The Case for Smart Display

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by Kelsey Hadaller of Hanapin Marketing. Learn how to be successful with Smart Display campaigns!

The rollout of Smart Display campaigns was announced by AdWords in April 2017. Nearly a year later, the campaign type is still available but not many advertisers are talking about it. With the increase in automation opportunities within AdWords, Smart Display might be a good test for your accounts as an intro to automation.

Who Should Test Smart Display?

Test Smart Display If You…

• Are looking to grow new customer acquisition but don’t know where to start
• Don’t have time to develop an in-depth top of funnel Display strategy
• Have a testing budget and can afford to run a test over a few months with possibly slow results

Avoid Smart Display If You…

• Have little to no testing budget
• Do not use conversion tracking through AdWords
• Receive less than 100 conversions within 30 days

What to Watch

• Lead quality
• GDN Placements
• Low impressions due to low Target CPA

Campaign Set Up

In the new AdWords UI, you can find Smart Display campaigns under the Display campaign type when using a sales, leads or website traffic goal.

You’ll then be prompted to select location and language targeting, a daily budget and a Target CPA. Google reps often recommend using a daily budget greater than 20 times your Target CPA. While this might be a best practice for accounts with low CPA goals, a high daily budget isn’t always realistic or necessary.

Even though AdWords automates the final ad, you still have control over components of the creative. Have headlines, description lines, logos and images ready before you create a Smart Display campaign. Refer to the AdWords guide for specifics.

Keep in mind that you cannot control many aspects of Smart Display targeting and bidding. For example, to exclude an automated placement, you must set up the exclusion at the account level since campaign placement exclusions are not available in Smart Display. Device modifiers are also unavailable in this campaign type. As you can see below, however, AdWords does allow content exclusions to be applied in Smart Display campaigns.

Smart Display Case Study

Example One:

These Smart Display campaigns were launched in April 2017 and have performed at a steady ROAS throughout the year. Keep in mind, these campaigns are using last-click attribution. When using other attribution models, ROAS is even stronger for these campaigns.

Target CPA for these campaigns range from $50 to $75. This is a lead generation account with high revenue per conversion action.

Example Two:

The below Smart Display campaign ran for only one month and was paused due to poor performance after not converting with $251 in spend.

If you decide to test Smart Display, let the campaign(s) run for at least three months. You can’t expect to see over 300% ROAS immediately since the campaign uses visitor behavior to optimize the target audience and placements. Again, this is why testing budgets are a must for this test.

Top of funnel Display layered with extreme automation doesn’t sound like an equation for low cost conversions, but it’s possible! Share your experiences with Smart Display in the comments below.

Kelsey Hadaller is Senior Account Manager for Hanapin Marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @khaddy_ppc.

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How Attribution, Custom Columns, and Guessing Help My Ecommerce Accounts

Editor’s Note: I’m on vacation this week, so I’ve asked Kirk Williams to fill in and blog for me. You’re going to love this entertaining and thought-provoking post!


The word strikes fear in my heart.

And hope.

Let’s call it a hopeful fear. Or maybe a fearful hope?

Attribution is amazing and powerful and awesome but we’re (I’m) still trying to figure it out, right? Like the cookie jar just out of reach of the grasping toddler hands, attribution is something I often can’t get my mind around when it comes to making actionable account decisions.

Now, before all you “I understand all of everything everywhere for all time” people hop in with your buzzwordy explanations, I don’t mean that I don’t understand the concept and importance of attribution.

I get it, attribution is essential for business survival. Last-click needs to rightfully die. A holistic marketing approach (buzzword alert) needs to rightfully arrive as the savior of PPC efforts.


What I mean is that I can’t always grasp what to actually do in my account with the attribution information I receive. OK, so X campaign had a touch on 30 other conversions last week. Report to client, check. Uhhhhhh…. now what?

The goal of this post is to make an effort at beginning to address the question when it comes to attribution data in your ecommerce account: “Now what?”

Attribution + Custom Columns = Holistic Bidding Decisions

When it comes to making decisions in my accounts, the AdWords UI still reigns supreme. Thankfully, they have been stepping up their game in terms of the data we can utilize in our columns. The reason why columns are so important for me, is because I use them as my primary way of rapidly observing, analyzing, and acting upon data.

In the recent past, Google added attribution into its columns as another signal we could use to make better decisions. I believe there is a way to use this attribution data for better decisions, and we’ll cover that, but I want to note one thing first.

