Using Competitive PPC Intelligence Effectively

Earlier this week, an interesting discussion started on the PPCChat hashtag on Twitter regarding the use of competitive PPC intelligence obtained from tools such as SEMrush, SpyFu, and iSpionage, as well as visiting competitor websites. I commented that I was doing competitor research, and wondered how many remarketing ads I’d see as a result.

A few PPCChat’ers suggested some ways to avoid being retargeted. Shashikant Kore recommended using the incognito window of Chrome. Dan Nicholson said he uses a separate Google account or user in Chrome to avoid that problem. These are great suggestions if you don’t want to be followed around by irrelevant remarketing ads.

The discussion then turned to competitor landing page reviews. Julie Bacchini asked:  “Is it one of your standard practices to visit competitor sites too to see their remarketing?” John Ellis replied, “Yes, not only visit the site, but explore different pages to get the most variety possible.”

I do this as well – at a minimum, I’ll visit competitor landing pages and take screen shots to share with our clients. Often, we get ideas from competitor landing pages – or at least we learn what not to do!

But what if you want to see what competitors are doing with remarketing? There are definitely instances where this would be helpful, especially if your clients are asking for this information.

Julie Bacchini said she subscribes to email lists of competitors and follows them on social media. I’ve done this before, or I’ll set up Google Alerts for the competitor name to see what shows up.

Steve Seeley took it a step further: “I do the same, then target Gmail users with their domain and advertise better offers.” Great idea (and very sneaky!)

We then got into a lengthy and detailed conversation about the accuracy of competitor PPC intelligence on traffic volume and spend. Timothy Jensen put the following out there:

General PSA: don’t ever rely on a competitor tool for competitor spend estimates that are anywhere close to accurate.

I agreed, saying we use the data directionally, rather than as the exact amount. For example, if the tool says your client is spending $10,000 per month and Competitor A is spending $50,000 per month, you can assume that Competitor A is outspending your client by a factor of 5 to 1.

But Kirk Williams argued that even directional data can be off the mark: “When I analyzed my clients it ranged from like -200% to +500% in accuracy.” Jason Channell countered by saying he’d tested several of the tools against campaigns where he knew the spend, and the tool was accurate within plus or minus 20%. That’s been my experience as well. I can live with a margin of +/- 20%.

So why is Kirk seeing estimates that are that far off? It could be that some competitors (or his clients) are using dayparting, geotargeting, or even device targeting that’s throwing off the tools. Remember, competitive PPC intelligence tools scrape the SERPs and estimate – they don’t actually KNOW what everyone is spending. They scrape and guess. So things like geotargeting can throw off the accuracy, or even cause the tools to report no spend at all.

If tools are really so inaccurate, should we even use them? The consensus seemed to be that yes, competitor intelligence tools still have value, especially those that show the ads and keywords competitors are using (most tools do this). As far as spend goes, Kirk Williams had a great idea: just say “tool estimates aren’t exact, but it does look like you’re on the low end of spend.” I always include a caveat in any competitor report saying the numbers are estimates only.

Finally, I loved the suggestion from Kevin Cronin: “I try to shift conversation from competitor spend to ‘is this the right channel/targeting for you? If yes, take advantage.’” I’ve written many a post on this blog about PPC strategy, and that’s what Kevin’s point gets to – what is your ultimate goal anyway? Focus on that and not your competitors. One of the great aspects of PPC is that the “little guys” can compete with advertisers with deeper pockets, simply by sticking to their own goals and finding their niche.

How do you use competitive PPC intelligence data? Do you find it to be wildly inaccurate, or is it good enough? Share in the comments!

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The Decline And Fall Of Search Engine Strategies

Earlier this week, the news broke that ClickZ Live, formerly Search Engine Strategies, was shutting down. Long-time search pros took to Twitter to share stories of how they got started in the industry speaking at SES.

tweets
As many of my readers know, I started doing search way back in 2002. It wasn’t long before I realized I had a lot to learn. So in 2003, while working in-house, I convinced the CEO of the company to send me and our IT director to Search Engine Strategies in Boston.

