Tips to improve CPA immediately

Posted by on Dec 13, 2012 in Advertising | No Comments

Online advertising CPA

CPA or Cost-per-acquisition, is the cost you pay per successful acquisition of a preset goal for your ads. These conversions can be any number of things: a user sign up, a specific page visit or duration, etc.

This post is meant to help you immediately start optimizing your CPA, but first it’s key to understand the fundamentals and recognize the importance of CPA.

A little background

Optimizing CPA lets you budget your campaigns directly. CPA is not measuring partial engagement like CPC or CPM. CPA tells you the average cost of an explicit goal you identify for your campaigns. At AdStage, we use sign ups as a conversion goal. If someone sees our ad, we want them to sign up. Other advertisers may want users to view certain pages or sign up for a newsletter. Different campaigns should have different goals.

Availability

Paying via CPA is not option on most networks, but it can always be measured. AdWords is the only major network with CPA as an available cost model. Even in the case of AdWords, it’s only available given certain requirements. From Google’s support page, here are the requirements:

  • “Your campaign uses AdWords Conversion Tracking or is importing data from Google Analytics.
  • The campaign has received at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days. This conversion history enables the system to make accurate predictions about your future conversion rate. So, the more data we have, the more accurate we can be.
  • The campaign must have been receiving conversions at a similar rate for at least a few days.”

The reason CPA is not available on most networks is that a large part of the CPA equation relies on the advertiser’s actions. This is why even Google specifies key requirements that make sure your CPA goals are basically in line with what your previous ad performance has shown it will be. Otherwise, it’s either risky for Google to allow CPA bids, or their optimizer can’t accurately place bids near your CPA maximum bid. Regardless of where CPA cost models are available, it is much more important to understand that CPA is influenced mainly by the advertiser – the networks can’t ultimately do anything to ensure CPA goals.

This leads to another important point. Where CPA comes in really handy is when an advertiser knows what the customer’s action is worth. Say your company value’s a sign up (or new user) at $10. As long as your CPA is below $10, you should continue your campaigns and keep optimizing to lower CPA. If the cost is above $10, you need to optimize CPA before your advertising will pay off.

So what can you do?

Online advertising

Our CEO and co-founder, Sahil, had this to say on optimizing CPA:

“Improving a conversion has two steps – you want your ads and targeting to hit the right people who are likely to convert and you need to properly educate people about what to expect after they click over. Be clear about the offering, the process to get started, etc. Then, once they’ve been primed appropriately, the experience takes place on the landing page. Here, the content needs to meet the expectations that have been set by the targeting/ad unit they clicked on. This landing page needs to be optimized elegantly around holding the users hand to the point where they successfully complete a conversion (signup, purchase, etc.). That’s where landing page A/B testing can make a massive difference.”

Testing is key! Once you get to the point of optimizing CPA, you probably have a handle on the other characteristics of ad campaigns. Clicks, CPC, and CTR don’t really matter as long as your CPA is below the value of your customer. That is of course if conversions are your goal, which is the right goal in our opinion. No matter how targeted the ad placement may be, users may wind up at a landing page that isn’t relevant enough, clear enough, or right for the particular user. Your campaigns must do everything to make the complete experience perfect for your targeted users.

Here are 3 steps to help you start optimizing CPA today:

  1. Make a campaign with ads specifically targeting your product. (For AdStage, our current product is the dashboard. If we talk in generalities like “improve your advertising”, that doesn’t really pinpoint what the user will get from us. Instead, we might say “Try out our free ad analytics dashboard now”.) Tell the user what the product is and incentivize them with a free trial or promotional discount.
  2. Refine your landing page to the essentials. You don’t need to rebuild your page, but if it’s unclear how to sign up or if it’s not obvious what your company is offering in relation to what the user saw in the ad, make changes. The customer should have a general idea about what they are looking at on your site immediately, and if they stick around for any longer than that, they should be able to see exactly what using your product will be like and how it will benefit them.
  3. Lastly, put multiple goals in place. There are lots of ways to measure engagement. I’d suggest to start with goals for: a sign up, visiting more than one page on your site, and spending more than 2 minutes on your site. Even if your only goal is for someone to sign up, someone viewing more than one page or spending time on your site, means they’re interested on some level. If you have many people viewing pages and spending time on your site, but not many sign ups, maybe the landing page doesn’t tell them enough or maybe it takes them too long for them to figure it out. Either way, you can fix it. Give the user a call to action and try to make it a no-brainer for them to sign up.

