Preparing for the Adwords Fundamentals Exam

Many professional careers have certification programs, and PPC is no exception. Both Google Adwords and Microsoft adCenter offer certification programs for PPC professionals. In this post, I’m going to talk about preparing for the Google Adwords Fundamentals exam, which is the first step to becoming a Certified Professional.

First of all, if you’ve been actively managing PPC accounts for at least a year or two, you should have a good chance of passing the Fundamentals exam without even studying. But if this is your first time taking one of the Adwords exams, or if it’s been a couple years since you’ve taken it, there are a few things you should be aware of:

• The test costs $50, non-refundable. So if you’re not feeling confident about your Adwords knowledge, don’t take the test.
• You have 90 minutes to complete the exam – and once you start, you have to finish in one sitting. Make sure you have that big a block of time available to take the exam uninterrupted.
• Once you start the exam, the testing interface locks out your computer so you can’t access browsers or other programs. It wasn’t always this way with the Adwords exam – you used to take the exam in one browser, and could have another one open to search for the answers! (Of course I didn’t do this, wink wink!)
• You can mark questions for review later, so if you don’t know an answer or aren’t sure, mark it and go on – you can come back to it later.

If you’re relatively new to PPC, though, you’ll want to study a bit before you take the exam. The best way to study is to review the training materials in the Google Learning Center.

The Learning Center is your home base for preparing for the exam. It contains detailed written documentation on all the topics that will be tested.

That said, there are a LOT of topics. If you’re a complete beginner, you’ll want to take the time to go through all of the lessons; you can do this while you’re actively managing a PPC account or shadowing someone else during training.

However, if you have some Adwords experience, read through the lesson description first. If it covers something you feel pretty confident about, skip it. Focus on the lessons on topics that are new to you. If the lesson includes any case studies or examples, pay particular attention, as a lot of exam questions are in the form of case study-type examples that you’ll need to analyze and answer correctly.

Remember that all the rules for taking standardized tests apply to the Adwords exam, too:

• Skip questions you’re not sure of and come back to them
• Your first impression is usually correct
• On true/false questions, you have a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right
And so on

With careful preparation, you’ll be able to pass the exam and become a Certified Professional!

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AdWords Campaign Experiments: Details and Pitfalls

Back in September, I wrote a brief overview of AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE), and Joe Kerschbaum wrote an excellent post on ways to use the feature.

ACE is a great enhancement that can really take your PPC campaigns to the next level. That said, there are a few important details you need to know before using it, as well as some pitfalls to watch out for. Let’s look at an example to illustrate.

ACE Details

One of the highly touted ways to use Experiments is to try new keywords, and with good reason. Maybe there’s a broad match keyword you’re not sure will generate the results you want, or maybe there’s a keyword that is marginally relevant to your campaign, but you’d still like to test it out.

Pre-Experiments, your only option was to add the keyword and watch it like a hawk while hoping for the best. Now, you can use Experiments to display the keyword on as little as 5 percent of your total traffic. Great news, right?

Yes and no. First of all, using Experiments requires at least a rudimentary understanding of testing principles. If you haven’t conducted controlled tests before, even the terminology in the Experiments documentation will be confusing.

It’s also a little tricky getting your head around the “control,” “experiment,” and “control + experiment” categories. Basically, the “experiment” will only run on the percent of traffic you specify.

So if you only want your test keyword to run 10 percent of the time, you’ll need to set it to “experiment only.” Conversely, if you don’t want a particular keyword or set of keywords included in the experiment, you’ll need to set it to “control only.”

Remember, Experiments run at the campaign level, so if you’re only testing keywords within one ad group, be sure to set the other non-experiment ad groups to “control,” as well.

It gets confusing, to be sure.

ACE Pitfalls

One big shortfall of Experiments is that it can’t be applied to campaign settings. For example, it would be great to test dayparting, networks, devices, daily budgets, and other campaign-level settings, and Experiments would be ideal for this. Unfortunately, it isn’t an option at this time. I’m hoping it will be, eventually.

