Expanding Your Adwords Account With The Google Display Network

When you want to expand your Adwords account, and you’ve exhausted your options in Google Search and remarketing/RLSA, you may want to consider the Google Display Network. The Google Display Network, or GDN for short, can be a great way to generate incremental traffic and sales.

Approach the GDN carefully, though. Ads in the GDN are not search. They’re shown based on the relevance of advertisers’ ads to the content on the website. Users viewing the ads are reading content, not actively asking questions.

That said, the GDN offers high impression volume and incremental exposure for your business.

Targeting on the GDN.

To target your ads on the GDN, you can use keywords, placements, topics, interests and remarketing, or demographics; or any combination of these.

Keyword targeting.

Keyword targeting sounds just like keyword targeting in search. It’s similar, but not exactly the same. Keyword targeting in the GDN enables advertisers to tell Google what keywords represent the topics and interests they’d like to reach. For example, if you sell cookware, you may choose keywords like:

• Gourmet cooking
• Recipes
• Cookware
• Food network

This list of terms seems random, but it’s not. Websites with this type of content will be relevant to your target audience. Remember, users aren’t searching on these keywords – they’re used directionally by Google to help match your ads to site content.

Placements.

Targeting by placements allows advertisers to choose the websites or placements on which they’d like their ads to appear. In the cookware example above, you might choose placements like:

• Foodnetwork.com
• Cookingchannel.com
• Epicurious.com
• Gourmetmagazine.com

Remember that high-traffic, well-known placements will have significant competition for ad space. If you choose popular websites for placement targeting, be prepared to bid quite high to be able to generate impressions. Still, for advertisers who know where their target audience hangs out, placement targeting can be an efficient way to target on the GDN.

Topics.

Instead of choosing keywords or placements, you can target ads in the GDN by topic. Here are some of the food-related topics for our cookware example:

You can select as many topics as you’d like. Make sure they’re relevant, of course.

Interests & remarketing.

In addition to remarketing, the GDN also offers interest targeting, based on either affinity audiences or in-market segments.

Affinity audiences are developed by Google, based on long-term behavior of users. For example, the food-related affinity audience is made up of people who frequently visited food and cooking-related sites over time. Here are some examples of affinity audiences:

In-market audiences, on the other hand, are users who Google has determined are actively shopping for a particular product or service. Affinity audiences tend to be focused around high-ticket, high-consideration items like autos and finance:

If you are an auto dealer, think how valuable it would be to serve ads to people who are actively looking to buy a car!

Demographics.

If you took marketing courses in college, you probably studied demographic targeting. Advertisers can target GDN ads by gender, age, and parental status.

You can also exclude demographics; for example, an advertiser targeting business owners might exclude users in the 18-24 and 65+ age groups, as these ages are less likely to be business owners.

Using multiple targeting methods.

If you find that you’re getting too much untargeted GDN traffic, you can combine multiple targeting methods to narrow down your audience. In the cookware example, you could target by placement, and then add keywords to cover the items you sell: cast-iron skillets, saucepans, utensils, etc. This will help prevent your ads from showing on pages that aren’t relevant to what you sell. Combining keywords and placements works particularly well on large sites that cover a lot of topics, such as CNN and YouTube. Adding keywords helps your ads to show only on relevant content.

Be aware that layering multiple targeting options will greatly reduce the number of impressions you’ll receive in the GDN. Try to strike a balance between quantity (impressions) and quality (targeting).

Watch your performance and adjust.

The GDN drives much high impression volume and lower click-through rates than those seen in Google search. CPCs are usually lower than search, as well. But it’s important to monitor performance and exclude any targeting options that are not driving converting traffic. While this is true in any search campaign, because ads in the GDN lack the intent of a searched keyword, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on GDN campaigns to avoid wasting money.

Many search pros avoid the GDN, but I’ve found it to be a valuable add-on for many clients. When targeted correctly, the GDN is an effective way to expand your Adwords account.

For more on the GDN, check out these posts:

3 Ways To Profit From The Google Display Network
Yes, The Google Display Network Can Drive PPC Conversions!

How have you used the GDN successfully? Share in the comments!

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PPC Data Analysis and PPC Goals

This week’s PPC Chat was all about PPC data analysis. It was an interesting chat, as they usually are. (If you’re not participating in #ppcchat on Twitter, stop reading right now and go mark your calendar for Tuesdays at noon Eastern time! You’ll learn something new every week.)