Every network has different benefits. Facebook will get your brand in front of a huge number of people. LinkedIn has a distinct audience of professionals in different fields. And AdWords and BingAds show your ads to the largest audience in the world of people searching the web with terms related to your company.

Not every impression or click will result in a conversion, but you want people to see your brand and product in different contexts. Someone may see your ad on a social network and not pay much attention. But when they use Google and see your ad for the second (or third or forth) time, they will be more familiar with you, even if they don’t know it. And that will help drive conversions.

Track and optimize CPA in your AdStage dashboard by signing up here.

If you have any thoughts about CPA or know how an advertiser can improve CPA, please let us know. We would love to hear your thoughts! You can reach me anytime by email at clark@adstage.io or send us a tweet @getadstage.

Thanks for reading.

Understanding ad conversions

Posted by on Dec 5, 2012 in Advertising | No Comments

In the past few weeks, I went from having no ads and no experience running ads, to launching and trying to optimize our campaigns here at AdStage using our ad analytics dashboard and Google Analytics.

This week, I want to go into more depth about how to use the dashboard and ad analytics, the various ad metrics, and how you can use them to improve your campaigns. Ad terminology and the fact that there are many metrics to follow, can easily get a new advertiser off track. Our dashboard tries to make this as simple and useful as possible, but I think it still warrants some helpful discussion. You can also check out our post on ad terminology here.

You’ve probably seen the overview dashboard in previous posts, but here’s what mine looked like after a week of running ads:

Online advertising metrics

Week 2 Dashboard

The key metrics we track in the dashboard are ad conversions, clicks, impressions, CTR, average CPC, average CPA, and spend for each network along whatever time interval you select.

All of these metrics can be useful for different campaigns, but for my campaigns, I think ad conversions are the most important metric. Clicks, impressions, CTR, and average CPC let me know general information about the activity surrounding my ads and whether people are seeing and interacting with the ads at all. I want enough impressions to get traffic, and I of course want as large a percentage as possible of those impressions to result in interaction with people in the form of clicks. But if I look at only two metrics, conversions and average CPA are what I will focus on improving.

Lets summarize the importance ad conversions and cost per conversion (or cost per acquisition) and see why I think they are so important:

  1. Ad Conversions – A conversion of one of my ads means that someone saw an ad, and signed up. In my dashboard, you can see zero conversions across all campaigns. This doesn’t mean there weren’t any signups during this week, but it does mean that my ads didn’t drive the signups we had. Over time the number of conversions should become less important since you’ll have hundreds or thousands of conversions. Then CPA should be prioritized to make certain that you are running effective campaigns.
  2. Cost Per Acquisition – Cost per acquisition simply breaks divides your spend by the number of conversions to give you the average cost of each conversion. Once you know the value of a customer or user, you can gauge whether your CPA number (on each network) is lower than the value of gaining the customer or not. If it is, you can still optimize your can, or you can put a higher portion of your overall ad budget on that network. If your CPA is higher than what you value a new customer, then you’ll either need to shift budget away from that network or optimize that particular campaign further.

There are a few links that dive further into the topic of optimizing ad conversions and CPA that are worth taking a look at:

If you haven’t already, you can sign up today to check out the AdStage ad analytics dashboard and start optimizing your campaigns to maximize the return on your ad spending.

I tried to keep this post short. Thanks for reading and let me know if these points helped or if you have particular topics that would be more useful to your campaigns. As always, you can reach me at clark@adstage.io or send us a tweet @getadstage.

We’re looking for a full-stack developer for AdStage!

Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in Advertising | No Comments

Job Description

At AdStage, we’ve just raised a large round of funding and are actively hiring. We were also one of the top 4 trending startups on AngelList in June. Killer investors have joined our round and we actually filled it up in just over 1 month or so.

We are building a platform where advertisers of any size can built, test and deploy cross-channel ad campaigns from a single interface with the click of a button.

We are based in downtown San Francisco and are looking for a software engineer to help us shape our culture, product and vision to make an impact on the world.

We are not a new advertising agency or ad executives. Ads are not ‘sexy’ and we don’t expect you to think so. We are a tech and talent company. We are a deep data & algorithms company first and foremost and that’s what you should be interested in working on with this opportunity. We build awesome technology that just so happens to work well in the ad space. The ad space is not known for using new technologies — we’re changing that.

We are very early stage and that requires a particular DNA. We are looking for a developer who wants to have accountability, product ownership, values our early stage and understands the requirements that go with being an early startup. Clean, reusable code and high standards is a must. Test driven development is without a doubt one of our core values on the development team.

