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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Paid Social Targeting: Winners and Losers

I’ve been working on a guide for paid social at work the past couple weeks – something we can use to illustrate how it works to achieve client objectives. As I’ve worked through the 3 major paid social channels, I’m realizing that there are winners and losers when it comes to paid social targeting.

Winner: Facebook

At gyro, our clients are all B2B. Many clients initially assume that Facebook won’t work for them, because of its broad appeal. But broad appeal is exactly why Facebook works.

When it comes right down to it, business decision makers are still people – people who probably check Facebook multiple times per day. People who are part of industry-related groups, and who like industry-related Facebook pages. There’s no reason not to use Facebook for B2B.

Facebook’s reach is huge – far bigger than any other social engine. Not only that, but CPCs are relatively low. Their B2B paid social targeting is greatly improved, so we can now target by employer, job title, and other B2B attributes.

When setting up Facebook ads, advertisers choose an objective. Facebook’s options cover every objective we could possibly want:


We don’t use product catalog sales or store visits often in B2B, but the other options are great. I can’t think of a single client whose objectives don’t fit into one of these buckets.

Not only has Facebook thought of every objective, but they optimize by objective. So if you’ve chosen traffic, Facebook will optimize your campaign for traffic. All your reports in the interface will focus on impressions, clicks, and CPC – the exact KPIs you’d want to see. If your objective is conversions, the KPIs will change to conversions, and Facebook will optimize for those. Manually managing bids isn’t necessary anymore – and I’d venture to say it’s counterproductive. I’ve seen better performance when I let Facebook optimize rather than trying to do it myself.

Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel is decent, too. It’s easy to install, and is flexible for different goals. It measures multiple steps in the process, too:


While I know that some advertisers have reported inaccuracies with the Facebook pixel, I’ve found it to be quite accurate for the clients we have using it.

An often-overlooked element of Facebook’s ad platform is their documentation and setup guide. I love this as a quick reference when planning Facebook campaigns, and to give to clients. There is a description of each ad type, along with specs and sample ads – great for taking screen shots! No other social platform comes close to a handy guide like this. Facebook’s other ad documentation is pretty good too, although I admit I’ve had trouble finding answers to my questions now and then.

Facebook ads can also appear on Instagram – another plus. If you have an Instagram page, you can show ads both there and on Facebook, all in one campaign. While Instagram volume is relatively small for B2B advertisers, it’s nice to be able to hit both platforms in the same campaign.

Losers: Twitter and LinkedIn (and everyone else)

Now that I’ve sung the praises of Facebook, it’s easy to conclude that the losers are, pretty much, everyone else. And Facebook is outpacing the other social engines in innovation. We mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn in addition to Facebook, so I’ll focus my “losers” category on them. Pinterest is a loser because the B2B applications are so slim – although Pinterest’s user base is growing, while Facebook’s is holding steady, meaning that Pinterest may become a bigger player at some point.

Thinking about Twitter and LinkedIn, though, they have such a long way to go. Twitter objectives aren’t bad.


If you go to LinkedIn and look for objectives, you’ll be looking for a long time – they don’t have them.

Ad unit options are limited – Twitter has 5 ad units, while LinkedIn only has 3 – and one of those 3 is Sponsored InMail, which really only makes sense for recruiters. And if you’ve ever tried LinkedIn sponsored ads, you know that performance is awful. The only viable option for LinkedIn for B2B is sponsored updates, and even those options are limited – you only get one type of ad unit.

Reach doesn’t come close to Facebook on LinkedIn, either. Most of our clients interested in social PPC come to us asking for LinkedIn, but find that Facebook offers more volume, more frequency, and significantly lower CPCs. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at my LinkedIn feed, but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve checked Facebook just today.

Twitter has the opposite problem – their reach is too broad. Targeting options are so heavily skewed toward B2C that it’s hard to find good targeting for B2B, unless you’re targeting specific users. Keyword targeting is nearly useless, and will result in an audience of millions of people. And there’s no way to narrow targeting by saying “include these keywords AND these interests,” for example. It’s all “OR” targeting – what a nightmare. And if your Twitter targets use TweetDeck or other third party clients, ads are filtered anyway. I hope no one is trying to use paid social targeting to reach me on Twitter – I rarely see ads!