This week’s chat was about data analysis in PPC. We got into what types of data you analyze (anything from time of day to locations to product-by-product results) and whether a PPC manager can handle the data analysis vs. bringing in an analyst.

One of the intriguing questions was this:

Most people said they spent about 70% of their time doing analysis and 30% new builds. For me, it’s probably 80% analysis and 20% new builds. If you take your time to analyze a problem or situation in a PPC account, the optimizations themselves take little time. Unless you’re constantly adding new products to a PPC account, most of your time should be spent on analysis.

Another interesting question centered around analysis paralysis:

People made good suggestions such as stepping away for a while, asking someone else for perspective, and using a preset amount of time to work on PPC data analysis to help focus.

As I thought about my answer, I realized I rarely have analysis paralysis. Partly because I’m so busy I don’t have time to! I do remember the days of working in-house and losing hours diving into data, only to realize I couldn’t draw any meaningful conclusions. Interesting data is not always useful data.

But I think the bigger reason why I rarely have analysis paralysis is because I’m almost always working on accounts with specific goals and KPIs. If your campaign goals are clearly defined, your PPC data analysis is easy – you’re digging into whether you met your goal or not, and why or why not.

There are nearly endless ways to slice and dice PPC data. That’s what makes it so much fun. But few of us have time to just poke around to see what’s there. In order to be efficient, goals must be defined. Goals are your roadmap – without them, you’re just driving around aimlessly!

If your client (or you, as the advertiser) lacks specific PPC goals, that’s ok. You can set goals at any time. Many of our clients come to us with goals in mind, and even specific KPIs if they’ve been doing search for a while. If not, start asking questions.

We ask new clients to fill out a brief. The first question is “What is your business challenge – the problem you’re trying to solve?” This gets them thinking about why they want to use PPC in the first place. Everyone has a reason – you just need to get them to articulate it.

We also ask for their primary business goal: what does search need to accomplish? Is it awareness, traffic, lead capture, sales, or something else? The answer drives campaign setup and data analysis. If the primary KPI is lead generation, all data should focus on showing how many leads were generated, how much they cost, which keywords and ads drove the most leads, and so on. Recommendations should focus on how to get more leads: by increasing impression share, improving conversion rates, etc.

PPC data analysis is relatively easy if you know what questions you’re trying to answer. Sure, the nitty gritty of pulling data, especially if it’s coming from multiple sources, can be a challenge. But you’ll spend your time gathering data, rather than going down the rabbit hole of endless numbers that may or may not be meaningful.

For more on crafting your PPC strategy, check out my Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Strategy.

Do you always establish goals with your clients, and do you find it makes PPC data analysis easier? How do you make analysis more efficient? Share in the comments!

 

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PPC Bid Automation: A Must In 2017

Seems like every year, I write a post on PPC bid automation and bid management. Manually managing bids used to be practically a full-time job when I started doing PPC in 2002; now, it’s almost an afterthought due to automation.

Two years ago, I was asking if PPC bid management was still a thing. Adwords Scripts, automated bid rules, and bid management solutions were my alternatives to manual bid management at that point, and they’re still good suggestions. Last year, I talked about the best times to use automated vs. manual bidding. This year, I find myself wondering if anyone should be using manual bidding at this point. I’m thinking the answer is no.

10 years ago, the only way to use PPC bid automation was through a tool, like Marin, Kenshoo, or Acquisio. Today, with free tools like Adwords Scripts and bid automation rules in both Google and Bing, even smaller advertisers can take advantage of bid automation.

Google was the first PPC engine to launch bid automation within the interface. Several options are available, including:

•    Maximize clicks
•    Target page location
•    Target CPA
•    Target ROAS

Most strategies are available both as individual campaign strategies, and as portfolio strategies across multiple campaigns. Portfolio bidding is a useful strategy that helps advertisers maximize profits across campaigns or sets of keywords. I used a homegrown type of portfolio bidding back in 2005 when I worked in-house; we created a spreadsheet that calculated our profitability on every product we sold, and cranked out the right PPC bids for each product. It was a manual process, but very successful for us. Read more on portfolio bidding in Adwords at Search Engine Land.

Not to be outdone, Bing Ads rolled out with PPC bid automation shortly after Google did. The rules are essentially the same as Google’s.

If you’re going to use scripts or engine automation, you’ll want to do some homework first. Frederick Vallaeys has a great article on Search Engine Land with an overview of setting up bid management rules. If you’re using scripts, or Frederick’s tool Optmyzr, you’ll need to think about things like lookback windows, ROAS, and target CPA. These metrics are important to understand, even if you’re using a paid tool that does some of the calculations for you.

