7 Important Changes to Google AdWords Reporting and Targeting in 2018

7 Important Changes to Google AdWords Reporting and Targeting in 2018

Almost every month, Google AdWords introduces new features, and kills off features deemed irrelevant or confusing to its users. Most of these changes – save the major ones – go completely unnoticed, but can impact your search nonetheless. Here is a list of the latest changes to Google AdWords reporting, analytics, and targeting in 2018, and how they might impact your PPC advertising.

1. Improved analysis and performance for click-to-message ads

Added: April 2018

According to a Google Consumer Survey, 65% of customers would consider messaging a business to get information or schedule appointments. “Click-to-Message” ads have been around for close to two years, but message reporting has only been added recently, so now you can finally gain major insight into the approachability of your brand. AdWords reports include your chat rate (how many people choose to chat with you), the chat start time, and total number of messages in the chat.

These features allow the advertiser to look not only at the results of their chat buttons, but at patterns in their advertising efforts. Google gives the example of an auto dealer who adjusted their AdWords spending based on such reports. They discovered that customers from a certain area code and those with more than four messages are more likely to come in for a test drive, and allocated their budget to target similar users.

click to message ads example

2. See your non-performing keywords in a single report

Added: April 2018

Wouldn’t it be nice to know which of your keywords aren’t pulling their weight without investing any more time, money and effort? Well now you can. Starting in April 2018, the new Google AdWords Experience lets you view and download your keyword performance, customize how you track keyword performance, and run keyword diagnosis to review your Quality Score. The Quality Score, graded from 1-10, includes your keywords’ relevance, landing page experience, and landing page loading time.

Seeing the individual elements in your Quality Score separately and side-by-side is a really important change, as one being off can negatively impact a keyword’s overall performance, or even stop it showing all together. It also allows you to see which overperforming keywords should be injected marketing copy to boost a page’s overall performance. Finally, the additional of the historial quality score means that you can easily track how any changes to the page impacted its quality score.

To navigate to your Quality Score report in the new AdWords UI, go through the following steps:

  1. Click Keywords from your AdWords menu
  2. Click on the Columns icon (above your Stats)
  3. Choose Modify columns
  4. Select Quality Score
  5. Apply

Visit Google AdWords Help for complete instructions on running your keywords quality score report.

new adwords UI columns

For a quick refresher on the basics of AdWords performance analysis, check out our Quick Guide to Analyzing AdWords Performance.

3. View foot traffic conversations for the Google Display Network

Added: March 2018

Google’s new AdWords experience allows retail advertisers to view foot traffic conversion, or, rather, see how many people saw an ad for your store (defined as 50% of the ad being visible on screen for at least 1 second, based on Google’s Active View technology) and then visited the store. If this seems like a major violation of consumer privacy, rest assured that the store visit data is modeled on anonymous, aggregated statistics. Not ideal for marketers who want to get black-and-white proof of the precise advertising campaign effectiveness, but a step in the right direction, as measuring retail ROI is notoriously painstaking.

The downside is that as of the time this article was written, there were a number of country and company-size restrictions to tracking store-visit conversions, which means this tool won’t be available to all advertisers.

Store visit conversions will be added to the “All conversions” column in your campaign, ad group, keyword, and product group (for Shopping ads) reports.

new adwords ui custom columns

Get detailed instructions on how to view foot traffic conversions.

For more e-commerce metrics, check out this post on the 44 E-Commerce KPIs and Metrics for Your Marketing Dashboard.

4. Target YouTube viewers based on Google searches with TrueView

Added: March 2018

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Google and Youtube AdWords had a baby? Well, wonder no more. Starting March 2018, custom intent audiences (people who are looking for your service, rather than a predefined customer) who searched for content on Google will find themselves coming across advertising content related to their search on Youtube via its TrueView advertising system.

In a blog post announcing the combined power of Google and YouTube in AdWords, the new service, Google explained how the financial services company Betterment targeted custom intent audiences who had recently searched for financial keywords on Google. Their ROAS increased sixfold and their Google searches (including those for their name) went up by 245%.

trueview campaigns adwords UI

trueview campaigns adwords UI

new campaigns adwords ui 2018

Here’s the guide for setting up and optimizing TrueView campaigns.

5. Boost your search campaigns with the improved Keyword Planner

Added: March 2018

The new and improved Keyword Planner is much more streamlined than its previous version, reducing the options the start screen to two simple options: “Find new keywords” and “Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords.”

One of the big additions in this version is that it shows mobile search volume alongside total monthly search volume, which was previously only available via a separate drop-down menu. Another change is the addition of organic impressions and organic average position for each keyword, which becomes available after the Search Console and AdWords accounts are linked and the columns are added to the keywords report.

Forecasting has also become easier, as you’ll no longer need to set a bid to do so. You can simply adjust the slider in the chart to see how bid changes affect other market performance metrics.

new keyword planner adwords ui

6. Connect with local customers using the affiliate location extensions on YouTube

Added: March 2018

If your clients sell products through major retail chains, rejoice. The affiliate location extensions allow you to add the retail locations in which your items are sold in order to target customers in a specific area. These were previously only available in Google AdWords. Now they will also appear on TrueView in-stream and 6-second bumper ads.

IHOP used this extension as part of their ongoing effort to measure the impact of its video campaigns, and was able to drive store visits from Youtube for $1 or less. The sentiment was echoed by other companies in this post on the Google blog.

Click here to learn how to use affiliate location extensions.

adwords UI 2018 adstage

7. Dig deeper using custom columns for both keywords and ads

Added: March 2018

Custom columns allow you to dig deeper into your metrics and to single out or create  the metrics that matter most to you and your clients using formulas – another step Google has taken to get your reporting out of Excel and Google Sheets. While a simpler version of custom columns has been around since 2014, the new version can be applied at the ad or campaign level, and there is a greater emphasis on separating mobile and desktop metrics.

Click here to learn more about custom columns.

how to create a custom column in the new AdWords UI

custom metrics new adwords UI

Automate AdWords reporting with AdStage

automate adwords

AdStage supports campaign optimization and closed-loop reporting in Google AdWords so you can reach customers that are most likely to convert, and report on your results quickly and with confidence. Learn more about automated AdWords reporting or sign up for our free 14-day trial.

