3 Signs That Google Hates B2B Advertisers

As you probably know, I work for an agency that deals strictly with B2B clients. B2B offers unique challenges for PPC, including lead tracking and pricey CPCs due to competition.

For years, Google Adwords has been our bread and butter. Their sheer market share makes them a must-use for B2B advertisers. But I’ve started to think that Google hates B2B advertisers. Here’s why.

Sitelinks Don’t Always Apply

I’ve written before about why sitelinks can be a worst practice, especially for B2B clients. In mid-2014, Google launched Dynamic Sitelinks – an even bigger nightmare for B2B advertisers than regular sitelinks. At least with regular sitelinks, we could just not add them. But now, it seems we’re stuck with them whether we want them or not.

Granted, Bing Ads also has dynamic sitelinks. I don’t like those any better than Google’s. But I wonder if Bing would have launched them if Google didn’t do it first.

Keyword Planner Suggestions Are B2C-Focused

I’ve long been frustrated with Google’s keyword planner and the crazy suggestions it offers. That’s the case whether you’re B2B or B2C. But what’s even more frustrating to me is that the keywords it suggests tend to be very consumer-focused. Even with something that’s obviously B2B like “business management systems,” it’ll come back with things like “what is a business management system” – not the type of queries an enterprise-level person researching a solution would use.

The Opportunities tab suggestions are even worse. Earlier this week I was reviewing Google’s “optimization” ideas for a client that offers a solution for businesses to sell gift cards to customers. Here are some of the “opportunities” Google wanted us to add to our campaign:

sell unwanted gift cards for cash
sell your gift card for cash
where can i cash gift cards
how to trade gift cards for cash
can i buy gift cards with a gift card
getting cash for gift cards
sell back giftcards for cash

These queries are clearly ones that would be used by consumers looking to offload unwanted gift cards – the exact opposite of what we’d want to bid on!

The only good part about this awful list is I used them for negative keywords instead. I’m sure that’s not what Google had in mind as an “opportunity,” but I took it nonetheless.

 Display Interest Targeting Is All B2C

Google has announced that starting next week, they’re retiring the Other Interests targeting option for Display campaigns. Doesn’t sound like a big deal – unless you’re a B2B advertiser.

Nearly all the B2B-focused targeting options are in the Other Interests category:

other interests
We’re left with affinity audiences, or in-market segments. Check out the fine selection of options in affinity audiences:

affinity audiences
See anything that looks remotely B2B-focused? Me neither.

In-market audiences are a little better, but not much. Here’s a view of the Business Services options:

in market audiences
Not awful – but we have clients who don’t fit into any of these categories. For those clients, we’ll be relegated to keyword or placement targeting, which doesn’t always perform as well. Clearly, Google has a bias toward B2C for display campaigns.

I’m sure there is a reason for this, probably because most of Google’s advertisers are B2C. But B2B advertisers have big bucks to spend. Many of their products and services are big-ticket items, and companies are willing to pay very high CPCs to advertise them. I rarely see CPCs below $20 in search for my clients. You’d think Google would want this money, but maybe not.

What do you think? Have your B2B clients struggled with Google’s B2C bias? Found any workarounds? Share in the comments!

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Ideas Are Not Strategy

I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of advertisers, and even advertising professionals, don’t know what strategy is. So often “strategy” is defined as a list of tactics, like this:

•    Increase our Facebook followers
•    Start using PPC
•    Run ads with “X” creative message

Folks, these aren’t strategies. At best, they’re tactics. Lee Odden wrote a great essay on strategies vs. tactics. He says, “I think part of the problem is that a lot of marketers are spread thin because of chasing shiny objects. They’re distracted from core marketing.  They’re tourists in the digital and social world without taking the time to understand what the locals do and care about.”

So true. I’ve worked in marketing departments that loved to follow shiny objects: “PPC is the next best thing – let’s do it!” or “We’re going to focus on social media because everyone’s talking about it!”

As I tell my kids, just because “everyone’s doing it” doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. And it’s definitely not a strategy.

