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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The Yahoo-Microsoft Search Alliance – Here We Go!

This week, it’s happening – the much-vaunted transition of Yahoo PPC traffic to the Microsoft Adcenter platform and the combination of the two programs. Not since the launch of Yahoo Panama back in early 2007 has there been such a momentous shift in the traditional PPC marketplace.

Yahoo and MSN have done a commendable job of preparing advertisers for the transition. It was announced nearly 18 months ago, and both engines have sent out continual communications and progress reports, using email, social media, in-person events, webinars, and information within the respective user interfaces. I attended the Search Alliance Summit in Seattle back in June, just prior to SMX Advanced. It was just a one-day seminar (and I missed the first half due to travel challenges), but it was jam-packed with useful information. Since then, I’ve received countless communications from both MSN and Yahoo, updating me on the change. Kudos to both for the great communication!

All that communication doesn’t mean much until launch, though. Now is the time where the rubber meets the road. We’ll finally get an answer to probably the biggest question on PPC advertisers’ minds: the traffic quality question. Will Yahoo’s historically-lower quality search partner traffic pull down results? Or will adCenter’s more robust matching & relevancy algorithms offset that? I for one remain skeptical – if I had to bet right now, I’d say that we’ll see a 30-40% decrease in results with the influx of Yahoo. I hope I’m wrong.

Another unknown is how well adCenter will transfer Yahoo’s icky Standard and Advanced match types into the more commonly-accepted Broad, Phrase, and Exact match. (Incidentally, I don’t think anyone is sad to see Standard and Advanced finally go away.) adCenter has provided information about how match types will be mapped, but I have my doubts. Even though it was 3 ½ years ago, I still remember how badly Yahoo botched the transition from the Overture platform to the Panama platform, and how long it took me to straighten out my PPC account. I was doing in-house SEM at that time; I shudder to think how arduous that task will be in an agency setting….

Finally, I would like to know when we will be able to set separate bids for Bing vs. Yahoo traffic. Frankly, I was stunned to discover that this option wasn’t baked in to the original Alliance plans. Advertisers have begged, pleaded and cajoled for more control in setting bids across networks since PPC first started. Why on earth this wasn’t part of the deal from day one is a mystery to me, and one that smacks of a money grab. (The official word from both Microsoft and Yahoo is that there were too many technical difficulties with building this functionality into the initial Alliance launch, but I’m not buying that. C’mon – you are Microsoft, aren’t you?)

We need this granularity in bidding. Traffic quality varies so widely from Yahoo to Bing, it’s not even funny. And it doesn’t always go the same way. We have a large B to B client who gets fantastic results from Yahoo – better than Google, even (higher traffic and a better CPA). However, their MSN campaign was a complete flop. They’re the only client we’ve ever turned off in MSN and left on in Yahoo. On the other side of the coin, we have clients who’ve flopped royally in Yahoo, but had huge ROI in MSN. And there are others who get consistent results across all 3 search engines. Regardless, I need the ability to bid appropriately based on traffic quality. Really, we all win when this happens!

What are you seeing so far with your Yahoo and MSN traffic?

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The Microsoft-Yahoo Alliance – 3 Things I’ll Miss

The search marketing world was buzzing last week over the Microsoft-Yahoo Alliance and what it means to PPC advertisers. Marketers lauded the Alliance, celebrating the impending demise of the aging Yahoo Panama user interface. My friends David Szetela and Joe Kershbaum discussed the Alliance during the latest episode of PPC Rockstars. (Side note: If you’re a PPC advertiser or account manager, and you’re not already subscribed to the PPC Rockstars podcast, do yourself a favor and go subscribe right now. You’ll thank me later.)

Overall, I agree with the sentiment out there – Yahoo Panama is clunky, and outdated, and was flawed from the start. That said, there are 3 things I’ll miss when the Alliance finally rolls out.

#1 – Lack of competition on MSN/Bing. It’s well-known that conversion rates on Bing are far superior to conversion rates on Yahoo. In my experience, if Google’s conversion rate is X, Bing converts at 3X and Yahoo converts at 0.6X. One of the reasons Bing converts better is the lack of competition.