There are also some pretty big pitfalls to watch out for when using Experiments. The biggest one I’ve discovered has to do with launching changes fully.

So, you’ve run your experiment, and it works great and you get great results. The logical next step would be to roll out the changes to all traffic, right? Yes, but rolling it out involves more than just clicking that button in your campaign settings.


I ran into this unfortunate pitfall in a client campaign recently. I ran an experiment on match types: I wanted to see if modified broad match performed better than regular broad match. But I wasn’t testing all the keywords in the ad group — only some of them.

I added a few modified broad match keywords and set them to “experiment only.” I set the broad match variations of these terms to “control plus experiment.” I set all the remaining keywords to “control only.”

The test worked great: the modified broad match terms, as expected, generated a better cost per conversion with an acceptable loss of traffic (traffic did go down, but not enough to justify the higher cost per conversion). So I clicked “Apply: Launch Changes Fully.”

The next day, when I checked on the campaign, traffic and spend had fallen through the floor. It didn’t make sense: the experiment showed a nearly negligible difference in traffic, but the rolled-out results were more like an 80 percent decrease in traffic.

When I dug into the campaign, I realized that most of my keywords were paused! What happened? Turns out, all the keywords that were set to “control only” were shut off when I launched the experiment fully.

After thinking it through, it made sense. In hindsight, I should have set all the keywords to “control plus experiment” instead of “control only,” and then the test keywords to “experiment only.”

Once I realized the issue, I was able to fix it quickly, and luckily the client lost less than a day of traffic. But the result was unexpected and really caught me off guard.

With these caveats in mind, make use of Campaign Experiments, and you’ll reap the rewards without stumbling!

This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on February 22, 2011.

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6 Reasons to Love Adwords Editor

From time to time, people on Twitter or in search marketing forums ask: “What’s your number one must-have PPC tool?” While some people answer with bid management tools or the Google keyword tool, I always say Adwords Editor.

If you’re a PPC marketer and are not currently using Adwords Editor, put this article away and go download it. Now. You’ll thank me later.

If you are using Adwords Editor, I hope you’ve discovered the power and ease with which you can create new campaigns and ad groups. Editor is especially useful if you need to append tracking URLs or are building out a large set of keywords in Excel. All you need to do is copy and paste into Editor, click Post, and you’re done.

Here are 6 more features you should be using, but may not be. These are the reasons I love Adwords Editor.

Quick bid adjustment by percentage with rules.

I use this one all the time. Let’s say you have a handful of keywords that are converting, but the cost per conversion is too high, so you’d like to reduce the bids. Let’s say further that the keywords all have different keyword-level bids. Sure, you can edit them one by one in the Adwords interface, but why do that when you have Editor? Just highlight all the keywords and click Advanced Bid Adjustment. From this screen, you can increase or decrease bids by a percentage. So all those high cost-per-conversion keywords I mentioned earlier? You can decrease all those individual keyword bids by 50% with a couple of keystrokes.

Bulk find & replace.

This is a great feature for updating destination URLs, changing prices, and making other edits in your account in bulk. If you’re using keyword-level destination URLs in your ads, you’ll find this to be an invaluable feature.

Finding duplicate keywords.

Anyone who has added a bunch of keywords to an ad group, or moved keywords from one ad group to another, will appreciate this feature. Using the “Find duplicate keywords” feature, Editor will tell you if you have duplicate keywords in the same ad group, campaign, or account. Trust me; you’ll love this when you’re trying to make sure you’re not bidding against yourself!

Moving or Copying campaigns, ad groups, and keywords.

I’m sure you’ve had this experience: you have a campaign with complicated geo-targeting options, and you want to add a second, different campaign to your account with the same geo-targeted settings. You can go into the Adwords interface and re-enter those settings a second time. Or, you can just copy the campaign in Editor – and retain the complicated settings with a couple keystrokes. Then you can make edits from there.

It’s also common to move keywords from one ad group to another – maybe you’ve created a new, more targeted ad group for a subset of keywords that you just want to move. Just select the keywords in Editor and drag them to the new ad group, and you’re done!

Making changes offline.