4 Reasons Search Marketers Are Excited About YouTube Advertising

4 Reasons Search Marketers Are Excited About YouTube Advertising

2018 has been one hell of a year for us digital marketers already, hasn’t it? New features rolling out, a new UI driving all of us crazy, and GDPR having us:

a) Trying to figure out what the hell it is

b) Fielding questions from our clients and Zuckerberg who made us explain to our older relatives that Facebook isn’t “selling your data” and “no, NSA is not spying on you.”

2018 has been a pretty pivotal year for me as a digital marketer. I’ve been working in this industry for over 7 years and always understood the importance of upper-funnel tactics. But it wasn’t until this year that I went “all-in” on the upper funnel. Maybe it’s because of the beautiful audience targeting tactics that are now available on the GDN, maybe it’s because I’m maturing as a digital marketer, or maybe it’s because I’ve finally taken my “search marketer” hat off and put my “marketer” hat on – but something finally clicked.

Not unlike Google, I’ve been investing a lot of time in upper-funnel tactics, particularly YouTube. I’ve spent the better half of this year learning about YouTube, testing targeting tactics and ad types, building YouTube strategies, and even hosting a #ppcchat about YouTube. Through all of my knowledge gathering, I’ve found a couple of features/updates I’m most excited about, so I wanted to share my learnings.

YouTube TV advertising

I work very closely with our programmatic team at Point It and have heard them talking about buying Connected TV inventory on Hulu for some time now. I’ve been jealous at how cool that is, and guess what, IT’S OUR TURN! I could truly not be more excited about this.

YouTube TV is everywhere! YouTube TV is the jersey sponsor for LAFC, it is the first ever presenting sponsor for the NBA Finals and it’s available to over 85 percent of US households in nearly 100 TV markets.

Advertisers will be able to select the device type they want to target with their creative, allowing “TV” to be an option. Additionally, there will be a new segment named “light TV viewers” that reaches folks who consume their video online and might be harder to target using traditional media buys.

Custom Intent Audiences

I talked about utilizing Custom Intent Audiences in your GDN campaigns. Now, you can utilize these audiences in your YouTube advertising efforts. This tactic is incredibly valuable, because when users are on YouTube, they intentionally focus on what they’re watching, instead of browsing the web and by chance seeing a display banner on the sidebar of a site.

For example, an airline could reach people on YouTube who recently searched on Google for “flights to Hawaii.” (This example was used during the announcement at SMX West earlier this year).

So, you can now target by intent in display — and use video, an incredibly powerful medium. As Bryant Garvin so simply put it during my YouTube #ppcchat, “Search captures people; video moves people.”

#ppcchat bryant garvin

YouTube Reach Planner

Whenever you’re pitching a new campaign type or other expansion ideas to a client or stakeholder, one of the first questions that follow your pitch is: “What do I get out of this?” For years, we’ve used the keyword planner and display planner, both invaluable assets to help us come up with ballpark reach numbers, even if, sometimes, we have to take it with a grain of salt. Now, finally, YouTube stepped in with the new Reach Planner tool.

This tool is still in beta, so you have to ask your Google rep for access to it, but this is going to be huge when building out proposals, media plans, and other pitch decks for new or existing clients. Marketing Land provides some details on the capabilities:

“Currently in beta, Reach Planner in AdWords is designed to help media planners and advertisers forecast the reach and frequency of video campaigns on YouTube and the video partners on the Google Display Network.

Reach Planner provides unique reach data for all devices, core audiences and video formats for more than 50 countries. The tool also includes product mix recommendations intended to show which YouTube ad formats will work best together based on inputs of a marketing objective, budget and ad preferences or assets available.”

Brand safety is top of mind

If you’re at all active in the YouTube community, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of YouTubers talking about how upset they are that YouTube is demonetizing many of their videos. While I definitely want to encourage creators to create content that is engaging and thought-provoking, take one wrong turn down the tunnel of YouTube videos, and you can end up in a very unsettling place.

Last year, many advertisers pulled their investment from YouTube, because they wanted to avoid being associated with controversial videos that were showing ads on them. To address brand safety, YouTube implemented a series of requirements:

  • All videos eligible to be monetized must have a minimum of:
    • Be on a channel with 1,000 subscribers or more
    • Be on a channel that has 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months
  • The team that vets Google Preferred channels will be increased to 10,000 people across the organization
  • Google will be releasing a new system that will allow advertisers to have better control over what video content their ads are showing on.

Among the many new features that Google has announced in YouTube recently, I picked these four, as these releases really made my upper-funnel mentality kick in. These changes have given me hope in YouTube advertising and got me excited about trying, testing, and pitching it to clients.

3 Reasons to Scale Your PPC Campaigns with the Microsoft Audience Network

3 Reasons to Scale Your PPC Campaigns with the Microsoft Audience Network

The eyes and ears of the PPC community may be on AdWords and Facebook ads, but behind the scenes, Microsoft has quietly turned into a billion-dollar advertising giant.

Revenue from Bing Ads rose by 15% in 2017 to $1.8bn, according to Microsoft’s latest annual report. The company has shipped tons of updates this year, including Audience Segmentation and Price Extensions. Yet, until last week, Bing advertisers kept wondering: When is Bing going to integrate LinkedIn data for campaign targeting? After Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn two years ago, it made perfect sense.

Finally, this data is available to all Bing advertisers! (For now, in the U.K., US, Canada, and Australia.) Microsoft announced its new Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN) last week at the Bing Partner Summit in Seattle. MSAN taps all Microsoft data sources (including LinkedIn data!) and leverages machine learning to target ads by consumer intent signals, such as search history, browsing history, page content, in addition to demographic data.

The Microsoft Audience Network may not offer as many placement and targeting options as the Google Display Network and Facebook Audience Network, but it does have a few unique features to entice PPC advertisers to try it out. Here are a few:

1. Rich context from the Microsoft Graph API

The Microsoft Audience Network is powered by the Microsoft Graph API, which connects data from all of the Microsoft’s applications, including Outlook, Excel, SharePoint, and LinkedIn profile data. Considering that 85% of Fortune 500 companies have their data in the Graph, that’s a lot of data on a highly coveted marketing segment of enterprise buyers.