I was hooked. I got to hear the movers and shakers, including Andrew Goodman and Brad Geddes, speak at the conference. I met many of the people I’d been chatting with on the Search Engine Watch forums. The content was so valuable that I started attending SES annually. I even blogged about how much I loved it. SES was really the only game in town, and it was a great one.

In 2009, I had my first speaking gig at SES. It was the start of a love affair with speaking about search that continues to this day.

My last SES was in 2012 (not counting a small local show in Atlanta in 2014). I couldn’t justify attending anymore – I wasn’t learning anything, since the content had been watered down so much; and there were other conferences that were more valuable.

And then, in 2014, SES/ClickZ Live started charging people to speak at the big shows.  That was the death knell for the conference for most of us. Search pros just can’t afford to pay to speak – and why would we? Many conferences pay their speakers (although, admittedly, it’s not common in the search industry).

charging-to-speak

The whole demise of SES is sad, and yet not surprising. Search Engine Strategies as we know it died two years ago, if not sooner. Not long ago, out of curiosity, I checked the website for a recent ClickZ Live event, and I didn’t recognize a single speaker on the agenda. And the session topics weren’t interesting at all. I couldn’t imagine any search marketer worth their salt paying to attend, much less paying to speak.

It truly is the end of an era. Thankfully, there are plenty of other good search conferences out there: SMX, HeroConf, and Pubcon; plus some excellent local conferences such as SEMpdx, SLCSEM, and DFWSEM, to name a few.

What are your thoughts on the end of SES/ClickZ Live? Does anyone even care? Share in the comments!

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Ad Testing: Conversions Per Impression

Ad copy testing is one of my favorite aspects of PPC. Where else can you get so much great data about what people respond to, so quickly?

The challenge in ad copy testing isn’t so much writing the ads, it’s deciding how to pick a winner. And there are many different opinions on how ad tests should be decided. If it were up to Google, they’d pick click-through rate as the deciding metric – as evidenced by their default “optimize” option:

ad rotation
(I hope all my readers know that “optimize for clicks” is NOT the ideal setting for most advertisers!)

Others may say total conversions should decide the winner in PPC ad testing; still others may vote for conversion rate or cost per conversion.

Arguments can be made for all of these options. An argument can even be made for CTR, if traffic, and not conversions, is your goal. I’ve optimized accounts using most of these metrics. And I’ve often seen that the ad with the worst CTR has the best conversion rate. Sometimes you actually want to discourage clicks from the wrong users, so a low CTR may be a good thing.

But my favorite way to analyze ad tests is using conversions per impression.

I first learned about conversions per impression from Brad Geddes in a blog post several years ago. It’s a revolutionary concept, and one that works well especially for lead generation. (If you’re doing ecommerce and measuring ROAS, you may want to stick to ROAS as your testing measurement instead of conversions per impression, as Brad outlines in this post).

The conversions-per-impression metric often serves as the tie-breaker when one ad has a higher CTR and the other has a higher conversion rate. Here’s an example:

conversions per impression example a

This image is from AdAlysis, another great tool that Brad developed. AdAlysis highlights winning metrics that meet a certain confidence level. In this test, you can see that one ad is winning for CTR at 99% confidence, but the other metrics are less than 90%.

I added green highlighting for the metric that’s higher in each of the conversion columns. Although these aren’t winners yet, you can see that the first ad has a higher conversion rate. If you were measuring conversion rate alone, you might be tempted to pick the first ad as your winner.

But look at conversions per impression and cost per conversion. Both of these numbers are better for the second ad. If you picked the first ad based on conversion rate alone, you would have possibly picked a loser.

At a minimum, you’ll want to wait until the conversion metrics reach statistical significance, especially since impressions are pretty different between the two ads (the first ad has half the impressions of the second, even though they launched on the same date). But it looks like the second ad is in the lead here.