As I write this post, I’m at the MSU Community Music School, waiting for my kids to finish their music lessons. Unfortunately, there’s no wifi here. Fortunately, I can still edit my Adwords campaigns and bids offline, using Editor. I do this all the time – make edits offline, and then post them the next time I’m online.

Sharing edits between multiple users.

In an agency setting, and even in-house, it’s common for more than one person to work on a PPC account. We all know that two pairs of eyes are better than one, and it’s always good to have someone else check your new campaigns before they start accruing clicks (and costs). With Editor, I can have new marketing staff, or our marketing assistants, create new campaigns in Editor and upload them as Paused. I can then grab them from Editor and check them – all before they go live. It’s a great way to do campaign quality assurance!

What’s your favorite use of Editor?

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Google’s Display Network, Part 1: Best Practices & Myths

Just last week, I had a call with one of our Google reps. He was quite knowledgeable, and made several helpful suggestions on Adwords features we could try for our Fluency Media clients. While I was aware of most of the features already, he explained them in detail, and suggested which clients should try which features.

One of the features he brought up was the Google Display Network. The conversation with our rep reminded me that many new advertisers don’t know how to use the Display network, which then prompted me to outline some of the best practices and myths.

When Google launched the Display network about 7 years ago, it was like the Wild West: the network was full of MFA sites, and there were none of the great features like site exclusion that we have now. It was a huge gamble to even thinking about running ads there.

Thankfully, Google listened to advertiser feedback, and made huge improvements over the years. Still, though, the Display network can be a money pit for advertisers who don’t follow best practices.

Best Practice #1: Realize that Display isn’t search.

The first concept to understand is that Display isn’t search. Ads aren’t served based on keywords typed into a search engine. Instead, ads are served on websites where the content matches the content of the ad. Because of this, Display campaigns should always be separate from Search campaigns. Although Google allows advertisers to run ads in both Search and Display in the same campaign, don’t be tempted to take this shortcut. It’s not unusual for ad groups & campaigns to perform very differently in the two networks, so you’ll want the control you get with separate bidding for Search & Display.

Best Practice #2: Use small, tightly-themed ad groups.

This is good advice for search campaigns, too, but is critical for Display. It’s your job as an advertiser to make it abundantly clear to Google what your ad group’s topic is, so Google can show it on appropriate pages. Using tightly themed ad groups will accomplish this.

Best Practice #3: Make heavy use of the placement performance report & site exclusion.

Probably the best thing Google did to enhance advertiser performance in the Display Network was to create the placement performance report. I remember literally whooping with joy when this launched – finally, advertisers would have the transparency to see where their ads were being served, and what the results were on a site-by-site basis! Use this feature to your advantage. The report is easier than ever to run in the new Adwords interface – just go to Networks, set your date range (I use All Time to give the largest data set, and start excluding.

There are a few myths out there about the Display Network that advertisers should be aware of, as well.

Myth #1: Display is an inexpensive source of traffic & conversions.

OK, so this isn’t a total myth. Frequently, Display is a great incremental source of conversions at a very low cost. However, this is by no means always true. Click costs can rival those in search – in fact sometimes CPCs are higher in Display than in search, depending on the vertical. So if you’re looking for a quick way to grab incremental conversions, Display is definitely not the answer. You’ll get traffic, but it may not be inexpensive, and it may not convert.

Myth #2: Display is for everyone.

Again, this isn’t a total myth. We have several clients who get as good or better results from Display as from search. But it’s not a given. For every client who gets great results in Display, we have at least 2 who got horrible results, despite our best efforts to optimize. I firmly believe that there are some businesses for which display is just not a good fit. But you wouldn’t know this from talking to Google – every time I talk to a Google rep, including the conversation last week, they try to pitch me on trying Display for every client.

Myth #3: Site targeting in the Display network is easy.