We are not hiring code monkeys. We believe the best developers are attracted to positions/companies where they can expand their knowledge, flex their creative muscles, use and experiement with new technologies to solve the problems we solve daily. The problems we tackle are novel and require creative thinking to overcome.

Compensation: 6-9K/month + .25-2% equity.

Skills & Requirements

  • Startup experience
  • Has shipped production products
  • Extensive knowledge of at least one web application framework (preferably Rails)
  • Experience with databases (both SQL and NoSQL)
  • Exceptional skills in HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript
  • Knowledge of standards-based web technologies, including XML, JSON, and SOAP
  • Experience with behavior/test-driven development and testing frameworks, e.g. RSpec 2 and Selenium
  • Experience with Node.js and Backbone.js is a plus
  • Deep understanding of MapReduce/Hadoop is a plus
  • Experience with machine learning, especially data mining and clustering, is a plus

How to apply

Please email support@adstage.io directly with:

  • Links to past work
  • Resume
  • Github/Stackoverflow Profiles

Founders (adstage.io/#about):

Co-founder & CEO Sahil Jain dropped out of High School at 17 to join Yahoo! Mobile, dropped out of UC Berkeley at 19 to join AOL (M&A mail and mobile), and at 20 co-founded Y Combinator & SV Angel backed Trigger.io. Co-founder & CTO, Jason Wu, coding since 13, graduated from UC Berkeley EECS (high honors), worked at Cisco for 3 years while getting his Masters in Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

About AdStage, Inc.

One of our many late-night Halo sessions.We’re building intelligent (ML love) tools to help advertisers of all sizes advertise more effectively across the growing number of networks/channels from a single interface.Information about our first mini-product can be found at adstage.io – we’re happy to share more if we move to an interview. We have a full platform product, that keeps the team excited and will be launching in a few months.We are based in downtown San Francisco right at 1 Market St. on the Embarcadero. Right across the street from the Ferry building, half a block from BART and inside of SOMA Central, which is packed with other awesome startups like Mashable, Etsy, Scalr, etc. (same crew from Dogpatch Labs)

We cater lunch twice a week and review what we got done during the week over beers on Fridays.

We are massive nerds who love the occasional xbox session, 3d printing, daily foosball — the works!

Our team often gets together and participates in hackathons for fun like TechCrunch Disrupt.

Events are a given, and we’ll speak, attend, as well as host live demos at quite a few over the upcoming months.

Interested in chatting? Read more about the team and the company you’ll be in at adstage.io/#hiring

Ad terminology basics

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Advertising | One Comment

Online advertising

Ad terminology can be confusing and overwhelming. To help you optimize your campaigns, this post is all about the basics of advertising terminology.

After launching campaigns, it quickly became obvious that I would often have to reference resources to understand advertising. But how do you optimize campaigns without understanding the basics? How do you learn from all the great content on advertising blogs without understanding the terms authors use?

Here are a few great resources that cover ad terminology to get you started:
https://www.facebook.com/help/447834205249495/
http://whatis.techtarget.com/reference/advertising-terminology-on-the-Internet
http://adage.com/article/special-report-audience-buying-guide/ad-age-highly-unofficial-glossary-online-ad-space/149651/

If you want to get a clear idea of the basics, I’d start with this post. I’ll summarize key ad terminology from my perspective and then you can check out other resources to learn even more. I’ll organize the terms into two categories – payment models and performance metrics. For any advertiser, you need to know what you’re paying for and how to measure whether your efforts are worth the cost. This sets you up to monitor and improve your campaigns as you learn more.

Payment Models

PPC – Pay per click is the most common way advertisers pay for ad campaigns. AdWords and BingAds use PPC, and you can also use PPC on Facebook and LinkedIn. Under PPC, you only pay for each click on your ads by setting CPC bids on each network.

PPM – Pay per 1000 impressions. This type of payment is less common, but it is available on Facebook and LinkedIn. PPM works best for companies that already have “stable revenues correlated with traffic” (source: http://www.ebizroi.com/glossary/ – the best explanation I’ve seen on PPM.). With this type of budgeting, the advertiser needs to measure campaign success using CTR and conversion rates.

Performance metrics

Key advertising metrics

Key metrics in the AdStage dashboard

Conversions – There isn’t one definition for a conversion. A conversion can be defined as any action a person takes after seeing an advertisement. For new advertisers, a conversion may just be a click on the advertisement. For more experienced advertisers, conversions may be sign ups or visiting certain pages on your website.

