5 Hacks to Speed Up Online Ad Optimization

Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Advertising
5 Hacks to Speed Up Online Ad Optimization

Managing online advertising campaigns can take up a lot of your time, but with a few tricks, you can quickly optimize your campaigns.

Building an ad platform, we talk to some of the smartest advertisers around about things they do to get the most out of their campaigns. Here are 5 hacks you can start using today to get you started.  They’ll cut down the time you spend monitoring campaigns and help you optimize.

1. LinkedIn

Limit your number of ads and launch new campaigns often

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn is an awesome network with targeting options that no other network offers. For instance, you can reach niche audiences by targeting people by job title and seniority. This can be useful if your product or service is relevant to only a particular set of users or if you’re looking to bring on a new hire. We saw success ourselves on LinkedIn by narrowing down our targeting to make sure we hit our niche audience of businesses that might be looking to advertise online.

It’s important to understand the differences between LinkedIn and other networks. LinkedIn Ads is a newer network and it has much lower volume than Google AdWords or BingAds. As your campaign gets going, LinkedIn tracks your ads to serve your ads with a higher CTR. That’s similar to the optimization AdWords offers, but advertisers may face problems with low traffic and inactivity when they’re first getting started on LinkedIn. To avoid this, stick to a few rules we’ve learned about creating an effective campaign.

Actions:

  • Campaigns should have 3 to 5 ads. LinkedIn recommends using at least 3 ads. If you’re going to use more than 5, create a separate campaign.
  • Launch new campaigns often, reusing the highest performers and experimenting with new copy, headlines, and targeting – this gives your ads a fresh start.

Here is LinkedIn’s best practices guide – their tips will help you build a strong campaign.

2. Google

Include search partners to understand where you’re getting the most ROI

It may surprise some of you to learn the Google powers the search engines for big companies like AOL and Ask.com. (And Bing powers Yahoo! Search.) If you haven’t experimented with including these search partners in your campaigns, you may be missing out on a big opportunity to reach a larger audience and reduce the cost of converting customers.

All it takes is checking the “include search partner” option when setting up your search campaigns.

Action:

  • Include search partners in your next campaign and after a week, check reporting to see if Google Search or Search partners are bringing you the best value for your campaign. You may learn that you have a higher CTR and lower CPC on the search partners, or you may learn that search partners perform poorly and you’ll want to exclude them from your campaign. In either case, you’ll optimize your campaigns by identifying the best channels for your ads.
google and search partners

Google’s search segmented by network

  • Note: While Bing doesn’t offer segmenting to show search partner performance, you can tag your URLs and setup a custom segment in Google Analytics to get the same effect.  (Here are some instructions to set it up)

3. Facebook

Demographic targeting reports

You’ll get a nice overview of the key performance metrics on Facebook by looking at their main dashboard, but for a little more information, dig through their reports. To understand the audience that is seeing your ads, use Facebook’s responder demographics reporting feature.

This will tell you who (by age, gender, and location) is seeing your ads for a given campaign:

Facebook demographics reporting

Demographics Reporting

This is incredibly useful data to track, for quickly understanding who is seeing the majority of your impressions.

Actions:

  • If you make a targeting change, use this report to see how your audience impression share has changed. Be sure to exclude any segment of your audience that you don’t want seeing your ads.
  • For instance, above we see that over 18% of the impressions for this campaign are showing to people in Illinois and Colorado. If we decide those regions are no longer part of our target audience, we’ll want to update this campaign to exclude those states from our targeting.

4. Google & Bing

Use the query report to identify keywords and negative keywords to add

Google (Campaigns>Keywords>Keyword details>All) and Bing (Reports>Query Report) both offer a nifty tool that lets you view the search queries people use before clicking on your ads.

Actions:

Use the search query report for two purposes:

1. Look for irrelevant queries that trigger your ads, and add negative keywords using those queries to prevent them from costing you money or hurting your CTR.
2. Look for profitable queries and add them as exact or phrase match keywords

google search query report

Search Query Report

The screenshot above is a good example of example of a few bad queries:

  • “Advertising jobs” and “free advertising online” are irrelevant queries for AdStage so we should add “jobs” and “free advertising online” as negative keywords
  • If the other queries are profitable, we should add them as exact and phrase match, since they are currently broad and have a lot of traffic.