Here’s another example:

conversions per impression example b

This is an interesting one. These ads have nearly identical impression numbers. The first ad is winning for CTR, but the second is winning for both conversion rate and cost per conversion. You may look at this and say “well, I bet the second ad is doing a better job of weeding out unqualified visitors. I’ll pick that as my winner.”

You’d be wrong. Look at conversions per impression here. The numbers are nearly identical, but the top ad’s number is slightly higher. This ad may end up doing better because of the higher CTR.

Remember, every impression is an opportunity for a conversion, as is every click. Conversions per impression takes both CTR and conversion rate into account, and allows you to maximize conversions per opportunity. That’s why I like to use this metric, especially for lead gen where revenue doesn’t play into the equation.

If you’re not using AdAlysis, you can calculate conversions per impression manually – just divide total conversions by total impressions, and run the numbers through a statistical significance calculator. (And if you’re not using AdAlysis for ad testing, what are you waiting for? It’s inexpensive, and worth every penny.)

Whatever metric you use to determine ad tests, make sure you use best practices for picking the winning ad. Don’t guess. The stakes are too high to risk a wrong guess!

What metric or metrics do you like to use to evaluate PPC tests? Have you tried conversions per impression? Share in the comments!

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Channels Are Not Strategy

Earlier this week, TechCrunch published an article by Samuel Scott called How Google Analytics ruined marketing. It’s a lengthy but important article saying that’s because Google Analytics (and all web analytics packages, for that matter) force marketers into looking at performance by channel, instead of focusing on strategy and objectives.

In the years before web analytics, the article says, no one talked about “television marketing;” yet people today constantly talk about “Facebook marketing,” “content marketing,” and even “social media marketing.” These, the author states, are not strategies.

I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve written about strategy so many times that I created an entire section on this blog for it. And yet, on what feels like a daily basis, I hear marketers talking about “Facebook marketing” and the like as a strategy.

Here’s the thing: a strategy is a means for achieving a business goal. According to Wikipedia, “marketing strategy has the fundamental goal of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.” If you read the rest of that Wikipedia page, it reads like a college textbook on marketing. It takes me back to my undergrad and master’s degree days.

The point is, we’ve forgotten what we learned in school. Channels aren’t strategy.

Lots of marketers mistake tactics or tools for strategy. Sometimes they get stuck on a particular creative idea, and want that idea to become their “strategy.” But ideas aren’t strategy. They’re ideas, and creative is an important part of any marketing mix. But the strategy should help a business achieve goals – not be an end in itself.

The same thing goes for calling “Facebook marketing” a strategy. It’s not.

That’s not the worst of it. Even the TechCrunch author got it wrong! Here’s his example:

techcrunch strategy
This isn’t strategy either! SEO is a channel, not a strategy. Take a step back: why did the person create informational material in the first place? No one creates information material for the fun of it. They’re doing it to sell stuff! That’s the strategy, not SEO.

When decision-makers think about marketing strategy (and spending their money on any type of marketing efforts), they have questions in their mind. Back in 2014, I wrote about 7 Things About PPC Strategy Your Clients Want to Know. In the post, the first thing mentioned is campaign goals. What are we trying to accomplish? And “be on Facebook” or “get to the top of Google” aren’t goals. You can spend a bunch of money marketing on Facebook or bidding high on Google, only to find it didn’t generate a single sale. This is why channels aren’t strategy. They don’t achieve goals.

Another question in the client’s mind is “how do we know if we’ve succeeded?” Well, if your strategy is “Facebook marketing,” you’ve succeeded the second you put a post on Facebook. And if that’s true, then every crappy company who’s posting to a Facebook page is succeeding. We all know that’s absurd.

Remember, a strategy includes goals and objectives. Sure, your strategy may be to “use Facebook to reach our target audience and generate sales of blue widgets” or “engage in SEO to improve visibility of key product pages to increase sales.” But the strategy isn’t “Facebook marketing” or “SEO.” Those are tactics – means to an end.

To make sure your strategy stands up, check out my Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Strategy.