Automating bids in the engines seems easy – and it is. But you’re giving up some control to the engines, which is a little like the fox guarding the hen house. Not all experts are in favor of using PPC bid automation through the engines. Wordstream has a thought-provoking post on why you should never use Adwords automated bidding. It’s from 2014, but I still tend to agree with most of the article. We’ve often seen automated bidding hurt client performance, either by limiting impressions or click volume, or by inflating click cost to where campaigns become unprofitable.

We’ve had the best luck with paid bid management tools. The benefit of a paid tool is that it’s a third party, so there is no vested interest in gaming the system or inflating CPC. Paid tools tend to have algorithms built in that reduce the number of manual calculations PPC managers have to make. The tools learn quickly, yielding performance improvements within a couple of weeks. Here’s a typical example of results seen before and after implementing a paid bid management solution:


Bid management was implemented in April 2014; immediately the client saw an increase in clicks and a large decrease in CPC. All else equal, this is a win for any client.

Bid management solutions can also optimize mobile bid adjustments. We use Acquisio, and here’s an example of how mobile performance improved with their Bid and Budget Manager tool:

Prior to implementing the bid management solution, mobile performance was erratic. With bid management, cost per conversion stabilized, and total conversions increased significantly.

There are many paid bid management solutions out there – here’s one list, although I don’t agree with their rankings. For instance, they list Marchex, which is a call tracking software, not a bid management solution.

Most bid management software providers offer a free trial. I’ve found that the time I save in calculating targets and setting up rules more than pays for the software.

Paid PPC bid automation tools aren’t for everyone. With all the great free options out there, there’s really no reason to be manually managing bids these days.

Can you think of a situation where manual bid management makes sense or where automation has gone wrong? Or is automation the only way to go? Share in the comments!

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PPC Audiences: Audience Segmentation

Back in March, I wrote about defining your PPC audience. It’s the first step in setting up audience targeting for PPC, including search, remarketing, or paid social. Once you’ve defined your audience, it’s time to think about audience segmentation.

Audience segmentation sounds complicated – and it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. In the simplest instance, for a remarketing campaign, you’ll have two audiences: site visitors, and converted visitors. If you want to remarket to those who haven’t purchased yet, you can set up a remarketing audience of site visitors, and exclude converted visitors. This way, only those who didn’t purchase will see your remarketing ads.

But what if you want to get more sophisticated?

Brad Geddes wrote a great article on audience targeting for PPC Hero back in January. Here’s his list of targeting options:

This is a helpful list of thought starters for thinking about audiences. Think about the various types of offers you could show to someone who hasn’t bought in a year, for example. Maybe they’ve run out of whatever it is they bought, and it’s time to reorder. Or maybe you just want to lure them back with a special deal. For users in a free trial, you can show them an ad with a discounted price for the product they’re trialing. The applications are endless.

In B2B, sometimes the use cases for audience segmentation are not so cut and dried. You’re usually not selling anything online, so cart abandoners and purchasers are off the table. It’s not unusual to have a huge audience of people who visited your PPC landing pages, and a very small list of those who filled out a form. What do you do with that audience? If you don’t know anything about them other than the fact that they visited your landing page and didn’t sign up, it’s hard to do much segmenting.

Content marketing is a great way to nurture prospects through remarketing. Think of it as a way to talk to those who haven’t raised their hand yet. It’s also a useful way to start segmenting your audience further. The more times they visit your site, the more you’ll learn about them.

We like to use time-based remarketing with our clients. Time-based remarketing shows different content to users over time, which is especially valuable for long sales cycles. Let’s say your sales cycle is 90 days. You might show one piece of content during the first 13 days, another for days 14-59, and another for days 60-90. Here’s what that can look like:


In this example, the offers start out as informational: white papers with information about access control (which is controlling access to your place of business). Then there’s an offer showing how the product is easy to use. Then it gets more urgent with a mention of workplace violence. Finally, for those who still haven’t converted, there’s a price-point offer.

Depending on which offers users click through, you can start to segment your audience based on what they responded to.

The content and journey will look different for every client. The important thing is to look at your buyer journey to see how long each segment should be targeted. If you don’t know, you can play around with it – test! See how people respond.