5. All networks

Run experiments

AdWords has the best built in functionality for running experiments, but don’t let that keep you from running experiments on the other networks as well. Test different changes to address particular problems you are trying to resolve and be disciplined about recording your test results, so you can measure and learn from your tests. Each test will give you an understanding of how you can tweak campaigns to get the most value from your ad spend.

Actions:

  • Good experiments to try in AdWords include: using new keywords, new ad text, different keyword match types, and bid adjustments. (Here’s a good list from Google of what you can and cannot test.)
  • Every week, pick a day to take a few hours to review your campaigns with these hacks in mind – they come from experience, working with the best advertisers around, and from understanding the each network and their differences. Applying these tips will get you well on your way to optimizing your ad campaigns.

Bonus: Ultimate hack

Use AdStage

If you’d like to speed up creation and management of your campaigns, come check out the free beta of our new platform. AdStage is built to help you quickly create, deploy and optimize new campaigns simultaneously across Google, Facebook, Bing, and LinkedIn.

Sign Up For AdStage Beta

Please let us know if this post was helpful to you. If you have other hacks in mind that might help other advertisers, please share them with us!

Expanding Search Campaigns Up The Purchase Funnel

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 in Advertising

Targeting effectively on LinkedIn

Posted by on Apr 2, 2013 in Advertising, Social

LinkedIn advertising is unique because it lets you target professionals. This is especially useful in two scenarios – you’re either looking to hire and want to reach certain folks, or you’re a B2B company that wants to sell to professionals that might find your product or service useful in their work.

The targeting options LinkedIn offers include skills, groups, seniority, job title, job function, and more. Each of these options let you narrow down your targeting to a highly relevant audience for your ads.

New to LinkedIn advertising and want a bit of a head start?

Try searching for groups related to your business. Within a group, select the “more” tab and you’ll find group statistics:

Linkedin advertising

Group statistics

Group statistics reveal a lot about the group’s members and will give you a base to effectively target your new campaign. You’ll learn the general make up of the group including: the distribution of seniority levels, location, and job function. Use this information, along with the activity level of the group (discussions, comments, job posts, etc.) to determine if your targeting a group that’s both active and relevant to your product or service. Also, use this information to test different targeting combinations. For instance: target location and job function for one week, and job title and industry in another.

Beyond the summary of overall group data, group statistics help you learn about the group’s demographics, the growth of the group, and whether the group has had much recent activity.

Hope this quick tip helps you target your LinkedIn advertising more effectively. If you know of any good tricks to help a new or experienced advertiser get more out of their LinkedIn campaigns, please share in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Here are some related links worth checking out:

http://blog.linkedin.com/2011/11/10/groups-analytics/
http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/23454/The-Ultimate-Cheat-Sheet-for-Mastering-LinkedIn.aspx (There are lots of good tips in this post – scroll down near the bottom for the tips related to using LinkedIn for business/marketing)

Re: Can We Please Stop Hyping Social as the Marketing Messiah?

Posted by on Mar 27, 2013 in Advertising

Reflection on Nathan Safran of Search Engine Watch’s post about the tech press overhyping social media.

social media

Here’s the article: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2257044/Can-We-Please-Stop-Hyping-Social-as-the-Marketing-Messiah

Overall it’s a great article – the premise is that if you only follow media coverage, social may seem more important than search. But in reality, today search is still king when it comes to marketing effectively. In comparison, social is just one, small (but growing) component of marketing.

My one disagreement is that the media is heavily influencing marketers about the importance of social media. Journalists and publications are always going to follow the latest, hottest trends in any industry. There is no doubt – social is hot right now. Anything created on the internet today has some social component to it. Search has become a utility – nobody thinks about it much, but everyone uses it. This includes both marketers and consumers. Media coverage didn’t lead to it becoming the recent trend. Social became a trend, and the media picked up on it.