What do you think? Do you find that marketers understand strategy, or are clients coming to you saying “we want to be on Facebook”? Share in the comments!

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Bid Management In 2016

Last year, I wrote a post called Bid Management: Is It Even Still a Thing? In that post, I talked about all the bid management tools PPC managers have at their disposal, from Adwords Scripts to automated bidding in the engines to bid management software. I wondered, with all the tools available to us, whether manual bidding had become a thing of the past. Do people even focus on bid management, or do they let tools do the work?

A quick Google search for “bid management” indicates that it is still very much a thing:

bid management serp

3 PPC ads, plus an organic listing and an irrelevant Wikipedia definition, show above the fold. 2 of the ads are for agencies (including my local friends at Netvantage), and one is for a bid management platform. So clearly, people are searching for help with bid management.

There certainly is no shortage of bid management tools out there. Just last week, Google launched Adwords Smart Bidding, which uses “powerful machine learning” and device performance optimization, among other things.

So is automated bid management really better than manual bid management? My answer, as with many things PPC, is it depends.

When Automated Bidding Makes Sense:

•    In large accounts, it’s nearly impossible to manually manage bids. It’s inefficient and leads to sub-optimal performance. Some type of automated bidding, whether through a paid tool, scripts, or engine optimization, is necessary. I like third party tools, since they’re more robust than the free tools, and include features like budget management that are harder to do with free tools.
•    When you have high click or conversion volume. Even in smaller accounts, if you have a lot of conversions, using the “target CPA” rules in Adwords and Bing can really improve performance and make bid management easier. You’ll still need to monitor your bids, but you won’t need to actively manage them on a daily basis.
•    When your goal is ad position or impressions. Using rules like “bid to position” makes manual bid management unnecessary, if these things are your goal. It’s rare that bidding to position makes sense – I always recommend against it – but in competitive situations on brand terms, for instance, it can be important.

When Manual Bidding Makes Sense:

•    For small accounts with low budgets. If you have an account with a fairly small number of keywords, and a limited budget, you can often just set your bids and check them every couple of days. Your budget cap will keep you from overspending, and if you’re limited by budget, making tons of bid changes isn’t really necessary.
•    When you have little competition. This is pretty darn rare these days, but there are some niche industries where there are few competitors advertising. If no one is bidding against you, bid management is simple.
•    When automation fails. It’s rare, but I’ve had instances where bid management tools have failed, either by killing volume while trying to meet a CPA goal, or by creating a ton more work for me in reviewing reports from a script. Sometimes the bid or competitive situation is too complicated for a tool algorithm or script to understand, and requires a human touch.

What do you think? Do you prefer automated bid management for most of your accounts, or do you still like the control that manual bidding offers? When do you prefer one over the other? Share in the comments!

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8 Reasons Why PPC Campaigns Fail

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a PPC pro – someone who does PPC for a living. At a minimum, you have some kind of interest in PPC: if you’re not doing it for a living, maybe you’re trying to learn, or maybe you do SEO or some other kind of internet marketing and want to understand PPC as part of the marketing mix.

Every PPC professional has had at least one campaign that failed in some way. It didn’t meet the expectations of your client or boss. In the agency world, it’s common nowadays to inherit existing PPC accounts that were poorly managed in one way or another and failed to meet client expectations.

So what are the reasons why PPC campaigns fail? Is it just incompetence on the part of the PPC manager.

Not always.

Sure, there’s some incompetence out there, as there is in any field. We’ve all seen accounts with a single campaign that’s full of broad match keywords driving to the homepage. But that’s not common. Here are some of the common reasons I’ve seen PPC campaigns fail.

Lack of goals.

As the old adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Setting goals is a basic tenet of any marketing plan, and yet it’s common to see advertisers whose stated goal is “we need to get ads on Google.” Sorry, but “getting ads on Google” is not a marketing strategy or goal.

Lack of conversion tracking.

What good is setting a destination if you don’t know when you’ve arrived there? Without proper conversion tracking, you’re flying blind. You’ll never know if you achieved your goal or not. It always surprises me when we see accounts with no conversion tracking whatsoever. It shocks me when clients resist putting tracking codes on their website – and yet it happens more often than I’d like to admit.