First, a brief explanation. There are a few targeting options in the display network: keyword targeting, interest category targeting, and placement, or site, targeting. With site targeting, an advertiser can choose exactly which sites they’d like their ads to appear on. So if you want your ads to appear on about.com, you can target that site using site targeting.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not. First of all, there are thousands upon thousands of sites in the display network, so choosing the right sites is a daunting task. Secondly, advertisers tend to gang up when site targeting – everyone wants to target the same popular, high-traffic sites. And what happens when inventory is short and demand is high? You got it – the price goes way, way up. So not only is it challenging to figure out what sites to target, it can be challenging to get conversions at a good cost when the bids are so high.

In Part 2, I’ll share some display network resources that will help you make the most out of the network.

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Adwords Finally Adds “Optimize for Conversions” Option

Ever since the dawn of Adwords, advertisers have had the option to run more than one ad variation per ad group. This is one of the features that makes Adwords so attractive – the ability to test different ad copy and landing pages against a set of keywords and learn which performs the best.

Until this week, though, there was always a problem with the definition of “performance.” For Google, and for a handful of advertisers, “performance” is defined as “click-through rate” – the ad that generates the most traffic. But for most advertisers, “performance” is defined as “conversion rate” – the ad that generates the most desired actions, commonly known as conversions.

Until this week, Adwords offered 2 options for serving multiple ads: Optimize or Rotate. Rotate is simple to define: your ads will rotate evenly among impressions, with each variation getting approximately the same number of impressions. So if you have 2 ads, each will display on about 500 out of 1,000 impressions.

By default, the Optimize setting is turned on – changing it requires editing your Campaign Settings. And “Optimize” sounds great: after all, everyone wants to optimize their campaigns, right? Ha, wrong. Optimize (until this week) rotated ads based on click-through rate: the as with the highest CTR would, over time, be displayed on a larger proportion of impressions. It’s not uncommon to see as much as 80-90% of impressions going to one ad with “optimize,” meaning the ad with the lowest CTR barely gets shown. It’s also not uncommon for the ad with the best CTR to be the ad with the worst conversion rate – so you end up spending a lot of money for not very many conversions. Not good.

But what if you were an advertiser who wanted to drive traffic, with conversion optimization as a secondary goal? What if your ad test is just starting out? What if you’re a new advertiser and you don’t even realize you have a choice?

Good testing principles indicate that all test variants should be shown to test samples that are relatively equal in size and demographic. For instance, if an ad only shows to females age 18-34, there’s a good chance the results won’t translate to men age 45-54. So you want to divide up your sample 50/50, and make it random. But if your Adwords ads are set to “Optimize,” that’s most likely not going to happen.

Never fear, though – Adwords to the rescue! This week, Google launched a third option: Optimize for Conversions. Finally, after years and years of advertisers asking for a way to serve the best-converting ad more often, Google came through! Right?

Sort of. As with many Adwords features, there are a few caveats. First, note in the documentation this important caveat: “If there isn’t sufficient conversion data to determine which ad will provide the most conversions, ads will rotate using ‘Optimize for clicks’ data.” Yikes. It’s pretty obvious that most ads will amass a statistically significant number of clicks long before they reach a statistically significant number of conversions. So really, any new test is doomed to start Optimizing for CTR – thus messing up your conversion test results from the start.

Also, the word on the street (or at least on Twitter) is that Optimize for Conversions will optimize based on conversion rate, not number of conversions. So you may have an ad that gets a great conversion rate, but not many clicks; or vice versa. Either way, the system could be making the wrong decision about what’s working for you.

So for now, I’m sticking with “Rotate,” even though Google warns me every time that it’ll ruin my results.

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Using Dayparting Effectively in PPC, Part 2: Advanced Tactics

In Part 1, we talked about basic dayparting techniques, such as turning off ads during days or hours where results are poor. But what if you don’t want to turn things all the way off?

For instance, let’s say you get some conversions on the weekends – but the conversion rate isn’t as good as it is during the week. Or maybe you get lots of conversions on a Monday, but it’s really competitive, so your CPCs, and therefore your cost per conversion, are higher than you’d like. In these instances, you don’t want to shut off the weekends or Mondays entirely, because you’d lose sales, right? What to do?