Online advertising

This is just one example, but consider the media coverage Tesla has been getting recently. Clearly, only a fraction of the total cars on the road are electric, and even a smaller fraction of those are built by Tesla. And yet, Tesla has been in the news because it’s exciting and in the future electric cars may overtake gas powered cars. Any exciting news come out about Honda or Toyota recently? Because I know they sold a lot of cars in the past week.

There is no doubt that many hold the opinion that social networks aren’t the best place to directly influence purchases or convert customers. Safran mentions that because social networks are a place for socializing, people aren’t looking at a marketer’s content or ads. Granted, he gives room for social to be a tool for “brand development and customer service”.

Search is a go-to center for people to initiate a purchase or to get information. Need to find a restaurant? Google it. Need to find a place to stay on your vacation? Google it. Where to get the best deal on that new pair of shoes? Google it. This position is certainly a valuable place for marketer’s to reach customers.

But the search vs. social question is simpler than that. Social is one component of marketing and search is another. Right now search is bigger, but in the near future social will be a lot bigger than it is today.

Online ad growth

When someone spends hours a day engaged with a medium like TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. (by the way, all mediums used to market many products and services) their priority is never, “I want to be sold on all these ads”. Social networks are replacing a large portion of the people’s time, and anytime you have hours and hours of someone’s time, you can grab some of their attention. Social doesn’t have to be less successful than all these other mediums, and in fact, it lets marketers target their audience in different ways.

My post a while back reflecting on Stephen Baker’s article on social media changing advertising is related to Safran’s post. The data Safran uses certainly doesn’t show that social is driving lots of e-commerce site visits, but we’ll quickly improve how we measure the influence of social on overall marketing. You can read more on that topic here: https://blog.adstage.io/2013/01/09/social-media-online-ads/.

Bottom line: The large amount of press coverage of social media (or over coverage of it) isn’t biasing marketers or their bosses to see it as the magic tool for reaching an audience. It’s worth noting as Safran does, that the internet is bigger than TechCrunch and Mashable, this is “not the most scientific study ever done”. Social media is just one of the important components to online marketing, and it’s growing quickly.

Ironically here’s a recent post about social media here, that gives you an idea of where social is headed – check out this article about Twitter’s ad growth: Twitter ad revenue to approach $1 Billion by 2014: http://adage.com/article/digital/twitter-ad-revenue-approach-1-billion-2014/240565/

Thanks for reading!

Targeting quick tips

Posted by on Mar 26, 2013 in Advertising

Advertising Insights

I learn new things all the time about how to improve our ad campaigns here at AdStage. This week, I thought I’d share a quick tip that will help beginning advertisers improve ad targeting:

Focus on the intent of your audience, rather than the audience themselves.

Many of the users currently beta testing the AdStage Platform are small online businesses. For any business, it can be difficult to understand exactly how to reach customers. First, you have to be aware of your target customer. Assuming you know your audience, you still have to reach that audience most effectively. This is where the importance of targeting on different channels comes into play.

social advertising networks

Social

The biggest social networks online like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter all let you target and reach different audiences. For Facebook, one of the best ways to target an audience is through broad categories and precise interests.

Try to understand a few interests that would make people interested in your product. For instance, if you sell a basketball related product (jerseys, shoes, tickets, etc.), it’s not effective to only target say, males under 30. There are lots of guys under 30 that don’t like basketball. You would have more success using interests like: a particular sports team, top athletes in basketball like Lebron James, and other related interests. A similar approach works on LinkedIn, where you can use skills and groups for targeting.

Once you’ve added relevant characteristics to your targeting for each network, no matter the age or gender of the user, there’s a higher probability that they’ll see your ad and find it relevant. Try different variations of targeting: skills, interests, and other characteristics on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn what works best for your campaigns.

search advertising

Search

Effective search advertising relies on bidding on good keywords. There’s no way around it. Your ads have to display when someone is looking for the solution your company provides. Using the same example from above, try targeting people checking sport scores, or looking up an athlete or well known sports brand.

Products and services solve problems and provide benefits for customers. For a lot of online businesses, whether a customer is male or female, 20 years old or 50 years old, you’re still solving the same problem and offering the same benefit (of course there are exceptions to this). Narrow down and use targeting options specific to each network to reach the audience that needs help with the problem you solve. That will help make your ad campaigns much more effective.