2. Brand-safe placements

The MSAN promises extensive reach across MSN, Outlook, and Microsoft Edge (Microsoft’s browser). For marketers targeting a large and affluent audience of baby boomers, Microsoft’s offering is quite attractive. Microsoft also says they’re adding more syndicated partner sites, potentially extending target audience to different demographics.

3.  Scale your Bing Ads campaigns

With Microsoft Audience Ads, you can now push your Bing campaigns out to the MSAN, broadening the reach (available in the U.K., US, Canada, and Australia) or build and run distinct native campaigns for separate budgets and optimization. Both ways are powered by the Microsoft Graph data and serve on the MSAN, increasing your reach outside of just the SERP.

According to the partner email from Bing Ads, the new native ads outperform traditional display advertising and have a greater CTR than the native ads industry average. The new solution also features better ad selection and relevancy matching, along with pricing, click and conversion matching, which, according to Microsoft, will help marketers “deliver terrifIc ROI.”

Getting started with Microsoft Audience Ads

Your Bing search ads are now automatically eligible to be transformed into Microsoft Audience Ads, so from now on, they’ll show up not just in search but across all Microsoft web and mobile properties.

To get started with Audience ads, simply select the “Prefer audience ad format” checkbox when you create a new ad or scale your existing search campaign by selecting the same checkbox in Settings.

Adjust bids

Audience ad bid adjustments can be -100% to +900%. Applying an adjustment of -100% will opt out the campaign or ad group from Microsoft Audience Ads.

For better results, Bing recommends adding image extensions, which you can create from the Campaigns page and the “Ad Extensions” tab.

To learn more, visit Bing Ads support center and watch Rik van der Kooi’s presentation on www.facebook.com/bingads.

Looking to automate your Bing Ads? AdStage offers a free 14-day trial for advertisers looking to scale ad campaigns across all networks. Sign up today!

How Marketers Measure Video Campaign Effectiveness [Report]

How Marketers Measure Video Campaign Effectiveness [Report]

Digital video ad spend keeps rising, with the latest video advertising study showing that marketers spend more than half of their ad budgets on video. On average, marketers allocate over 59% of digital and mobile spend to video advertising.

video ad channels growth

But according to another recent study by the CMO Council and ViralGains, marketers still struggle with closing the loop between video campaigns and revenue. That study shows that most marketers (56%) measure video campaign success in clicks, not sales. Just 27% of the senior marketing leaders surveyed in this study track results from ad campaigns all the way to the bottom line — direct sales.

how marketers measure video campaign success

Most marketers (56%) track video campaign success with click-through rate. And while marketers do think that social shares are more important than impressions and 31% actually track post-view engagement, only 27% measure contribution to the bottom line.

Success metrics disconnect

In all fairness, connecting video ad campaigns to revenue traditionally didn’t make sense: video format was only used at the awareness stage. But this is changing. Google claims that nearly 50 percent of internet users look for video that is related to a product or service before visiting a store, and according to Forbes, 65% of all business executives visit a website after viewing a vendor’s video (stats cited by the CMO Council).

All that means that more than half of all shoppers — both B2C and B2B — consume branded video content before buying — and when it comes to measuring advertising effectiveness, most marketers are left in the dark.

The disconnect between the metrics marketers see as critical and the metrics they actually track becomes apparent when you look at the graphic below. When asked to name the top professional success metric, marketers put sales at the top of the list. Yet for digital video ads, click-through rate remains the number one metric.

video campaign metrics

Source: The CMO Council / ViralGains

Just like the marketers in the IAB study, those surveyed for the CMO Council study also feel enthusiastic about doubling down on video spend. 96% of marketers say they will increase video ad spend in 2018.

Are we measuring the right things?

In response to the increased demand for video ads, most, if not all, major ad networks bet on video advertising (most recently, LinkedIn Video Ads). While it’s true that the primary success metrics often depend on how easy it is to get performance data from the native platform, sophisticated marketers rely on third-party data analytics solutions to measure the real value of ad campaigns and track results from clicks to incremental revenue.

As video budgets soar in the upcoming years, the need for closed-loop reporting will grow as marketers will need to prove the ROI of what’s poised to become the biggest and strategic part of their marketing investments.

5 Reasons LinkedIn Video Ads Are the B2B Marketer’s Secret Weapon

5 Reasons LinkedIn Video Ads Are the B2B Marketer’s Secret Weapon

Video will drive 82% of all Internet traffic in 2021, according to Cisco. Over 17.2% of all ad budgets will go to video marketing, which means video ads will likely eat up a huge share of the total video traffic.

eMarketer video starts

Video ad spend will grow to $22.18 billion in 2021. Source: eMarketer

What does it mean for marketers? Video-first has become an overarching theme for consumer brands, and the B2B segment is quickly catching up.

So it comes as no surprise that after successfully launching member video in August, LinkedIn, the number one social platform for B2B advertising, followed up with two ad offerings: video for Sponsored Content and Company Pages.

The new ad products officially became available to all brands last month, and I’ve already seen several B2B brands roll out video ads with lead gen forms to capture in-market business audiences. Here’s an example I captured this week:

For brands considering LinkedIn video ads, here are five reasons B2B marketers are taking note.

1. Keep your brand safe

Last year, several brands (including P&G and AT&T) pulled billions of ads dollars off social media and display advertising after multiple brand safety failures — like one with kid-targeted ads showing next to violent and sexualized content.

While brand safety is still a new (and subjective) metric for performance marketers, it was a major talking point at Advertising Week last year. For marketers who prioritize transparency and quality in their media buys, LinkedIn’s quality environment for branded video campaigns is an obvious differentiator.

2. Built for ABM

LinkedIn’s suite of B2B targeting features for Sponsored video content campaigns allows marketers to segment audience by job title, seniority, company name, industry, skills, and more. Marketers running ABM (account-based marketing) campaigns can upload a CSV file with their target companies to match LinkedIn’s company pages and reach decision-makers at scale.