Qualification: If you are looking for a specific formula in this post, you’re not going to find it. There are great bidding formulas out there (read Wijnand Meijer’s massive tome on bidding here: The Complete AdWords Audit Part 13: Bid Management), that discuss scientific formulas and brilliance beyond my capabilities.  Perhaps someone will even read this post and figure out some scientific formulaic way to do what I discuss here (Great! Share if you do, please!). My purpose in this post is less to provide a formula then it is to plant an idea. I want to get your brain thinking about how you can actually utilize attribution for bidding decisions in one way, and then to apply that in your accounts as you see fit.

Good to go? No more qualifications?

Here goes.

Utilizing custom columns and attribution columns to broaden my understanding of conversion impact in AdWords is one example of a way I use attribution to take a tangible, specific, action in my accounts.

STEP 1 – I go into AdWords and select the attribution columns for click assisted conversions and impression assisted conversions. It may be helpful for you to include the click assisted conversion value (revenue) as well.



STEP 2 – I create a custom column for “All Conversion Touches” in which I add Last Click Conversions, Click Assisted Conversions, and Impression Assisted Conversions. This helps me see at a glance, how much of any sort of conversion impact an AdWords element has.

create columns


Yes, you are correct, but please stick with me. I think it may make sense later why I believe it’s ok to lump these together.

Make sure to add in the Custom Column to your Dashboard (I like to add it in last).


STEP 3 – Pull some data, and analyze it. As an example, take these Shopping campaigns I pulled from a client (with permission to show them to you).


This should give you an idea of what the data actually looks like right in the UI where you can see it. See how the attribution columns broaden our understanding of the impact on our campaigns?  Cool, huh?

But…. what do you do with this? That’s the question we started out with, right?  How will this actually help you make a decision to bid, set a negative keyword, pause an ad group, or a myriad of other optimization actions at your fingertips?

Taking ACTION on Attribution

Here is where the rubber meets the road. How are you actually going to make a bidding decision in which attribution was taking into account?  Well, by working some advanced formula into something, RIGHT???  JUST GIVE ME A FORMULA, KIRK.

Nope. You’re going to guess.

*cue more shouting at me*

Now, before you tar and feather me, please allow me to defend myself with this scenario.

You have sorted your top spend ad groups in AdWords, and are trying to figure out where to prioritize your time. Maybe you even use a filter (because you are a top-notch PPCer) to highlight the ad groups that have brought in $0 total conversion value and +$300 spend. When you apply that, you see 5 ad groups in your view.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Because you are a holistic (there’s that word again) marketer, you are keeping one eye on your attribution and custom columns and you see something fascinating.

Of those evil 5, 2 of those ad groups are showing strong click & impression assisted conversions. While the last click conversions are at 0, the click and impression assisted conversions are through the roof on these 2 ad groups. It’s interesting (you surmise to yourself), because those ad groups are of keywords that are probably more top of funnel in the sales process anyway, so perhaps it makes sense that they are assisting without directly converting.

Armed with this new knowledge, you decide you are NOT going to pause these 2 ad groups. Instead, you start digging around a little more, try a new ad test, perhaps raise the bid 5% (just to see what happens).


You just took action in your account based on attribution data.

Without this attribution information, you would have most likely reduced bids, or even paused those keywords/ad groups that are providing a significant source of top-of-funnel, brand-introduction traffic.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is using attribution to actually affect the way you manage an account.

Humanity, FTW

I’d like to point out something else. Another thing this is doing, if you didn’t notice, is empowering you to make a smarter decision. There’s not a formula, because it’s kind of a squishy thing, right? In many ways, the attribution data (and our understanding of it, and how we can apply it, and…) we get is still squishy. So if you try to set a hard rule on squishy data, you get something that resembles this smushed banana more than it does a great new automated bidding adjustment.

Img source:

(Img source:

That’s why I said it’s basically a guess, and that’s why your value as a PPCer is still there. In my opinion, the squishiness of data is where the truly great (human) PPCer will shine (or fail miserably, we’ve all done it). You have all this data, but what should you do about it? A smart PPCer who really knows his/her account, will be able to make a great decision based upon that data and intuitively know whether to try to limp that keyword along a little more, kill it off, bid it lower, or even expand its presence. This means you can breathe a sigh of relief, the robots haven’t won quite yet.