Come check out our private beta at https://www.adstage.io. We bring everything into one place to help you build, deploy, and manage cross-channel campaigns easily and effectively.

Thanks for reading!

Online advertising’s impact on business

Posted by on Mar 21, 2013 in Advertising

Advertising Insights

How does online advertising relate to the bottom line of a business?

Businesses rely on a few things to succeed and sustain. The primary goal of a business, which will never really change, is building and sustaining a strong customer base. This is the what sales and marketing teams spend their days working on, and this is why developers and designers build the best product they can.

It’s not a simple task to grow and sustain customers, and it’s even harder to have customers that stay highly engaged with your product or service. There are several pieces that really help solve this puzzle, and one of them is online advertising. Online advertising can be incredibly impactful in helping new startups and businesses that have been around for years. Nothing has changed – businesses need to effectively reach their users.

online advertising

People are spending less time offline, and more time online. Even online, where they spend their time is changing. (image source: redmondpie.com)

There are obviously changes to business and the way people spend time and money, in comparison to say, 50 years ago. But ultimately, people still spend their time consuming information and using products and services, just like they did 50 years ago. A key difference for businesses has been the development of the internet. Today, a much wider group of businesses have the ability to reach a large and diverse audience from all around the world (or alternatively, a very specific audience in their local area if that’s their target).

Online advertising makes this possible for businesses. The enormous scale of the internet, the growth of data, and the resulting growth of a variety of advertising networks, let businesses identify who they want to reach and actually reach them in a cost environment that didn’t really exist before online advertising developed. Unless you’re a giant company, you can’t put billboards across the world (or any other large scale promotional campaign really), and even if you could, it probably wouldn’t get you very far.

Even online advertising has evolved enormously in the past few years. Look back to the late 1990s. There were a few web destinations like Yahoo! that had huge traffic and therefore they were attractive space for advertisers. Compare the few that existed in the 1990s with today – there are many contexts on the web – commercial, social, professional, educational, any many more. For most of these contexts, there are networks specifically reaching a targeted audience.

Advertising networks

There are many ad publishers and networks (image source: growpubmedia.com)

Some of the big ones include: LinkedIn, which of course helps businesses reach professional individuals. Facebook lets you reach just about anyone based on personal data like jobs, personal interests, connections to other brands, etc. Google lets advertisers reach the biggest audience online that are intent on finding all kinds of things (ie. products, places, services). Bing (which of course is smaller than Google) also lets businesses reach yet another, large and distinct audience of people intent on finding information, products, and services. Those are a few of the larger networks. There are many more networks, that help advertisers target specific audiences around the web.

The bottom line is that no company will ever say: we want to reach fewer customers, or we don’t see value in targeting our audience, or we want to spend more time getting customers. Businesses want efficient ways to grow their customer base, and online advertising is one of the major pieces that enables, cost effective customer growth. And now that there are many ad networks online, each with different audiences, it’s becoming more difficult to manage campaigns across multiple channels effectively.

This is why we built the AdStage Platform. If you’re interested in simplifying the management of your ad campaigns across Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Bing please come sign up for our private beta.

Where do new advertisers start?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2013 in Advertising, Product Updates

Beginning advertisers

How does a small business new to online advertising take the first step?

A common place to start is with a campaign on Google AdWords, and this makes a lot of sense. Google is the most visited destination on the web and paid search advertising lets businesses reach an audience that is explicitly looking for information, products, and services.

Setting up an AdWords campaign is comprised of a few main tasks – creating your ads, including your relevant audience with targeting, adding keywords and keyword bidding, and setting your campaign schedule and budget. I went over this process in a post a while back, which you can read it here. The bottom line is that for a new advertiser, this isn’t the easiest process.

If the advertiser wants to test another network, it would be nice to avoid recreating everything they have already built and spent time on for their AdWords campaigns. It would be much faster to import their campaigns into another large ad network like Microsoft’s Bing Ads.

Luckily, this feature exists and it’s called “Import From Google AdWords”. Using the Bing import tool is easy enough.

