Bing Ads Next: The Future Of Search

Last week, I had the extreme privilege of attending the third annual Bing Ads Next event. Bing shared their vision for the future of search, along with some big announcements. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the event.

Bing Ads Editor for Mac

This is by far the top feature request on the Bing Ads User Voice forum, and has been since at least 2012. I had honestly thought it was never going to happen. But it is, and we even got to see a live demo to prove it! More on this huge announcement at Search Engine Land.

Extensions Are King

We saw previews of two new extensions. With Image Extensions, you can add an image to your ads:

image extensions
As we all know, pictures help boost click-through rates, so this is a big deal for advertisers.

We also saw the new ActionLink extensions:

action link extensions
These reminded me of the Facebook call to action buttons, which are quite useful. These are clearly e-commerce focused, with limited options for B2B, but it’s a good start.

Bing User Preference

This isn’t a feature, but it’s super important. One of the biggest comments the folks at Bing hear is, “We get great results from Bing – there just isn’t enough traffic.” That’s definitely true for my clients. Bing is making strides, though:

user preference
According to these stats, more people prefer Bing than Google. Wow.

Bing Predicts Is Growing

I talked about Bing Predicts last year, when it was new. Now, it’s become almost ubiquitous:

bing predicts
It’s scary-accurate, and is something Google doesn’t have at all.

Cool Data on User Intent by Hour

We’ve all made assumptions about when people use different devices, and what times of day the “serious” searches are taking place. Well, Bing has real data on this:

user intent by hour

This is a fascinating chart, especially the shopping portion. Great data to use for dayparting when launching a campaign, or when you don’t have enough of your own data to segment.

The Winding Conversion Path

The journey from initial search to purchase is a circuitous one, for sure:

conversion path

It moves from device to device, and across multiple different search queries. The takeaway for me here was that you need to be present on all devices, and use a variety of keywords to stay in front of your prospects. Remarketing and RLSA don’t hurt, either.

It was a great conference in an intimate setting, and as usual, I learned a lot. To read more about the event, check out this post by Erin Sagin at WordStream.

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PPC Blogs You Need To Be Reading Right Now

In an industry that moves as fast as PPC, reading industry blogs is a must. Sure, you can learn PPC from books, but the unfortunate aspect of PPC books is that portions of them are outdated as soon as they hit the shelves. Blogs are inherently more up to date, so they’re a great source of PPC news and views. And new blogs are constantly coming on to the scene. I wrote a post 2 years ago on the top PPC blogs, and it already needs updating. Here are the top PPC blogs you need to be reading right now.

Search Engine Land – as industry news sites go, Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land is the gold standard, with articles from nearly every PPC luminary out there.

The SEM Post – Curated by Jenn Slegg, The SEM Post covers just about everything that’s new and interesting in PPC and search in general. (Disclosure: I write a regular column for The SEM Post).

Inside Adwords blog – this is the place for Adwords product announcements and the official word from Google.

Bing Ads blog – Bing posts product announcements here, and also includes great industry stats, demographic info, and other interesting PPC stuff.

Neptune Moon – Julie Friedman Bacchini has one of the most fun blogs to read out there. An author after my own heart, she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She wrote a great post for me a few weeks ago, too.

The Seer Interactive Blog – Covering all aspects of search and analytics, look to Seer for new PPC ideas you hadn’t thought of before.

Merkle RKG Blog – these guys are the smartest folks in PPC. If you want to really nerd out and test the boundaries of your PPC technical chops, this is the place for you.

3Q Digital Blog – You’ll find how-to’s and helpful info here. I especially like all of their articles on Facebook Ads. – OK, this isn’t a traditional blog, but rather a collection of screencaps from the weekly PPCChats on Twitter. If you missed a chat, or want to refer back to one later, this is the place.

Are you reading all of these blogs? If not, what’s stopping you? What are your favorite PPC blogs – did I miss any? Share in the comments!


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Assembly-Line PPC Is Not PPC Strategy

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Salt Lake City Search Engine Marketer’s conference (SLCSEM). I talked about the 7 Things Your Clients Want To Know About PPC Strategy. And then we had a fun “live PPCChat” with myself and Susan Wenograd, with Bryant Garvin moderating. For a recap of the event, check out the writeup on the SLCSEM blog.