Clicks – Clicks are literally clicks on your ads. Clicks are limited in what they provide to an advertiser alone, but they also tell you whether people are engaging with your ads or not.

Impressions – Impressions are the number of times your ads are displayed to users. Impressions are a raw number. People may see your ads once or many times. Anytime someone sees your ad, it counts toward your impressions.

CTR– Click through rate is the number of clicks divided by the total number of impressions. Clicks give you a general idea about engagement with your ads, but CTR gives you idea about your campaign’s efficiency.

CPC – Cost per click is another simple efficiency metric that tells you how much it’s costing you (on average) each time users engage with your ads.

CPA – Cost per acquisition is the most precise way to measure your campaign’s efficiency. Acquisition tells you about the quality and accuracy of your ads. Lots of acquisitions means that your ads are engaging and your destination URL encourages the user to perform the action that you call an acquisition (or conversion).

Spend – Spend is another simple metric telling you how much you’re spending per network over a chosen time interval. When comparing against on campaigns on the various networks, it is valuable to have an idea about where you devoting most of your ad budget. Ideally, you want to reallocate your budget from high spend, low efficiency campaigns toward low spend, high efficiency campaigns.

Each advertiser follows a slightly different recipe for optimizing campaigns. If you’re interested in tracking metrics and optimizing your campaigns, check out our free dashboard – you can sign up here.

Thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions or comments, please let me know. You can reach me at clark@adstage.io or send us a tweet at @getadstage.

Facebook Always Spends My Budget

Posted by on Nov 19, 2012 in Advertising, Social | No Comments

Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned a lot about online advertising and the process of launching ad campaigns. After letting my campaigns run for a week, I tried to fix my mistakes and optimize my campaigns as much as possible.

I noticed something that seemed to be a bit oddFacebook is guaranteed to spend my entire ad budget every single day, and it’s frequently within hours of launching campaigns. Granted, my budget is quite small per day, but compared to my other campaigns, I get many clicks, but only a small percentage convert. Spending the budget quickly isn’t in itself a problem, but I do want maximize my conversion rate, regardless of spending, clicks, and impressions. What do you guys see with your campaigns?

I need to learn whether my Facebook clicks and impressions can be turned into conversions for AdStage.

What are some possible explanations?

Advertising online

  • Poor targeting causes the budget to spend quickly, to an audience that isn’t interested in the product.
  • Ad text isn’t accurately describing the product.
  • Images are causing people to click regardless of the ads promote.
  • People are actually interested in the product, but our homepage isn’t compelling or clear.

Advertising toolsThis is our landing page. I’d want to sign up! What do you guys think?

My first step is to assume I haven’t optimized my Facebook campaigns yet. My goal is to have my Facebook campaign drive conversions. Facebook is a great network for getting your brand and message in front of many users (aka loads of impressions). It’s up to me (or any new advertiser) to get ads in front of the right audience with the right message. Then, I can expect a higher percentage of conversions when someone clicks my ad and they are sent to a landing page that’s compelling enough to encourage a sign up or whatever other conversion goal I set for my campaigns. The more I learn about this process, the better I understand what about the user acquisition process I can and can’t control.

There are some clear pros and cons to what I’ve seen on my Facebook campaigns.

Pros: I know people are seeing and engaging with my ads. As long as clicks and impressions give me an opportunity to show someone a great landing page and simple sign up procedure, my campaigns should improve and succeed in acquiring new users.

Cons: I’m not driving conversions yet. Clicks are good, but the goal is to convert people that see my ads into AdStage users. There’s an opportunity cost to using part of my budget on Facebook, if that portion of my budget could be spent more efficiently to drive conversions on other networks.

What do you think? Have you experienced similar behavior with Facebook or any other network? Do you see many conversions from your Facebook campaigns when compared with the other networks?

Thanks for reading. AdStage built a dashboard to help you see these kinds of trends in your own ad analytics – your key metrics, budget recommendations, competitor insights, and more. Sign up here for access to the private beta.

If you have any suggestions or ideas for future posts that would help new advertisers, please let me know. You can reach me at clark@adstage.io or send us a tweet at @getadstage.

Optimize Facebook & Google ad campaigns

Posted by on Nov 12, 2012 in Advertising, Search, Social | One Comment

Last week I posted some basics about launching ad campaigns and setting up ways to track my progress. This week, I want to take a look at my first week’s results and explain what changes I plan to make to optimize my Facebook and Google ad campaigns and why.