Twitter and LinkedIn don’t have automatic bid optimization, either. You still need to set bids. And it’s hard to know where to set them, since the ranges they suggest are often crazy – $15+ for LinkedIn, for example. And since few third parties offer bid management tools for paid social, you’re stuck with manual bid management.

Conversion tracking is downright awful. Both engines have a pixel, but I’ve yet to get Twitter’s pixel to work. We’ve actually paused Twitter campaigns because we can’t get conversion tracking to work. And LinkedIn’s pixel isn’t very flexible.

And if you’re looking for ad documentation, forget it. As I was working on my paid social guide, I tried to find examples of the different ad formats that I could take screen shots of. No luck – as far as I can tell, they don’t exist. I had to take screen shots of our client’s ads – which isn’t ideal, if we ever want to share the guide with prospects.

Am I saying that B2B advertisers should stick to Facebook and ignore Twitter and LinkedIn? Not at all. We’ve had great success with both channels for the right clients. But from a management standpoint, an ease-of-use standpoint, and a paid social targeting standpoint, Facebook wins hands down.

What about you? Have you found Facebook to be the big winner for paid social? Or do you prefer LinkedIn, Twitter, or something else? Share in the comments!

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PPC Audiences: Who Is The Audience?

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of audiences in PPC. More than ever, audiences are becoming one of the main way we reach potential customers in PPC – as important as keywords. But who is the audience, exactly?

Audiences, Broadly Speaking

Broadly, your audience is whoever is buying your product. Large B2C retailers like Amazon probably don’t spend much time defining their audience – it’s anyone with a credit card, really.

But for most advertisers, it’s important to drill down a little deeper than that. For many consumer products, the audience is obvious. People buying diapers tend to be parents of babies. People buying guns tend to be male. There are always exceptions, but you can hit 80-90% of your audience by doing some simple targeting.

B2B Audiences Are Challenging

In B2B, audience targeting is a little more challenging. There are multiple stakeholders involved – product users, executive decision-makers, administrative assistants, purchasing departments, and more. How do you figure out who to target?

Verticals Dictate Audiences

In some ways, the audience depends on the vertical. If you’re selling software, the first person to target is the end user. Even if that person doesn’t make the final purchase decision, they’re going to be the one asking for the software. For example, I’d been looking for a solution to help with ad testing for years. When AdAlysis came out, I immediately started begging my boss to buy it. I was relentless – and it paid off. But I didn’t write the check – my boss did. If I were advertising for AdAlysis, I’d go after the PPC practitioners, not the vice presidents of search who likely aren’t actively managing campaigns.

For other verticals, targeting C-level executives makes sense. Let’s say you’re a medical equipment provider who’s developed a new piece of equipment that saves time and makes a more accurate diagnosis.  You could target the end users, but it may make sense to target the hospital CFO or the finance director, who’s looking for ways to make the hospital more efficient. End users may not be aware of the product, and may be happy with the way they’re currently doing things, but if you can convince the CFO, you’re likely to make a sale.

Business Size Does, Too

Business size plays a role, too. The larger the company you’re targeting, the harder it is to get through to C-level folks – they’re inundated with marketing messages already. You may be better off reaching their executive assistant, or going lower down the ladder to mid-level managers.

Understand that when you’re trying to reach large companies, you’ll have to get creative with your audience, and with your messaging as well, to break through the clutter.

And if you’re targeting small businesses, understand that employees wear many hats. The CFO is probably the entire accounting department. The web developer is probably the graphic designer, and maybe the software/tech person too. The owner may be the CMO, CFO, and CEO all at once. These are busy people, so if you can come to them with solutions to make their lives easier, you’ll get through the door more easily.

Personas Help

If you’re working with larger advertisers, they’ll often have a detailed understanding of their prospects, and may have personas. A persona is a representation of your audience segment. (BTW – this link has a great how-to on creating personas).