LinkedIn’s Matched Audiences feature allows marketers to apply granular, account-based targeting. Source: LinkedIn

3. Native ads show a higher lift in brand consideration

LinkedIn video ads show directly in the news feed, similar to organic standalone posts. According to Sharethrough, citing Nielsen’s research, native ads beat pre- or post-roll ads when it comes to brand consideration. The chart below shows results for one campaign where native ads generated an 82% brand lift among users exposed to the ads as compared to 2.1% users exposed to pre-rolls.

Note: the above data shows results for a consumer brand (CPG) campaign, so I’m just inferring that it could be applicable to B2B as well.

brand lift native ads

4. Works for brand and performance marketing

Marketer use Sponsored Content across the full funnel to capture attention at the awareness stage, capture interest and drive qualified traffic to the website, and convert “warm” leads through LinkedIn’s integrated Lead Gen Forms.

As Bettina Hein, Pixability’s CEO, said in Google’s recent post on online video trends, purpose-driven ads can achieve “the difficult task of authenticity” by aligning the brand with the causes they believe in. LinkedIn’s promoted video content on the Company or Showcase pages is a great way to implement that.

Performance marketers can use Direct Sponsored Content to customize video ads for specific audiences or test ads — without publishing on the Company Page.

5. Prove ROI

LinkedIn provides extensive metrics to measure your video campaign’s success through insights about the type of audiences watching and engaging with the campaign, as well as track clicks from video to website. By using the platform’s conversion tracking powered by the LinkedIn Insight Tag, marketers can see post-click and view-through conversions of their LinkedIn ad campaigns.

LinkedIn's video metrics

LinkedIn’s metrics for video ad campaigns. Source: LinkedIn

Take it a step further

For marketers who want to measure the value of lead generation campaigns from views to clicks and all the way to revenue and the acquired customers’ LTV, closed-loop reporting can help you untangle the B2B attribution and see the full picture of your campaign performance across LinkedIn, AdWords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Yahoo Gemini, Bing, and custom conversion data.

Stop Dismissing the GDN and Engage Traffic That Converts

Stop Dismissing the GDN and Engage Traffic That Converts

We’ve all heard it before.

You’re in a strategy planning meeting with your client (or your in-house stakeholders) talking through your digital strategy and further growth opportunities for the next year or quarter, and someone suggests, “Let’s launch a GDN campaign for XYZ initiative,” and another person quickly responds with “Oh the GDN doesn’t convert,” or “The CPLs are too high,” or “We’ve tried that before, it didn’t work.”

You know we’ve all heard this. Hell, I’m sure quite a few of us have even said this! I’ll admit, I used to be a non-believer, but over the past couple of months, I’m like a whole new woman – I’ve truly been converted – The GDN actually does convert!


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should simply run a Display campaign with a couple of managed placements and call it a day. You still have to make sure you’re executing on the GDN strategically for it to actually drive results. Luckily for us, Google has really stepped up their audience targeting game on the GDN over the past year to make sure you’re not only adopting the network, but expanding strategically and effectively. Listed here a couple of my favorite targeting tactics, what I’ve been calling the GDN Trifecta.

Targeting tactic #1: Custom Affinity Audiences

The first of the GDN Trifecta are Custom Affinity Audiences. These are audiences you can create that are more tailored to your brand, compared to more broad, TV-like affinity audiences. I tend to think of these as a more generic, DIY audience-building tool, similar to what third-party data platforms have. You input the relevant data, and Google creates the audience you.

When you’re in the publisher creating these audiences, you can use a combination of:

  • Interests (entered as keywords)
  • URLs (to target based on the content of the site)
  • Places (locations your audience might be interested in)
  • Apps (apps your audience might be interested in)

Not all input options are going to be relevant for you, but they definitely give you the opportunity to be creative. You don’t have to only target audiences exactly speaking to your services, but you can target audiences of folks who are similar to your services, or even an add-on to your service.

Recommended audiences:

  • Competitor URLs & names
    • This allows you to target users who are interested in your competitors
  • Industry blogs/publications
    • This definitely depends on the advertiser, but if there are common resources that folks in the industries they’re targeting visit, you should target those audiences
  • Top search keywords
    • Do you have keywords that perform drastically better than other terms? Use that data and build an audience off of users who are interested in those terms.

Targeting tactic #2: In-Market Audiences

In-Market Audiences have been around for a while now, with Bing even rolling them out to be available for Search campaigns (and Google having them in closed beta FOREVER). These audiences allow you to target users who are in the market for your services based on their online browsing behaviors. The no-brainer use case is to target users who are in the market for your services, which you should absolutely do. But you can take this targeting tactic to the next level.

Example: You are a telecommunications company (think internet or cable TV), and you want to expand your display prospecting efforts to help feed your digital funnel. You can use in-market audiences in two ways:

  1. Target users who are in-market for telecom services using the Cable & Satellite TV Providers and Internet Service Providers segments.
  2. Target users who are in the market for moving services, using the Moving & Relocation in-market segment. These are people who are qualified for your service and likely haven’t quite realized they need to find a new cable/internet provider.ppc funnel
    1. While this tactic will not likely provide last-click results, the impression is extremely valuable because it plants the seed with the user to think about your brand during the buying process.
    2. If the user clicks on your ad, this is even more valuable, because you now have the opportunity to build audiences off of these users and retarget them later.

Targeting tactic #3: Custom Intent Audiences

This beautiful newest member of the Trifecta is only available in the new UI and it’s absolutely worth the headache of switching over to the new UI to get the opportunity to use them, Secretly, I think this is a secret ploy to get us old time PPCers to adopt the new UI, at least temporarily.

Custom Intent Audiences use keywords and URLs to create an audience based on products and services your ideal audience is actively researching. These audiences provide the unique opportunity to utilize the “intent-based” state of paid search and share those learnings with your broader prospecting efforts. Us marketers are all about data, and this takes advantage of that and allows us to work smarter, not harder.