The Alliance puts advertiser ads on the best PPC engine AND the worst one. We don’t yet know whether advertisers will have the option of creating separate campaigns for Yahoo and Bing. If that’s not an option, we’re all going to see lower conversion rates.

Even if this is an option, I’m betting more people will opt in to Bing when they can do so through one interface (as opposed to two currently). That’ll increase competition, thereby splitting the conversion pie into fewer pieces – resulting in lower conversion rates.

#2 – The quality of Bing traffic. While this is related to competition, it’s not exactly the same. PPC traffic comes not only from the search engine domain (e.g. Yahoo.com or Bing.com), but from search and content partners as well. Partners almost always dilute the quality of traffic from a PPC engine – especially in Yahoo’s case, where poor performance from search partners is well-documented. We don’t know whether Bing will add search partners to the mix; but if they do, we’re in trouble.

#3 – Yahoo’s Bid Slider application. OK, so it’s a minor feature in the overall scheme of things. But I use that slider a lot when managing client PPC bids. It’s a great visual that helps advertisers estimate ad position and bid quickly and easily. It beats Google’s Bid Simulator by a mile, even though the Bid Simulator is 2.5 years newer. It’s one of the few things Yahoo got right with Panama.

Under the Alliance, PPC management will happen in the adCenter interface, and Yahoo’s Panama will go away. For the most part, I’m glad, but I’ll miss that slider.

What will you miss when YSM goes away?

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Busy Week In The PPC World

It’s been a busy 7 days in PPC land, at least for me. One of the things that’s kept me busy is the Adwords Professional exam. My certification was set to expire at the end of this month, so I needed to re-take the exam. I’ve been using Google Adwords since its inception in 2002, so the exam wasn’t difficult, but it did take time. (By the way, I passed with 97%!)

Speaking of the Adwords exam, I wrote about why you should become a Google Adwords Certified Professional at Search Engine Watch last week. If you’re not certified, check it out.

Also keeping me busy this week is reading about the approval of the Microsoft-Yahoo Search Alliance. While nothing’s changed yet, the alliance could prove to be interesting over the next 12 months. I for one am looking forward to saving time and effort managing campaigns in the two very different interfaces.

For more on the merger, take a look at John Lee’s post on the Clix Marketing Blog. He pretty much took the words out of my mouth with that post. It’s great stuff!

And with that, I’m off to the rat race!

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Early Results from Bing PPC

The SEM world is still a-buzz over Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine. While it’s still way too early to tell whether it will be a Google killer or even an improvement over Live.com, early results for one of our adCenter PPC clients are encouraging.

I ran a quick analysis of visitors & conversions for this client, whose business is in the travel vertical, comparing the first 11 days of May to the first 11 days of June. Their PPC campaigns were unchanged during this time as far as budget and strategy.

Growth in visitors from Bing PPC is 25% higher than average. Even more exciting is that Bing/MSN’s traditionally-good conversion rate is continuing: conversion rate from adCenter is 58% higher than average for PPC, and actually increased since the Bing lauch – whereas overall conversion rate from PPC is down slightly.

Is this proof that Bing’s a Google killer? No. Is it a good sign for overall client ROI? Absolutely.

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Microsoft Search Summit 2009: Bing, adCenter, and More

Last Wednesday through Friday, Microsoft held their Search Summit, where approximately 80 search experts gathered in Bellevue, WA to hear about and discuss the latest and greatest about Microsoft’s search products. In previous years, MS had two separate conferences, with organic / SEO represented at Search Champs and advertisers at Ad Champs. This year, they decided to combine the two for a super-power-search experience.

Of course the biggest buzz out of this conference was over Bing, MS’s new search engine. I have to say, initially I’m impressed with the functionality of the engine, especially in certain verticals like travel and shopping. Instead of a mish-mash of results, Bing returns an organized SERP with sections for reviews, price, features, etc. It’s pretty cool.

On the advertising side, a lot of discussion focused on the adCenter spring upgrade, including the new and improved adCenter Desktop, which is close to coming out of beta.

Most of the advertiser sessions included plenty of time for questions & discussion, which is always the best part. Controversy over trademark protection continues, with lots of debate over Google’s recently announced trademark policy change. It seemed as though half the attendees favored the new policy, and half were up in arms over it. I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out.