Here’s an example of a persona that gyro created:


Personas help define not only who your target audience is, but how to reach them. Ideas for paid social targeting practically jump off the page – age, education, gender, and other characteristics are listed right there. Pain points that could be used for search keywords or ad copy are also there: patient care quality, accountable care, etc. Personas give you a great start in identifying your audience.

Determining who is in the audience is the first step to successful audience targeting. What are some ways you define your audience? Share in the comments!

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3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time – 2017 Edition

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote about 3 PPC features that weren’t ready for prime time – the new (at that time) Adwords Editor, Bing Ads UET, and LinkedIn Ads.

The first two features have come a long way in 2 years. The issues I talked about with Adwords Editor stopped soon after, and I finally got used to it, even though I liked the old Editor better. I’ve gotten used to its quirks, though, and now that the Bing Ads Editor has followed the same format, it’s become my everyday workflow.

The developers and UI engineers at Bing Ads have gone to great lengths to make UET easier to use. The setup is much more intuitive than it was 2 years ago. It’s as easy to use as Google Analytics.

As for LinkedIn Ads? Keep reading. Here are 3 PPC features that aren’t ready for prime time, the 2017 edition.

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn Ads should be a no-brainer for B2B advertisers. In fact, it’s the paid social channel that our clients think of first – everyone wants to advertise in LinkedIn.

The problem is, their UI is horrible. Their reporting is horrible. Their CPCs are astronomical compared to other channels like Facebook – and Facebook’s B2B targeting now rivals LinkedIn’s.

I complained about LinkedIn in 2013 and again in 2015. Here it is 2017, and I’m still complaining about them. I had hoped that when Microsoft bought them, things would improve. That’s still possible – the details of the purchase are still being worked through legal. But right now, it’s a mess to use – and has been for 4 years at least.

Twitter Ads

I used to like Twitter Ads. We’ve used them effectively for several clients over the years. But they haven’t kept pace with the times. The ads interface, even the new one, is clunky to use. Reporting is horrible – as bad as LinkedIn’s. Targeting on Twitter Ads is awful. Unless you know the exact Twitter handles you want to target, you’re basically shooting in the dark. Keyword targeting is a joke. There isn’t any real B2B targeting. Behavior targeting is totally B2C focused, and even then is missing key categories.

Check out the business types available:


A whopping 2 types! Are they kidding?

And what about job titles?

If you’re not targeting executives or the C-suite, forget it. And these poor people are bombarded with ad messages as it is.

There is so much potential here, but the limited targeting and broad reach just doesn’t work for most advertisers. On top of that, their conversion tracking tags don’t seem to work – or at least we can never get them to work. You’re relegated to tracking in GA, or not at all.

Bing Ads Remarketing

Sorry, Bing Ads – I love you guys, I really do, but the remarketing program leaves a lot to be desired. At this point, only RLSA is available in Bing – retargeting visitors as they perform searches. RLSA is a high-performing, but very low volume, tactic. With Bing’s smaller audience to begin with, compared to Google, it’s hard to move the needle with RLSA on Bing for all but the largest advertisers.

Also, up until a week ago, Bing Ads didn’t offer exclusions for remarketing. Sorry guys – that’s a huge miss. Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about how not to do remarketing, and one of the no-no’s was failing to exclude those who already converted. Up until a week ago, this wasn’t possible with Bing remarketing.

As I was thinking about the 2017 culprits, I realized that, in general, the search engines have gotten much better about making sure features work well before releasing them. I struggled to think of the last time an engine released a feature that was a nightmare to use. Sure, there have been boneheaded releases like automatically including phone numbers in ads, whether you want them or not, but this is an opt-out-or-you’re-stuck-with-it thing, not a feature we’re trying to actively use. So either the engines have made it easier on us, or we’re all getting more skilled. Probably a little bit of both.

What PPC features have you noticed that aren’t ready for prime time? Do you agree with my list? Share in the comments!