Get creative with your audience segmentation. Just make sure to plan it out first. Think about which audiences make the most sense. Think about what content or offers you have available, and which make the most sense for each audience. You may uncover some gaps, meaning you’ll need to create content or offers to fit.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and test! Think of audience segmentation as another PPC test you’re running – just like ad copy testing. If something isn’t working, just shut it down. Test both remarketing and RLSA. With RLSA, you can run “bid only” tests, where you’re simply adjusting bids for the audience. In many cases, this alone can be profitable, or at least informative – again, helping you to create additional audiences. Play around with it.

What are your tips for audience segmentation? Any out-of-the-box segments you’ve tried that work well? Share in the comments!

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PPC Tool Review: AdAlysis

PPC tools are a PPC manager’s best friend. We couldn’t do our jobs without the many free and paid PPC tools we use on a daily basis. Probably my favorite PPC tool is AdAlysis.

AdAlysis, an ad testing and analyzing tool, was created by Brad Geddes about 2 years ago. When it launched, it was a godsend. I’d been spending hours every month trying to manually analyze PPC ad copy data in spreadsheets. It can be done, but it’s so time-consuming that it’s nearly impossible to keep up with for all but the smallest accounts.

That’s where AdAlysis comes in.

AdAlysis uses the search engine APIs to grab data from all your PPC accounts each night. You can use AdAlysis for as many accounts in your MCC as you’d like. When you log in to the tool, you’ll see which accounts have winning ad tests.

There is so much to love about this PPC tool.

Pros of AdAlysis

Analyze PPC ad copy tests for a number of KPIs. The interface will tell you which ads are winning for CTR, conversion rate, conversions per impression, and cost per conversion. It will show you the confidence level of each test, and indicate with red and green the winners.


A note about conversions per impression: Brad has talked in several blog posts about why conversions per impression makes sense. In a nutshell, each time your ad is shown is an opportunity for a conversion. Conversions per impression takes both CTR and conversion rate into account, in essence. And you can see by the screen shot above why I like to use it. In the test above, the top ad is winning for CTR, but the bottom ad is winning for conversion rate and cost per conversion. Conversions per impression is too close to call. We need more data to determine the winner of this test.

Flexible test parameters and confidence levels. You decide, on an account by account basis, how many impressions, clicks, and conversions you need in order to determine a test winner. You also determine the confidence level. I usually stick with 90% – this isn’t brain surgery, it’s just PPC. But if you want a higher level of confidence, you can set it.

Multi ad group tests based on line of text or label. One of the things that’s so hard to do manually is to analyze ad tests across multiple ad groups. If your account is well-structured, chances are you have multiple ad groups for a single product. With AdAlysis, you can group those ad copy tests into a multi-ad group test. AdAlysis will look for ads with the same headline or description; or you can structure your tests by labels. I have run tests across an entire account on calls to action, for example, using labels.

Quality score analysis by multiple metrics. AdAlysis is more than just a PPC tool for ad copy testing. There is also a built-in quality score analysis.

It’ll slice and dice quality score across 12 different metrics! It’s easy to see where quality score issues lie: in expected CTR, ad relevance, or landing page experience.

Dashboard warnings for issues. AdAlysis is more than just an ad copy testing tool. You may have noticed in the screen shot at the beginning of this article that the dashboard shows more than just which accounts have winning ads. It also lists ad groups without tests, broken landing pages, keyword conflicts, and more. If you simply logged in to AdAlysis first thing each morning, you’d know which fires need to be put out first.

Keyword analyses. One of the non-ad testing features I like is the keyword analysis, especially the n-gram analysis. N-grams are single words that appear in search queries, with the data aggregated by the single word across multiple queries.

In this example, there are n-grams that have generated hundreds of clicks without a single conversion. I can review the list and decide if keywords that include this word need to be paused.

They’re always adding new features. Seems like I see new features in AdAlysis every week! That’s probably an exaggeration, but they’re developing new and useful features frequently. A landing page analysis and account level quality score analysis are a couple recent additions.

Excellent documentation and tutorials. One of the things I love about PPC tools developed by people who have run PPC accounts for years is that documentation is usually excellent. There are numerous help articles for AdAlysis, along with video tutorials.

Great, flexible pricing. Pricing is based on the number of ads in the tool, across all your accounts. There is one AdAlysis interface for Google and another for Bing, so if you’re using both engines, you’ll have 2 AdAlysis accounts. Prices start at $25 per month for up to 500 ads. You can upgrade or downgrade as needed, so you’re not locked in. Seriously, it’d be worth paying $25 out of your pocket for this tool!

Cons of AdAlysis

There are a couple of minor cons – nothing to keep me from using the tool, but a review would not be complete without them.

