PPC Ad Test Settings: The Great Debate

PPC ad testing is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s one of the most fun aspects of managing PPC campaigns: learning what ad copy performs best. It’s always fun to try something wild and crazy and have it perform well, or to prove an insistent client right or wrong with test data.

Lately, there have been several opinions thrown around regarding which PPC ad test settings should be used for best results. It’s been interesting to watch the debate play out in blog posts and on Twitter. And to add confusion to the mix, Google recently announced that they were reducing the options available for ad rotation to two: optimize and rotate indefinitely. Google claims the change was rolling out in September, but I’m still seeing 4 options in my campaigns.

Anyway, there are a few PPC experts who have suggested that it’s better in the long run to use the Optimize settings, rather than Rotate Evenly. PPC Hero recommends running 3 or more ads per ad group, and letting Google choose the winner. This is also Google’s recommendation, incidentally. Their argument is based on a case study showing that clicks increased when they chose the Optimize setting and ran 3 or more ads.

If you’re optimizing for clicks, you probably have bigger problems than choosing ad rotation settings.

At HeroConf London, Marty Röttgerding gave a presentation on ad rotation. I wasn’t at the conference, but his deck is up on Slideshare. I strongly recommend you check it out – while paging through Slideshare isn’t the same as hearing the presentation in person, you can get the drift. He talks about statistical significance and essentially says it’s a red herring. He also points out that the search partner network, and its low CTRs, throws things off. So does ad position and the fact that quality score and other factors are determined at the time of the auction. Marty also advocates letting Google handle ad rotation.

I disagree.

Now before you dismiss me as a Luddite who wants to manually control all aspects of Adwords, let me remind you that I wrote a post not long ago advocating for using bid management tools. I’m a big fan of automation. Just not when it comes to ad copy testing.

I’ve tried using optimize for conversions, more than once. We’ve inherited accounts full of campaigns with that setting. And when we’ve evaluated results, we’ve always come to the same conclusion: Optimize for conversions is flawed.

It’s flawed for the same reason that Facebook ad “rotation” is flawed. Both systems pick winners too soon. (To be clear, I’m not talking about the brand new split testing feature that FB just announced here.)

I’ve seen Adwords choose a winning ad that’s had 10-20 clicks. That’s just not enough clicks to be significant at any level. I’m not looking for 99% confidence, but when an ad could get 5-10 additional clicks and show a totally different result, that’s not a winning ad in my mind. There isn’t enough data to confidently say that the ad Google deems a “loser” won’t actually perform better with more clicks.

I’m not a fan of the “run at least 3 ads” logic either. We inherited a client nearly 2 years ago that was running 5-10 ads in every ad group. Each ad had a handful of clicks. There was no way to see which ad was winning – and no tests would ever come close to statistical significance. Here’s what happened when we took over and started running systematic tests, 2 ads at a time:

Of course, we were doing other optimization here, but ad copy testing was a huge part of it.

Here’s the bottom line. I get that automation is great and helps us focus on strategic PPC management. But why hand all your automation over to Google? We all know Google has Google’s best interest at heart, not ours.

I prefer using third party tools. For bid management, I like Acquisio. For ad copy testing, I’m a huge fan of AdAlysis. AdAlysis tells you when you have statistically significant test results, and can even automate your ad testing. It’ll pause losing ads, based on the KPIs you choose:

You can also set up draft ads that will automatically start running when loser ads are paused:

You can test a whole new ad, or have AdAlysis pick up elements of the previous ad. In the example above, I’m testing descriptions, so I want to keep the headlines the same as before. Just check the box, and the tool will do that.

It takes some time and thought to set up the automation, but the same is true of setting up tests via Google. And Google won’t automatically pause losing ads, unless you run a script telling it do to so. AdAlysis has so many other features besides ad copy testing, but is worth it for the testing tools alone.

When it comes to PPC ad test settings, I like to choose Rotate Indefinitely and make my own decisions on winners and losers.

What do you think? Are you in the automation camp for PPC ad test settings? If so, do you let Google automate, or are you using a tool? Share in the comments!

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What Type Of Info Really Sells Your PPC Audience?

In previous articles on PPC audiences, I’ve talked about the importance of audiences, who is the audience, and audience segmentation. All are necessary when conceptualizing a PPC campaign that’s using audience targeting. But once you set up the campaign, what type of info really sells your PPC audience?