We covered a ton of different topics in the live discussion, including our thoughts on Bing Ads (they had a rep on our panel, which was super cool), remarketing, and of course, PPC strategy.

Long-time readers of my blog know that this is a hot topic for me. Blog posts on PPC tactics abound – if you want to read about keyword research, setting up social PPC audiences, and campaign structure, you’ll have no trouble finding articles on all of these topics. I’ve written a post or two on them myself.

We all need to know these tools of the trade. But we also need to know the right time to use the tools. That’s where PPC strategy comes in.

I’ve found a surprising number of PPC practitioners who practice what I dubbed at SLCSEM to be “assembly-line PPC.” They have a list of PPC tactics – keyword research, ad copy writing, search query mining, bid adjustments, etc. – and they work their way through these as though they were boxes on a to-do list to be checked off. They’re doing the equivalent of “turning the screwdriver” on an assembly line – performing the same task for every client, no matter what, without really thinking about the final product or the goal it’s supposed to achieve.

Now, there’s no doubt that all of these things need to be done. A PPC manager who never looks at search query reports or writes new ad copy isn’t doing his or her job. But none of these tasks are a PPC strategy. If a client (or your boss) comes to you and says “I want to be the first ad on Google,” you should have a serious conversation with them about WHY they want to be there and what they hope to accomplish with that. “Being first on Google” is not a strategy.

“It’s about the experience, not the Adwords.”

In a conversation with my boss this week, he said, “It’s about the experience, not the Adwords.” I guess he used this in a client pitch, but it’s right-on when it comes to ongoing PPC strategy too. Some clients don’t belong on Adwords. We have more than one client using strictly social PPC, because it achieves their goals way better than Adwords or any search engine could. Other clients spend more on Bing than Adwords, because it reaches their audience better (and usually at a much lower cost).

The point is, PPC campaigns and the optimization performed on them should be based on achieving client goals, not checking a box. PPC isn’t a series of tasks. It’s a means to an end. It’s much closer to practicing medicine (looking at symptoms to solve a problem) than it is building a machine on an assembly line.

And yet, posts on PPC strategy are hard to find. When I uploaded my SLCSEM presentation to Slideshare, I was saddened to realize that the tag suggestions when I typed in “ppc” showed “ppc tactics” but not “ppc strategy.” So I added it.

slideshare tags

Speaking of the Slideshare, here is my deck. Let me know what you think!


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On Hiring A PPC Professional

There are times you can do things yourself, and there are times you need to call in a pro. If you scrape your knee, you can probably bandage it up yourself and care for the wound at home. But if you break your leg, it’s time to call in a pro.

Back in early August, I started having hip pain. I didn’t injure myself that I was aware of – it just started hurting. Thinking I pulled a muscle at the gym, I backed off the intensity and waited for it to heal.

It didn’t. After a couple of weeks, I could barely walk due to the pain. I started searching Dr. Google for an explanation of, and solution to, the problem. According to Google, potential causes could be anything from a minor muscle strain to a serious injury like a torn labrum.

Dr. Google returned all kinds of exercise and therapy regimens. I tried a few. At best, they did nothing; a few made the pain worse. I finally decided to see a doctor.

The doctor said I had bursitis, and referred me to physical therapy. I’ve been going to therapy for a month now. It’s made a world of difference.

Am I completely healed? No. Do I know what I need to do to heal? I do now.

The PT is pretty sure the whole issue stemmed from an earlier injury. In late June, I went for what I thought was a short bike ride – just 6 miles. I hadn’t ridden in a long time and wanted to get back into it over the summer.

Halfway through the ride, my tailbone started hurting. And I was 3 miles from home. I had to tough it out and ride back. By the time I got home, it was killing me.

That tailbone still hurts, 4 months later. I bruised the bone. And in compensating for the pain, I threw off the whole mechanism in my body for sitting and walking. Using muscles for purposes other than what they were intended is what caused the hip pain. I would never have figured this out on my own, nor realized that the two were connected.

What’s the point of my physical tale of woe, and what does it have to do with PPC? The point is this: People hire professionals for difficult problems they can’t solve on their own, due to lack of knowledge or expertise. I had no idea why my hip was hurting. I knew my tailbone hurt, and there was nothing I could do about it. I never connected the two, nor did I know how to fix the problem.

