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.
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:
- Click Keywords from your AdWords menu
- Click on the Columns icon (above your Stats)
- Choose Modify columns
- Select Quality Score
Visit Google AdWords Help for complete instructions on running your keywords quality score report.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
Automate AdWords reporting with AdStage
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.
Welcome to episode #81 of The PPC Show, where we interview the best and brightest in paid marketing. This week we’re joined by Nate Velazquez, PPC Account Manager at Seer Interactive, to talk about how to take advantage of the explosive growth of AdWords Shopping Campaigns.
Did you know that Shopping campaign spend increased 40% YoY in Q1, and accounted for over 60% of retailer search clicks, according to the latest Merkle Q1’18 report?
The new Shopping campaign type combines Shopping and display remarketing campaigns to deliver your ads across Google’s entire suite of sites and networks. Reach relevant and valuable potential customers while they’re looking at content across Google.com, the Google Search Network, the Google Display Network, YouTube, and Gmail.
Listen to the Episode
Nate started his career in digital marketing by starting and founding an eCommerce website while in grad school. While his website didn’t generate a ton of income, it did lead Nate to joining a digital marketing agency in Tampa, Florida, where he discovered his passion and skills in PPC and eComm. After honing his PPC chops for several years in Tampa, Nate moved back to Philadelphia to join the Seer team in August 2016. He works with both lead gen and eCommerce accounts, working with clients to increase demand and sales through PPC. He works hard to solve every problem he encounters and share his learnings with his team. Nate’s also shared his knowledge with students, teaching at the University of Tampa, the University of South Florida, and his alma mater, Temple University.
Best Seer Moment
Crushing a client’s Black Friday 2017 performance for both total revenue and return on investment:
- Cyber Monday saw a 55% increase in ROI and a 17% increase in revenue generated YoY!
- Black Friday saw a 85% increase in ROI and a 76% increase in revenue generated YoY!
Show Notes and Transcript
- Nate’s Product Feed Best Practices Blog
- Seer’s Blog on User Scoring for Audience Insights
- Introducing Shopping Actions – Beta (AdWords Blog)
- Nate’s Twitter
- Nate’s LinkedIn
JD Prater: Nate, welcome to The PPC Show.
Nate Velazquez: Yeah, JD. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.
JD Prater: Yeah, man. So, for those that don’t know, Nate and I connected at Hero Conf. He was there.
He was actually attending my session and I said at the end, “Hey, if you guys are interested in coming on the show, come on up and talk,” and Nate was the very first person that walked up and said, “Hey, I want on.”
So, Nate, tell the listeners who you are and what you got going on.
Nate Velazquez: Yeah, definitely. So, first off, great session. I think a lot of the speakers at Hero Conference are better in filled.
It’s always great hearing from you guys in the space. Personally, took a lot out of your session so, really looking forward to implementing some of those, connecting the tactics to the different pipelines.
Yeah, so, I’ve been at Seer about a year and a half, close to 21s. I’ve mostly focused on legion and ecom clients. So, I really have a good amount of experience there.
Actually, I just got a memory on my Facebook timeline that about four years ago today, I launched my eCommerce website and I launched my eCommerce website while I was still in school, trying to make some money on the side.
Didn’t really work out the way that I wanted to but if I had launched it with all the knowledge I have now, I’m sure it would be a much different story.
So, I definitely feel a lot of weak LS paids when it comes to performance for shopping key app paids.
So, that’s where a lot of my experience comes from.
JD Prater: Very nice. And yeah, so, for those listening, we’ve had Seer on, we’ve had Gil on almost a year now, we had Stefan on back around November, December time.
He was talking to us some really cool stuff and how he’s using analytics to basically score people on these behaviors.
So now, Nate’s going to come on and talk to us about some explosive AdWords shopping growth, which he was able to kind of share some stats and they were kind of staggering.
So, Nate, man, what are we seeing over here when we talk about AdWords shopping campaigns?
Nate Velazquez: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think most account managers or people in house can tell that AdWords is growing year over year in terms of cost and spend.
So, just looking at a report from Merkel, about 76% of retail search spend comes from shopping campaigns. So, the actual PLAs as opposed to the text ads, which is pretty significant.
We look at some of the different aspects of shopping campaigns and we look at fashion and apparel. They spend much more on shopping campaigns, as opposed to text ads, about 84.6%.
And then for another popular segment here is the consumer electronics, which spend actually a little bit more around 86.1%.
So, the way that Google is serving up ads for retails has definitely shifted towards shopping campaigns over the past couple years and I think a lot of us in the space, I’ve noticed that it have reacted accordingly.
JD Prater: Yeah, I mean, one of the ones on there kind of got me getting part of that Merkel was like, “There’s a 40% increase in spend year over year in Q1 of 2018.”
So, that’s a huge number when kind of think about where people are spending, where they’re kind of putting their time.
Do you think that a lot of this was really Google messing with how they actually serve the ads, where they’re placing the ads or do you just sort of think retailers are finding great results? And so, they’re putting more money behind it and they’re really kind of getting that ROI that they’re looking for.
Nate Velazquez: That’s a great question. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when you’re trying to actually buy a product, you like to see the image, you like to see the description.
We like some of those product attributes that you can’t normally get from a text ad so, I would imagine that Google AdWords has seen their performance om shopping campaigns and started to serve PLAs at a higher rate compared to text ads and advertisers have responded accordingly.
That would be my best guess on that.
JD Prater: Nice, nice.
Yeah, it’s really great to kind of see that. So, taking all that, increasing clicks, increasing spend, that’s how people want to shop.