If you’re a B2C ecommerce advertiser, the answer is easy: give them a deal! Countless articles have been written about using special offers in remarketing to lure customers back to your site to make a purchase. Here are just a few offers you could try:

• Exclusive deals or offers for returning shoppers
• Free shipping
• Customer rewards
• BOGO – buy one, get one offers
• Free products with purchase

There are many more. It’s fairly easy to brainstorm ideas, figure out which ones make business sense, and test them with your audience.

But what about B2B lead generation advertisers?

As usual, B2B is tricky. Many advertisers are not selling a physical product, or if they are, it’s high-consideration and not going to be purchased online in an ecommerce fashion. Offers like free shipping and customer rewards don’t make sense. What sells the B2B audience, then?

Valuable information.

Offering a valuable piece of content is a common tactic for B2B – because it works. An in-depth white paper, ebook, or guide that talks about common customer problems and potential solutions is an effective way to generate leads. Gate the content behind a form, or use data connectors like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google forms to collect contact info. High-value content is a tried and true way to get leads that ultimately turn into sales.

Free trials.

If you’re selling software or SAAS products, free trials are highly effective in converting prospects to leads. Trials let potential customers try your product risk-free for a period of time, usually 14 to 30 days. The premise is that once they get used to using your software, they won’t want to stop, so they’ll buy it. I’ve personally become a customer of more than one product this way.

Personal attention.

Nowadays, with so many things being automated, a little personal attention from a real human goes a long way. Offering a free consultation, a conversation with a specialist, or even just an appointment with sales can be an effective way to get your foot in the door. We’ve had more than one client see success with using a “contact sales” or “free consult” offer, especially for high-consideration products or complicated services that require an individualized approach.

Price quotes.

Another simple, yet effective offer is to provide a price quote. B2B products and services often do not conform to a simple one-size-fits-all price. There are nuances, service levels, and add-ons that make it impossible to even put a pricing sheet on the company website. Using a form to give a price quote is a great way to not only get a lead, but to guide the prospect into the sales funnel.

Comparison to competitors.

If you’re the market leader, or if you have a feature that your competitors lack, using a landing page with a comparison grid is very persuasive.

Whether you choose to bid on competitor keywords or not, using a comparison grid helps show how you stack up, and convince a prospect to choose you over someone else. While a grid like this isn’t an offer per se, it’s a gateway to pique a user’s interest and convince them to provide their contact info to learn more. Try it on a landing page with an offer, as an added boost.

What about you? What type of info or offers have you tried that really sell your PPC audience? Share in the comments!

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PPC Reports: We Can Do Better

Creating PPC reports is a big part of every PPC professional’s job. Whether you work in-house or at an agency, it’s almost always necessary to report on campaign performance.

When I started doing PPC in 2002, reporting usually involved downloading raw data into Excel and trying to make sense of it. Today, there are countless tools available to help create PPC reports. Some are paid, like Optmyzr, Swydo, and reporting tools within bid management platforms like Acquisio. Others are free – Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, and the reports section of Adwords, to name a few. Most reporting tools include a WYSIWYG editor that helps you easily create graphs and visualizations.

I’ve been writing about PPC reports since 2011. And yet, in 2017, I still regularly see reports like this:

If I needed to quickly answer the question “how are my campaigns doing?”, I couldn’t do that with this report.

Folks, we can do better.

A good PPC report should tell a story, It should immediately make its key points clear, with visuals. Use graphs and color coding to help tell the story:

Contrast this image to the previous one. At a glance, I can tell that we are below our target for responses, and that our CTR and budget are below target as well. From that, I can infer that we are below target on responses because we have not spent what we thought we would. As an agency, this isn’t a great thing to report to a client, but it’s immediately clear what is happening and what needs to be done about it.

Visuals like this make it easy to focus on insights and recommendations: why are we underspent? What are we going to do to fix the issue? That’s the info that clients are looking for from a report – not a dump of numbers without context.

If you’re creating reports consisting of numbers in Excel, it’s time to rethink your reporting. Even adding a simple Excel graph showing KPI performance over time can make a difference in how easy the data is to digest. Resist the urge to throw data into the report just because it exists. Every element of the report should have a purpose and should illustrate how the campaigns performed against goals and objectives. For example, is performance by device really necessary? If you’re not going to do anything different in the campaign as a result of the data, don’t include it.

And if your campaigns don’t have clearly defined goals and objectives, stop everything and read this post.