Can’t analyze tests longer than 180 days. Sometimes, for smaller accounts, it takes longer than 180 days to reach significance on a test. My guess is the limit is due to the API, but it’s unfortunate not to be able to test ads for a longer period of time.

N-gram keyword filters are missing ad group and campaign filters. You can view all your keywords and negative keywords in AdAlysis, which is an unexpected benefit. But you can’t drill down for n-grams by campaign and ad group. For example, if I wanted to view n-grams for an individual campaign, I can’t do that. Now, the data is aggregated across the account, but sometimes there are negatives that should be added to one campaign and not another. I’d like to view the data at that level to make the decision. This is minor, but I’d still like the feature.

Recommendation

If you’re not using AdAlysis already, what are you waiting for? It’s a steal for the price, and I use it nearly every day. You can test ads so much faster and more efficiently, leading to better results for your clients.

Have you tried AdAlysis? What do you think?

(By the way, I’m not a paid affiliate or anything, just a happy customer!)

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Paid Social Targeting: Winners and Losers

I’ve been working on a guide for paid social at work the past couple weeks – something we can use to illustrate how it works to achieve client objectives. As I’ve worked through the 3 major paid social channels, I’m realizing that there are winners and losers when it comes to paid social targeting.

Winner: Facebook

At gyro, our clients are all B2B. Many clients initially assume that Facebook won’t work for them, because of its broad appeal. But broad appeal is exactly why Facebook works.

When it comes right down to it, business decision makers are still people – people who probably check Facebook multiple times per day. People who are part of industry-related groups, and who like industry-related Facebook pages. There’s no reason not to use Facebook for B2B.

Facebook’s reach is huge – far bigger than any other social engine. Not only that, but CPCs are relatively low. Their B2B paid social targeting is greatly improved, so we can now target by employer, job title, and other B2B attributes.

When setting up Facebook ads, advertisers choose an objective. Facebook’s options cover every objective we could possibly want:


We don’t use product catalog sales or store visits often in B2B, but the other options are great. I can’t think of a single client whose objectives don’t fit into one of these buckets.

Not only has Facebook thought of every objective, but they optimize by objective. So if you’ve chosen traffic, Facebook will optimize your campaign for traffic. All your reports in the interface will focus on impressions, clicks, and CPC – the exact KPIs you’d want to see. If your objective is conversions, the KPIs will change to conversions, and Facebook will optimize for those. Manually managing bids isn’t necessary anymore – and I’d venture to say it’s counterproductive. I’ve seen better performance when I let Facebook optimize rather than trying to do it myself.

Facebook’s conversion tracking pixel is decent, too. It’s easy to install, and is flexible for different goals. It measures multiple steps in the process, too:


While I know that some advertisers have reported inaccuracies with the Facebook pixel, I’ve found it to be quite accurate for the clients we have using it.

An often-overlooked element of Facebook’s ad platform is their documentation and setup guide. I love this as a quick reference when planning Facebook campaigns, and to give to clients. There is a description of each ad type, along with specs and sample ads – great for taking screen shots! No other social platform comes close to a handy guide like this. Facebook’s other ad documentation is pretty good too, although I admit I’ve had trouble finding answers to my questions now and then.

Facebook ads can also appear on Instagram – another plus. If you have an Instagram page, you can show ads both there and on Facebook, all in one campaign. While Instagram volume is relatively small for B2B advertisers, it’s nice to be able to hit both platforms in the same campaign.

Losers: Twitter and LinkedIn (and everyone else)

Now that I’ve sung the praises of Facebook, it’s easy to conclude that the losers are, pretty much, everyone else. And Facebook is outpacing the other social engines in innovation. We mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn in addition to Facebook, so I’ll focus my “losers” category on them. Pinterest is a loser because the B2B applications are so slim – although Pinterest’s user base is growing, while Facebook’s is holding steady, meaning that Pinterest may become a bigger player at some point.

Thinking about Twitter and LinkedIn, though, they have such a long way to go. Twitter objectives aren’t bad.


If you go to LinkedIn and look for objectives, you’ll be looking for a long time – they don’t have them.

Ad unit options are limited – Twitter has 5 ad units, while LinkedIn only has 3 – and one of those 3 is Sponsored InMail, which really only makes sense for recruiters. And if you’ve ever tried LinkedIn sponsored ads, you know that performance is awful. The only viable option for LinkedIn for B2B is sponsored updates, and even those options are limited – you only get one type of ad unit.