I work at a traditional agency, so we do a lot of creative work for clients. We PPC pros often don’t have much insight into the creative development process, so it’s been interesting to me to learn how it works. But the trap I’ve seen clients fall into is to become enamored with a particular creative theme, or even an individual print or video ad. All of a sudden, that becomes their “strategy.”

As marketers, it’s our job to remind clients (and bosses) that ideas aren’t strategy. Avis’s marketing strategy back in the ‘60s and ‘70s wasn’t “We try harder.” Avis’s strategy was to beat Hertz.

Nowhere is the folly behind turning creative ideas into strategy more apparent than in PPC. In PPC, we don’t have a full-page print ad to tell our story, nor do we have a 60-second radio or TV spot. We have 95 characters in which to get the searcher’s attention. And yet, so often I have clients who want to put their catchy tagline into a PPC ad.

Can you imagine putting this Coke tagline in a PPC ad?

iconic coke ad

It’d look like this:

coke ad

Not terrible, but not very convincing, is it? It looks like a crummy eBay ad.

Or what about this fine tagline?

iconic lucky ad

Translated to PPC, it’s:

lucky ad

You wouldn’t even be sure what Luckys were from this ad! I’d think it was some kind of diet food.

Now, I know these are vintage ads – you can’t really run cigarette ads in PPC as they’re against the TOS. (And cigarettes are not a great way to get slender, folks.) But they’re not just vintage ads – they’re iconic. These are brands that are well-known, and yet their taglines don’t make good PPC ad copy. And they’re certainly not a strategy. “Get people to buy cigarettes by telling them they’ll make them skinny” might have been a strategy, but the taglines themselves aren’t.

Ideas are not strategy. Taglines are not strategy. Creative concepts are not strategy. They’re all tools in the arsenal of a good marketing strategy, which might be “sell more Coca-Cola” or “drive leads via our website.” Don’t confuse the two – and don’t let your clients confuse them either.

Have you ever run into this kind of “creative wagging the strategy dog” scenario? What did you do to convince your client or boss that their creative ideas aren’t strategy? How do you explain PPC strategy vs. tactics to clients? Share in the comments!

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3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time

There’s an old adage in the car-buying world that advises people never to buy a new model car in its first year. Why? The manufacturer hasn’t worked all of the bugs out yet, so you’re likely to encounter down time while the car is in the shop.

The same thing is true of technology: look at the iPhone 6 and all the gaffes it experienced early on. And Windows 8 is universally hated, to the point that Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and went right on to making Windows 10.

In PPC, we also come across new features that aren’t ready for prime time. Here are the top 3 PPC features that might have benefited from a bit more beta testing.

The New Adwords Editor

Last month, Adwords held yet another “announcement” event. One of the highlights, in addition to one of the speaker’s sweaters, was the rollout of a new Adwords Editor.

The current editor, while a must-have tool for PPC managers, has limitations. It doesn’t support shopping campaigns well. It doesn’t allow copying across accounts. It doesn’t have an “undo” button.

The new Adwords Editor v.11 has all of those features, and more. But it’s missing some key elements, too. And it’s buggy. Here are just some of the issues that PPC Chat users have reported:

•    Won’t load/ freezes
•    Error messages
•    Missing metrics
•    No callout extensions
•    Keyword planner is gone
•    No click data for sitelinks

I was all set to download the new Adwords Editor, and then I started seeing these reports. I decided to hold off. Perhaps Adwords is using the PPC community as one big beta test?

Bing Ads Universal Event Tracking (UET)

I was excited to get started with this much-ballyhooed tracking tool from Bing Ads. It’s called “universal” because it was supposed to be one tracking code for all accounts across an agency: “In Bing Ads, tags are defined at the customer level. This means that you can use the same tag to define and track goals across all your accounts and campaigns. This flexibility allows you to instrument your site just once (when you create your first goal) and keep defining new goals to measure without ever needing to add another tag to your site.”

In reality, while that is technically true, in practice it’s not that simple. First of all, you’ll find the tracking code in different places, depending on whether your client’s account is a “built in” account or a “linked” account.

I’m not even sure what that means, except it means I can’t see the UET code for all my clients when logged in to our agency Bing Ads account. Apparently, for some accounts, I have to log in to the child account. Which I didn’t even know existed for Bing Ads. And I certainly don’t have logins for any of these child accounts.