So, what can we do as advertisers to make sure that we’re really putting the best foot forward when we think about creating those shopping campaigns?
Nate Velazquez: Yeah. That’s a great place to start.
So, I think when it comes to the shopping campaigns, the most important thing to remember is that all of your product attributes come from your product feed.
So, there’s no keywords for shopping campaigns so, the only way that AdWords will know what products to serve based on different queries is from the attributes on your product feed.
So, I think that’s step one. I think step one for most retailers should be take a look at their product feed, see what attributes are there, ensuring that they have all the required attributes to run shopping campaigns but obviously, look to provide some of those additional attributes that aren’t necessarily required but definitely would give you an advantage when it comes to searchability, when it comes to being eligible for the shopping section on Google and just having better results against your competitors.
I’d say the product feed should be your number one place to start.
JD Prater: Nice. And whenever you’re thing through product feeds, do you have any favorite tools that you’re using or anything to pull those?
Because it’s one thing when you have a couple hundred and you can easily maintain it in a spreadsheet but when you’ve got tens of thousands, millions of products, how do you guys work through that and think through it?
Nate Velazquez: Yeah. So, I think it depends on the retailer. I know that a lot of the clients that we work with here at Seer, a lot of them use third party vendors to manage their feeds.
There’s some really great tools out there. Obviously, it can get a little expensive. Some of them charge by the skew.
So, if you’ve got tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of skew, it’s definitely going to get pretty expensive.
But I think you need to think about it like this: would you rather invest in a third party platform that helps you manage your feed for you and they have all the technical knowledge and all the expertise, probably a faster lead time, as opposed to hiring someone internal who would have to make all those changes to the feed, would have to diagnose everything themselves and you might deal with some lag or some lead time internally.
So, I think whether you’re working with a client or whether your in house can even weigh those costs accordingly and see where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.
Either go third party or hire someone dedicated internally.
JD Prater: Yeah. And it’s also one of those things too when you think about what you’re doing from eight to five, five days a week.
I don’t think I want to be that guy that’s managing a feed in a spreadsheet all day, everyday so, yeah.
Nate Velazquez: And to that point, I’ve worked with some clients over the past couple months where they weren’t using a feed management tool and to get them too update their titles or to update the descriptions or to add different attributes to the feed, it would take weeks.
We usually talk to our clients once a week and every week it’s, “Hey, how’s the product feed going?” And they say simply, “It’s going.”
So, just on the frustration side, you might want to explore those options too. I know that a lot of people in house probably deal with those issues on their end.
JD Prater: Yeah. You kind of mentioned this and I wanted to get your take on this.
Do you have any tips for titles or descriptions, how you guys think of optimizing those?
Nate Velazquez: Yeah, absolutely. So, when it comes to titles, generally the longer the better.
I’ve looked at some product feeds where the title is just like a generic shirt. It might be “Bro T-shirt” or something like that. That doesn’t tell me what this t-shirt is, what the attributes are, what color it is, what size it is, who is it even for.
So, just one of the things we always preach here at Seer is try to add as many attributes to your title as reasonable.
You certainly don’t want to keyword stuff but if I have that same t-shirt, that “Bro T-shirt” and I rename the title something along the lines of “Men’s bro t-shirt, medium” and if it’s a brand t-shirt, I would add the brand name in as well.
Those titles tend to perform much better than shorter titles which don’t have much product attributes.
So, that’s the way that I would think about it. If you see an ad on the search results and you type in a specific iPhone model number, you’re probably pretty close to the bottom of the funnel. You’re more likely to click on an ad that has the same product attributes that you searched for, as opposed to generic iPhone 6 title, if that makes sense.
JD Prater: Yeah. I think those are all really good tips. I think those are the things that we all kind of geek out on, of where do I put this information, how do I put it, and just really tying to figure out the best way to source it but also, make sure that we’re writing the right things.
So, cool, man. So, let’s just say we’ve got our product feed, we’ve got it connected to our merchant center account, we’re ready to start some campaigns, how do you kind of think through segmenting whenever you’re going through those products?
Nate Velazquez: Yeah, that’s a great question. I can speak to this knowingly from my small time experience as someone who ran an eCommerce website but also as an advertiser.
Use your website navigation. It’s by far one of the easiest ways to start. Most retail eCommerce websites have men’s products, women’s products, shoes, accessories or whatever it may be.
I would recommend starting with their site navigation. I’m sure your product feed is probably broken up pretty similarly so start with one division of your products. Maybe it’s just men’s t-shirts or maybe it’s just accessories.
Get all those products uploaded to the merchant center, ensure there’s no disapprovals, ensure that all your products are being pulled in the correct way.
And the once you have all that set up, hop over to AdWords, get a shopping campaign set up. I like to personally break up my shopping campaigns into different ad groups.
Some eCommerce managers will just use all products in. I’m more of a fan of breaking it out the ad group level.
So if we stick with our t-shirts example, our men’s apparel example, it might me men’s t-shirts as one ad group, men’s shorts as another ad group, different training here so, it might be rash cards or sports apparel, men’s accessories.
I kind of break it out that way and then from there, once you actually have those sub products broken out, you can look to ad different product groups, exclude certain product groups.
So, this is where a lot of the segmentation shopping really becomes pretty powerful when you start excluding different product groups.
So again, the men’s apparel example. If I have a t-shirt ad group, I’m probably going to want to exclude shorts, fitness apparel, accessories, everything along those lines.
And then if you want to get even deeper and this is where a lot of eCommerce managers are really going to nerd out, add those custom labels.