Reach doesn’t come close to Facebook on LinkedIn, either. Most of our clients interested in social PPC come to us asking for LinkedIn, but find that Facebook offers more volume, more frequency, and significantly lower CPCs. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at my LinkedIn feed, but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve checked Facebook just today.

Twitter has the opposite problem – their reach is too broad. Targeting options are so heavily skewed toward B2C that it’s hard to find good targeting for B2B, unless you’re targeting specific users. Keyword targeting is nearly useless, and will result in an audience of millions of people. And there’s no way to narrow targeting by saying “include these keywords AND these interests,” for example. It’s all “OR” targeting – what a nightmare. And if your Twitter targets use TweetDeck or other third party clients, ads are filtered anyway. I hope no one is trying to use paid social targeting to reach me on Twitter – I rarely see ads!

Twitter and LinkedIn don’t have automatic bid optimization, either. You still need to set bids. And it’s hard to know where to set them, since the ranges they suggest are often crazy – $15+ for LinkedIn, for example. And since few third parties offer bid management tools for paid social, you’re stuck with manual bid management.

Conversion tracking is downright awful. Both engines have a pixel, but I’ve yet to get Twitter’s pixel to work. We’ve actually paused Twitter campaigns because we can’t get conversion tracking to work. And LinkedIn’s pixel isn’t very flexible.

And if you’re looking for ad documentation, forget it. As I was working on my paid social guide, I tried to find examples of the different ad formats that I could take screen shots of. No luck – as far as I can tell, they don’t exist. I had to take screen shots of our client’s ads – which isn’t ideal, if we ever want to share the guide with prospects.

Am I saying that B2B advertisers should stick to Facebook and ignore Twitter and LinkedIn? Not at all. We’ve had great success with both channels for the right clients. But from a management standpoint, an ease-of-use standpoint, and a paid social targeting standpoint, Facebook wins hands down.

What about you? Have you found Facebook to be the big winner for paid social? Or do you prefer LinkedIn, Twitter, or something else? Share in the comments!

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PPC Audiences: Who Is The Audience?

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of audiences in PPC. More than ever, audiences are becoming one of the main way we reach potential customers in PPC – as important as keywords. But who is the audience, exactly?

Audiences, Broadly Speaking

Broadly, your audience is whoever is buying your product. Large B2C retailers like Amazon probably don’t spend much time defining their audience – it’s anyone with a credit card, really.

But for most advertisers, it’s important to drill down a little deeper than that. For many consumer products, the audience is obvious. People buying diapers tend to be parents of babies. People buying guns tend to be male. There are always exceptions, but you can hit 80-90% of your audience by doing some simple targeting.

B2B Audiences Are Challenging

In B2B, audience targeting is a little more challenging. There are multiple stakeholders involved – product users, executive decision-makers, administrative assistants, purchasing departments, and more. How do you figure out who to target?

Verticals Dictate Audiences

In some ways, the audience depends on the vertical. If you’re selling software, the first person to target is the end user. Even if that person doesn’t make the final purchase decision, they’re going to be the one asking for the software. For example, I’d been looking for a solution to help with ad testing for years. When AdAlysis came out, I immediately started begging my boss to buy it. I was relentless – and it paid off. But I didn’t write the check – my boss did. If I were advertising for AdAlysis, I’d go after the PPC practitioners, not the vice presidents of search who likely aren’t actively managing campaigns.

For other verticals, targeting C-level executives makes sense. Let’s say you’re a medical equipment provider who’s developed a new piece of equipment that saves time and makes a more accurate diagnosis.  You could target the end users, but it may make sense to target the hospital CFO or the finance director, who’s looking for ways to make the hospital more efficient. End users may not be aware of the product, and may be happy with the way they’re currently doing things, but if you can convince the CFO, you’re likely to make a sale.

Business Size Does, Too

Business size plays a role, too. The larger the company you’re targeting, the harder it is to get through to C-level folks – they’re inundated with marketing messages already. You may be better off reaching their executive assistant, or going lower down the ladder to mid-level managers.

Understand that when you’re trying to reach large companies, you’ll have to get creative with your audience, and with your messaging as well, to break through the clutter.

And if you’re targeting small businesses, understand that employees wear many hats. The CFO is probably the entire accounting department. The web developer is probably the graphic designer, and maybe the software/tech person too. The owner may be the CMO, CFO, and CEO all at once. These are busy people, so if you can come to them with solutions to make their lives easier, you’ll get through the door more easily.

Personas Help

If you’re working with larger advertisers, they’ll often have a detailed understanding of their prospects, and may have personas. A persona is a representation of your audience segment. (BTW – this link has a great how-to on creating personas).