To make it even more interesting, Bing is retiring the old conversion tracking scripts effective in April. So we’ve all got less than 3 months to figure this out. I’m a little scared.

LinkedIn Ads

I wrote about LinkedIn back in November 2013 and the fact that they didn’t want my money. Merry Morud wrote about their terrible interface back in July 2013.

Here we are 18 months later, and the only thing that’s changed is their timeout – it takes a little longer than 5 minutes now to time out, and it doesn’t log you out when you’re actively working in the interface.

Every other complaint that Merry made about their interface still exists. It’s crazy that LinkedIn, with its $8-10 CPCs, hasn’t done a single thing in a year and a half to improve their UI. Twitter and Facebook have made huge leaps ahead, while LinkedIn sits and languishes with its awful UI and expensive clicks.

One thing that really bugs me about LinkedIn Ads is that there is no way to keep sponsored posts from displaying to people who already follow you, nor from your own employees. We’ve had clients who’ve ended up paying (at $8-10 a crack) for their own employees to “like” their sponsored posts. Crazy. The LinkedIn Ads UI is definitely not ready for prime time.

Found any other PPC features that aren’t ready for prime time? Share in the comments!

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3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords

In the advertising world, most businesses have to deal with competitors. In traditional media, many publishers offer competitive separation, where your ads will be separated by physical space (in print) or time (in broadcast) from your competition.

In search, though, your ads appear alongside your competitors. A search for books will yield ads from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and possibly local retailers. They’re all competing with one another, on the same web page, for the click.

Many PPC advertisers are interested in bidding on their competitor’s brand names. Why not try to take visitors away from the other guys? It seems easy to do – but quality score creates a challenge.

Anyone who’s ever tried to bid on competitor brands has probably gotten hit with poor quality scores. It makes sense – after all, if I searched for “Target stores,” why would I want to see ads from Walmart? The search engines know this, so they slap anyone who’s not Target with a quality score of 1 or 2.

Still, there may be good reasons to bid on your competitor’s brands. Maybe you’re new to the market and need awareness. Maybe there’s confusion between your brand and a competitor, and you’re hoping to capitalize on that. Whatever the reason, it is possible to bid on competitor brands and get decent quality scores and traffic. Her are 3 sneaky ways to bid on competitor keywords.

Bid on misspellings.

Does your competitor have a hard-to-spell or easily misspelled brand? Gather up all the possible misspellings and bid on them. Misspellings, to the search engines, are vague – do you mean the brand, or do you mean something else? When it’s not clear, your ad has a better chance of appearing.

Here’s an example:

misspellings
I meant to search for “esurance” – the auto insurance company. But I typed “ensurance” instead. Esurance still showed up as the top ad.

But look at the second ad. It reads awkwardly – they’re probably using dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) – but the query I typed is in the ad twice, and therefore it’s bolded and stands out. They also have 6 sitelinks showing – more than the other advertisers in the top ads. And they’re promoting “Low Rates.” I had to read the ad carefully to realize it wasn’t for the company I meant to search for. Most users wouldn’t read carefully – they’d just click.

Clever use of DKI, along with features like sitelinks, can help your ad stand out on misspellings of your competitor’s brands.

Bid on “cancel” keywords.

I saw this tip on Twitter, and it’s revolutionized my competitor keyword campaigns:

tweet for cancel
What better way to reach disgruntled customers of competitors and woo them your way than by bidding on keywords used by those who want to cancel?

Not only is this tactic smart, it’s effective in counteracting the poor quality score usually seen on competitor terms. Here’s an example:

non cancel kws

Nearly every competitor brand name has a quality score of 2 and is rarely shown due to low quality score.

But look at the “cancel” keywords:

cancel QS

Quality score jumped from 2 to 4-5, and even 10 in one case! And the “cancel” keywords are getting click-through rates that are well above average. Better yet, they’re driving leads.

If you’re in a service or contractual business, adding “cancel” terms to your keyword list can dramatically improve results in your competitor campaigns.

Use all the weapons available to you.

