single product. With AdAlysis, you can group those ad copy tests into a multi-ad group test. AdAlysis will look for ads with the same headline or description; or you can structure your tests by labels. I have run tests across an entire account on calls to action, for example, using labels.

Quality score analysis by multiple metrics. AdAlysis is more than just a PPC tool for ad copy testing. There is also a built-in quality score analysis.

It’ll slice and dice quality score across 12 different metrics! It’s easy to see where quality score issues lie: in expected CTR, ad relevance, or landing page experience.

Dashboard warnings for issues. AdAlysis is more than just an ad copy testing tool. You may have noticed in the screen shot at the beginning of this article that the dashboard shows more than just which accounts have winning ads. It also lists ad groups without tests, broken landing pages, keyword conflicts, and more. If you simply logged in to AdAlysis first thing each morning, you’d know which fires need to be put out first.

Keyword analyses. One of the non-ad testing features I like is the keyword analysis, especially the n-gram analysis. N-grams are single words that appear in search queries, with the data aggregated by the single word across multiple queries.

In this example, there are n-grams that have generated hundreds of clicks without a single conversion. I can review the list and decide if keywords that include this word need to be paused.

They’re always adding new features. Seems like I see new features in AdAlysis every week! That’s probably an exaggeration, but they’re developing new and useful features frequently. A landing page analysis and account level quality score analysis are a couple recent additions.

Excellent documentation and tutorials. One of the things I love about PPC tools developed by people who have run PPC accounts for years is that documentation is usually excellent. There are numerous help articles for AdAlysis, along with video tutorials.

Great, flexible pricing. Pricing is based on the number of ads in the tool, across all your accounts. There is one AdAlysis interface for Google and another for Bing, so if you’re using both engines, you’ll have 2 AdAlysis accounts. Prices start at $25 per month for up to 500 ads. You can upgrade or downgrade as needed, so you’re not locked in. Seriously, it’d be worth paying $25 out of your pocket for this tool!

Cons of AdAlysis

There are a couple of minor cons – nothing to keep me from using the tool, but a review would not be complete without them.

Can’t analyze tests longer than 180 days. Sometimes, for smaller accounts, it takes longer than 180 days to reach significance on a test. My guess is the limit is due to the API, but it’s unfortunate not to be able to test ads for a longer period of time.

N-gram keyword filters are missing ad group and campaign filters. You can view all your keywords and negative keywords in AdAlysis, which is an unexpected benefit. But you can’t drill down for n-grams by campaign and ad group. For example, if I wanted to view n-grams for an individual campaign, I can’t do that. Now, the data is aggregated across the account, but sometimes there are negatives that should be added to one campaign and not another. I’d like to view the data at that level to make the decision. This is minor, but I’d still like the feature.

Recommendation

If you’re not using AdAlysis already, what are you waiting for? It’s a steal for the price, and I use it nearly every day. You can test ads so much faster and more efficiently, leading to better results for your clients.

Have you tried AdAlysis? What do you think?

(By the way, I’m not a paid affiliate or anything, just a happy customer!)

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