Think about small business owners trying to do DIY PPC. Things might go well for a time, and then suddenly performance falls off. They’re spending money and they don’t understand why the results aren’t there. They start tinkering around and make things worse. Finally, they give up in economic pain and frustration and call a professional PPC manager.

Or at least we hope they do. Like the muscles and joints of our body, PPC is complicated. One issue, such as a bad landing page or irrelevant keyword, can throw your whole account into a tailspin. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never be able to fix it. Like me trying to find the answer to my hip pain by Googling it, you’re lost as to how to fix your PPC account.

Don’t let this happen to you. Hire a professional PPC manager to rehabilitate your account. Your proverbial hip muscles will thank you.

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The Best Way To Charge For PPC Management

Much has been said and written about how agencies should charge for PPC management. A lively discussion usually ensues when the topic comes up in social media. So what is the best way to charge for PPC management, anyway?

Types Of Fee Structures

Pat East of PPC Hero did a great series of posts on the various ways to charge for PPC management, so I won’t go into them in detail here. In summary, the most common methods of charging for PPC management are:

•    Percent of spend
•    Hourly rate
•    Flat monthly fee
•    A hybrid of the above

Percent of Spend Is Common

In my conversations with PPC managers, percent of spend seems to be a common way to charge. Percent of spend is a holdover from the Mad Men days of ad agencies. Back in the old days, when I started working in advertising, agencies added an upcharge over what the media charged for space or time.

For example, if a print ad cost $100, the agency would charge $115 to place the ad – they’d pay the publication $100 and pocket $15. In reality, all the agency was doing was brokering space. They weren’t “managing” any media because really, what’s to manage? Unlike PPC, which requires daily oversight, placing newspaper or TV ads is one-and-done – you buy the space or time, send in your creative, and collect a check. Agencies charged separate fees for creative, so the percent of spend was there solely to cover their time to call the newspaper or TV station.

Early in my career, I worked in advertising for a couple radio stations and the local newspaper. We hated working with agencies because of the percent of spend upcharges. Often the clients didn’t want to pay any more than the space was worth, so the agency would come to us and beat us up for a lower price.

While PPC is much different from traditional media, the percent of spend model penalizes clients for increasing their budget. And it doesn’t account for the difficulty of account management. A competitive industry could have a huge spend for a relatively simple account to manage, while a less competitive industry could spend half as much, but require a lot more work in their account to reach enough of an audience to move the needle.

An account running paid social and paid search is going to take a lot more time to manage than an account running just paid search. And what happens when a client shifts budget from search to social? I’ve seen that happen before, and suddenly as an agency you’re in the hole – you’re spending a lot more time for the same fees.

Hybrid Models Are A Bit Better

At the agency I worked for before gyro, we used a hybrid pricing model. We charged a base fee plus a percent of spend. The base fee was intended to cover routine tasks that we’d be performing regardless of the size of the account: reporting, client calls, technology, etc.

In general, the model worked well, but clients frequently got upset when their fees went up with their budgets.  The base fee was still rooted in total spend – those who spent more were charged a higher base – so in essence the base wasn’t really a flat fee at all. And we still had challenges with fees not matching the workload, especially with smaller accounts that were often high-maintenance.

Flat Fee Is Easier

At gyro, we charge a flat fee. We estimate the amount of time and effort the account is going to take to manage, and arrive at the fee from there. Spend is factored in, but fees aren’t based solely on spend. Accounts with multiple programs or very complex campaigns might pay more than a simple account spending the same budget. If the client drastically changes their budget or the amount of work they’re asking us to do, we adjust the fees. We don’t change fees if the budget change is so small as to not impact the amount of work we’ll be doing.


Freelance PPC managers are a separate breed, to an extent. I’ve done some freelance work, and know a lot of people who do, too. I’ve charged both a flat fee and an hourly rate for freelance. I’m not a fan of hourly rates for agencies, but when I’m doing work outside of my “day job,” it seems to make sense. I’ll use the hourly rate for clients I’m managing indefinitely. For one-off projects, such as account audits, I usually charge a flat rate.

I’m sure some freelancers charge a percent of spend, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to do the work of calculating my fees every month, nor would I want my compensation to be at the whim of client budgets.