So, if custom labels are added to the product feed and they can be broken up in a bunch of different ways. Some of the more popular ways are to break it out into top versus bottom sellers, seasonality so, you might have a bunch of products with a custom label of spring or a custom label of summer or something along those lines.
You can also break it up by price. So, a lot of retailers will have price points. As for custom labels, it might be 19.99 and bellow or 20 to 49.99 and 50 to 99.99 or whatever your price tiers are.
That allows you to go into the product groups and set different bids for products that might have a higher average order value. So, you can have them served a little bit ahead of the products that maybe you still want to sell but they don’t give you as much of a margin, it that’ll make sense.
JD Prater: Yeah, definitely. I think those are some really good tips. So, for those that haven’t quite catch it so, segmentation. Definitely start having a plan first.
When ever you kind of think through your plan of how you’re setting up your campaign and campaigns in your ad groups, do you create a map in maybe using spreadsheets just so you can kind of map everything or are you guys just kind of using the product feed once you’re in there to create as you go?
Nate Velazquez: It definitely varies but I’m a big fan of using a map, something as simple as a short excel with these are the products that we want to include in this campaign, these are all the sub products, the set we want to break everything up.
It makes a nice visual for you boss or for your client or for whoever it is that way, everyone’s on the same page about how things are going to be broken out.
I find it to be pretty helpful.
JD Prater: Nice. And for those just getting started, you were talking about starting small. What do you mean by small?
Just a sub set of products and then kind of scale from there or do you start small with bidding or budget? How do you kind of think through that?
Nate Velazquez: I think it depends on what your immediate goals are. Now we’re in the middle of Q2 so, now’s a pretty good time to test.
If we were in Q4, I would not recommend testing at all. That’s when a lot of eCommerce businesses make a majority of their money so Q4 should be smooth sailing, ensuring that you have budget, ensuring that you have full visibility on all your products.
But now that we’re in Q2, you might want to start off with a particular product sub set so, looking at t-shirts or if you just launched a new spring line or a new summer line, that might be a good place to start.
You could also look at testing out different automated bidding rules. We’ve been exploring lots of automation here at Seer, whether it’s target rule ads like target CPA.
So, you can definitely expand that way as well. Maybe look to set up a new campaign, set the budget a little bit on the lower end, depending on how much your monthly budget’s going to be and then, look to set up some automated rules.
Definitely give it enough of a learning period. I think sometimes some of us eCommerce managers will freak out if we don’t see our EOS as above what our goals are within the first couple days.
But I think we need to let those automated rules learn so, whether it’s target EOS or target CPA, give it about three to four weeks to it to learn.
I know that sounds like a long period but like I said, this is what you test in Q2. Get those learnings so that you can use them in Q4.
JD Prater: Yeah, that’s a really good one for everyone listening is if you’re going to be using realistically these AI tools, when you think about target ROIs, you’re thinking about these bidding algorithms.
They need time. They need data to really understand and to lever. I remember back in agency days, we were working with one of the big bidding algo vendors out there and they said, “Well, we need at least six weeks to learn and then we need six weeks to optimize.”
So you’re like, “Wait, 12 weeks? I have to wait a whole quarter before you’re going to be good at knowing what’s going on?” And it was kind of eye opening to kind of hear because you just, again, maybe it’s just me thinking, “Oh, this is only going to to take a day or two, right? You guys are so good. You guys will get it figured out,” but it was a tough one.
Nate Velazquez: Definitely, yeah. Well, one thing that I will point out is if you’re using the new AdWords UI, I believe Carrie Albright actually mentioned this during her talk on PPC and I was literally digging in during the talk and I was able to see this and it was pretty mind blowing.
If you navigate to your portfolio bid strategies, you can actually see how fast your rule has been learning so obviously, you would want to make you you have the right amount of time but there will be a nice little bar that shows up underneath your performance.
And the new AdWords UI will give you some cues as to saying, “Hey, it’s still learning. Some of the budgets are constrained. Might want to open them up,” or “Hey, there was a composite change to the rule,” whether you set up a big max simulate or a bid minimum floor, it will let you know when those updates were made on the wall and how much longer it needs to learn.
So, that’s one of the features from the new UI that I actually really like.
JD Prater: Yeah, that’s another great tip as well. And I guess we have to give some sort of applause to the new UI because this one of the things that they did really well but that is something that I’ve definitely taken a look at and I do think it’s important.
Whenever you make a change, you have to realize it has to relearn from that change. And you’re trying to make changes everyday, you’re basically messing with that algorithm’s learning curve.
And so, a lot of times you just need to make a change, wait, and see what happens. It’s the wait part that everyone kind of struggles with when you’re in there trying to control everything.
Nate Velazquez: Definitely, yeah. I’ve run into this problem before myself. You set up a new rule and performance tanks.
I’m more of a fan of just removing the automated rule and managing it manually, getting back at the performance that you would like and then applying the rule again.
So, just for example, back in Black Friday this past Q4, we had a lot of automated rules set up. We planned way ahead of time for our Black Friday so, we already knew we wanted to do this but we pause our automated rules on Black Friday and on several Mondays so we can manage all of our bidding manually.
And we saw some really, really great results. I mean, compared to the previous Black Friday, I don’t want to use any exact numbers here but I know that we crushed our ROIs out of the park, revenue was crushed out of the park, client was really happy.
We certainly put in a lot of time but to see those results, we were very pleased.
JD Prater: Yeah, and that’s another good one too is actually prepping for Q4 and whatever you’re actually thinking about it.
I mean, you’ve mentioned it twice now. It’s like actually having a plan for shopping that time of the season when most ecom are actually making the most amount of money.
So, don’t just start doing it in late October, early November but really, really start think about it now and to figure that part out.