Creating good visuals in a report doesn’t require fancy BI tools. The health check in the example above is a simple Excel chart with added circles created in PowerPoint. Mountain graphs aren’t necessary either – you could use two lines and achieve the same objective.

The point is, we can do better. PPC reports shouldn’t require a math degree to decipher. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

What are your favorite PPC reporting tactics? Share in the comments!

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Advanced Shopping Campaign Segmentation for Increased ROI

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by Kelsey Hadaller of Hanapin Marketing. Get ready for some excellent shopping and e-commerce tips!

If ROI goals aren’t being met in your e-commerce account, consider segmenting your Shopping campaigns for a fast way to gain control over bids, budget and improve performance. While one campaign containing all products might be effective for smaller sites, using multiple Shopping campaigns is beneficial when targeting many products.

Shopping Segmentation Case Study

Let’s look at how segmenting Shopping campaigns helped increased ROAS for an actual AdWords account. This account ran for years with several Search and Display campaigns, but only a single Shopping campaign containing all products. After consistent Non-Branded ROAS decreases, we decided to segment the All Products campaign into the below segments.

• Remarketing
• High Profit Margin
• Overstock Products
• Beginner Products (most popular and competitive products)

The below table shows performance for the date range before and after the Shopping campaigns were segmented. Overall conversion volume decreased by 30.93% due to seasonality during the holiday season. Despite the high volume of conversions and revenue during the holiday season, the 2:1 ROAS goal was not reached. After segmenting Shopping campaigns, ROAS increased by 33.95%.

By splitting out shopping campaigns, we did the following:

• Increased bids and spend for previous site visitors
• Decreased spend for low ROAS products
• Increased Impression Share for popular and competitive products
• Increased purchases for overstock and out of date products

Segmentation Ideas

Once you decide your Shopping campaign(s) should be segmented, the next step is determining your new campaign structure. Below are five campaign segmentation ideas that apply to most e-commerce accounts.

Brand vs. Non-Brand

Splitting Shopping campaigns into Branded and Non-Branded queries has pros and cons.

To split out Shopping campaigns into Branded and Non-Branded campaigns, add your brand name and variations of it as a negative phrase match keyword to the Non-Branded campaign. All queries containing the brand name will then be matched to products in the Branded campaign instead.

Sale Products

Another great option for a separate Shopping campaign is a campaign containing products on sale. Use the high priority campaign setting to ensure queries matching to sale products are served ads from this campaign first. If your daily budget for this campaign is depleted at 6pm, ads can then still be served from the All Products Shopping campaign for the remainder of the day.

Take your sale products campaign to the next level and implement Merchant Promotions to increase clickthrough rate!

High ROAS

Another way to maximize Impression Share for top performing products is to break them out into their own campaign. This could include popular products that convert at a high rate or high margin products that have relatively low CPCs and result in high return.

Set this campaign at a medium priority setting to ensure queries match to the sale products campaign first and the high ROAS campaign second.

Low ROAS

You might be wondering why you would include historically low performing products in your shopping campaigns. There are a couple reasons to consider giving low ROAS products a second or third chance.

First, separating products into several Shopping campaigns gives you additional control over daily spend. Lowering bids and spend on an item will likely result in improved ROAS. Second, by separating low ROAS products into their own campaign, you’re also labeling these products as high priority for optimizations. This campaign should receive more Search Query Reports and bid adjustments throughout the month than the high ROAS campaign where products convert at a higher rate.

Remarketing

Sure, you can go the easy route and increase bids for previous site visitors, shopping cart abandoners or loyal customers in your Shopping campaigns. Create a separate RLSA Shopping campaign using a high priority setting to maximize Impression Share for users most likely to make purchases.

When setting up your RLSA Shopping campaign, make sure to use higher bids than the Non-RLSA Shopping campaigns. This ensures the campaign break-out will increase Impression Share and spend for your targeted audiences.

Do you have any strong opinions on Shopping campaign segmentation? If so, feel free to comment!

Kelsey Hadaller is Senior Account Manager for Hanapin Marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @khaddy_ppc.

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The Facebook Targeting Snafu

Facebook targeting has come under fire recently by ProPublica for allowing advertisers to target based on hate speech. In response, Facebook temporarily suspended the ability to target by employer.

Yes, people were actually entering racist things like “Jew hater” as their employer or job title in Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me what people will say on social media that has their full name attached.

Facebook is working to reinstate full targeting for advertisers, but the question remains: Whose job is it to police hate speech? And, can AI and technology really understand speech well enough to carry the responsibility for editorial review?