The Best Way To Charge

You know I’m going to say it – the best way to charge is whatever works for you. I personally am not a fan of percent of spend, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Nor does it mean that a flat rate is always right. Clients with flexible budgets can get frustrated with fees that are a moving, unpredictable target as they often are with flat rates; whereas with a percent of spend, they expect fluctuations in fees.

Whatever method you choose, be clear and transparent with your clients. Make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth and for the work you’re putting in. I see a lot of PPC pros who vastly undercharge and undervalue their time. We’re a special breed – make sure you’re paid for it!

What do you think? What are the pros and cons of the various fee structures? Share in the comments!

Hat tip to Julie Friedman Bacchini of Neptune Moon for a conversation that gave me the idea for this blog post.

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Call-Only Ads: 3 Months In

Back in July, I wrote a post called Call-Only Ads Are Ruining Mobile Results. In that post, I shared data from a client who’d launched call-only ads, only to see mobile impressions, clicks, and conversions tank.

Based on my readers’ excellent feedback, we optimized and refined those campaigns. We turned mobile back on in the regular, non-call-only campaigns. We continued to work on bids. We were desperate.

Results did improve, but not to their former levels. Here’s an update on what’s happening with call-only campaigns and mobile in general.

Call-only campaigns have been live for about 10 weeks. So I looked at the last 10 weeks, and then 10 weeks before that, before call-only campaigns came into existence. Data here is for mobile traffic only.

Call-Only Campaign Impressions Are Low


Impressions ended up nearly equal post-call-only, but only because we added mobile back to the regular campaigns. Call-only campaign impression volume is less than half of what it was before. There’s no way we’d be able to even show up in the auction to generate clicks if we stuck with call-only campaigns, much less generate conversions from call-only.

Call-Only CPCs Are High


Yikes, check that out. CPCs for call-only are 58% higher than mobile CPCs were before. And this is with our bid management software attempting to keep call-only CPC down. It’s crazy to me that CPCs have gone up this much. Then again, this is Google we’re talking about….

CPAs More Than Doubled


This is where it gets really scary and, frankly, sad. Call-only CPAs are similar to what we saw before. And that makes sense, because we were using call-only extensions before. Users didn’t have the option to click through on a mobile device – we wanted the phone call instead. That’s how call-only campaigns work, too – at least in theory.

But look at mobile not-call-only. Yikes. Since we don’t have the option of forcing a phone call in the regular campaigns now, we’re stuck with letting users click through on mobile – which is pushing up our CPA dramatically. And no surprise – while the landing pages are responsive, the call to action is to fill out a form, which we know people don’t like to do on mobile. Sure, you can call from the landing page too, but it’s not obvious like it is in a call-only ad.

And before you suggest that we create call-only ads in the regular campaigns, we tried that too. I was thinking we could force mobile traffic to the call-only ads and desktop to the regular ads. But it didn’t work that way. The call-only ads got virtually no impressions while the regular ads got tons, even from mobile. There seems to be no way to get this thing to work the way it did before.

So, by all appearances we’re stuck. Mobile is hugely important to this client, so we can’t just shut it off. Using call-only campaigns killed our impressions, clicks, and conversions. And adding mobile back to regular campaigns killed our CPA. We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. It’s a no-win situation.

Have any of you been able to find success with call-only campaigns at a good CPA? Is this yet another conspiracy by Google to improve mobile CPC? Have you found any hacks that work? Share in the comments!

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The Ideal Number Of Keywords Per Ad Group

A while back, one of our new hires asked a great question over IM about the number of keywords in an ad group. Here’s a paraphrased version of how the conversation went down:

New Hire: I’ve been told an ideal number of keywords in an ad group is around 15. If you have much more than 15, what are the chances all the words are relevant? Are smaller ad groups better, like in the 5 word range? Does it just make it more tedious to manage having a lot of small ad groups?

Melissa Mackey: Yeah, there comes a point of diminishing returns when you go below 10-15 keywords. That said, I’ve had 1-keyword ad groups for a very high volume term. It just depends – like a lot of things in PPC.

NH: Ok, so you look at diminishing returns and term popularity.

MM: Right, as a rule that works. Also, you might want to isolate smaller groups of keywords to improve quality score. So for example, if you have a few keywords with decent volume and poor quality score, you’d move them to try to improve it.