Nate Velazquez: Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned that. Not only do we have cyber Monday, now we have cyber Monday extended so a lot of those deals run to about Tuesday as well.
Sometimes you have the pre Black Friday deals. So, for us in ecom, it’s pretty much Black Friday, cyber Monday week or month, depending on what deals are running.
Yeah, absolutely having a plan in place, you should start thinking about your Q4 plan is going to be around August, to be quite frank.
You should definitely have some strategies in place, how you go on in bidding place, coverage so, whether it’s in house or the account team. Just ensuring that someone’s keeping an eye on performance over the week end, on that Saturday after Black Friday, on that Sunday after Black Friday, into the cyber Monday week as well.
Really just communicating everything ahead of time to either your internal team or your client that not only do we have to document a plan in place but this is going to to help us hit the goals that we want to hit.
JD Prater: Definitely. And you mentioned some really great positive results.
So now, let’s talk about some fun stuff like what are some mistakes that you’ve seen yourself make or your team make or clients make when it comes to shopping campaigns?
Nate Velazquez: So, I think one of the easiest oversights when it comes to shopping campaigns is how you’re handling your device bidding.
Some retailers will see really good performance on mobile and some other won’t. I definitely made the error in the past of kind of keeping all my bids neutral at a bid of zero and then we launch a campaign and a week later, mobile’s eating up 75% of you budget and you’re way bellow your ROIs goals and then you go and you look at your device results and you’re like, “Oh, well, looks like we need to bid down on mobile.”
So, I would say definitely paying attention to your device bids. And then obviously, as we mentioned a couple of times, Q4 is really big deal so just making sure that you have full visibility during the day.
So, if you have any day parting set up or if you have any day of the week bidding set up, just ensure that you have full coverage so that if you’re bidding, let’s say, -33% on a Monday that maybe you take that off the week before Black Friday so you have full visibility and reach as many people as possible.
Those are some of the mistakes that I’ve made in the past and have definitely learned from those.
JD Prater: Nice, nice. Let’s kind of shift gears here around what AdWords is actually released for shopping.
So, they’ve released the new products like what example here being the showcase. So, what are some of the things that you’ve been excited about over maybe the last year or so, what they’ve released and some of the things that you think people should really be jumping on?
Nate Velazquez: So, yeah, the soaking shopping campaigns have worked really well. I’ve run them myself and it’s particularly more of brand awareness play for at least the experience that I saw.
We didn’t necessarily hit out ROIs goals on that campaign but it did contribute to increasing convergence for our shopping campaigns overall.
I know some other Seer team members have seen some pretty similar results too so, for those who aren’t familiar with the showcase shopping campaign, it’s almost a showcase for your products at the brand level.
So, you’re going to need a dedicated image as opposed to using images from your products feed but getting in a dedicated image from your design team or your agency shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
And then you pretty much show literally a showcase for your products. Like for someone who makes t-shirts, you might show an image of a couple of t-shirts, provide a final URL for on that landing page and actually take a look at those products.
So, showcase shopping campaigns have worked really well and actually, one other release that just came out was shoppable actions. It’s still technically in beta so, I haven’t got in a chance to explore this yet but basically, it’s on a cost per sale model and it would integrate with some of the voice search stuff that Google’s doing with their Google Assistant in Google Home.
There’s a blog post that I’ll share with those who are interested in from Yaderin’s blog but I’d say this is going to increase pretty significantly later this year, maybe more so in the 2019.
I think a lot of us quite nailed down what we’re doing with voice search and there’s a still a lot of thought that has to go into that but voice search is definitely going and if you have the ability and you have the capabilities, you might want to contact your Google rep to learn more about that. It’s called shoppable actions.
JD Prater: Nice. And I’ll make sure to link that in the show notes so you guys can have access to that blog as well.
So, let’s kind of think through. So, we know that Google’s big conference is coming up here I think at the end of May. What are some things that you think they might announce?
This is us looking into our crystal ball, if you will. What are some things that you would hope they might announce within this conference for specifically around the shopping eCommerce world?
Nate Velazquez: That’s a pretty good question. Off the top of my head, I don’t really have any ideas into what they might be releasing or announcing.
I know that they put a lot of time into their smart bidding platforms, especially over the last year. Really just doubling down on AI machine learning for target ROIs and for target CPA.
So, they might release some new smart bidding option. Maybe it will be cost per sale or, I’m sorry, the paper sale model which is what they have for this new beta.
I’d be a little hesitant to try that out myself but anything’s worth a test, right?
JD Prater: Nice, nice. I mean, if you could have them announce or develop anything, you got anything on your wish list?
If AdWords is listening right now, what would be on your wish list?
Nate Velazquez: Oh, okay. So, if they were listening right now, I would love to see some way to actually view the product feeds in the merchant center.
I know you can download them but some clients or your in house, if you’re in house, you really shouldn’t run into this problem but if you’re working with a client, you might not have direct access to their feed through whatever reason.
Being able to actually view the feed in the merchant center would be very, very helpful. It’s something that I wish we could have yesterday.
I know that you’ll get merchant center warnings and you’ll get disapprovals and it will give you some mine items but actually being able to view the feed in the merchant center would be huge.
So, if we could get that today, that would be great.
JD Prater: Nice, nice. Well, let’s kind of wrap up here with kind of thinking through.
We talked about this explosive growth of AdWord shopping. If you could leave all of the people listening here with maybe one, two bits of good advice or nuggets, what advice would you leave them with?
Nate Velazquez: Sure. So, I would absolutely say use negatives. That’s the number one takeaway that I would absolutely recommend.