It almost goes without saying that successful competitor campaigns need great ad copy. A killer offer and reasons to choose you usually perform well. I’ve seen competitors use exclusive, super-deal offers for competitor campaigns that aren’t promoted anywhere else, just to grab those conquest clicks.

Getting creative in your ad copy doesn’t hurt either. Look at the Olive Garden ad on the search for Applebee’s:

better ad copy

Not only is the Olive Garden ad clever, it’s also earned ad annotations from Bing Ads, showing they have 205,900 followers on Twitter and have been visited by 100K users in the past month.

While advertisers can’t control ad annotations, they can control ad extensions. Use them to make your ad stand out on the page. You’ll need to earn a spot on the top of the page for most extensions to show, but ad extensions can be a real differentiator.

Consider this search result for, ironically, search competitor intelligence tools:

competitor serp
Adgooroo isn’t bidding on their brand, and SpyFu is taking advantage. They’re using callout extensions and Google+ extensions to make their ad stand out on the page. I’ve also seen call extensions and location extensions used successfully on competitor ads – imagine if you discover that the business you were searching for is further away than a competitor offering the same thing!

Give the searcher every possible reason to contact you instead of the competition, and your competitor campaigns can be a good source of quality traffic and sales or leads.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared at Search Engine Watch on December 16, 2014.

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PPC for Content Marketing: Channels and Measurement

In earlier articles about content marketing, I talked about the content audit, audience research, timing, and the buyer journey. In the final post in this series, we’ll discuss how to match content to channels and measure success.

As a PPC professional, you might be thinking that all content should be used in PPC. After all, if it’s worth creating, it’s worth advertising, right?

To a degree, that’s true. We have so many weapons in our arsenal that we can promote nearly any type of content in PPC. Some assets are going to be home runs, and others will strike out. It’s our job to make good decisions about channel placement, measure results, and optimize accordingly.

The first step is to decide which content should go where. Go back to your buyer journey map. It’ll tell you whether your content falls into the awareness, consideration, or decision phase of the journey. While PPC spans all 3 phases, some types of content work better than others in each stage.

For example, decision content rarely performs well in display or social PPC. That’s not to say you can’t use it there, but it should supplement your awareness content, rather than stand alone. I like to use awareness content in display and social, and decision content in remarketing. That way your users see something different, and it helps pull them into the funnel.

Content format is another consideration. You can’t run a video ad in Google search. You can put the video on your landing page, but you can’t use it in your actual ad. But you can do a YouTube Ads campaign using the video.

Think carefully about where your content is hosted. It’s easy to put presentations on SlideShare, or videos on YouTube – but do you want to drive PPC or media traffic there? Probably not. You’ll need to create landing pages and embed this content on the pages.

Social PPC is a whole different animal. If your goal is engagement or audience building, you probably won’t mind promoting tweets with YouTube videos, SlideShare decks, or even photos and infographics – content you’d never promote in search.

Lay all this out in a channel matrix so you know what’s being promoted where.

Once you have your content mapped to channels, you need to figure out how to track it. It’s ideal to know not only which individual assets perform best, but what types of assets. I mentioned this briefly in the buyer journey discussion, but it’s important to repeat it here.

There are several ways to track content performance. You can create individual landing pages for each asset, and then track performance by page. Or, you can create a content ID system that parses out the asset title, buyer journey stage, and content type – and then roll up that data via your analytics platform.

This is a critical step: you must think about how you’re going to track content performance across channels. While some assets will do well in certain channels and poorly in others, some assets will rise to the top as high-performers across all channels. That’s the content you want to promote heavily – and try to replicate.

For instance, if a particular report or white paper does well across the board, you might want to create an updated version of it, or write a similar report about another product or service you offer.

Look at asset types to see what your audience responds to. Do they prefer videos, or do they like to download white papers to read and share? Thinking about this at the outset will enable you to develop a tracking system that gives you the data you need to make decisions.

Use your tracking data not only to optimize what’s in market, but to guide future content development. Test different assets against each other and gauge results. Socialize your learnings internally (or with your client if you’re an agency).

To the uninitiated, content marketing sounds like an insurmountable task. By following the steps outlined in this series, you can develop a successful content marketing machine and fuel your PPC efforts at the same time.