NH: What if you have a small ad group where one term gets impressions/clicks and the other one is extremely light?

MM: That’s usually ok as long as quality score is relatively similar.

Was I right about that? I’ll get to that in a second.

The “right” number of keywords in an ad group is a subject of much debate. I found a Quora thread that had as many different “right answers” as there were commenters in the thread.

Brad Geddes weighed in on the magic number of keywords in an ad group on the Certified Knowledge blog. Short answer? There is no magic number of keywords – it depends.

A poster on the Adwords Community forum does a good job of illustrating the concept, but then says 5-15 keywords is the right number.

I agree with him, to a point. I usually strive for no more than 15 keywords per ad group. But I also have ad groups with 50 keywords or more, and that’s fine too. It just depends.

The difference comes in whether the ad group is large because there is a large number of related terms out there, or whether the ad group is large simply due to laziness or lack of time. I recently did some keyword research around healthcare marketing, and there are a LOT of variations of “healthcare marketing” that are all closely related.

So how do you decide if you should split up a large ad group into smaller ones?

Look for similarities.

The first thing I do is look for similarities: in keyword theme, performance, or quality score. In fact, while I often say you shouldn’t optimize based on quality score alone, you can use it as a guide here in ad group development. Often the quality score will tell you what Google thinks is similar about the terms.

Quality score also helps you think about ad copy and landing page needs. If you have a bunch of relevant keywords with a low quality score and you’re not in an industry with traditionally low quality scores, then maybe your landing page isn’t relevant. Or maybe your ad copy needs to be tightened up. Creating new ad groups can be a way to deal with both issues.

Consider grouping by match type.

Sometimes it makes sense to group keywords by match type, to aid in keyword research and control cost per click by match type. I’ve found this especially effective for smaller accounts in niche markets where it’s hard to mine for new keywords simply by using search query reports. In larger accounts, grouping by match type just makes for unnecessary management time.

In fact, too many ad groups often become cumbersome to manage. Even a couple hundred ad groups can be super time consuming – I speak from experience on this. Single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) do make sense, but your entire account shouldn’t be full of them. You don’t want to end up in a situation like this:

twitter convo

This example is less about too many ad groups and more about an unreal number of negatives, but you get the point.

To me, the ideal number of keywords in an ad group is…. It depends. Surprise!

What’s your rule of thumb on number of keywords per ad group? Do you have a rule of thumb, or do you decide on the fly? Share in the comments!

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8 Killer Landing Page Optimization Tips for PPC in 2015

Back in 2013, I asked some of the best minds in search to give me their #1 landing page optimization tip. Their answers led to what has become one of the most popular posts on this blog.

The advice is so good, I decided to revisit it and update it for 2015. With that, here are 8 killer landing page optimization tips for PPC in 2015.

#1: Maintain relevance. The headline & supporting statements have to be aligned with the ad/source/intent of each visitor segment. From Andrew Miller.
2015 update: What more can I say? Relevance is key for driving great results, and it doesn’t hurt for your quality score either.

#2: Focus on your offer. Build & optimize the messaging & imagery for it. If done well, then the landing page foundation is set. From James Svoboda.
2015 update: I’ve seen a lot more relevant landing pages in 2015 than in 2013. Advertisers seem to have finally caught on to the fact that they need to clearly state what they want users to do.

#3: Speed is key. If landing page elements take too long to load, the prospect will move on. Work with developers to lighten load times. From Chris Kostecki.
2015 update: Never was this more true than now, when even half-seconds count:

page speed tweet

#4: Make sure your tone & language match your target audience. Best offers & calls to action won’t work if people don’t understand them. From Julie Bacchini.
2015 update: Just a couple weeks ago, I was working on a competitive audit for a client. We were researching the PPC market in Mexico, and one of the competitors spending the most in PPC was running ads in English – and driving traffic to an English landing page. Yet we know most people in Mexico trust Spanish-language marketing more. Match your audience in as many was as possible.

#5: The page should make sense and capture attention in a few seconds. If it doesn’t, that’s a problem. People skim. From Jeremy Brown.
2015 update: Just as fast load times are important, making your point is also important. I like this landing page from IBM:

ibm LP
#6: People are lazy! Increase conversion by prepopulating lead generation forms using search query & IP address info. From PPC Associates, now 3Q Digital.
2015 update: The advent of using social plugins to populate forms is just one indication of how important it is to make forms easy to fill out.