So if we go back to our men’s products example, if I have my men’s t-shirts ad group, not only should I exclude those other products at the product group level but I should add negatives for tank tops if I’m not selling tank tops or the different products, athletic apparel.
Use your negative to help filter your shopping campaigns so they can be very, very strong.
Obviously, you’re going to kind of have your universal negatives across the board which are going to be applied at the account level but you should look to ad a specific campaign negatives and ad group negatives as well.
So, that way that the products are showing are only the products that you want them to. I think that’s something that a lot of retailers are doing. I don’t know if they’re doing it as well.
So, take a look at your search terms, dive in there, see what’s search queries you’re showing up for that you don’t want to and just go ahead and negate them right away.
I would say that should be something they should move on sooner rather than later and then go ahead and look to do some audience testing with the different audiences that AdWords kind of builds in.
Your old visitors, your shopping cart visitors, your shopping cart abandoners. Really take advantage of those audiences that are created and do some audience testing.
You might come up with your own bid modifiers but generally you’ll bid more on the bottom of funnel users and people that are just all visitors.
So, someone who navigated to the shopping cart but didn’t complete a purchase, maybe try increasing your bids 50%.
If you have a lot of repeat visitors then definitely leverage those audiences well so, someone who purchased in the last 30 days, maybe you increase the bids there.
If people are coming back and they’re purchasing once or twice a month, if it’s some of those kind of products that people reorder frequently, but yeah, I would say explore audience bidding for sure.
Work with your either in house team or analytics team. So, set up some deeper audience as well.
The Seer team’s done a lot of cool stuff with user scoring and I know there’s some great blogs on the site that people can check out and then, yeah, definitely take a look at your device bids as well and those negatives that I mentioned before.
JD Prater: Nice. That’s three fantastic tips to leave everyone with so, yeah, man.
Thanks again for coming on. Where can people reach out to you, follow up with you if you have questions? Where can they find you online?
Nate Velazquez: Sure. So, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m just Nate Velazquez. Feel free to send me an invite on Twitter @naccyvela so, I’m definitely going to warn everyone.
It’s a bit out 50% PPC, about 50% everyone else so if you’re cool with that, feel free to follow me and we can talk.
JD Prater: Nice. And I’ll be sure to link those in the show notes so yeah.
So, thanks again everyone for listening. Nate definitely had some great, great tips here for those running some eCommerce campaigns and really getting into those shopping campaigns.
So, thanks again, Nate, for coming on and working with us and helping us figure out some of the ins and outs of shopping campaigns.
Nate Velazquez: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on, JD.
JD Prater: Alright. Until next time, we’ll see you guys next week.
Good. Nice, man.
Nate Velazquez: Cool. I feel like that came out pretty well.
JD Prater: Yeah, man. That was good. There’s going to be some good stuff in there for sure.
Nate Velazquez: There was one or two spots where I know I kind of fumbled with my words a little bit. I don’t necessarily think it needs to get edited out unless there was something that you guys want to do. Feel free to.
But it was fun.
JD Prater: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I think that was good. That was really good. I think you definitely got some good pro tips in there, very actionable so, I think everyone will like this one but, yeah.
So, quick for me … Let me look at my schedule really quick. I don’t think I can turn this around tomorrow but I would love to. Let me look real quick.
Because that was a really clean cut so it’s not going to need a ton of editing.
Nate Velazquez: Cool.
JD Prater: Nice. Okay, 11:45. I got an hour. Okay. Let me see if I can get it done. If I can get it done today, it would go tomorrow. If not, then it will go out next Tuesday but I’ll let you know once it’s live for sure.
I’ll send you the link. That way, you can share it around as well.
Nate Velazquez: Yeah. Sounds good, man. I’ll send you the … I sent you the links for the reports but I’ll send you my blog, I’ll send you the user scoring Seer blog and then I’ll send you the blog for the shoppable actions on Google too.
But yeah, man. This was great. Again, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.
JD Prater: Yeah, definitely. And if you want to send across at that time too your Twitter link, LinkedIn and maybe like a short bio as well that will make it that much faster for me to turn around.
Nate Velazquez: You got it, man.
JD Prater: Cool. Alright, man. Well, thanks again for coming on and really good stuff. I really appreciate it.
Nate Velazquez: No problem again, man. Definitely hope to see you again in the future.
Try and hit a conference later this year, maybe next year but I know you guys are doing a lot cool stuff.
JD Prater: Yeah, man. Well, Seer’s ready. I mean, you guys use us for a couple of clients but not for every client, so yeah. We’d love to have you guys of course use us more for automation.
Nate Velazquez: Alright, man. Take care.
JD Prater: Bye.
Google AdWords has become a better deal for marketers lately. Based on the AdStage data, AdWords CPC decreased 42% in the fourth quarter of 2017, while CPMs decreased 30% QoQ and CTR increased 21%.
That’s certainly great news, but it doesn’t mean making your AdWords campaigns profitable has become a cakewalk. Hardly. It’s still expensive and ferociously competitive. And unless you’re willing to become AdWords-certified, just using the AdWords platform can be a little intimidating.
But having profitable campaigns may be easier than you’d like, especially if you’re willing to learn a few hacks.
And that’s exactly what we plan to show you here.
These are all simple, powerful changes almost anyone can make to their AdWords account. They don’t take days of work to do. And they could very well double your profitability.
1. Get your tracking right or go home
We don’t mean to be harsh, but if your AdWords account is not correctly tracking conversions, there’s little point in optimizing anything until you get that right.
This seems simple enough, but 42.3% of AdWords accounts have no conversion tracking set up at all.