All in all it was a useful and informative conference, with networking that was second to none. I’m honored to have been a part of it. I hope that Bing gives MS the traffic boost it needs to make all their efforts worthwhile.

If you’re interested in reading more news from the conference, WebProNews has a good summary of interesting tweets from those in attendance.

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Uploading PPC Campaigns Quickly

If you’re like most PPC marketers, you start a new campaign by setting it up in Google, most likely using Adwords Editor. Editor is probably the single most useful Adwords tool Google has released yet, and it’s one of the first things I teach new PPC hires at our agency. But I digress.

Even though Google has by far the largest market share in the search world, you’re missing 20%-30% of searchers by putting all your eggs in that basket. To take your PPC campaigns to the next level, you need to expand to Yahoo and MSN. But how? MSN has adCenter Desktop, but it’s still in beta and not everyone has access to it. (Plus, it’s not the most user-friendly tool out there, but again, I digress.) Yahoo doesn’t even have a desktop editor. What to do?

Lucky for you (and for them), both Yahoo and MSN have made bulk uploads much easier than they used to be. The days of creating a massive spreadsheet, copying, pasting, and hoping, are over.

Yahoo makes a decent effort to make up for their lack of a desktop editor with their “Convert Third Party Campaigns” function. You’ll find this in the “Import” menu of the YSM interface. Here’s how to use it:
1. Export your Adwords campaign from Adwords Editor using the Export function. Save the file as is.
2. If your Adwords campaign has any negative keywords, open the CSV file and delete those rows – you’ll need to manually add those negatives to Yahoo later.
3. If your campaign status is anything other than Active, Paused, or Deleted (such as Pending), change it to either Active or Paused. Yahoo doesn’t understand Pending and your conversion will fail.
4. Go to the “Convert Third Party Campaigns” page in YSM and follow the steps to convert your file.
5. Once the file is converted, download the conversion file, make any edits (such as updating tracking URLs) and save the file as a Unicode Text with a .csv extension.
6. Then go to the Import Campaigns tab and follow the steps.
7. Pray you didn’t get any errors.

If you do get errors, it’s not easy to figure out what to do. If the only error is “this keyword was not added because it is a duplicate of another keyword,” you’re fine – Yahoo’s match driver means fewer keyword variations are allowed in Yahoo than in Google. If you got other errors, you can either try to fix your upload file and re-upload, or just go into the interface and fix them manually.

It’s even easier to bulk upload to MSN. You can do it via the online interface – simply follow the instructions outlined in the adCenter Blog. The sticking point of this is when you use keyword-level destination URLs – these are not carried over into your import, because MSN decided to use that horrid “param1″ function. You’ll have to add those manually later, or use this workaround: In your export file from Adwords, change the ad copy destination URLs from whatever they are to “{param1}” (without the quotes). This will bring in all your keyword-level destination URLs – but not your ads. So you’ll still have to do some manual work, but usually campaigns have far fewer ads than keywords!

Uploading via adCenter Desktop is even easier. You can import your file from Adwords without even converting it. Just make sure to edit your ad copy destination URLs as described above if you’re using keyword-level URLs. Entering ad copy in Desktop is much easier than in the online interface.

If anyone knows a better way to import campaigns with keyword-level URLs in MSN, please post it in the comments! Also post your questions, tips, and tricks – when we share our knowledge, we all improve.

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5 Feature Requests for MSN adCenter Desktop

Back at SMX Advanced in June, a pleasant conversation with the adCenter rep at their booth led to an invite for me to try the adCenter Desktop tool. This is a feature that SEMs have been requesting for a long time, and I was excited to try it out.

I’ve been using the tool for a couple of months now, and overall, it’s a big timesaver. It helps me update campaigns quickly and easily, and actually has gotten me to include more clients in MSN. Yahoo is now the lone major PPC without a desktop editor.