Audience recommendations:

  • Your highest converting search keywords
    • These terms are already extremely valuable to you, so using Custom Intent Audiences will allow you to share those learnings on the Google Display Network
  • Competitive non-brand keywords
    • If you have been hesitant to further expand into non-brand keyword sets because they’re extremely competitive, this might be an opportunity for you to target users who have shown intent to search these terms, but at a lower price
  • Content promotion
    • Have you developed instructional content that is intended to drive users down the funnel? This is a good opportunity to capture those “how-to” type queries at a lower price than on the search network

Anyone who has worked with me in the past few months knows that the one thing I’ve been recommending to every advertiser when asked “what else should we do” is to expand further in the GDN. These three audience types above, the GDN Trifecta, are 100% why. The Google Display Network isn’t just for filling the funnel anymore; it’s about actually driving cost-efficient conversions. Most advertisers haven’t jumped on board yet, so my biggest recommendation is to jump on this train before your competitors do.

I’ve been converted, have you?

10 PPC Tools to Steal Your Competitors’ Best Ads

10 PPC Tools to Steal Your Competitors’ Best Ads

One of the best-kept secrets of our industry is that you don’t need to be a creative genius to come up with an effective advertising campaign. Most good ideas are creative mashups of other people’s ideas — in copy, targeting, graphics, and pretty much everything else in advertising.

Marketers, just like artists, steal get inspiration from other marketers. Spying on the work of others in the same industry helps you (A) get some ideas for what you can do and (B) understand what’s best NOT to do. And that can save you tons of time and money in testing.

In paid marketing, technology makes it especially easy. PPC tools crawl the entire web 24/7 and store data about different websites and mobile apps — how they rank, which keywords they bid on, how much it all costs, and whether it at all works.

Armed with this knowledge, you can boost your ads’ performance, get optimization ideas, and stay up-to-date on the latest changes on the market. Below are 10 tools that can help.

1. iSpionage

ppc tools

With iSpionage, you can see how many PPC ads your competitors are running, for how long, which keywords they’re bidding on, and more. This PPC tool also shows how other advertisers group their keywords, ads, and landing pages. You can see which ads get the most traffic and how they rank on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. iSpionage claims that they can help to identify the most profitable terms with their “proprietary keywords effectiveness index.”

Check it out for yourself: They offer a free trial, no credit card required. Basic plan starts at $29 per month and goes up to $299 per month for agencies and businesses with $10,000+ in PPC budgets.

keyword tools


2. Wordtracker

This PPC tool works pretty much like the AdWords Keyword Planner, but with an extra layer of keyword data from YouTube and Amazon. You can save your keyword lists, filter them, and find the keywords you need all in one place. In addition to the basic functionality of PPC keyword research and planning, the tool also grabs your competitors’ data and identifies gaps and opportunities for your campaigns.



ppc tool

keyword research tool

keyword software

The basic (“Bronze”) subscription is $27 a month and goes up to $99 for the “Gold,” which gives you more search data and broader geographic reach. You can sign up for a free trial without a credit card. Be aware that the tool doesn’t allow any csv exports while trialing.

3. Search Monitor

Search Monitor crawls the web to monitor your ads across different locations and devices. They offer two primary services: brand protection and competitive insights. With brand protection, you can monitor brand bidding, offer content, landing pages, FTC (Federal Trade Commission) compliance, and OTA (online travel agencies) pricing. With Competitive Insights, you can gather data on brand bidding, PPC benchmarks, product listing ads (PLA) benchmarks, SEO, SERP.

Brands and agencies can use the tool to detect brand violations, track affiliates, or verify price parity for the same products or services across different sellers. This is especially useful for hotel advertisers who can track changing room rates and offers. With geo-monitoring across major search engines, Search Monitor works for brands with international presence.

paid marketing tool

SearchMonitor doesn’t offer free trial, and you need to contact sales to request a demo. Pricing plans starts at $599 a month.

4. SimilarWeb

This PPC tool helps analyze data on your competitors’ website audience, demographics, and marketing mix. You can track your competitor’s top traffic sources (for example, how much of it is coming from organic vs. paid search) and referral sites. SimilarWeb works for web as well as mobile app analytics. The tool allows you to create custom categories and benchmark competitors in a more holistic way than other apps that only offer views by each separate URL. It’s a free trial, no credit card required.

similarwebppc tools 2018ppc tools for keyword researchpaid marketing toolppc research tool

5. Semrush

Every search marketer that I know has it. Semrush allows you to review your competitor’s top-performing keywords, sort them by search volume, and see who’s linking to your competitors’ content. With site audit, custom reports, content analyzer, and more, the tool has so many features, it can be a bit of a learning curve to figure out all the features it has to offer. Pricing plans start at $99.95 monthly for pro and $399.95 and up for enterprise clients.

domain analytics tool
domain analytics tool

ads toolads tool

6. Spyfu

Spyfu allows you to search for any domain and see which keywords your competition is buying, their organic rank, and every ad variation in the last 11 years. The “AdWords Advisor” feature also recommends the most profitable keywords based on your competitors’ data.

You can also browse your competitors’ AdWords campaigns and see results of their split tests. Pricing plans start at $39 per month and go up to $299 per month for API access and multiple user accounts.

ads tools

competitive research tool

7. Campaign Watch

“Using Campaign Watch is like having your top competitors report their marketing strategy to you first thing every morning,” or so says Campaign Watch’s marketing copy. The tool allows you to track competitors’ visibility in search, average position, new ads, and landing pages. You can monitor everything from their seasonal spend, clicks, position, and number of keywords to market share — on desktop and mobile. Pricing is custom (and hidden under the demo request form).

ppc tools landing page analytics

8. Ahrefs

Ahrefs analyzes your competition’s search performance and landing page experience. You can use the tool to see how your competition ranks for certain keywords, which web pages are bringing them the most traffic, and how many backlinks each of these pages has. Ahref’s rank tracking tool allows you to track your keyword rankings based on any location you need, across desktop and mobile.

Ahrefs offers a 7-day trial for $7. Pricing plans start at $99 for a “Lite” version and go up to $999 for large agency clients.


9. Whatrunswhere

This tool allows you to see the top performing creatives in your market and niche, track top ads, and easily segment large brands and affiliate campaigns. It also shows your competitors’ top ads, traffic sources, landing pages, ad networks, and more. Pricing plans start at $299/Month for basic features and custom for enterprise.


10. Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo’s competitive intelligence tool allows your to enter a competitor’s domain and search for their most shared content. You can filter their content by format and see which networks are driving the most traffic and shares. You can also see who’s sharing that content — and even export the list of sharers. I particularly enjoy their alerts feature: You can set up alerts for your competitors’ and your own brand and receive daily updates right in your inbox.


Looking for more PPC tools? Check out:

21 of the Best Google Sheets Add-Ons Designed for Marketers

Are you a PPC marketer? Discover how you can save hours of time on manual, tedious tasks with PPC automation and closed-loop reporting.

Free 14-day Trial to AdStage

The Ultimate Guide to Amazon PPC Advertising

The Ultimate Guide to Amazon PPC Advertising

Amazon pay-per-click (PPC) advertising allows merchants to gain visibility and to thrive amidst cut-throat competition. This platform has evolved into one of the most powerful marketing tools to enhance discoverability and increase sales for Amazon sellers. Essentially, this platform makes it easier for you to display your product before 310 million active Amazon users. And when a user chances upon the ad and clicks it out of curiosity, advertisers will have to pay a fee — hence the name, pay-per-click.

There are plenty of ad networks today, but here’s why merchants prefer to invest in Amazon PPC campaigns:

  • Reaches buyers, not viewers. What’s great about advertising on Amazon is the audience. People don’t roam the platform to window shop. Those who linger on the site search for products they intend to purchase.
  • Boosts sales of all your products. Sponsored ads are a great way to tap into millions of potential buyers. As visibility improves, you’ll be more likely to make or increase sales.
  • Improves organic rankings. When sales increase because of the PPC campaign, the products’ organic search ranking will improve.
  • Measures performance. The campaign comes with tools that help vendors measure the success of their ads. It will let you know which products are doing great and which keywords are effective.

Amazon Guide Featured Image

How to create an Amazon PPC campaign

Before going into the best PPC optimization practices, let’s try to understand the basics of Amazon’s paid search campaign, starting with how it works.

Amazon comes up with a list of products that are relevant to users’ search queries. In the search engine results page (SERP), you will find that sponsored ads are mostly mixed with organic results. You can tell them apart by subtle markers, such as small signs that say “sponsored” or “ad.”

Sponsored ads may appear at the top or bottom part of the SERP. At times, they cover the right column of the page. They may also pop up on individual product pages. Sellers who want to have better ad space will have to pay for it by bidding on the right keywords.

1. Select products to advertise

Amazon Sponsored Ads

Before you can launch a campaign, you will need to select the products you intend to advertise. You can choose a few items or promote your entire line. Ultimately, it depends on your marketing strategy and your business goals. But do know that whenever you choose to hold back on advertising, your competition won’t.

Once you’ve selected the products, divide them into categories so you can direct relevant traffic to your listings. Let’s say, you have a clothing line and you intend to advertise as many products as you can. Group them into categories such as Women’s workout pants, Women’s jeans, and Women’s dresses.

To make your products even easier for consumers to find, you can break them down into specific categories according to style or type of material. Grouping products with the same search terms offers greater keyword relevancy. It also improves keyword discovery.

2. Choose your campaign type

amazon ppc campaigns

One of the first things you will have to do when you set up a campaign is to name it. For the sake of ad management, you can follow this format: Product + Ad Targeting Type. Amazon allows you to run two campaigns for each product, automatic and manual targeting.

  • Automatic targeting campaign

For this or any campaign, Amazon’s algorithm comes up with all the keywords based on your listing’s content and your competitor’s. Since keywords are produced automatically, this campaign can be quite easy to set up. However, that lack of control might also put you at a disadvantage. Sometimes, Amazon generates keywords that aren’t relevant to what you’re selling, which leads to wasted ad spend.

By investing in clicks that won’t turn into conversions, you’re wasting resources and you don’t get to improve sales. But there is a way to go around this problem. You must list down what’s called negative keywords, ones that you won’t be bidding on, and include them in the campaign.

TIP: Use Amazon’s Search Term Report to identify negative keywords. Once you’ve compiled a list, upload them to the ad group.

  • Manual targeting campaign

As the name suggests, this campaign entails manually adding keywords that will be used for bidding. Manual targeting has three keyword match types, which are:

  1. Broad match: With this keyword match type, your ads will run on relevant variations of your chosen keywords such as synonyms and other related forms. Since the search query doesn’t have to be an exact match to your keyword, this setting allows you to promote beyond your target audience and reach more Amazon users.
  2. Phrase match: This type has a more targeted reach compared to broad match. It shows your ad only to shoppers who use the exact keyword phrase or close variations of it, even if it includes a few words before and after the phrase. Word order, however, is essential to phrase match, which means your ad won’t appear if an additional word is placed in the middle of the keyword phrase.
  3. Exact match: For your ad to appear, the shopper’s search query needs to match the exact keyword. Only minor misspellings and plural forms are accepted.

TIP: To optimize visibility, use all three keyword matching options offered by the Amazon PPC campaign. That means each keyword group must come in all three targeting types.

For example: Women’s workout pants Broad, Women’s workout pants Phrase, and Women’s workout pants Exact.

If you aren’t too confident to run a manual targeting campaign, it’s okay to rely on Amazon’s algorithm. Since automatic targeting has a wider reach, it can produce high-quality data over a period of time. That data can tell you what the most profitable keywords are, which you can then use to set up a manual campaign. When in doubt, you can also use tools like Google Keyword Planner.

3. Choose your bid

A bid refers to the maximum dollar amount that you’re willing to pay per ad click.

As previously mentioned, ad placements aren’t created equal. Sponsored ads appear on various parts of the SERP, and some are definitely more visible than others. To acquire the spots that are more likely to lead to a click and eventually a sales conversion, you will have to outbid competitors.

Amazon actually provides suggested bids when you’re launching a campaign. This dollar amount is what’s needed to win the ad auction, and it is derived from the total number of competitors and their bids.

When you launch a campaign, you will be given an option to activate the Amazon Bid+ feature. This will automatically raise your default campaign bid as well as your ad group bid by at least 50%. If you win an auction using Bid+, your ad will be displayed on the top row of the SERP.

Do note that cost-per-click (CPC) will increase when you use Bid+. Your daily budget, however, won’t. The amount will remain fixed until you set new changes. When you do enable Bid+, you must consider its usage before coming up with a daily budget. This way, you won’t burn through your budget at one go.