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PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do, 2017 Edition

More than two years ago, I wrote a post on PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do. It was one of the most-commented posts on this blog, with differing opinions on what makes sense.

Two years later, advertisers are still doing remarketing wrong. Now, I get that it’s still a somewhat new-ish concept, and not everyone is doing advanced remarketing yet. And that’s ok – we all have to start somewhere. But when I see basic mistakes being made by large companies, it makes me cringe.

Here’s the example I saw today that prompted this:

This was at the very top of the page, above a news article I was reading. The good news? It’s a huge banner – you can’t miss it. How did I know it was a remarketing ad?

Because I’ve already booked a stay here.

Next week, I’m speaking at a client convention in Los Angeles. I booked my hotel over a month ago. Earlier this week, I dug out the reservation confirmation email, and clicked through a link to prepare for my stay. And now I’m being bombarded by ads asking me to book this hotel in LA! How many stays do they think I’m going to be booking?

Clearly, this is how not to do PPC remarketing. Don’t target people who clicked through a reservation confirmation email and ask them to book!

Of course, as I’m known to do, I posted a comment on #ppcchat. I loved the responses I got:

I agree with Julie – I’d love to see the stats on how many remarketing ads just run without any parameters or audiences. I can see serving ads for a perk, as Julie suggests, such as a rewards signup. Or a dining offer at one of the hotel restaurants. Or 25% off a massage in the spa. Or whatever – the point is, remarketing would be highly effective to the already-converted audience as an upsell. It’s not at all effective to ask those who’ve already booked a room to book a room.

It’s so simple to set up an exclusion for people who converted. As mentioned earlier, the hotel could set up a PPC remarketing audience of users who visited the site from a confirmation email referral. Failing that, they could exclude everyone who viewed the reservation confirmation page.

There are exceptions, though, as Steve Seeley pointed out:

Fair enough – and I agree, some agencies and/or advertisers don’t link their AdWords and Google Analytics accounts. I get that there are reasons why this happens. But if you can’t do remarketing correctly, you shouldn’t be doing it!

We then got into interesting use cases for PPC:

I’ve seen similar situations to the one Jason describes: getting remarketed with ads for a product I just bought. Again, it’s not hard, as Richard Fergie suggests, to drop a long cookie and delay showing ads until you’re likely to be ready to repurchase. Tires do wear out, as do clothes and shoes; food gets consumed; etc. Learn your buying cycle or buyer journey and show ads at the appropriate time. Yes, it takes some research and some time to set up, but this is really what remarketing is designed for – not harassing people with irrelevant ads, but showing them ads that are useful.

I love the conversations we have on #ppcchat. I always learn something and get great ideas. Just as I was smiling from all the cool interaction, I got this:

Sigh.

Have you seen any what-not-to-do remarketing ads lately? Got any tips for the right way to do PPC remarketing? Share in the comments!

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As We Go Along

This post isn’t about search. It’s about me.

Six months ago, just before I left for SMX Advanced, I was diagnosed with bronchitis. No big deal – I’ve had it countless times throughout my life. I’ve dealt with asthma for 20 years. I’ve had a nagging cough for at least 5 years. I was a little tired before I left for Seattle, but I picked up my prescription for antibiotics and went on my way.

By the time I left Seattle, I felt awful. Those of you with whom I had dinner the last night of the show may have noticed that I was exhausted, and I wore my jacket throughout the dinner because I was so cold.

When I got home, I went to the doctor, who said I had pneumonia. Long story short, I spent most of July sick. After countless tests, CT scans, and x-rays, I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis.

Needless to say, it was pretty sobering. “Can’t be cured.”

After trying multiple therapies, I now have a percussive vest to help clear my lungs – yes, the same thing they use for cystic fibrosis patients, and the old people in the photos on that website. I’ve got a super heavy medical device that I have to use for 30 minutes, twice a day. I’m halfway through my morning session right now, shaking as I type this.