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Dynamic Sitelinks Gone Wrong

Back in July, Google launched dynamic sitelinks, which are sitelinks that Google automatically appends to ads.

Google touts dynamic sitelinks as a “(tool) adding value to your ads while saving time and simplifying campaign management.” But for many advertisers, it’s yet another example of the dumbing down of PPC. And for B2B advertisers, dynamic sitelinks often spell disaster.

In B2B, it’s common not to use sitelinks, because there’s one specific landing page you want to drive traffic to. In fact, many times sitelinks are a worst practice for B2B.

With dynamic sitelinks, Google, in their infinite wisdom, is choosing random pages to display as dynamic sitelinks. In fact, even if you are using sitelinks, they may be overridden if “Google thinks it’s best.”

This is disastrous for many B2B advertisers who deliberately aren’t using sitelinks. Often, there is only one relevant landing page for PPC – one that’s been optimized for conversion. Other pages on the website likely are informational in nature and have no way to generate a conversion. So, we deliberately decide not to use sitelinks for these advertisers.

Here’s an example:

dynamic sitelink 1

The destination URL for this ad is a page specifically optimized for conversion. The dynamic sitelink extension goes to neither an e-commerce nor a lead gen page.

Here are a couple more examples:

dynamic sitelink 2

dynamic sitelink 3

The first one is showing the About page. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen many About pages that are designed to drive conversions. The home page would be a better choice in this instance.

The second example is for one product with one relevant page. Google has chosen a page featuring a totally different product – freezers instead of milk coolers. While Google may think that’s relevant, it’s not – this client has asked us to focus on milk coolers only, not freezers.

If you’ve ever worked with B2B clients, you’ll know that for many of them, it’s like pulling teeth to get even one optimized landing page created. Now, your hard work is potentially going to waste by Google deciding to pick random pages to show alongside your carefully crafted landing page.

Granted, we all know that few people click on the sitelink itself – most clicks happen on the actual ad, which goes to the landing page. But the problem I have with these random dynamic sitelinks is that they make the ads look weird. Instead of adding to the experience, dynamic sitelinks potentially detract from it – risking CTR and other key metrics for advertisers.

And what about advertisers who’ve tested sitelinks and found they hurt performance? Yes, it does happen – and now those advertisers are stuck with a “feature” that they know doesn’t work for them.

Google does offer an opt out form for those who don’t want dynamic sitelinks added to their campaigns. You’ll have to fill it out for every single advertiser.

And even then, it may not help.

We filled out the form for the advertisers in the examples above. We heard nothing from Google for nearly 2 weeks. When we finally did hear back, Google’s response was to “just wait.” Not “we’re opting these accounts out,” but “wait.”

That’s unacceptable. Guess what, Google? We paused all these campaigns until we can get the situation sorted out. You’re not getting another dime until we know we can serve relevant, high-performing ads for our clients.

I know that for many advertisers, dynamic sitelinks are a great thing. For ecommerce advertisers, they’re undoubtedly a huge timesaver. But they’re not for everyone. All Google needs to do is give us the explicit choice: let us opt in or opt out at the campaign level. Then everyone would be happy.

What’s your take on dynamic sitelinks? Boon or bust? Share in the comments!

Special thanks to my coworkers, Jessi Link and Mark Herman, for providing the background and screen shots for this post.

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Beyond The Paid 2014 Reader Poll

Well, it’s December. Time for holiday cheer and ecommerce madness; time for 2015 predictions and 2014 year-in-review posts.

I’m not going to do any of those. Instead, I want to hear from all of you. What do you want me to blog about? What topics are on your mind? What were your favorite posts this year?

I set up last year’s poll as an experiment, and the responses were eye-opening. You all inspired me to write about things I hadn’t really thought of.

So let’s do it again! Here is the second annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. It’s 2 questions, so please answer both! I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

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PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do

By now, we’re all accustomed to being followed around by remarketing ads. Those of us in PPC are particularly attuned to remarketing ads. We know what they are, first of all. Most of us can probably spot a remarketing ad on the first impression. Second, we visit a lot of different websites as we research competitors, read news, and check display campaign placements. It always makes me chuckle to see our clients’ competitors as I move about the web.