Even among accounts that did have some kind of tracking set up, only about 29% have their tracking correctly set up.
This is so important, I’ll say it again: Only 29% of AdWords accounts have their tracking set up correctly.
So while this might seem like an obvious, no-brainer tip, it clearly needs to said. You’ve got to get your tracking set up correctly.
Otherwise, you’re basically throwing money away. And so yes, simply by getting your tracking set up correctly, you could easily double your AdWords return on investment.
It’s not even all that hard. Google’s instructions for how to set up conversion tracking are here. It is a big page, but note that there are instructions for how to track everything from phone calls to app conversions.
Now, some of you will question the idea of trying to track conversions via AdWords because you may not be able to track those conversions all the way through to the end of your company’s sales funnel. B2B marketers with really long sales cycles (three months or more) often have this problem.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t assign some value to whatever happens when people complete the call to action your ads are driving.
If you’ve got a complex sales cycle – yes – assigning value to conversions near the top of your funnel can be complex. You are going to have to do some careful analysis to get a realistic value for those early conversions.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
Think of it this way… if you’re spending $1,000 a month on AdWords, and you don’t have conversion tracking installed, you’re wasting at least one-third of your ad spend. Your resistance to setting a value for your early conversions is costing you $333 per month (or more).
Ready to finally assign some value to these early conversions? Read these posts:
Want extra credit? While you’re setting up tracking, add the AdWords remarketing tag to your site, too. It’ll come in handy later.
2. Stop spending money on keywords that don’t convert
Once you have conversion tracking working properly, the fun really begins. After your account has accrued data with the new tracking information, you can finally go in and start seeing where you’re losing money.
Most advertisers like to start with keywords.
So create a filter to show the keywords in your account that have never (or not recently) generated a conversion.
This screenshot shows a filter of all the keywords in one account. It’s using a very long timeframe – all the way back to March of last year. The filter is set to show only keywords that have less than a given value. To finish this, you’d enter the value as “1” (for one conversion) and click “Apply.”
AdWords would then show you all the keywords that haven’t generated any conversions in this timeframe.
If you’ve never done this before, and you have a good amount of conversion data, you’ll probably see at least a few keywords that you’ve spent several thousand dollars on that have never generated a conversion.
Take a moment to feel the pain, then pause those keywords. Move on.
3. Add negative keywords
Negative keywords can be added at the campaign level or at the ad group level. You add them just like any other keyword, but with a negative symbol right in front of the keyword, like this: “-dogs.”
Think about which negative keywords you pick carefully before you add them, but do add them. They can make a massive difference in profitability.
I more than doubled the return on investment for a small law firm’s AdWords account a few years back, just by adding a couple of negative keywords.
The law firm did family law, including adoptions. One of their highest-volume ad groups was for “New Mexico adoptions.”
I was checking out what their competitors were doing and searched for “new mexico adoptions” myself. There were a slew of ads for child adoptions… but also quite a few for dog adoptions.
After we added “dog” and “dogs” and other pet terms as negative keywords for this adoptions ad group, the law firm’s ROI for that ad group spiked.
Want to learn more about how to use negative keywords? Read Sam Mazaheri’s blog post, “How to Use Negative Keywords to Optimize Your PPC Campaign.”
4. Stop spending money on locations and times that don’t convert
Want to stretch your ad budget? Trim when and where you show your ads.
AdWords makes it very easy to see this information. Just go to the reports icon in the upper right hand corner of the AdWords interface, then click “Predefined Reports,” and either “Time” or “Geographic.” For a Time view, then pick either “Day of the Week” or “Hour of the Day.”
Try running both reports so you can see whether it’s worthwhile to turn off an entire day (or days), or if it’s more frugal to turn your ads off for a few time blocks during the day.
B2B marketers will often discover that they’re getting the bulk of their conversions during the week. And yet, they’re still spending money over the weekends.
So if you’re seeing red messages in your AdWords campaigns that say you don’t have enough budget, or you simply want to increase the profitability of your campaigns by 20-30%, try running these two reports. You may be able to cut your ad spend by 30-40% or so, while losing only 5-10% of your conversions.
Want to learn more about how to optimize your AdWords campaigns based on their hourly performance? See our article, “The 10 Best AdWords Scripts to Scale your PPC Accounts.” It discusses two scripts that could make your time-optimization work easier.
5. Beware of the Display Network
Are you running ads on Google’s Display Network? Do you know where those ads are running… exactly?
It might be worth a look. Go to Display Network > Placements to see where your ads are running. Sort by clicks.
Then actually go to the top ten sites listed.
Are those the types of sites you really want your ads to be seen on?
Sometimes, the answer is yes. But often, advertisers are kind of appalled by what they find in this list. The trouble is, your ads are probably showing on thousands of similar sites.
This isn’t just a branding problem. It’s also a click fraud problem. And as you probably know, click fraud is a serious, widespread… black hole for money. Even if you’re getting conversions, most of those conversions could be fraudulent.
So how to fix this? Duplicate the campaign, erase all the display placements Google has given you, and start with your own list. Have an intern go find a list of the top 500 most-visited sites on the internet. Then – with judgment – add those sites to your display placements.
Next, go in and add about another 100 of sites in your industry or niche. You can also cherry-pick some sites that Google included in their site placements, but just be really picky.
Once you’ve got your “safe list” of sites, turn the campaign on and see how the two campaigns run for a while. If possible, track how these early conversions in AdWords convert into actual sales.
You may find that you’ve been spending a truckload of money on the display network for barely a wheelbarrow’s worth of actual business. But as the display network is a valuable tool, we don’t want to lose it entirely. It just needs careful management.