4. Set up a budget

amazon ppc campaigns

You only need $1 to set up a daily budget. As you prepare your first campaign, take into account the number of keywords you need and the ideal starting bid. For example, if you have 40 keywords and the optimum starting bid per keyword is $0.75, then your daily budget should be $30.

40 (keywords) x $0.75 (starting bid) = $30.

With this method, you should be able to display your ads effectively and efficiently.

How to calculate the ideal ACoS

It is crucial that you know how to calculate your Average Cost of Sale as it helps you avoid losses. Here are the variables you need for the computation:

  • Product Selling Price (i.e. $30)
  • Cost of Goods (i.e. $10)
  • Fulfillment by Amazon Fees (i.e. $10)
  • Miscellaneous fees (i.e. $2)

To calculate the ACoS, subtract the cost of goods, FBA and miscellaneous fees from the product selling price. With the given numbers, you have an $8 profit for each sale. To compute the ACoS threshold, simply divide the net profit from the selling price: $8/$30=0.26. That means you can still profit from campaigns that have 26% ACoS or less.

By comparing the actual ACoS to your target number, you can also optimize CPC bids. Here are a few pointers:

  • Lower your bid when your ACoS is greater than your target number to check if you can decrease ad spend without affecting sales.
  • Raise your bid when your ACoS is lower than your target number to test if it’s possible to expand ad reach.

Key takeaways

Now that we’ve covered all the basics, it’s time for you to work on your ad campaign. Plan everything ahead if you’ve yet to launch one. Feel free to use tools such as Google Keyword Planner to aid you in setting up the campaign. Finally, don’t forget to maintain it. Optimize and refine your campaigns on a weekly basis to make sure all your products are staying visible and competitive.

How Much Do Spotify Ads Cost?

How Much Do Spotify Ads Cost?

In investor meetings ahead of Spotify’s IPO, the company’s CEO, Daniel Ek, described Spotify’s mission as the “hard work of helping one million artists live off their art.” As Spotify Technology SA goes public today, we take a look at the primary vehicle of this mission: Spotify Ads.

Spotify’s self-serve advertising platform has been in beta since last year. Right now, Spotify charges around $0.015-$0.025 per ad served, with a minimum of $250 in ad budget. The price depends on your targeting selection. I’ve played around with different targeting options and saw prices as low as $0.015 per ad (San Francisco, targeting all music genres) to $0.018 per ad (London with the same targeting), to $0.023 for an ad run in Europe with more granular targeting by gender, device, and music genre.

bmw ad spotify 4.2.18

Spotify ads are available in beta to businesses of all sizes

Here’s a quick guide on how to get started with Spotify ads.

How to create Spotify ads

Step 1: Choose your objective

Spotify offers two objectives for advertisers. “Raise awareness” and “Promote” follow the same logic in their set-up, but the second objective lets you target fans of an artist you’re promoting.

spotify ads self-serve platform

 spotify ads

Step 2. Upload an audio or request a voiceover.

Advertisers can create audio ads by either uploading their own audio files or submitting a script. Spotify will provide voice over services for free; advertisers only pay for ad distribution.

spotify ads interface

Step 3: Choose Audience and Budget

You can target Spotify ads based on demographics, listening behavior, and platform.

1. Target by demographics: location, age, and gender

You can reach people in specific countries, states, cities, or DMAs (designated market areas). Segmentation is also available by gender and age.

spotify ads audience selector

2. Target by listening behavior

Spotify allows advertisers to reach audiences across all music tastes (“Target All Music”), by genre (e.g., Alternative, Blues, Christian, Classical, EDM, Metal, Jazz, Holiday, etc.), or by playlist category. The playlist category is the closest thing to behavioral targeting, as you can select the music tailored to specific activities and moods (e.g., Cooking, Workout, Gaming, and so on).

spotify ads targeting

spotify ads targeting by playlist

3. Target by platform

Spotify recommends choosing all platforms to maximize reach,  but you can also configure platform-specific campaigns to target just the iOS/Android/Desktop users.

spotify ads targeting by platform

Spotify Ad Budget

Spotify Ad Studio requires advertisers to spend a minimum of $250 in ad budgeting, charging them $0.015-$0.025 per each ad served. The price depends on the country and targeting: the more granular your targeting, the more expensive the ad.

spotify ads costspotify ads europeScreen Shot 2018 04 02 at 2.20.20 PM

Your budget will be automatically distributed between the start and end dates of your campaign. Be aware that the start date is set at least two days from the current date due to the approval process. Your account will be charged after the end date of your ad campaign. spotify ads budget

Step 4: Add Creative

After you’ve selected your audiences and set your budget, you can add a companion image, a headline, and a link to the landing page that your audience will visit when they click on the image displayed during your audio ad.

spotify ads creative

That’s it! As you can see, Spotify ads are easy to set up. Things get a little tricky when you begin to think of ways to make ads relevant. How much can you guess about a person based on their favorite music? To increase ad relevance and make those ad cents count even with broad targeting, consider the following tips and best practices.

Spotify Ads Best Practices

Spotify ads run between songs, so it’s best to consider the type of music you’re targeting. Spotify recommends using background music that is similar to your audience’s preferences. If you target by city, you can also personalize your ad to the locals. For example, you can say, “Hey New York!” if you’re targeting New York.

According to Spotify, their ads with direct calls-to-action have click-through rates that are ~3x higher than those with none. To increase engagement, ask the listener to do something, such as to tap on the banner to find a location.

…And a few “don’ts”

Any ad is obviously an interruption for users. As a general rule, avoid shrill or jarring sounds in your ads and keep your volume balanced throughout the ad.

Below are the specs to keep in mind when creating your first ad.

spotify ads specs

It’s super easy to set up your first campaign and get started with Spotify Ads. Although the targeting options are limited, at $0.015-$0.025 per ad served, Spotify is an affordable advertising options for businesses of all sizes to drive brand awareness. You can learn more about Spotify Ads on the Spotify Ad Studio website.