This is where bid adjustment comes in. Bid adjustment is a wonderful feature, available in both Google and MSN/Yahoo, that allows you to raise or lower bids on certain days and/or times. With bid adjustment, you can increase or decrease your max CPCs, using a percentage, during days or times that you choose. Here’s a screen shot of the adCenter bid boost screen, found under Campaign Settings.

Let’s take the “weekends aren’t great” example at the beginning of this post. Let’s say your weekend conversions are only worth half what your weekday conversions are worth. Use the bid adjustment feature to set Saturday and Sunday’s bids to 50%. The PPC engine will automatically reduce your CPCs by half. Pretty slick, huh?

As I mentioned in Part 1, when you’re thinking about dayparting, it’s critical to make sure you’re making the right decisions using good data. To make the right decision, you’ll need to look at a large enough set of data. As I mentioned in Part 1, you’ll need at least 100 clicks in each segment to even begin thinking about bid adjustments.

Google makes it easier to get at this data than MSN, at least the day of week data. In Google, just choose Segment by day of week and export the result. However, adCenter’s reporting by hour of the day includes conversion data, while Adwords’ reports by hour do not. (Google is missing the boat on this one, in my opinion!) If your adCenter campaign gets a lot of clicks, you may even want to review conversion data by hour, and then apply that to your Adwords campaigns, as well.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to use a statistical tool to make sure the difference in results is statistically significant. Even if you just look at conversion rate, check the day or days you’re thinking about eliminating, and compare with the other days. If the difference is significant, then go ahead and adjust your bids. If the difference isn’t significant, don’t do it! Even if you have to set the date range to the past 12 months, it’s worth it to make sure you’re making the right decision. Nothing is worse than reducing bids (and getting less traffic & conversions as a result), only to find out you’ve ended up cutting way into your sales.

When used correctly, dayparting and bid adjustment can really improve campaign performance. Look at your data and give it a try!

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Google’s New Display URL Policy Is BS

The PPC community has been abuzz over the latest Adwords policy change: advertisers can no longer use capitalization in the root domain of display URLs. Subfolders can still have capital letters, but the root domain can’t. I haven’t seen one person say they like this change – and I’ve seen plenty who think it’s BS (myself included).

I wrote about this for Search Engine Watch yesterday, and there’s a good conversation going on in the comments there. What do you think about this change: boon, bust, or BS? Go to SEW and post your thoughts!

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PPC Predictions – A Look Back

Yep, it’s cliche – everyone is blogging about their predictions for 2011. It happens every year. Last year, I had the privilege of sharing my predictions on David Szetela’s PPC Rockstars podcast, along with several other PPC luminaries.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions or predictions (I know, that goes contrary to me participating in a podcast on just that topic, but whatever). So this year, rather than postulate on what will happen, let’s look at whether I was right last year.

On the podcast, I predicted that the rate of growth in PPC would slow in 2010 vs. previous years, due to social media and other factors such as increasing CPC in search. I also predicted that the Microsoft/Yahoo merger would happen, but it would make no dent in Google’s market share. On the show, David politely disagreed with me. (David’s always polite!)

Well, guess what. I was wrong on the first one. According to Efficient Frontier, year-over-year growth from 2008 to 2009 was 6%, and Y/Y growth from 2009 to 2010 was 10-15%. I attribute this to the economy, which rebounded in 2010. It’s actually a good thing for PPC that I was wrong on this – it indicates that advertisers still see a high value in this channel.

On the second prediction, about Microsoft & Yahoo, I was right!!!!! (Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, David!) According to Efficient Frontier yet again, Google’s click share in Q3 2009 was 72.0%. In Q3 2010, it was 78.3%. So, despite all the ballyhoo surrounding Microhoo, Google continues to win the search click wars – at least for the time being.

So, I’m batting .500 for 2010. Not too shabby, I’d say!

As I like to say, to thine own self be true – I won’t be making any predictions for 2011. If you’d like to see some good ones, though, check out the Search Engine Watch article from John Lee – who, not coincidentally, works for David over at Clix Marketing. Here’s to success in 2011!