Refusing to put conversion tracking on your website is like refusing to use a cash register at your store checkout. Sure, you could just have employees stuff all the cash in a drawer – but at the end of the day, how would you know how many units you sold? How can you tell if employees are skimming from the till? Without a tracking system, you won’t. Same thing goes for PPC.

Poor campaign structure.

I alluded to this earlier – the horror story of a single campaign full of broad match. But PPC campaign structure problems go beyond the obvious. We inherited an account that looked great on the surface: its campaigns were set up by geo location and by brand or non-brand keywords. Problem was, the brand campaigns had non-brand keywords in them, and vice versa.

Campaign structure is only as good as the person managing it. You must follow it.

Poor landing pages.

So many PPC advertisers have great campaigns, with great structure, keywords, and ad copy – and then they fall down on landing pages. Having poor landing pages while spending money on PPC ads is the equivalent of buying a Super Bowl ad for a dirty, disorganized store with mean sales clerks. It doesn’t make sense.

Use landing page best practices to ensure that your online store is clean, well-organized, and ready to convert.

Bad ad copy.

Good campaign structure and landing pages are critical to success, but so is good ad copy. In just a few characters, your ad copy must convey what it is you’re offering, what you want users to do, and why they should do it. It’s a tough challenge, and many advertisers fail.

Ensure your ad copy is as good as it can be by using this cheat sheet.

Campaigns aren’t managed actively, or aren’t managed well.

PPC is not a “set it and forget it” medium. Setting up good campaigns is only the beginning. Successful PPC managers spend most of their time optimizing keywords, ad copy, bids, and many other elements of PPC.

A lot of businesses wrongly assume that a junior-level marketing staffer can manage their PPC campaigns on a part-time basis. Unless that person has PPC experience, this is almost always a failing proposition. Hiring an experienced PPC manager, whether to work in house or in an agency, is the best option for most advertisers.

You’ve done all this, and the campaign is still failing.

What now? Sometimes, despite our best efforts, campaigns continue to underperform. What can be done? Check out this post on how to solve the biggest problems in PPC.

PPC isn’t for every business.

It’s rare, but every once in a while there is a business or campaign that just doesn’t work. At this point, you may have to face the reality that PPC isn’t right for this business. Just make sure you’ve tried all options before conceding defeat.

What are some of the reasons you’ve seen PPC campaigns fail? Share in the comments!

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PPC Book Review: PPC SEM An Hour A Day

ppc an hour a dayOne of my favorite books for new PPC pros is Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing An Hour a Day by two of my favorite PPC people, David Szetela and Joe Kerschbaum. The format of the book literally takes the reader on a 9-month journey to learn all the ins and outs of PPC – in just one hour per day.

Published in 2010, you may think the book is totally outdated by now. And if you look at it on the surface, it is. But I still recommend PPC An Hour A Day to novice PPC’ers, because the fundamentals haven’t changed in the 14 years I’ve been doing PPC. Keyword research is still keyword research. Good ad copy is still good ad copy. Good landing pages are still good landing pages. Sure, the screen shots may not look like what you’re seeing, but if you look past that, you’ll learn how to do PPC the right way by reading this book.

The first three chapters of the book cover PPC fundamentals: the art and science of PPC, how PPC works, and core PPC skills and objectives. These chapters are a sort of “required reading” prerequisite for the meat of the book, which is the “hour a day part.” Readers will need to devote the time to read about 50 pages before they jump into any real PPC work. And that’s a good thing – PPC is so complex these days that it’s risky to just start running campaigns without any background knowledge.

Once you finish the first 3 chapters, then the “hour a day” work begins. I love the progression of the book: it starts with keywords, ad copy, and landing pages, which are the building blocks of a successful PPC campaign. From there, it moves into optimization, Microsoft, and Adwords Editor.