I don’t blame the competitors for following me; after all, they don’t know why I was on their site and didn’t convert. As long as they don’t show me hundreds of impressions per day, it’s not a problem. Then again, there are some remarketing ads that seem nearly ubiquitous, almost to the point of harassment.

Here’s an example of an ad that most PPC pros probably see at least 20 times per day:

remarketing ad

Now, I think WordStream has good products – I’ve praised several of them in posts I’ve written. And I have nothing but respect for Larry Kim, their CEO. But I gotta be honest – I’m tired of seeing their ads all day long, everywhere I go.

How to avoid harassment: Use frequency caps! I usually start with 5 impressions per user per day. And even that might be high – I’ve gone as low as 1 per day.

Now, I’m sure the fine folks at WordStream have probably tested the frequency threshold and likely are serving the right number of impressions to drive the results they’re looking for. But gosh, these ads are everywhere. I’ve even tried to get them to stop showing by going to different pages & sites – I gave up after about 50 impressions.

This week, I got to thinking about another, bigger problem: showing salesy remarketing ads to people who already use your product. I credit my co-worker, Ben Nusekabel, with pointing this out. Here’s the ad he sent me – for the project management software we all use every day!

remarketing ad

Now, I love so many things about this ad: the copy, the art, the call to action… If I’d seen it, I probably would have downloaded the ebook! But here’s the thing: they’re wasting money on me, because I work for a company that already uses them.

The solution? Don’t remarket to people who log in to your site. Create an exclusion list for them.

Here’s another one, for the videoconferencing program we use:

remarketing ad

Great – I started seeing this ad AFTER a video meeting in which I gave a presentation from my home office in Michigan to our main office in Cincinnati, while I was logged in, of course. At least this ad wasn’t interesting enough for me to click on it. So maybe the key is to use boring creative? (I keed, I keed.)

And finally, the icing on the cake:

remarketing ad

Yes, our friends over at Adwords want me to check them out. “Try Google AdWords,” they say. As if I’m not logged in to their interface from dawn till dusk. This one made me laugh out loud. Yet another example of Adwords not using their own best practices.

I’d have been ok with seeing all of these ads if I weren’t logged in to their sites at the time I saw them. Makes me wonder if their PPC department or agency doesn’t understand how to use remarketing. At least it’s good for a few laughs.

What about you? What are the craziest (or best, or creepiest) remarketing ads you’ve seen lately? Share in the comments!

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The Adwords Red Bar of Death Is Killing Me

Ever try navigating within your PPC account and seen this?

red bar of death
It’s affectionately called the “red bar of death” by PPC advertisers, and it used to show up relatively infrequently. Starting about a month ago, I noticed more and more tweets on the PPC Chat hashtag from people saying they were seeing the red bar of death. Most of the tweets at that time were from our friends in the UK and Europe, so I figured something was going on over there.

Then I started seeing it myself, more and more. Then I saw this:
adwords down
And this:
adwords down again
Mountain View, we have a problem.

It seems as though everyone is seeing the Adwords red bar of death:
rbod tweets

It’s gone beyond ridiculous at this point. Twitter users point out that the issue happens in nearly every instance of Adwords daily usage: in every browser, navigating from one campaign to another, filtering, segmenting, editing… the list goes on. And nothing we do seems to make it go away for more than a day or so.

Adwords has maintained near-silence the whole time this has been going on. Last week, after the tweet I sent in the image above asking why the silence, they finally sent me a direct message on Twitter.

The DM contained a link to report the problems I was having. Finally! I thought. We can all get a resolution on this, if for no other reason than to bombard Adwords with form fills from the sheer number of PPC pros having this problem. So I tweeted out the link.

I promptly got another DM from Adwords – this time, asking me to delete the tweet. Why? Because apparently they handle these issues on an individual basis, so the form was meant for “specific cases” only.

Fair enough. But newsflash, Adwords: TONS of users are having the same problem, and it’s gone on for weeks! Why create a form meant for single users when this is a nearly universal problem? It almost seems like you’re underestimating the extent of the issue.