#7: Don’t make changes to your landing page too early. Base your change decisions on statistically significant data. From Stu Draper.
2015 update: Using a testing tool like Unbounce or Optimizely will help you know when you’ve reached significance on a test. Don’t rush this process.

#8: Get Rid of Distractions! If you want someone to purchase, don’t distract them with floating newsletter signups. From Bryant Garvin.
2015 update: I swear this has gotten worse in 2015, to the point of being an epidemic. At least once a day I’m bombarded with newsletter signup lightboxes within seconds of arriving on the landing page. How about letting me read your content first? Looks like I’m not the only one who feels that way:

annoying popups
It’s especially annoying when I’m trying to read an article on a mobile device, only to be hit up with a popover that I can’t even find the X to close. Stop the madness, people!

And now, some bonus tips from the great comments I got on the 2013 post!

2015 Bonus Tip #1: Do some in-person one-on-one interviews once in a while with people who have never seen the page, you’ll be surprised what you hear and you will always learn something. From Lisa Sanner.

2015 Bonus Tip #2: People do not like filling in too much information in the enquiry forms. The shorter and to the point form is the better. From Avatar South Africa.

Got a killer landing page optimization tip not mentioned here? Share in the comments!

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All About Sitelinks and Callout Extensions

One of the most useful Adwords features is ad extensions. Available extensions include call extensions, review extensions, location extensions, sitelink extensions, and callout extensions. This post is all about sitelinks and callout extensions.

At first glance, sitelinks and callout extensions appear to be the same thing. They’re both text that might be added to your ad if you appear in one of the top spots on the page. So what’s the difference between the two and how are they used?

Sitelinks contain a link; callouts are just text.

Sitelinks and callouts may look the same, but the key difference is that sitelinks contain a link (hence the name), while callouts are just text.

callouts and sitelinks

As you might expect, sitelinks appear in blue, indicating a clickable link; while callouts look like regular gray ad text.

Sitelinks require a relevant destination URL that’s different from your ad’s destination URL.

Here’s where things get both fun and tricky. To use sitelinks, you must use a different link from your ad’s destination URL. If you’re selling women’s dresses in your ad, you might add sitelinks for slacks, blouses, or accessories. You might use sitelinks for deals, as EAS does in the screenshot above. Just make sure that the links make sense and that they add to, rather than take away from, your ad copy.

For B2B advertisers, sitelinks can be challenging. It’s common for B2B advertisers to only have one relevant landing page, so sometimes sitelinks are a worst practice for B2B.

Callouts, on the other hand, are just text. You can say pretty much whatever you want, although you should consider the callouts part of your ad copy. Make sure they’re relevant.

Which one should I use?

Think carefully about the sitelinks you use. While it may be interesting to send people to your “Careers” or “About Us” page, these pages are unlikely to generate conversions. Remember, you pay for every click, whether it’s on a sitelink or the ad itself. Don’t send traffic to pages that can’t convert for you. The sitelinks in the screen shot above are all good – they’re sales-focused pages that should contribute to conversions for the advertisers.

So why use callouts? Callouts are great for B2B advertisers who don’t have good sitelinks, or for text you want to include in your ad but not link to. Examples include:

•    Slogans
•    Additional info about your product/service: what it does, who it’s best for, etc.
•    Info about the company: years in business, etc.
•    Anything that doesn’t have a landing page

I like to put slogans in callouts. Clients get very attached to slogans and taglines, but slogans usually take valuable characters away from benefits and calls to action in ad copy. Putting slogans in callouts is a great way to please the client without taking up real estate.

Use sitelinks and callouts correctly.

Let’s look at the screen shot again:

callouts and sitelinks
As I mentioned before, the sitelinks are all great. But the callouts in the EAS ad don’t make sense. “Join Team EAS”? How do I join? There’s no link to the page. Nor is there a link to the custom workout plans or coupons mentioned in the callouts. This is basically copy that makes a promise that can’t be delivered, and is a poor user experience.