So, while I don’t have a formula for what to do here, hopefully I’ve armed you with a little more knowledge moving forward to make better, smarter bidding decisions in which you are beginning to think beyond the last click conversion for the good of your account.

There are likely many ways you can think of to use attribution in a tangible way, great! Please share them in the comments below.

Kirk Williams is the owner of ZATO, his PPC Marketing agency and has been working in Paid Search since 2010. He has published articles on Search Engine Land, Moz, PPC Hero, Wordstream, and the Bing Ads blog, but is probably more well known for the dumb PPC memes he shares on Twitter. In 2015, Kirk was named 1 of the Top 5 Rising Stars of PPC and in 2016, he was named the #7 Most Influential PPCer by PPC Hero. Kirk loves to talk PPC and has spoken at SMX, Hero Conference, SLC Digital Marketing Conference, and State of Search.

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3 Google Shopping Options You Need To Consider

Note from Melissa: I’m so pleased to bring you the first guest post on my blog, written by none other than Matt Umbro, founder of PPCChat! And it’s a good one, so read on…

As someone who primarily works with ecommerce PPC accounts, I’ve found Google Shopping to be the best feature AdWords has ever created. This statement may sound over the top, but time and again I’ve seen Shopping produce case study worthy results. I’ve even gone on record saying that Shopping campaigns need to be the number one priority in ecommerce accounts.

As Google Shopping campaigns have evolved, so have the options available to advertisers. Today I’m going to cover three areas that advertisers should consider in order to further boost performance. These areas include:

•    Google Trusted Stores
•    Merchant Promotions
•    Product Ratings

All of these options take time to implement, but will help to improve merchant credibility and ad click-thru-rate (CTR).

Google Trusted Stores

Google recently ended the policy requiring merchants to submit shipping and order cancellation feeds as part of the Trusted Stores program. This program gives a “Google approved” endorsement in the form of a site badge to merchants who meet quality thresholds. This badge tells users that the website can be trusted to provide a quality shopping experience from browsing to product purchase confirmation.

Along with the onsite badge, a Trusted Stores checkmark shows in the ads.

trusted stores checkmark

Of the eight ads above, two have the Trusted Stores checkmark. Shopping ads are generally more eye catching than standard text ads anyway, but the checkmark further allows these two merchants to stand out.

Merchant Promotions

Shopping ads allow for promotional text, but it’s rarely seen. Only when the searcher hovers over the ad unit does it appear (if the advertiser has included this text at all).

promotional text

Even when the promotion shows, it isn’t emphasized as it looks like another line of text.

Over the last year Google has refined feature called Merchant Promotions that includes a “Special Offer” link directly in the ad. When clicked, this link shows the searcher the offer as well as the rebate code and when the promotion ends.

merchant promotions

In the image above, stands out from the four other advertisers by utilizing the special offer. The “Free Shipping with $49 Purchase” messaging is highlighted with a “Shop” button right there. Additionally, this message doesn’t appear to be time sensitive (saying that it expires in 132 days) and is most likely a site wide promotion. Even if the offer isn’t great or unique, it still helps to emphasize value adds against the competition.

Promotions can be setup and scheduled directly in Google Merchant Center. Along with the actual promotion and rebate code, you’ll need to provide the dates for when the offer will run.

Product Ratings

When I’m shopping and see products with four or more stars I tend to look at these first. Not only do the stars stand out, but also they tell me that consumers have positively reviewed the product. Text ads utilize these stars via the Seller Ratings extension.

product ratings

Now, advertisers have the ability to add product ratings to their Shopping ads and show review stars. In order to setup product ratings, these requirements must be met:

•    The reviews have to come from approved aggregators
•    Reviews have to be shared with Google
•    This form has to be completed

Here’s an example of product ratings in Shopping ads.

product ratings


Six of the eight ads utilize the product ratings. Similar to the Seller Ratings extension, more merchants are utilizing these stars. One might argue that not having the product ratings is a detriment to advertisers.

Final Thoughts

Shopping campaigns have come a long way in a short time and continue to evolve. Make sure you are utilizing the newest options in order to continue showing success from this great channel.

Matt Umbro is a Senior Account Manager in charge of Community at Hanapin Marketing. He specializes in eCommerce PPC and client relations, while also overseeing content production for PPC Hero. He is also the founder of PPCChat, a weekly Twitter chat where industry specialists discuss, analyze and debate various PPC topics using the hashtag #PPCChat.

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