The book is Adwords-first, meaning it teaches you the concepts in Adwords, and then moves to other engines. This approach makes sense, since Adwords is the standard-bearer for the PPC industry. It’s often easier to launch campaigns in Adwords, and then import them to Bing Ads.

Probably the only section of the book that’s truly outdated is the chapter on Microsoft’s Bing Ads. It wasn’t even called Bing Ads when the book was written – it was still Microsoft adCenter. Most of the differences between the old adCenter and Adwords mentioned in the book have been brought to parity by the Bing Ads engineering team, so you’ll have fewer gyrations to go through when importing your campaigns.

The book also covers YSM, which doesn’t exist anymore. Sure, there is Yahoo Gemini, but it’s quite different from the old YSM, and not as widely used. I still recommend reviewing these chapters, as there is a lot you can get out of the Microsoft chapter in particular.

All in all, PPC SEM An Hour a Day is a book that stands up over time. The fundamentals are there, broken out into digestible chunks that anyone can master. And if you’re working through the book and have questions, remember there’s always PPCChat on Twitter. ! Come ask us about anything you read that’s confusing – we’re here to help!

You can find PPC SEM An Hour a Day on Amazon. Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Yes, The Google Display Network Can Drive PPC Conversions!

I remember when Google launched the Google Display Network. It was called the Content Network back then, and it was part of search campaigns. In the beginning, not only were you stuck with the same bids for search as for display, but you couldn’t opt out of the content network at all!

Thankfully, Google saw the light and fixed things pretty quickly: first, allowing an opt-out, and second, allowing separate bids. Then, finally, Google gave us the ability to create distinct GDN campaigns.

I often hear people say to avoid the GDN like the plague, claiming poor conversion rates and low-quality traffic. And that’s what you’ll find if you merely copy your search campaigns to display (or worse, run display in combination with search). But a carefully crafted GDN campaign can drive conversions at a low cost.

In fact, I’ve written about how to profit from the Google Display Network. Let’s revisit some of those tactics, and talk about some new ones as well.

Generate awareness.

OK, awareness doesn’t always lead to conversions. But if you have a new product that people aren’t searching for, or if you’re targeting a niche audience, the GDN is a great way to reach people who may not be aware of your product. Impressions are usually high in the GDN, meaning lots of exposure for your ads. With a carefully crafted campaign and strategy, you can generate not only awareness, but conversions for a product that people may not be searching for.

Also, if you’re using rich media image ads, you can drive a lot of awareness without anyone even clicking on your ad! Remember, you don’t pay for impressions in the GDN, so engaging or interesting ads can capture attention without costing a lot in clicks.

Create remarketing lists.

Sure, you can do remarketing on the GDN, but you can also use GDN traffic to create remarketing or RLSA lists. This works especially well for new or niche products as mentioned in the example above. With the right targeting, you can drive people to your website from the GDN at a low cost, and then use RLSA or remarketing to get them to convert.

Launch in a new region.

A geotargeted GDN campaign can be a great way to create awareness of your company in a new geographic region. Let’s say you’re well-established in the US, and just recently launched in Canada. Or, you opened a new location in a new city within the US. Create a geotargeted GDN campaign to generate awareness of your business – again, at a lower CPC than you’d find with search. (Hat tip to Timothy Jensen for this idea!)

Get your ads on YouTube and other high-traffic sites.

Yes, YouTube is part of the GDN, as are other high-profile sites that you may not be able to afford otherwise. We frequently see our clients’ GDN ads on YouTube, even as in-stream ads showing over videos. This is great exposure for clients who may not otherwise have the assets (such as videos) to run on YouTube.

In my 2014 article, I talked about getting on to LinkedIn via the GDN. I’m not sure that’s still possible. That said, Microsoft’s recent purchase of LinkedIn could lead to an entirely new way to serve ads on LinkedIn – albeit not through the GDN.

As with any PPC campaign, driving conversions through the GDN requires attention and optimization. You’ll need to monitor your placement reports and remove any poor-performing sites. Test ad copy and ad variations like crazy. Try different targeting options: placement, keyword, interest, and combinations of these. Just be careful not to restrict your audience to the point that you don’t get any traffic.