So lets see how I did in my first week:

Advertising metrics

Week 1 Dashboard

My dashboard shows some good and bad signs. Most notably, I had three conversions for the week – two on Facebook and one on AdWords. So in three cases, someone saw an ad and signed up at the AdStage homepage. That’s why I’m running these ads, so it’s a positive sign. CPA was about $12 for AdWords and $12.50 for Facebook. I think I can bring these down and analyze what impacts CPA most in coming weeks. This week, there’s no previous state to compare against. Right now my CTR appears to be low – 0.052% on AdWords and 0.03% on Facebook and clearly my campaigns on Bing and LinkedIn were not effective, thus I’ll be making changes for next time.

Here are two good Quora discussions about CTR on both AdWords and Facebook ads. Keep in mind that a campaign’s goal should ultimately be to drive conversions, and it is possible to have a high CTR without driving conversions at a low CPA.

What is a good CTR in an AdWords campaign?
What is a good CTR for a Facebook ad?

In my dashboard, I can also see best and worst performing ads, all of my top performing ads, and other high performing ads of similar companies or companies in a similar space.

Ad performance

Highest and lowest performing ads

Online ads

Other high performing ads & ad suggestions

These insights are really useful, both in making changes to my less performant ads and in incorporating elements of effective similar ads into my own ads.

Social campaign changes

In setting up my first campaigns, I wanted all ad text, headlines, and images as consistent as possible. I discovered a few differences that I adjusted for week 2. This is an issue I ran into partially because updating and adding new ads to each campaign while comparing for consistency across networks can be a pain.

For Facebook, I highly recommend using the power editor once you have more than a few ads and definitely once you have multiple campaigns. You can perform lots of useful actions that would otherwise move very slowly in the typical interface. For instance, you can duplicate ads and whole campaigns, and you can quickly edit ad details like the ad copy and images.

Here’s what the power editor looks like. You can see many options within the interface. With your own ad data in the editor, you’ll see it’s real power.

Facebook power editor

Power Editor

LinkedIn and AdWords have better interfaces and you can easily duplicate and edit your ads.

I should have also mentioned last week that you can import AdWords campaigns into BingAds. This will speed up launching your BingAds campaigns and it will ensure that your Bing and Google campaigns are the same. (I’ll warn you that Bing calls this a beta feature, and the first time I tried it, it did not work. However, the second time I tried, it did work.)

Bing Import from Google AdWords

Bing Import from Google AdWords

My next optimization was in network targeting. As I mentioned above, I had a few inconsistencies between my Facebook and LinkedIn ads. For my cross-channel campaigns, I want as much consistency as possible. Beyond the actual ads themselves, I also had targeting inconsistencies within my Facebook ads. To fix this, I took the targeting my top performing ad and made it the targeting for all of my Facebook ads. This way, I can start comparing apples to apples (ie. i can compare the ad headlines, ad text directly since the targeting is the same).

LinkedIn targeting needed a lot of change. I initially setup to target job titles and groups. This gave me an audience of about 20,000 users related to marketing and advertising. I expected my ads to be highly relevant to the audience and result in a high percentage of conversions. Instead, the audience was so small and I had hardly any impressions at all and didn’t engage any users. In week two, I’ll try targeting job function to gain a broader audience of about 1,000,000 users. Those users will still find my ads relevant, but the larger audience should result in more impressions, clicks, and hopefully more conversions.

Search campaign changes

My search campaigns also needed some optimizations – primarily concerning my keyword bids. On BingAds, I somehow didn’t change my chosen bid from the minimum allowed bid of $0.30. Beginner’s mistake! This was the first thing I did to improve my BingAds campaign. I checked my AdWords campaign’s keyword bids (which I set to auto-bid) and the average CPC was about $2.00. I switched out the old minimum bid on BingAds and matched it to my AdWords average. As I move further along, I will do more analysis on these changes and the predicted improvement I expect to see. For now, there are more obvious adjustments I need to make first.

While the auto-bidding for AdWords worked well since I didn’t know quite what to bid, it also resulted in an overpriced, low value click. Partly at fault for this click was that I included many keywords in my first week, some of which were not highly related to AdStage’s primary audience. Also partly at fault was that I did not set a bid maximum in AdWords. Specifically, I paid $4.14 for a click on an ad that displayed when someone searched for “ppc programs“. The chance of a conversion coming from that search term would seem to be very small.