Here’s an example of a persona that gyro created:


Personas help define not only who your target audience is, but how to reach them. Ideas for paid social targeting practically jump off the page – age, education, gender, and other characteristics are listed right there. Pain points that could be used for search keywords or ad copy are also there: patient care quality, accountable care, etc. Personas give you a great start in identifying your audience.

Determining who is in the audience is the first step to successful audience targeting. What are some ways you define your audience? Share in the comments!

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3 PPC Features That Aren’t Ready For Prime Time – 2017 Edition

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I wrote about 3 PPC features that weren’t ready for prime time – the new (at that time) Adwords Editor, Bing Ads UET, and LinkedIn Ads.

The first two features have come a long way in 2 years. The issues I talked about with Adwords Editor stopped soon after, and I finally got used to it, even though I liked the old Editor better. I’ve gotten used to its quirks, though, and now that the Bing Ads Editor has followed the same format, it’s become my everyday workflow.

The developers and UI engineers at Bing Ads have gone to great lengths to make UET easier to use. The setup is much more intuitive than it was 2 years ago. It’s as easy to use as Google Analytics.

As for LinkedIn Ads? Keep reading. Here are 3 PPC features that aren’t ready for prime time, the 2017 edition.

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn Ads should be a no-brainer for B2B advertisers. In fact, it’s the paid social channel that our clients think of first – everyone wants to advertise in LinkedIn.

The problem is, their UI is horrible. Their reporting is horrible. Their CPCs are astronomical compared to other channels like Facebook – and Facebook’s B2B targeting now rivals LinkedIn’s.

I complained about LinkedIn in 2013 and again in 2015. Here it is 2017, and I’m still complaining about them. I had hoped that when Microsoft bought them, things would improve. That’s still possible – the details of the purchase are still being worked through legal. But right now, it’s a mess to use – and has been for 4 years at least.

Twitter Ads

I used to like Twitter Ads. We’ve used them effectively for several clients over the years. But they haven’t kept pace with the times. The ads interface, even the new one, is clunky to use. Reporting is horrible – as bad as LinkedIn’s. Targeting on Twitter Ads is awful. Unless you know the exact Twitter handles you want to target, you’re basically shooting in the dark. Keyword targeting is a joke. There isn’t any real B2B targeting. Behavior targeting is totally B2C focused, and even then is missing key categories.

Check out the business types available:


A whopping 2 types! Are they kidding?

And what about job titles?

If you’re not targeting executives or the C-suite, forget it. And these poor people are bombarded with ad messages as it is.

There is so much potential here, but the limited targeting and broad reach just doesn’t work for most advertisers. On top of that, their conversion tracking tags don’t seem to work – or at least we can never get them to work. You’re relegated to tracking in GA, or not at all.

Bing Ads Remarketing

Sorry, Bing Ads – I love you guys, I really do, but the remarketing program leaves a lot to be desired. At this point, only RLSA is available in Bing – retargeting visitors as they perform searches. RLSA is a high-performing, but very low volume, tactic. With Bing’s smaller audience to begin with, compared to Google, it’s hard to move the needle with RLSA on Bing for all but the largest advertisers.

Also, up until a week ago, Bing Ads didn’t offer exclusions for remarketing. Sorry guys – that’s a huge miss. Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about how not to do remarketing, and one of the no-no’s was failing to exclude those who already converted. Up until a week ago, this wasn’t possible with Bing remarketing.

As I was thinking about the 2017 culprits, I realized that, in general, the search engines have gotten much better about making sure features work well before releasing them. I struggled to think of the last time an engine released a feature that was a nightmare to use. Sure, there have been boneheaded releases like automatically including phone numbers in ads, whether you want them or not, but this is an opt-out-or-you’re-stuck-with-it thing, not a feature we’re trying to actively use. So either the engines have made it easier on us, or we’re all getting more skilled. Probably a little bit of both.

What PPC features have you noticed that aren’t ready for prime time? Do you agree with my list? Share in the comments!

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PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do, 2017 Edition

More than two years ago, I wrote a post on PPC Remarketing: What Not To Do. It was one of the most-commented posts on this blog, with differing opinions on what makes sense.

Two years later, advertisers are still doing remarketing wrong. Now, I get that it’s still a somewhat new-ish concept, and not everyone is doing advanced remarketing yet. And that’s ok – we all have to start somewhere. But when I see basic mistakes being made by large companies, it makes me cringe.