Start by clicking on “Import From Google AdWords”:

Import AdWords Campaigns
Once you’re on the importing page, you can see the various steps needed to complete the import from AdWords. After you’ve filled in your account AdWords account information so Bing can fetch your data, you’ll see your active AdWords campaigns to choose from (you can also click the checkbox to also see your paused campaigns).

Check the campaign(s) you want to import:

Import AdWords Campaigns
Now that you’ve selected your campaign, the next step is to select exactly what you want to import and how the data will be brought into Bing Ads. This includes importing a completely new campaign that’s never been imported to Bing Ads, or you can import changes made to an AdWords campaign that you’ve already imported to Bing Ads.

Select the options from your AdWords campaign that you want to import:

Import AdWords options into Bing

Click Import, and you’ll either see errors that need fixing or a summary of your import.

If there were any errors during the import, you’ll see them here. Included are errors and warnings for campaigns, ad groups, ads, keywords, and ad extensions. If you’re importing a campaign that is completely new to your Bing Ads account, there shouldn’t be any errors. If there is an error (ie. your keyword is a duplicate), you’ll need to fix the error in your AdWords campaign, and start the import process over again.

Import AdWords options into Bing

A successfully importing campaign’s summary tells you the new, updated, and skipped features from the campaign so you have a good idea of what’s been imported into your Bing Ads account. Your campaign will be up and running on Bing!

AdWords to Bing Import Summary

That’s the best way to quickly bring your AdWords campaign into Bing Ads, but as we’re seeing, many advertisers are trying other networks and mediums like Facebook and LinkedIn to reach a large audience in different contexts (ie. search, and now social as well)

If you want to launch campaigns quickly and easily across multiple networks like AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, and LinkedIn from one place, you can check out the AdStage Platform. We help you get campaigns running quickly and we give you tools like our recommendations and insights to make sure you’re building the best possible ad campaign to reach and convert the customers you’re looking for.

Sign up here today!

Launching The AdStage Platform

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Advertising

LAUNCH.co

We had an awesome day presenting at the Launch Festival yesterday. If you’d like to stop by our table to say hi, we’ll be around all day (located near the lunch area) and we would love to tell you about our platform!

The AdStage Platform lets you build, launch, and manage cross-channel ad campaigns on Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

AdStage at LAUNCH

Sahil & Jason presenting on stage

From one place, advertisers can build fully customized and targeted campaigns across each network, using our pre-flight insights and recommendations to optimize your campaigns before spending any advertising dollars. We also track campaign goals and help allocate more of your budget toward the networks that are achieving more conversions at a lower cost. Once you’ve launched campaigns, we built full dashboards to show you all of your high level metrics, and let you dive back into campaigns for curation and optimization.

We’re going to be adding new advertisers that sign up for the platform as soon as possible. If you haven’t already, you can sign up here to get in line for a beta key and access to the platform. Thanks for all the support and we hope you enjoy using the AdStage Platform!

What is Social Advertising?

Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 in Advertising

Social Advertising

As I read through a few articles this week, the influence of social advertising seems even more clear to me than when I wrote my recent post: Is Social Media Really Changing Online Advertising? This week, I wanted to write a post about how social advertising will change all advertising.

Today the internet and social advertising are mostly thought of together, but the television broadcasters need to start integrating social advertising. We’re already seeing advertisers work around this by complementing their TV efforts with online efforts. Using Facebook and other social networks lets advertisers react to events that happen in real time. Oreo was a prime example of this immediate feedback during the Super Bowl, which I wrote about last week.

But what is social advertising? And in what ways do you expect TV and other mediums to change (if at all) because of social advertising? Will networks and content providers change? Will the advertisers themselves change?

Picture this scenario: A family sits down after dinner to watch a 30 minute sitcom. In reality, that might not be a very common anymore, but assuming it is, that’s a social scenario based around a shared experience. Further, now assume you watch the show live when it airs and not on DVR. You’ll likely talk with your family about the show, and even about how great or terrible the commercials are.

When you see an ad or commercial with a bunch of your friends or family it’s different than when you see an ad or post alone looking through your Facebook or Twitter feeds. That’s not what we traditionally think of as social advertising, but is that not social?