Want to learn another workaround for spammy sites in the Google Display Network? Listen to our podcast episode, “The Rise of the Technical Paid Marketer” with JD Prater and Gianluca Binelli.
6. Use landing pages. Then use more landing pages
You’ve heard about how it’s important to use landing pages for your AdWords ads, right? ‘Cause it’s basically AdWords 101.
So are you… um… actually using them?
This tip is a bit like the advice to track your conversions. It’s drop-dead obvious, everybody knows about it… and yet, only half of the marketers make a new landing page for every new campaign they run, according to HubSpot.
You need to be in that half. And actually, you want to do better. How well your landing page aligns with the keywords you’re bidding on, your ad copy, and your searcher’s “intent” (what they’re looking for), the better the Quality Score for your ads will be.
And as you probably know already, your Quality Score has a massive effect on how much you pay per click.
But just as importantly, how targeted and optimized your landing pages are will also affect your conversion rates. Just to make an estimate, if you’re not using landing pages for your ads right now, you could almost certainly double your conversion rates simply by creating a landing page for every 3-4 ad groups in your account.
We won’t even add how much you’ll save with the better Quality Scores, but that could easily double your ROI again.
Want to improve your Quality Scores even more? Read our blog post, “Understand and Improve Your AdWords Quality Score.”
7. Take your best-performing keywords and create a dedicated ad group for each of them
Several years ago, when I was managing $12,000 a day in AdWords spending, this was one of my best secret weapons.
· Most of your ad spend and your profitability is probably running through a small group of keywords.
· These keywords are ultra-valuable. They deserve vastly more attention than your other keywords.
· Giving these keywords their own ad group means you can split-test the bejesus out of those ads, and create ads solely for those very special keywords.
· It means you can create landing pages only for those very special keywords.
· It means you can direct the bulk of your budget into those very special keywords.
You can’t do this for your whole account, but try to do it for at least your top ten to twenty best-performing keywords. It can easily double your ROI, if not 10x it.
Bonus: Try Google’s retargeting features
Still not sure you can make AdWords profitable? Then get ultraconservative and stick to their remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA).
This is basically a way to show your AdWords ads only to people who have come to your website. You can even show ads only to people who have looked at specific pages on your website. You take that audience of people (who have been to your site) and then only show your ads to them right after they’ve searched for a particular list of keywords that you define.
This is genius because (as you know), people rarely buy the first time they visit a site. But as you build brand affinity with them, the chances they’ll convert skyrocket. It’s not uncommon for conversion rates to double, triple or more.
And so, using RLSA for your ads could mean you easily double your ROI.
Google’s RLSA page is here. You’ll need to install that remarketing tag we mentioned earlier to make it work. You can learn how to create a remarketing list in your AdWords account here.
Try it. If it works even half as well as it could, you’ll have an ROI even a casino would envy.
Back to you
Know of any AdWords hacks that can be implemented fast and double a campaign’s ROI? Tell us about them – even just one – in the comments.
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.
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.
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.
- AdWords Fundamentals Study Guide
- AdWords Display Advertising Study Guide
- Mobile Advertising Study Guide
- Video Advertising Study Guide
- Shopping Advertising Study Guide
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.
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?
- Copy items between ad groups
- Undo/redo changes made to campaigns
- Access real-time click and impression statistics
- Move items between campaigns.
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.
The annual subscription will cost you $99.99. It saved me many hours in preparing for the exam and was well worth it.
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.
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:
- 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.
- AmazonBasics Ruled Index Cards, 3×5-inch, 100-Count.
- Barbara Oakley: A Mind for Numbers. (the companion book to the popular online course “Learning How to Learn”
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.
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.
When AdWords first launched in 2000, manual and automated bidding were the only options. To succeed in paid search, you really had to know how to bid. You would manually set keyword bids and apply performance filters for each (manual bidding) or run scripts that defined specific criteria and adjusted bids automatically based on those criteria (automated bidding). For example, you would manually increase a bid on a keyword that you see performing well or use a script that would increase bids by Y% if your keyword position dropped by X%.
As you can imagine, most optimizations take a lot of time and labor — and not too much strategic thought. It is tedious and repetitive work. So it comes as no surprise that Google took all that data they had been collecting over the years and applied the knowledge to an algorithm that could do all that monitoring and optimizing on its own. Unlike automations, where you apply keywords bids and optimizations across all users uniformly, Google now uses this knowledge to figure out how to bid for each single search query — the most precise, granular level you can get.
In this article, we’ll look at how PPC advertisers can use Google Smart Bidding to improve their campaign performance.
AdWords Smart Bidding: automated bid strategies powered by machine learning
Smart Bidding algorithm optimizes ads for your specific goals automatically. When you create an AdWords campaign, you can select one of the Smart Bidding strategies based on your goals and let the algorithm run your ads while you sit back and watch Google optimize each and every auction in real time — what Google calls “auction-time bidding.”
Choose your goal and let Google’s Smart Bidding do all the work
While you can’t control how exactly the algorithm will manage your bid, you can direct the end goal, such as to pay a certain amount for each conversion or get as many conversions as possible — within your budget range. Google AdWords offers advertisers the following four bidding strategies:
- Target CPA (cost-per-acquisition)
Caps your cost per acquisition while maximizing conversions.
- Target ROAS (return-on-ad-spend)
Targets your ideal return on ad spend, which is basically how much money you’d like to get for each dollar you spend on ads, calculated as follows:
Conversion value + ad spend x 100%
- Maximize Conversions
Works best for advertisers who don’t want to cap cost-per-acquisition and just spend the entire budget while getting as many conversions as possible.