To their credit, Adwords did send me a public link to contact support, and I deleted my earlier tweet and sent this out instead. But this is just a link to their general support options. We all know how well that works (i.e., it doesn’t). Meanwhile, we’re still getting the red bar of death and other errors on a daily basis.

Hey Google, in case you haven’t noticed, the holidays are fast approaching. PPC advertisers need to get all their holiday campaigns teed up, launched, and managed. We don’t have time for continual outages and errors. Several people said they couldn’t access their shopping campaigns at all yesterday. That’s a major problem.

This fiasco is yet another indication that Google may be getting too big to fail. And it’s not the first time we’ve gotten terrible support from Adwords. But this goes beyond silly feature announcements and uneducated reps. This is a system-wide, worldwide outage that’s been going on for at least a month.

Adwords, it’s time to step up and fix the platform that’s your bread and butter. Now.

What about you? What have you done when you’ve gotten the red bar of death? Has Adwords reached out to you individually? Are you noticing any patterns in when it happens? Share in the comments!

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PPC Campaign Setup Best Practices

Everyone who works in PPC management will have to set up at least a few new PPC campaigns. Setup seems easy, especially if you read what the engines tell you. But there are several tricky default settings that can trip you up.

It’s easy to make mistakes in campaign setup that can negatively impact performance. Here are some PPC campaign setup best practices to follow.

Campaign Setup Basics

Experienced PPC managers may take the basics for granted – after all, we’ve looked at these settings hundreds of times, right? But that doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes. I recently set a campaign’s geotargeting to the entire US when it was supposed to be geotargeted to a few cities. Be sure to look at the following settings to ensure they mesh with your campaign goals:

  • Billing & Currency
  • Account Timezone
  • Geographic Distribution
  • Language
  • Campaign Budget
  • Ad Distribution
  • Ad Rotation

For an overview of all these settings, here’s an article I wrote for Web Marketing Today.

Campaign Setup Strategies

Once you understand the various settings that are available, you need to think about campaign strategy. What makes the most sense for each campaign? Review some of the choices you have in terms of ad rotation, budget delivery, etc.

Also, think long and hard about mobile. Do you have a mobile version of your site? Is your site responsive and works well on mobile? Can users take conversion actions on a mobile device? Don’t just automatically include or exclude mobile – think about how it fits with campaign strategy.

Audit and QA

Even the most experienced PPC managers make mistakes in campaign setup. I’ve set the wrong budget, opted campaigns into display by mistake, set wrong geos, added “keyword” to my keyword list, and messed up destination URLs and tagging. It happens to the best of us.

The worst possible thing that can happen is to have a client, or your boss, find your mistakes. While some things will inevitably slip through the cracks despite your best efforts, putting an audit and quality assurance (QA) process in place will help you to avoid the most egregious errors.

One key to successful QA is to have someone else check your work. We recently did a huge launch of new landing pages for a client with a very large campaign. On top of that, we had to manually tag our URLs. It was a complicated process with a big margin for error. We had multiple sets of eyes on the destination URLs to make sure everything was set up correctly. We checked, and then checked again. And I had others help me, because after I’d stared at it for multiple 10-hour days straight, it was hard to find my own mistakes.

Another key to correcting errors is to do regular audits. We’ve all made changes to accounts in good faith, only to realize we messed something up in the process. Auditing your campaigns on a weekly or monthly basis will help keep errors from perpetuating over time.

My favorite audit tool is Joe Kerschbaum’s 10-Minute Audit spreadsheet. He presented it at SMX Advanced 2012 on a panel we were both speaking on, and I’ve used it ever since. Even though it’s 2 years old, it still holds up – the only thing that’s changed is device segmentation (sadly). Even still, you should think about mobile as I mentioned above. Are you using mobile-preferred ads? Call extensions? Other tactics for mobile success? Use the audit spreadsheet to find mistakes quickly.

Again, it’s best to have someone else audit the campaigns you manage. While I’ve used it on my own campaigns, it’s easy to miss things. If you work on a team, take turns auditing each other’s campaigns each month. You’ll be glad you did.

What are your favorite campaign setup best practices? Share in the comments!

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