Here’s a look at my week one keyword activity and my dashboard suggestions for new keywords:

There are three major lessons that come to mind specifically from week one.

  1. Pay attention to your keywords. You may find a good list or come up with your own list, but make sure most of your keywords are directly related to your product and company. Otherwise you risk paying for clicks that will not result in conversions. Google provides a good keyword tool that can help you here. You can do some simple searches to figure out possible good keywords.
  2. Make sure your bids are thought out. While you might not know anything about bids right away, there are some quick ways to learn. Bing offers good information like – whether your bid is likely to place your ad on the first page, the first ad slot, or otherwise. Set a bid that will land you the result you’re looking for. For me, a mainline (an ad placed in any position 1-4 in the top of search results) position and bid is the goal. Though, paying a little extra to guarantee top ad placement may be worth it for certain keywords. It all depends on how you much you value a given keyword. AdWords gives you less information about bidding, but a quick tip is to use auto-bidding and set a bid maximum. That way you’ll get the AdWords intelligence, while not paying more than you’re comfortable with for any given keyword.
  3. Double check your targeting. A good balance of size of audience and relevance of audience is most effective. As I saw, my relevance may have been good, but my audience (at least on LinkedIn) prevented my ads from getting enough exposure to have a successful campaign.

Those were my changes in the first week. Some of these changes could have been addressed before I even launched campaigns in the first place. This is part of the learning process and I’m already learning to take advantage of the tools I put in place specifically to help me optimize my campaigns. Hopefully pointing my mistakes out and showing how and why I’m changing my campaigns will help you build your own successful campaigns.

Thanks for reading and check out AdStage if you would like a great, simple way to compare your campaigns and get insights to improve your campaigns in one, well designed dashboard.

If you have any questions or need any help with your campaigns, please let me know. You can reach me at clark@adstage.io with anything on your mind – questions, comments, critiques, suggestions for future posts, or just to say hi.

Online advertising tools

Track ad campaigns with Google Analytics

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Advertising, Search | 3 Comments

How do I hook up Google Analytics?

In the last post, I setup campaigns for Facebook and AdWords. Now, I want to hook up Google Analytics to track my campaigns. It can be a bit tricky, but it’s worth it. (Note: You will need access to your site to add Google’s code snippet required to collect the necessary data)

To find the tracking code, go to the Admin tab on your Analytics homepage (and set up an account if you haven’t already).

Google Analytics

Look for the Tracking info tab and you’ll find your unique tracking ID and the tracking code below.

Once you’ve added the code to your site you can define goals. Conversions are your overall goals for those who click on your ads. Ask yourself “what do I want someone that sees my ad to do?” You can use your answer to that question as a conversion. For AdStage, I call a conversion someone coming to the site and completing our beta sign up form. Here’s how I setup goals:

Go back to Admin on the Google Analytics homepage and click your Profile name.Now click the Goals tab. This brings you goal configuration options to actually implement your goal.

Google Analytics optionsGoogle Analytics goals

The last step is setting up a goal. There are different goal types, but in this example I’ve set up a URL destination goal with a sample goal URL of www.adstage.io. You might like to use the page after someone signs up for you site, for example: www.site.com/?post_signup. There are additional options like goal value and setting up a goal funnel, if you would like to further customize your goals.

Advertising goals

Google Analytics is a great tool, but it has some limitations. For features like intelligent insights, easy viewing of high and low performing ads, and much more, I’m now going to setup my AdStage dashboard.

How do I build an AdStage dashboard?

To setup my AdStage dashboard, you’ll need access to our private beta. Sign up here and we’ll set you up to get started. Our dashboard product is completely free. Once I have access, I fill out 10 keywords related to my company and a short blurb about my site. A good combination of specific and broad keywords will offer the best recommendations and insights. Then I can link my accounts using my network credentials. After I have picked my desired campaigns, my dashboard will be ready for viewing in minutes. Once you have access to AdStage, explore around to see all the features – you’ll find some awesome stuff!

Online advertising

And I’m done for this week! I purposely skipped over details like further customization of campaigns, ads, and Google Analytics for a couple of reasons. One, because I don’t know all the answers yet. And two, because I have already covered lots of material for these first posts.

I’ll discuss many new questions in future posts. Next time, I’ll report my first week’s results and my plans for optimizing my campaign performance.

Thanks for reading and check out AdStage if you would like a great, simple way to compare your campaigns and get insights to improve your campaigns in one, well designed dashboard.