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Using AdWords Segments To Increase PPC ROI

Most of you are aware of the recent improvements to the Google AdWords user interface (UI), including the ability to run reports in the Campaigns tab. These are great time-savers for PPC managers. However, there’s another new and little-known feature called “Segments” that can really take your campaign performance to the next level.

The Segment option allows you to review your campaign performance data in a number of ways:

* Network: Google Search, Search Partners, and Content.
* Click type: URL clicks or Click to Call.
* Device: Computer or mobile device.
* Experiment: Campaign Experiment results.
* Day: Performance by day.
* Week: Performance by week.
* Month: Performance by month.
* Quarter: Performance by quarter.
* Year: Performance by year.
* Day of week: Performance by day of week (Sunday through Monday), regardless of date.

All data is displayed for the date range selected in the AdWords UI. For example, if you’ve selected “Last 30 days” as the date range, segment data will display for that time period.

You’ll find the Segment option just under the Campaign Management tabs (Ad Group, Ads, Keyword, etc.):

So, how do you make the leap from “interesting” to “actionable” when it comes to segment data?

Focus on Underperforming Campaigns, Ad Groups, or Keywords

Sure, you could slice and dice every possible data point in your account, but most of us don’t have that kind of time. Instead, start at a high level.

Do you have one campaign in your account that’s performing worse than the rest? Is one ad group falling behind the curve? Is there a keyword or set of keywords that are highly relevant, yet aren’t converting? Start the segmenting process here.

Use Time-related Segment Data to Spot Trends

Let’s say performance for one of your top ad groups has declined recently, but you’re not sure when the decline began. Start with the “last 30 days” date range, and then segment the data by week. You may be able to pinpoint the week when things went south. You may even be able to associate a particular event that coincided with the decrease.

For example, one of our clients’ PPC campaign results fell off the map over Labor Day weekend. We were able to use segmentation data to discover that performance was steady until Labor Day, when it fell off the map.

We then looked at segmented data for Labor Day 2009, and saw that performance fell off during that week last year, too. Based on this, we recommended staying the course with PPC, rather than making huge changes to ads and keywords.

Sure enough, performance rebounded a week later. Without segmentation, we might have made changes that we’d regret later.

Regularly Review Network and Device Performance to Find Under- and Overachievers

For some of our clients, the Search Partner Network performs better than Google Search. For others, it performs much worse. With the Segment feature, we can find this out in seconds.

The same thing goes for performance on computers versus mobile devices. Some of our clients get great results from mobile; for others, it’s a waste of money. Again, we know in seconds which clients fall into which category.

Side note: It’s a PPC best practice to use separate campaigns for computers and mobile devices. That said, serving ads on all devices for a short time acts as a test bed to determine whether it’s worthwhile to set up a separate mobile campaign.

Review Day-of-Week Data to Find Under- and Overachievers

It takes a little more time to analyze day-of-week data, but it can pay off in a big way. Segmenting performance data by day of week can yield some shocking insight.

It’s common for B2B advertisers to discover that weekends are a complete waste of PPC budget. Not only do the hottest prospects do most of their searching during the week, but most B2B customer service departments work normal business hours. So even if a hot prospect is searching over the weekend and finds your ads, they won’t hear back from you for a couple days — or, they may wait until Monday morning, do another search, and click on your ad again (doubling your cost per conversion in the process). If you’re a B2B advertiser, look long and hard at the weekends to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

The same thing goes for B2C advertisers — although the weekends may not be your problem. One of our clients advertises apartment rentals. Their worst day is Wednesday. It makes sense, if you think about it: people go look at apartments over the weekend, and follow up online Monday or Tuesday. Or, they start looking on Thursday and Friday for apartments to visit over the weekend. Wednesday is no-man’s land — and doesn’t convert as well for the client.

Armed with this segment data, you can use Ad Scheduling to turn off your ads on days that don’t convert well for your business.

If you haven’t already tried the Segment feature, go do it now — and watch your ROI increase!

This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on September 30, 2010.