Here’s the example I saw today that prompted this:

This was at the very top of the page, above a news article I was reading. The good news? It’s a huge banner – you can’t miss it. How did I know it was a remarketing ad?

Because I’ve already booked a stay here.

Next week, I’m speaking at a client convention in Los Angeles. I booked my hotel over a month ago. Earlier this week, I dug out the reservation confirmation email, and clicked through a link to prepare for my stay. And now I’m being bombarded by ads asking me to book this hotel in LA! How many stays do they think I’m going to be booking?

Clearly, this is how not to do PPC remarketing. Don’t target people who clicked through a reservation confirmation email and ask them to book!

Of course, as I’m known to do, I posted a comment on #ppcchat. I loved the responses I got:

I agree with Julie – I’d love to see the stats on how many remarketing ads just run without any parameters or audiences. I can see serving ads for a perk, as Julie suggests, such as a rewards signup. Or a dining offer at one of the hotel restaurants. Or 25% off a massage in the spa. Or whatever – the point is, remarketing would be highly effective to the already-converted audience as an upsell. It’s not at all effective to ask those who’ve already booked a room to book a room.

It’s so simple to set up an exclusion for people who converted. As mentioned earlier, the hotel could set up a PPC remarketing audience of users who visited the site from a confirmation email referral. Failing that, they could exclude everyone who viewed the reservation confirmation page.

There are exceptions, though, as Steve Seeley pointed out:

Fair enough – and I agree, some agencies and/or advertisers don’t link their AdWords and Google Analytics accounts. I get that there are reasons why this happens. But if you can’t do remarketing correctly, you shouldn’t be doing it!

We then got into interesting use cases for PPC:

I’ve seen similar situations to the one Jason describes: getting remarketed with ads for a product I just bought. Again, it’s not hard, as Richard Fergie suggests, to drop a long cookie and delay showing ads until you’re likely to be ready to repurchase. Tires do wear out, as do clothes and shoes; food gets consumed; etc. Learn your buying cycle or buyer journey and show ads at the appropriate time. Yes, it takes some research and some time to set up, but this is really what remarketing is designed for – not harassing people with irrelevant ads, but showing them ads that are useful.

I love the conversations we have on #ppcchat. I always learn something and get great ideas. Just as I was smiling from all the cool interaction, I got this:

Sigh.

Have you seen any what-not-to-do remarketing ads lately? Got any tips for the right way to do PPC remarketing? Share in the comments!

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The Importance of Audiences In PPC

Happy New Year to all my readers! Every year I do a reader poll to see what you want me to write about. This year, the topic with the most votes was audiences in PPC.

It seems like everyone is talking about audiences. In the annual “what’s next for search in 2017” posts, every single one included multiple mentions of audiences and their importance to PPC.

Take this quote from Brad Geddes in the adStage blog:

And this, from Marc Poirier on Search Engine Journal:

These and other predictions posts are worth a read – there’s great content beyond that of audiences. But the point is, audiences are here to stay, and they’re big.

Julie Friedman Bacchini wrote a great post earlier this week about the demise of keywords. While I don’t think keywords are going away any time soon, we are in for a different reality when it comes to search.

For one thing, social PPC is here to stay, and audience targeting is the focal point. It’s true that you can use keywords to target social ads, but keyword targeting alone is insufficient for social PPC success. You must layer audiences onto the mix.

Remarketing is here to stay too, and it’s a great example of using audiences in PPC. In fact, remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a match made in heaven of search intent and audience targeting combined.

Why are audiences so important in PPC? After all, in the early days, we didn’t think about audiences at all.

Audiences bring us back to the basics of marketing. Eons ago, in business school, I learned about the 4 P’s of marketing: people, place, price, and promotion. In search, the “people” piece was historically the least thought-about aspect. Do we really care who’s searching, as long as they click and convert?

Turns out, we do need to care. Search has evolved over the years: it’s become much more competitive and expensive, for one thing. Advertisers who were happy to pay for lots of non-converting traffic at $0.05 per click are probably not real happy about that traffic at $5 per click. Search had to evolve in order for advertisers to maintain profit. And that’s where audiences come in.

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be writing more about audiences in PPC and the various ways they can be used to take your campaigns to the next level. I’ll talk about audiences in search, in paid social, and in remarketing. I’m hoping to get a few guest bloggers on board to offer their views on audiences in PPC. And of course, as always, I want to hear from you! Have audiences become super important for you in your PPC efforts, or are you just dipping your toes in? Share in the comments!

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