Best ad tools

Setting up AdWords & Facebook campaigns

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Advertising, Social | 2 Comments

In the first post I asked some important questions, made some predictions, and identified some of the main differences I know of between Search & Social ad networks. Now it’s time to launch my first campaigns. I’ll start by setting campaigns on Facebook and Google AdWords.

First, Go to www.facebook.com/ads/create (assuming you have a Facebook account) and pick a destination site.

Facebook advertising

I want to setup specific destination urls for each network with custom UTMs (this is simply a string of text appended to a site’s url) that lets me know where traffic to our site comes from. Google provides a great free tool to build urls with custom UTM information here.

Now I can build my first ad with a headline, text, and a photo. The goal of these characteristics is to attract and grab a user’s attention. This week, I created a variety of ads with different images, headlines, and ad text. This will let me easily compare the performance of my different ads and get an idea of which ads are working.

Facebook advertising

Here’s a good point to discuss some basic ad terminology. To start with, there are three key terms that are fairly self explanatory – an impression is simply someone seeing your ad, clicks occur when someone clicks on your ad, and a conversion is when someone performs a set of actions defined by the advertiser.

Connected to these terms are CPM, CPC, and CPA. CPM refers to cost per mille or cost per 1000 impressions, CPC refers to cost per click, and CPA refers to cost per acquisition. On most networks CPM and CPC are the common budget methods.

Facebook advertising

Creating similar campaigns across a few networks (ie. LinkedIn, BingAds, & AdWords) will let me compare network performance with some control. Each week, I’ll tweak my campaigns. The different audiences, different character counts, and different targeting options all give me ways to optimize my campaigns as I learn more. This leads me to an important discussion of some network differences.

Differences between the networks

Facebook and LinkedIn’s network targeting differences that are worth pointing out. Facebook can target precise interests that users have identified like marketing or advertising, broad categories like small business owners, along with social connections, workplace, education, relationship status, and more. LinkedIn similarly targets people, but with much more focus on business information like job title or function and skills.

Networks also differ in the amount of characters they allow. It may seem insignificant, but it is good to be aware. Both Facebook and LinkedIn, let you can use 25 characters in the title. In ad text, LinkedIn allows 75 characters, while Facebook allows 90 characters. This may lead you to customize your Facebook ads using that extra space. AdWords and BingAds share the same character count limits.

AdWords and BingAds also use similar targeting, but with a few exceptions. Both have simple targeting options like the device you want to target (ie. only laptops), location, and language. On BingAds, you have the additional ability to increase or decrease keyword bids (how much you’re willing to pay for a given keyword) depending on the age and gender of the person searching.

Now, I’ll walk through the process of building an AdWords campaign.

Head to adwords.google.com and select the campaigns tab on the top left (create an account if you don’t have one already).

AdWords

On the next page, you will see a New Campaign button. You’ll have options to make your campaign Search only, Search & Display, or Display only. I started with Search Network only.

Setting up an AdWords campaign

AdWords gives you options for several types of ads and targeting, but I am building a standard search text ad for people within the United States using laptops or desktop computers. This is also where you decide your bid and budget (automatic bidding is also an option). You can adjust these settings to fit your company best. For my first campaign, I created a budget of $5/day and let Google automatically decide on my keyword bids.

Setting up an AdWords campaign

Next, I create my first AdWords ad. I need to create an ad group, and from the same screen I can setup my first ad and keywords I would like to bid on.

Setting up an AdWords campaign

If you have no idea what a good ad is, there are a few easy ways to start. Search Google for your competitors or keywords that fit your company and take a look at those ads as a first step. Your ads will get better over time as you iterate on what you find. Take a look at a quick search I did for “advertising analytics dashboard”. Right away, I have some idea of what competitor’s ads look like and what keywords might work for AdStage.

Keywords

A couple other quick tips:

  • Fill your ads with keywords you’ll be targeting
  • Have a clear, simple call to action
  • Try things like “Sign up Today” or “Free” – clear incentives should improve your conversions
  • Use Google’s keyword suggestions (shown below in right-hand column)

Adding keywords to AdWords

The next page is a view of my ad group where I can see my ads, create new ads, add keywords, change settings, enable or disable my ad group, change my default bid, and much more.

AdWords ad group

That’s the process of setting up a social campaign and a search campaign. They are slightly different, but with the Facebook and AdWords examples you can replicate the process through BingAds and LinkedIn as you wish. The best way to get a feel for setting up campaigns is to simply explore the interfaces yourself.