Clearly, in this case the answer was no. Facebook is now moving to human review of the previously suspended categories.

The targeting problem created issues for countless advertisers, especially in the B2B sector. We had to shuffle priorities quickly on Monday to respond to the change. One client had just asked us to add some employer targeting to their campaigns, and we aren’t able to comply with the request. We had other clients to whom we were pitching employer-targeted campaigns, and we were scrambling to figure out what to pitch them in its place. Sure, LinkedIn is the king of employer and B2B targeting, but their high CPCs make them less attractive than Facebook. It’s a less efficient buy. And forget about employer targeting on Twitter or any other social platform.

As much a problem as the Facebook targeting snafu is for advertisers, though, it’s a greater problem for society. Targeting ads based on hate speech is a slippery slope for a mainstream platform like Facebook. They’ve already been accused of allowing foreign advertisers who allegedly hacked our election in 2016, and are working with the investigation to get to the bottom of things. No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, hacking an election is a scary proposition. Facebook had to act.

Notice that no one has gone after Google in all this (at least not yet). Nor have they gone after Twitter – despite the fact that Twitter is a haven for political and racist trolls. It just goes to show how far Facebook has come in the ad world. They’re near the top of the heap – maybe not financially, but in terms of attention.

I remember when Google was the center of attention. Seems the model has shifted. Will Facebook unseat Google any time soon? Maybe. The writing is on the wall.

What do you think about the whole Facebook targeting snafu? Did it impact you? Has Facebook become the darling of the online ad world? Share in the comments!

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Top 5 Articles on PPC Audiences

I’ve been writing a lot about PPC audiences this year. PPC audiences have been the talk of marketers for a couple of years now, and with good reason. We used to have keywords, and paid social – and the two didn’t cross paths. Now, we have RLSA, remarketing, in-market audiences for search, and loads of other great ways to combine the intent of keyword search with the targeting of paid social. Here are 5 great articles from around the web on PPC audiences.

No, Paid Search Audiences Won’t Replace Keywords by Kirk Williams. A thought-provoking post about why keyword search is still important, even in the face of so many audience targeting options.

Why I like it: “Now, before we get into the throes of keyword philosophy, I’d like to reduce the number of angry comments this post receives by acknowledging a crucial point.” It’s vintage Kirk, and still tees up the premise of the article.

In-Market Audiences For Google Search Campaigns by Dan Roberts. An excellent overview of the recently-launched in-market audiences for Adwords.

Why I like it: The post lays out the details on how to use in-market segments for search – and then points out that, while this is a cool feature, it shifts the power from advertisers to Google. Right on.

PPC Audience Targeting From Google To Social by Alaina Thompson. A detailed post on branching out into paid social targeting, with a link to another detailed article on search audiences.

Why I like it: Alaina talks about why customer match is so powerful.

Podcast: Michelle Morgan, Negative Audiences and Audience Shaping, an interview of Michelle by JD Prater. OK, this isn’t technically a post, but podcasts are cool too. Michelle goes in-depth on negative audiences and why they’re so important.

Why I like it: It’s a podcast! With Michelle, who I’ve enjoyed watching her career take off over the past few years.

Getting Started with Audience Targeting in PPC by me. OK, I wrote this – but you should still read it! This post has a little bit of everything about audience targeting.

Why I like it: I wrote it! (Just kidding!) Unlike many how-to posts, this one talks about offers as well as choosing audiences.

PPC audience targeting is here to stay. Have you read any great posts about PPC audiences? Share in the comments!

 

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Yes, A Full Service Agency Can Do PPC

I was doing some research earlier this week, and came across an article from Hanapin Marketing called 26 Signs You Need a New Agency. Most of the signs make sense: the agency isn’t transparent, it won’t give the client access to their PPC accounts, or it makes grandiose guarantees of results. My favorite sign in the article is “They don’t ask for/clarify goals at the beginning of the relationship.” I’ve written multiple articles on PPC goals – it’s the most important key to the success of any PPC campaign, and yet one of the most overlooked steps in the process.

But I took issue with this “sign”:

“They’re a “full service” marketing agency

If an agency describes themselves as “full service,” it can mean two things: one, that they do not specialize in any one area, and therefore cannot provide the accuracy and detail in any one area of marketing that a specialized agency could. Or two, that they are such a large agency that they can have a team that specializes in every area of marketing, meaning that you would never have a direct contact at the agency and may be easily forgotten or have your needs postponed for a bigger ticket client.”