That said, I have a couple of major feature requests:

1. Please, please, please get rid of the “save” requirement in the “manage” section where we make all our updates! I cannot count how many times I’ve made a bunch of changes, and forgotten to hit “save,” only to lose all my work when I navigated away from that screen. UGH! I guess I’m just used to working in Adwords Editor, which doesn’t require a Save, but it is cumbersome and unnecessary. adCenter Desktop already has the “revert changes” feature, so there is no need to make us save our work as we go along. Please!

2. Include a “help” section within the tool. We’re all new to using this – don’t make us guess what “deep copy” and other functions will do, please.

3. Warn users when accounts cannot be downloaded because the user is not logged in with the correct adCenter user name and password. We recently changed our password due to staff turnover, and it took me several tries to figure out why the Desktop tool stopped working. It just wouldn’t download changes – there was no message telling me why.

4. Allow us to change ad group status from “draft” to “active” within the desktop tool. If this is possible, I can’t figure out how to do it (see #2 above). I had to log in to adCenter to activate an ad group I set up in Desktop, which defeats the whole purpose of using a desktop editor.

5. Allow mass delete of {param1} keyword destination URLs. Again, if this is possible, I can’t figure out how to do it. I needed to remove keyword destination URLs for a client’s ad group yesterday, and it should have taken 5 minutes in Desktop. Alas, no such luck – I had to log in to adCenter, download the ad group to Excel, make the change, and re-upload the file – again, defeating the purpose of using a desktop editor.

I started a thread on Desktop at Search Engine Watch, but so far, I’m hearing crickets. Am I the only one out there who’s using this? Am I the only one using adCenter?? If you’ve tried Desktop, post your feedback at SEW, or in the comments here!

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Over A Year Later, MSN Still Doesn’t Get It

Back in April 2007, I wrote about MSN not getting it when it comes to PPC and search in general. Here we are almost 1.5 years later and they still don’t get it.

I work for an online marketing agency with lots of clients. Many of our clients use MSN. More clients would use MSN if we could get a dedicated rep. Both Google and Yahoo have agency teams who specialize in working with agencies handling multiple client campaigns, and we’ve had dedicated reps with both for a long time. MSN is another story.

So, at SMX Advanced, I asked the MSN rep at their booth about getting a dedicated rep. He indicated that they have minimum spend levels, but based on our conversation, we should qualify. He gave me a phone number to call.

I called the number and talked with someone who, by the way, has been very professional and helpful during this entire process. He indicated that we’d be getting a rep and began the process. Or so I thought.

This morning, I got an email from him saying that we didn’t qualify for a rep after all. Apparently the minimum spend is per CLIENT, not per agency. Argh. The kicker is, the entire reason we don’t have more clients using MSN and spending more money there is because of the amount of time it takes to set up and manage the campaigns in the adCenter interface, as well as low overall search volume from MSN. We have at least 2-3 clients who would gladly spend $3K/month each with MSN if the volume was there. But the volume just isn’t there. And it’s too time-consuming for us to try to expand their campaigns when it will only get us $50/month in additional clicks.

Again I want to stress that the MSN rep I’ve been dealing with has been helpful and professional, and even offered to try and get the decision reversed. Still, I’m disappointed that MSN doesn’t seem to want to give better service to their customers. They are way behind their competitors in this regard.

I shouldn’t be surprised, given their history. I guess I just want to root for the little guy; and, MSN’s results continue to be good. They just need better tools and more traffic. But at this rate, that won’t happen any time soon.

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Microsoft Walks Away from Yahoo

Well. Looks like there won’t be any Microhoo after all, at least not now. Last night, Microsoft decided to walk away from their hostile takeover of Yahoo. In a statement, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft said, “”We believe the economics demanded by Yahoo! do not make sense for us, and it is in the best interests of Microsoft stockholders, employees and other stakeholders to withdraw our proposal.”

When this whole offer was first announced, I thought it was a done deal. It honestly seemed like a way for both engines to compete with Google. As time went on, though, it became apparent that Yahoo had a little more fight left in them than we thought. So for now, the three engines remain.

It will be interesting to see what Google does now. The Google/Yahoo PPC test has been going for a while, and has gotten mostly positive feedback from advertisers. Will this “test” continue, or will something unexpected happen?

Time will tell. Never a dull moment in the SEM industry!

Discussion continues at Search Engine Watch forums.

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