Now that I’ve setup campaigns, I want to track their performance. Check out Part 3 to learn how to hook up Google Analytics and AdStage for tracking the success of my campaigns.

Thanks for reading and check out AdStage if you would like a great, simple way to compare your campaigns and get insights to improve your campaigns in one, well designed dashboard.

If you have any questions or need any help with your campaigns, please let me know. You can reach me at clark@adstage.io with anything on your mind – questions, comments, critiques, suggestions for future posts, or just to say hi.

Part 3learn how to hook up Google Analytics and AdStage for tracking the success of my campaigns.

Best ad tools

Initial ad questions & Search vs Social

Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Advertising | One Comment

Hi there, My name is Clark. I’m a Sales guy looking to take on marketing here at AdStage. Specifically I’m going to work on paid user acquisition. With this blog, I’ll be sharing my experiences building and optimizing our first AdStage ad campaigns. I hope that sharing my experiences will help all new online advertisers. You’ll see my process, mistakes, and anything I learn along the way, which should help you build and succeed with your own campaigns.

I’ve broken the first series of posts into three parts:

  1. My initial questions, predictions, and some difference between Search & Social ads
  2. Setting up first Google AdWords and Facebook Ads campaigns
  3. Tracking my ad campaign success using Google Analytics and AdStage

(tl;dr – main points in bold)

Throughout this process, I’m going to use our AdStage dashboard. Here’s a quick look at a dashboard complete with data:

Key advertising metrics

The dashboard provides me one place to see all of my current ad campaign activities – an overview of key ad performance metrics and budget recommendations, a graph comparison of metrics, network performance with target demographics, social audience targeting, and trending keywords, and lastly insights such as click stream data, geo-targeting, high-performing ads, and similar companies.

I’ll also be using the native network interfaces and Google Analytics. Using my AdStage dashboard along with these tools will give me complete control over monitoring and editing my campaigns.

Let’s get started

How should I go about documenting this ad experiment and assessing my progress? There are many ways to do it, but I decided to use a simple method of asking questions, making predictions, and testing. I’ll follow this process and answer different questions each week until we know it all! This week I have several questions to get started with.

How do I setup and launch my first Campaigns?

This question is really a container for many questions. Any advertiser needs to consider – Where should I spend my budget? How much do I spend? And why? We decided to launch campaigns on AdWords, BingAds, Facebook, and LinkedIn. This will let me cover the full spread of people who may be interested in AdStage. Setting up campaigns is pretty straightforward. The hard part of paid user acquisition is building quality campaigns.

Successful advertising

So how much should I spend and why? In my first week, I don’t know the best way to budget my campaigns. I’m learning just like any new advertiser. I want to spend a small amount and I want to start gathering real data. I decided on a budget of $5/day per network (though LinkedIn requires $10/day). I will learn the best way to budget as I go, but initially I just need enough to gather initial data to work with.

Predictions

In this first week, the predictions will also include the few things I already know about advertising and the differences in the ad networks. A big difference is in targeting. Search networks capitalize on what you search for: keywords. Social networks capitalize on who you are: groups you’re part of, your interests, etc.

This means that search engines are direct intent networks and social networks are indirect intent networks. If I search on Google for “Nike shoes”, I’m very likely looking to purchase Nike shoes. Contrast this with Facebook. Facebook advertising makes assumptions about what ads relate to me, but my intent in browsing Facebook is rarely specific purchasing. Similarly, I don’t go on LinkedIn for direct purchases. I go there to check out work stuff – who’s working where, connect with someone I met recently, maybe I’ll see job opportunities, or maybe I’ll see a tool that will help with my job. LinkedIn advertising makes assumptions based on this and shows related me ads.

Take a look:

Effective campaigns should take note of these differences. The ultimate goal of ad campaigns is conversions. Conversions can be defined as anything, but some examples of conversions would be user sign ups, purchases, or newsletter sign ups.

In this post I asked some questions, made some predictions, and identified some of the differences in Search and Social ad networks. Now it’s time to test. This is the fun part – next I’ll be launching actual ad campaigns. Read about it in Part 2Setting up first Google AdWords and Facebook Ads campaigns.

Thanks for reading and check out AdStage if you would like a great, simple way to compare your campaigns and get insights to improve your campaigns in one, well designed dashboard.

If you have any questions or need any help with your campaigns, please let me know. You can reach me at clark@adstage.io with anything on your mind – questions, comments, critiques, suggestions for future posts, or just to say hi.

Part 2Setting up first Google AdWords and Facebook Ads campaigns.

Best ad tools