I think time will tell which form of “social” advertising is more effective. If you’re watching television alone at home, being able to interact with and see your circle of friends also experiencing the same event is certainly social. But if you’re actually at home with friends in person, does that make the experience more important or memorable?

Discovery itself is another huge change that will occur as TV becomes more social. Imagine navigating a list what your friends are watching, and finding a group of them watching a particular show or event you’ve never heard of. There’s a good chance you’ll stop in for a minute and see what they are watching.

So we have the ads themselves, which can target a single individual or a group, and we have the ads placement, based on the context of an individual’s interests and their circle of friends.

Successful advertising

Think about the value added to a user and the opportunity presented to advertisers. As a user, you can find something you wouldn’t find without a friend’s suggestion; as an advertiser, you can now track what environment your ads will be seen in and optimize for specific cases.

I think there will always be a place for unconnected experiences and you’ll come across products, services, and entertainment that your friends have no interest in or knowledge of.  But if the broadcasters and content providers don’t get to it soon, I expect smart entrepreneurs (or even big companies like Google or Apple) to figure out how to successfully integrate social into television and take the huge opportunity from them.

Here is the AdAge article by Jason Del Rey that got me thinking about social advertising again this week. Thanks for reading.

Advertising at the Super Bowl

Posted by on Feb 6, 2013 in Advertising

Super Bowl Advertising

The biggest advertising event in the world

The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in the world. There are a few other huge events like the World Series, the World Cup Final, and the NBA championship, but something sets the Super Bowl apart. Because it’s in a league of it’s own, eager advertisers buy up 30 second commercial slots (for approximately $3.5 million each according to USA Today) to appear in front of the huge audience the Super Bowl attracts.

This year, something interesting came up that highlighted the power of online advertising through social media. When the lights temporarily went out early in the third quarter, companies had an interesting opportunity to promote their brand in real time. Television ads would keep running of course, but other options were available to show how clever advertisers could get. A lot has been written about it, but Oreo was one brand that took advantage of the unexpected event. Shortly after the lights went out, Oreo posted this picture on Facebook and Twitter, along with the tag line “No lights? No problem.”

Super Bowl Advertising

In my last post I wrote about the flexibility of the internet and online advertising. What better example of it’s flexibility than this reaction to an unforeseeable situation that occurred during the biggest event in the world. Through social advertising, Oreo is able to send a message to followers and fans instantly. In this case, the context of their message will be obvious since nearly everyone watches the game. Think about how many people went looking for Oreo’s in their kitchen after the ad appeared in their Twitter or Facebook timeline. Or how many have purchased Oreo’s since the game, for the first time in a long time.

Tweets and posts that resonate well with fans and followers serve as excellent ads. For people not following a page or account, advertisers can use promoted tweets or sponsored stories to spread the same message to a bigger audience. It’s an amazing channel for advertisers, with a cost that comes no where close to a television ad (especially during the Super Bowl). I should note that more than one hundred million viewers watch the Super Bowl around the world, while only a combined 35,000 or so users liked or retweeted Oreo’s post.

Kai Ryssdal posted about this, including an interview with Ben Winkler from the ad agency OMD, that basically said Oreo’s post wasn’t a simple, spur of the moment success that would have worked for any company. Oreo has been working on their social activity for months to grow their audience and had their team working hard to be ready for any usual occurrences during the game. Still, as more people look online in between game play, rather than at their television screens, posts on Twitter and Facebook, become a new form of big event advertising that allows for quick reactions and immediate feedback by the advertiser.

Television ads can’t keep up with real time events, but a team watching the game and posting creative updates to social networks can. When something interesting comes up, they can take advantage of it at a relatively low cost.

In the future, I expect advertisers to place more focus on real-time updates to reach audiences during big events. The 30-second and $3.5 million commercials are great if a company can afford it, but big and small advertisers have the ability to promote their companies and brands by advertising through social networks.

Check out some of the other tweets posted during the game: http://blog.twitter.com/2013/02/the-super-tweets-of-sb47.html

If there were any good tweets or ads we should know about, please let us know!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kMWLYYcAYw]