GNC, on the other hand, is using callouts correctly and even creatively. Callouts are limited to 25 characters, so GNC split their “Quality Life-Quality Products” slogan into 2 callouts. This tactic may not work every time, but it’s clever and smart.

What are your favorite ways to use sitelinks and callouts? Share in the comments!

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What’s In a Good PPC Report?

Whether you’re an in-house or agency PPC professional, chances are you’ll need to provide regular reports on campaign performance.

There is usually a lot of talk on SEM news sites and forums about the type of data available from the PPC engines; the metrics seem nearly endless. Stats are available on CTR, CPC, conversion rate, conversion rate by position, data by network (display vs. search vs. retargeting vs. social PPC, etc.), Google Analytics or other web analytics data… The list goes on.

But few people seem to discuss how and what data should be presented.

Numbers Need Context

Unfortunately, too many PPC reports just regurgitate a bunch of numbers from AdWords, adCenter, and web analytics. Clients and upper managers receive spreadsheet upon spreadsheet with impressions, clicks, CTR, conversions, conversion rate, and cost per conversion – and no context whatsoever. They look kind of like this:

report example
While PPC pros know what those numbers represent, even a seasoned professional will have a hard time deciding whether the numbers are “good” or “bad” without context – so imagine how your client, or chief marketing officer, feels when he or she gets this spreadsheet in their inbox. They’re probably full of more questions than answers:

•    What happened before this time frame?
•    What’s typical for this time of year?
•    What is the goal of this PPC campaign?
•    Are the numbers up, down, or sideways?
•    Why are the numbers up, down, or sideways?
•    What the heck does this mean, anyway?

A good PPC report relies less on the numbers themselves, and more on why the numbers are meaningful. One way to remember this is to ask yourself the question “So what?” when looking at data:

•    What insight can be drawn from this data?
•    Are key metrics following normal seasonal trends, or is something off the mark?
•    If something’s off the mark, why?
•    Did you run a particularly successful ad copy test?
•    Was there something in the news that spiked click-throughs, but didn’t drive conversions?
•    What’s going on, and what does it mean to the advertiser?

In fact, at gyro, all of our reports and most of our presentations include a What, So What, Now What section. This format helps us to focus on what’s important to the client, rather than charts and graphs.

If you must include charts with total impressions, clicks, and conversions, put them in an appendix at the end of the report. Some clients and bosses really do like to pore through raw data, so let them – but only after you’ve told the key story.

Or, show the data in a meaningful way, like this:
sample summary slideThis one slide in a report often tells business decision makers everything they need to know about their PPC campaign, in one easy-to-grasp view.

The new report function in Adwords is another way to quickly create meaningful charts and graphs.

Numbers Should Align with Goals

A surprising number of PPC campaigns are launched every day before campaign goals are defined. When I see a campaign with a mish-mash of keywords, the home page as the landing page, and no conversion tracking, I can be pretty confident the campaign has no goal.

A PPC campaign without goals is like grocery shopping without a list. You may come home with a cart full of groceries, and you may have gotten some deals – but did you buy what you really needed? Smart grocery shoppers never set foot in a store without a list, and smart PPC advertisers never log in to AdWords without a goal in mind.

To that end, a good PPC report should include a statement defining the campaign goals, and whether they were achieved.

•    Is there a target cost per conversion you’re trying to reach?
•    Are there certain products on which you were trying to increase sales this month?
•    Did you launch a campaign with new and different goals?

Every chart, graph, and narrative should be created with the following in mind: how does this information illustrate whether the goals were achieved?

PPC generates so much data that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds looking at “interesting” statistics. But just because something’s interesting doesn’t mean that it’s important. If it doesn’t relate to goals, leave it out!

Numbers Should Point to Recommendations

In many ways, PPC reports are kind of like looking in the rear-view mirror, reviewing what’s already happened. But that doesn’t mean the report should only reflect history.

A good PPC report should include recommendations and plans forward, so the client or boss knows what will happen next. In fact, the recommendations should form the basis of any conversations that come out of the report: the dialogue should be centered on next steps in the optimization process. This is the “Now What” portion of the report.

The next time you prepare a PPC report, keep these tips in mind. Your client, or your boss, will thank you.

What about you? What elements are must-haves in your PPC reports? Share in the comments!

Editor’s Note: Portions of this article appeared at Search Engine Watch on August 9, 2011.

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