How to Pass the 2018 AdWords Exam in 7 Days While Working Full-Time

How to Pass the 2018 AdWords Exam in 7 Days While Working Full-Time

About half a year ago, I got my first AdWords certificate. It all began when we at AdStage found out that we needed at least two AdWords-certified people in the company to qualify for the Premier Partner Badge. Fairly new into my role back then, I was an easy target.

If you’re in the same boat right now, don’t let the word “exam” scare you. With a couple of simple strategies (and a lot of social pressure), I got my AdWords certificate in less than a week while working full-time. In just one week, you can make your mom and boss proud, too.

Below you’ll find the seven key strategies and study hacks.

adwords fundamentals certificate

AdWords certificate is valid for 12 months. You can add to your LinkedIn profile.


1. Select your second exam

To get your AdWords certificate, you’ll need to take two exams: the AdWords Fundamentals, plus one of the following five tests:

– Search Advertising
– Display Advertising
– Mobile Advertising
– Video Advertising
– Shopping Advertising

If you get a score of at least 80% on each exam, you’ll pass the assessment. It’s good for a year — you’ll need to retake both tests every 12 months to keep your certificate current.

Which additional AdWords exam should you choose? If you’re a PPC practitioner, it depends on your goals. I spent two years working for a mobile app company earlier in my career, so I went for the Mobile Advertising exam. I’ve also heard from the agency friends that Shopping might be the easiest one.

adwords mobile certificate

To get started, sign in to the Google Academy for Ads using your personal Google account — or your corporate email address if you’re taking the exam as part of the Partner badge requirement.

Helpful Resources:

2. Set your timeline

If you’re like me and work full-time, set up a realistic timeline and block the time on your calendar for studying and the test. Plan 3 hours for two exams (90 minutes each) and 1-2.5 hours every day, depending on how much you already know about PPC.

I studied daily for about 45 minutes during my commute on Caltrain in the morning and after work. I also reviewed the guide for about 15 minutes before going to bed. I split my time about 65/35 for the Fundamentals and Mobile Advertising exam, because I found that understanding the basics helped me better grasp the concepts in the additional assessment.

productivity stack

My productivity stack: sleep, coffee, and the Pomodoro timer.

Helpful Resources:

  • Trello: organize resources and track progress
  • Toggl: track your time for each chapter

Rescue Time — a personal analytics tool to help you avoid distractions.

Pomodoro Timer – you’ll find many web and mobile apps. Mine is Focus To-Do for iOS. Pick any you like; they all work the same way: a timer breaks your work into focused 25-minute time blocks separated by a 5-minute break. After 4 consecutive working cycles, the app will time a longer, 15-minute break.

3. Explore the Google AdWords UI

If you’re new to AdWords, I’d start by setting up an account. Create a campaign or two, browse through the different types of reports, see where things are. While most questions on the test are covered in the study guide, this step will help you enrich your learning with context.

For example, the answer to the question below is easy to derive from logic, but even faster if you download the AdWords Editor and attempt to access real-time data without WiFi.

AdWords Editor is a free application that allows advertisers to make changes to AdWords campaigns while being offline. Which of the following actions CANNOT be completed when using AdWords Editor offline?

  1. Copy items between ad groups
  2. Undo/redo changes made to campaigns
  3. Access real-time click and impression statistics
  4. Move items between campaigns.

Helpful Resources

4. Sign up for iPass

If you walk away with just one lesson from this article, this is it. iPassExam is a subscription-based software program that has one of the largest online question banks for Google AdWords, Facebook Blueprint, Google Analytics, Bing Ads, and Adobe ACE tests. I owe this tip to Mike McEuen, a former agency marketer and PPC pro who was my boss at the time, but I was completely sold on the software when I found out that many Google employees are also fans.

iPass question banks are designed to match the official Google study guide, which means you can quiz yourself after each chapter (or even before reading one). After long hours of work when I didn’t feel like reading about clicks and conversion types anymore, iPass quizzes were a somewhat fun distraction while riding back home on Caltrain. The web version works nicely on iPad.

Each question comes with a brief explanation, a handy link to the guide, and stats on how other students did on the same question to benchmark your success.

google adwords questions example

The annual subscription will cost you $99.99. It saved me many hours in preparing for the exam and was well worth it.

Helpful Resources:

5. Spread out your learning

I’ve seen online courses that guarantee your certification in just two days. It is doable. However, if you have the time, spread out your learning for each of the two exams a little every day, for at least a week. With just an hour a day, your preparation will almost feel effortless. Plus, you’ll remember things better. Just like with lifting weights at the gym, consistency and progress beats intensity. If you lift too much without giving your muscles time to rest, you’ll just end up sore.

Helpful Resources

Watch this video on chunking:


6. Mix it up and alternate different study techniques

Rereading the material is not very helpful — and quite boring, too. This technique may fool many into thinking they’re learning, but they’re not. To be productive, alternate different techniques:

  • Reading
  • Recalling what you just read
  • Explaining what you just read to a friend
  • Handwriting a question on on one side of a flash card and the solution on the other
  • Quizzing yourself on a problem
  • Reviewing your flash cards in a random order

I love using flash cards, so I got myself a 100-count pack for less than $3 on Amazon. I used it for several courses I took on Coursera, for my AdWords certification, and still have a bunch of those left.

Pro tip: According to Barbara Oakley, the author of “Learning how to learn,” handwriting builds stronger neural structures in memory compared to typing.

Helpful Resources

7. Get enough sleep

In my productivity app folder earlier in the article, you might have noticed a sleep tracking app. That’s no mistake. Sleep is my most powerful hack.

If you’re short on sleep, you can’t think quickly and well, and your memory suffers. Sleeping also helps you strengthen your ability to focus — which means less time for you to master the material. Good sleep is important throughout your training for the exam — and critical right before the test to make sure you’re functioning at your best.

Helpful Resources

Check out this sleep-promoting TED talk by Arianna Huffington:

One last thing

Unlike with Facebook Blueprint Certification where you take a proctored exam, you can use your notes or the Google online guides in the Google AdWords exam. However, the time is limited to 90 minutes for each exam, and some questions are tricky, making it a little hard to Ctrl-F-search for things while taking the exam.

That is it! Good luck! Let me know how the exam goes.