Full disclosure: I work for gyro, a full service agency specializing in B2B. And I take issue with the assertion that full service agencies cannot provide great PPC management and results. In fact, full service agencies provide many benefits.

Integrated marketing.

A good full service agency focuses on integrated marketing. At gyro, we do everything: PPC, SEO, content marketing and creation, media, creative, web design and development, and strategy development. Since a good full service agency can handle all of the client’s marketing efforts, there’s no need for cross-agency coordination. We’re simply working with our co-workers on an integrated marketing plan. It’s easy to meet to discuss our thoughts, brainstorm, and put together an integrated plan, because we’re all under one roof. Everyone agrees on KPIs, goals, and objectives – and there’s no cross-agency territorialism.

A dedicated account executive, plus experts in each discipline.

At gyro, each client has at least one account executive whose sole job is to manage the client relationship. The AE schedules meetings and is the main point of contact for the client. He or she coordinates all efforts for the client and ensures work is completed.

In addition, experts in each discipline work directly with the client. My clients know they can contact me directly with any questions about search. We keep the AEs copied on communications so they know what’s going on. This structure has dual benefits: the client has one point of contact in the agency, and I don’t have to deal with things like billing, scheduling meetings, and other coordination tasks that distract me from managing my PPC accounts. When I worked at a smaller agency, I was both AE and search manager, and it was challenging.

Creative capabilities.

Got a client who wants to run animated display banners in the GDN or remarketing? Need a bunch of banners designed? Need good Facebook ad images? Want to try short video YouTube Ads?

At a small agency, these tasks often have to be outsourced, creating additional coordination outside of the agency. A full service agency will have a creative staff that can design banners or videos in-house, with the PPC manager’s oversight. Of course, the clients pay for this service, but they’d have to pay for outsourced creative anyway. Our creative team already knows the client’s brand guidelines, so it’s more efficient than explaining these details to a third party.

Strategy and message development.

An overall strategy and consistent messaging is key to a successful marketing campaign. We have a strategy department that works with clients to develop a marketing strategy and campaign messaging to be used in all channels. I still write my own PPC ads – but I have guidance on messaging that we developed as a team. We can bounce ideas off each other. At a small agency, the PPC manager is often crafting messaging in a vacuum.

Content creation and strategy.

A PPC-only agency has to rely on the client for new content. We have an entire content team at gyro, complete with content strategists and writers. Content marketing is a challenge for many B2B advertisers, and creating fresh content is difficult as well. We can create content on our clients’ behalf. We can also repurpose content, taking a white paper and turning it into an infographic, an e-book, and a blog post, for example. I often work with our content strategists to incorporate learnings from PPC testing into new content creation.

Technical help.

Technical troubleshooting is a big part of a PPC manager’s job, but PPC managers rarely control a client’s website. Full service agencies often have developers on staff, who can work with developers on the client side to implement tracking, landing page optimizations, and other enhancements. We even manage the websites for several clients, making it easy to make changes.

Project managers.

PPC managers at small agencies wear many hats: account executive, technical consultant, etc. The small agency PPC manager is usually his or her own project manager, too. Full service agencies likely have a staff of project or production managers, whose sole job is to coordinate client work, assign it, and ensure it’s completed on time. It’s a relief to have a PM deal with these details, so I don’t have to.

Advanced reporting capabilities.

When I worked at a small agency, I was my own web analytics guru. If I didn’t know how to do something, it didn’t get done. Full service agencies have a team of analysts, along with high-powered BI tools to help create insightful and strategic reports from multiple data sources. Clients receive one report for all their marketing channels, with insights across channels. Data is presented in a unified way.

A good full-service agency will have one point of contact for each client, and will ensure that all client’s needs are met. If you are feeling like your needs aren’t being met or you’re being bumped for a larger client, definitely get a new agency. Good full service agencies staff properly and use project management tools to keep work moving on time.

I get that not every full service agency has an expert search team. I’ve run into more than one agency that says they offer PPC management, but they either outsource it to a contractor or to another agency. Make sure the agency has staff in house with experience managing PPC accounts like yours – especially if you have a large or complex account.

In short, prospective clients should definitely ask the questions in the Hanapin article. They’re good questions. And this isn’t a dig at Hanapin or any smaller agency – we all have our place in the ecosystem! But don’t assume that full service agencies can’t do PPC well. They can.

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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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