With careful planning and monitoring, you can generate conversions from the GDN!

What are your favorite ways to use the GDN? Share in the comments!

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SMX Advanced 2016: My Presentation

Yesterday, I presented at SMX Advanced on Conversion Rates and the Laws of Diminishing Astonishment. It was a great panel, and I’m excited to share my deck with my readers. Enjoy!

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5 Challenges for PPC Lead Generation In 2016

In 2015, I wrote a post detailing 5 challenges for PPC lead generation. Lead generation in PPC, especially in Google, continues to be a struggle for many B2B advertisers. Here’s why the reasons outlined in my 2015 post are still true this year.

Nothing is sold.

Google loves to talk about all the great ways to sell products via AdWords. You can set up a shopping feed, which has been enhanced recently; you can use mobile ads to direct shoppers to your local store, and you can even track store visits to measure foot traffic from PPC ads.

All of this is great for ecommerce advertisers – and useless for most B2B advertisers who use PPC. Lead generation advertisers don’t sell products through a shopping cart or a brick-and-mortar storefront. These advertisers are national or even international companies who, at best, have a local sales force that calls on businesses. No one is going to buy a $1,000,000 enterprise software package through an online shopping cart with a credit card. So none of these lovely features apply to B2B.

Lead generation advertisers can’t use Shopping feeds.

As mentioned above, Shopping is a non-event for B2B. And in February, Google removed all the ads in the right rail, relegating them to the top and bottom of the SERPs. The only thing that appears in the right rail now is shopping ads. Lead generation advertisers can’t use shopping. So we’re locked out of that prime real estate.

Landing pages can be a challenge.

Yes, even in the 2016 world of PPC, lead generation landing pages can be a challenge. Testing landing pages is an even bigger challenge.

Lately, Google has been pushing dynamic features like dynamic search ads and dynamic sitelinks. These features are a big timesaver for ecommerce advertisers who are selling hundreds of products – I wish we’d had them when I was doing in-house ecommerce PPC!

But for lead generation advertisers, dynamic ads and extensions are a nightmare. Frequently, we have a few specific pages we want to send search visitors to, and they’re often built on a CMS like Marketo or Eloqua. The main client site usually isn’t optimized for lead gen, so we don’t want to send people there. We don’t want Google crawling the site and creating dynamic stuff out of it. So we don’t use dynamic search ads, and we opt out of dynamic sitelinks.

Only initial responses are visible in the PPC accounts.

This is generally still true and is still a problem. It’s very difficult to mash together CRM data and initial conversion data and optimize based on it. Even phone call conversion data, if you’re using 3rd party call tracking, is hard to match up with PPC data, unless you’re using a bid management platform like Acquisio.

That said, there are a few companies out there who’ve created CRM integration with AdWords. And AdWords just launched a Salesforce import of AdWords data – one of the first innovations strictly for PPC lead generation that I can remember.

PPC tools and features are often at odds with lead generation.

A while ago, I wrote a post titled 3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers. It’s still true, and Julie Friedman Bacchini did a good job of outlining how Google ignored B2B in their recent set of announcements.

I’m thrilled with the fact that we will be able to bid separately for tablets again. Tablets perform universally badly for lead generation. And expanded text ads will be a boon to lead generation advertisers. Just this week, I struggled with describing B2B services, many of which use long words, in only 70 characters.

All that said, I’m particularly frustrated by the focus on local and mobile. I get that mobile is huge and can’t be ignored. Even our B2B clients see a lot of mobile traffic. But voice search continues to pose problems. And none of our clients have physical locations that customers can visit. People aren’t searching for “enterprise software sellers near me.” All the focus on “near me” is, frankly, annoying.

I still hold out hope that Google will finally show some love to PPC lead generation advertisers. But I’m not holding my breath.

What do you think? Will Google ever consider lead gen? Or will they continue to focus on pizza parlors? Share in the comments!

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