But this post isn’t a pity party. It’s to say how thankful I am for the blessings in my life. My husband and children, and my extended family, who have all been super supportive. My job, in which I’m blessed to work from home, where I didn’t have to take more than a half day off work during my worst days, because I could sit at my desk at home and rest when I needed to. This industry, which keeps me inspired and engaged, even on days when I’m too tired to do anything but work.

I can still walk and go to the gym. My half marathon days are behind me, but I can still do 5Ks, if at a slower pace than before. I can still play the clarinet and saxophone – in fact, my doctors believe that playing a wind instrument has saved me from being much sicker, due to the expanded lung capacity and the vibrating of the instrument while I play, which mimics the vest and other therapies. I can still travel to conferences, although I may sometimes decline the evening networking to save my energy.

And this came at a good time in my life. I’m established in my career. This would have been a lot harder if I were new to my job. My kids are in their second year of college, living on campus, so I’m not running after little ones, which gives me more time to rest. And I already know how to play the clarinet. 🙂

I’m grateful for my friends in this industry, who have cheered me on and commiserated with me over the years. I love that although we’re spread out all over the world, we’re just a tweet away and can chat with one another about PPC challenges.

So if I miss a week of blogging here and there, now you know why. I’ll leave you with a favorite song by the Monkees, As We Go Along. There’s still so much to do in the sunlight.

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Google’s Going After Call Tracking

This week, Google made two important announcements that impact marketers who are trying to track calls from search, and/or control where the calls go.

The first change impacts those using location extensions. Effective January 19 – yes, in 2 weeks – Google “may” show the local phone number in your ad, instead of your desired number.

For many businesses, this is probably ok. For example, if I want to know the business hours for my local Best Buy, it makes sense to call that store, rather than a central number. But for many other businesses, this is a disaster. Local insurance companies, security offices, financial planners, and the like often prefer callers to dial a centralized call center, where representatives are prepared to handle the calls as leads. Local offices are often not set up to handle the volume and type of callers they receive from search ads.

Not to mention the fact that businesses may want to track phone calls through a central number. If calls start going to the local offices, they’ve lost control of tracking. We have more than one client who will be opting out of this, simply because they want granular call tracking.

The second change affects anyone using call extensions. Starting February 6 – yes, in less than a month – Google is going to automatically add mobile call extensions to advertisers who “prominently feature a phone number” on their landing pages.

Again, it’s possible to opt out of this. And again, for many advertisers, this is a nightmare. Let’s say you’re a retailer who only takes calls from 8am to 8pm, but can take online orders any time. Instead of deciding yourself whether or not to use mobile call extensions, and scheduling them to meet your needs, Google is going to just go ahead and show the phone number, no matter what. Yes, you can opt out, but how many businesses aren’t going to know or understand how to do that? I’m hearing on Twitter that not everyone received the email Google sent out (although we did receive it for all our applicable clients). And some less-sophisticated advertisers aren’t going to understand it anyway.

My first thought was that this is a disaster for those using dynamic call tracking on their landing pages. It seems to have the potential to totally screw up dynamic tracking. Thankfully, according to the Search Engine Land article, Google will be able to detect landing pages using dynamic call tracking, and will not generate the automatic call extensions for these ads. I’ll believe this when I see it, but for now it’s reassuring.

Here’s the crux of the whole thing, though. Google has a history of going after third-party providers. They went after bid management companies with automated bidding. They went after reporting companies with their new reporting features. And now they’re going after call tracking providers with this latest announcement.

Is this a bad thing? Well, I haven’t seen any third party bid management, reporting, or call tracking companies going belly up yet, at least not any of the major ones. But it’s still early. We all know what happened to third party web analytics when Google bought Urchin way back when and turned it into Google Analytics. Plenty of analytics providers went belly up – it just took a couple years.

I’m confident that third parties are here to stay when it comes to bid management, reporting, and call tracking. For one thing, third parties can report on data beyond Google AdWords. And they’re easier to work with than Google. But it’s kind of annoying to have to opt out of these “features” and “enhancements” all the time.

What do you think? Is Google trying to rule the world and run out third party providers? Or are the features good for most advertisers? Share in the comments!

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