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Top 5 Free PPC Tools

It’s December, and around the world the holidays are upon us. For many, the holidays bring a spirit of giving. In keeping with that spirit, I thought I’d list my top 5 favorite free PPC tools. Think of it as my PPC gift to you. (wink)

#1: Adwords Editor

Without a doubt, Adwords Editor is #1 on my list. All the other tools are, well, not useless, but much more difficult to put into practice without Adwords Editor. When I train new Fluency Media PPC staff, the first thing I have them do is “download Adwords Editor.”

If you’re new to PPC, or are a PPC Luddite, Adwords Editor is a downloadable application that lets you edit your Adwords campaigns offline. So if you’re without an internet connection, you can still work on your campaigns, and then post the changes the next time you’re connected.

Adwords Editor is also great for creating campaigns, copying campaigns, ad groups, or keywords, moving keywords or ads from one ad group to another, and making changes in bulk. It was originally developed as a tool for Adwords staff and was built off the Excel platform, so it has many of the features we all know and love from Excel, including find & replace, sorting, filtering, appending, copying….. You get the picture. I literally could not do my job effectively without this tool.

#2: Google Keyword Tool

While the Google Keyword Tool has undergone several recent changes, and is notoriously inaccurate at times, it’s still my go-to tool for finding keywords. I like to start with the “website” feature, entering a URL and letting the tool tell me what keywords it thinks are relevant. Not only does this give you a lot of keyword ideas for your PPC campaigns, it alerts you to potential issues with the page that could negatively affect your PPC and SEO results. In other words, if you think the page is about one thing, but the keyword website tool tells you it’s about another, you’ve got a problem – and you’ll need to address it if you want to earn the best Quality Score and organic rankings.

#3: Acquisio Modified Broad Match Tool

I just discovered the Acquisio Modified Broad Match tool about 2 weeks ago, although it’s been around since July. The guys at Acquisio are awesome – I consider Marc Poirer, their co-founder, to be a great friend in the SEM industry – and this tool is simply incredible.

Earlier this year, Google introduced Modified Broad Match and SEMs all said, “Finally!” It’s long overdue, and is easy to implement if you’re only modifying a couple of keyword or keyphrases. However, applying modified broad match to a long list of keywords is daunting. Excel’s Concatenate function won’t do it, Adwords Editor won’t do it, and the thought of typing that “+” sign over and over is enough to make my stomach hurt.

Enter the Acquisio tool. Just copy and paste your keywords into the box, indicate whether you want all words modified or only specific words, and click “generate.” Voila! It’s that simple. I recently created a huge holiday campaign with several hundred modified broad match keywords in a fraction of the time it would have taken me otherwise, just by utilizing this tool.

#4: SplitTester and SuperSplitTester

If you’re running ad copy tests (and you should be), you’ll need a tool to tell you whether your test results are statistically significant or not. There are several good tools out there that fit the bill, but I like SplitTester and SuperSplitTester.

If you’re just looking at one metric, i.e. CTR, conversion rate, or whatever, use SplitTester. Enter the number of clicks (for CTR) or conversions (for conversion rate) and the CTR or conversion rate percentage, and it tells you whether the results are significant, and at what confidence level.

SuperSplitTester takes it a step further and incorporates CTR, conversion rate, and cost per impression. It runs all those metrics through its super-secret algorithm, and tells you which variation will make you the most profit over time. We use this free tool for almost all of our clients’ PPC tests, and the results speak for themselves.

#5: Twitter

Twitter? Yes, indeed – Twitter is one of my favorite PPC tools. It’s not a tool like the other 4 I’ve listed, in that it doesn’t take in data and spit out a result. Nonetheless, Twitter is my go-to place when I’m having a PPC problem that I can’t solve, or when I want to get quick feedback on something. It’s also become my news reader: I get breaking PPC news from Twitter before I see it anywhere else, and it aggregates everything into one place. Not only is it a great way to keep up with friends in the industry, it’s really become a valuable PPC tool.

Bonus Tip:

Since I’m feeling especially generous, here is a bonus tip: My good friend Alex Cohen from ClickEquations wrote an article for Search Engine Watch not long ago on 43 Paid Search Tools. It’s long, but as always, highly educational. Check it out!

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