- ECPC (enhanced cost-per-click)
Combines manual bidding with Smart Bidding to raise or lower your manual bids based on whether the algo thinks the conversion is likely to happen.
Note: Historically, the manual bids have been restricted by the max CPC and could only be increased a bid 30% above that number. That has changed: the bid cap was fully removed last year.
You can use Smart Bidding to complement your current PPC strategy and use a third-party PPC tool for bulk edits and reporting across networks.
3 reasons to choose Smart Bidding over automated or manual bidding
1. Capture unique user context
Imagine a shopper searching on Google for new shoes. Which ad would she click, if any? Here’re a few things we want to know first.
- Is she searching for shoes on a desktop computer at home or from a smartphone on the go?
- Where is she based? If she’s based in San Francisco Bay Area, which part? (E.g., if the store has a physical location in Oakland or San Mateo, it may be easier for Alice to return the shoes in case they don’t fit).
- What time is it now? Is she searching on a work day or on the weekend? Morning or night?
- Has she browsed any specific shoes on your store’s website before? (i.e., is Alice on your RLSA — remarketing list for search ads?)
- Is she searching for leather shoes, Kate Spade shoes, or party shoes?
- Which language is set in default settings for her Google account?
- Safari, Firefox, or Chrome? Where is the query coming from?
- If she randomly sees your ad on a search network partner’s website (vs. in search results), what kind of website? Is it an e-commerce website (highly relevant) or a news website (impulse buy?)
If you know all these things about her, you’ll have a better shot at capturing her attention. If you only define a couple of search signals when you set up your campaign, you’re losing money: most impressions won’t convert into clicks. Yet optimizing for each user’s unique search context simply doesn’t scale.
Predictive signals used by AdWords Smart Bidding include device, location, time of day, RLSA, ad creative, interface language, browser, operating system, and placement type to optimize for anyone who types a search query in Google, considering their unique context and finding the right “micro-moment.”
2. Simplify workflow
Every year Google AdWords keeps layering new features and tweaks on top of the existing ones. Since the AdWords launch, Google has added separate bidding for its content network, quality score, tablet retargeting, sitelinks, clicks-to-call and clicks-to-message, shopping campaigns, ad customizers, customer match, extensions, Gmail ads, PLAs, RLSA, DFSA, ETAs, and more.
“Yes, you might be able to squeeze out a couple extra conversions by being more in-control and constantly doing manual bidding,” said Natalie Barreda, Director of Paid Search at Point It, a digital marketing agency. “But truly that’s not the best use of your time.”
3. Focus on adding more value
In earlier days, bidding was central to advertising on AdWords, making the PPC advertiser slave to the ever-changing tweaks and add-ons of the algorithm. If Smart Bidding indeed evolves to automate itself to make the best bets, in a Deep-Blue-vs.-Kasparov style, that shift will open up opportunities for a whole new gameplay, in which advertising will be more about empathy (with strategic targeting) and creativity (with thoughtful copy and design).
In a nutshell, if you were to bid on an ad for the online shoe-shopper Alice using manual bidding or automation vs. Smart Bidding, you’d miss out on capturing granular contextual signals, and probably spend too much time figuring out which filters to apply to your campaign.
When you shouldn’t use Smart Bidding
Smart Bidding is just a tool in your PPC toolbox — it won’t as if by magic bring you leads and increase ROI. As with any other tool, you’ll need to figure out when to use it and when to choose a different tool. Here’re example situations of when NOT to use Smart Bidding:
1. When you’re just getting started with a new campaign
If you’re running campaigns with little historical data, you might want to check how it performs with a manual/automated test run first.
2. If none of the four Smart Bidding goals fit your scenario
Dan Gilbert of Brainlabs recommends using other automation when your marketing goals don’t align with Smart Bidding strategies, such as if you want to drive more traffic to your website with generic keywords.
3. For short-term campaigns or your top-performing campaigns
If you’re running a short-term campaign (such as for a flash sale) or your current campaign numbers are totally off the charts, stick with your trusty automation.
Search advertising is, perhaps, the best playground for machine learning. With so many contextual signals Google offers to make ads relevant, using PPC automation and Smart Bidding makes sense for several reasons. For starters, Smart Bidding helps advertisers get a better shot at understanding user intent for each specific query. It also frees up time for things that are really, really hard to automate — like strategy and creativity.
For Q4 2017, we’ve analyzed over 240 million Google AdWords search ad impressions across 750+ unique accounts in USD currency to uncover the average CPM, CPC, and CTR. Compared to Q3’17, we found the average CPM on AdWords search ads decreased 30%, the average CPC on AdWords search ads decreased 42%, and the average CTR for AdWords search ads increased 21%.
Google AdWords Ads Benchmarks – Q4 2017
- The average Google AdWords CPM was $78.47
- The average Google AdWords CPC was $0.97
- The average Google AdWords CTR was 8.33%
*Note: these benchmarks do not include ads run on Google Display Network or Youtube.
Be sure to view the Q1 2018 Paid Search and Paid Social ads Benchmark Report for the latest trends.
Google AdWords Benchmarks for Q4 2017
Google AdWords’s CPM Decreased 30%
Based on AdStage data, Google AdWords CPM decreased by 30% from $111.42 in Q3 to $78.47 in Q4. The 2017 trend shows that Google AdWords CPMs decreased 25% from $104.05 to $78.47 comparing Q1 to Q4.
Google AdWords’s CPC Decreased 42%
Based on AdStage data, Google AdWords CPC decreased by 42% from $1.68 in Q3 to $0.97 in Q4. The 2017 trend shows that Google AdWords CPCs decreased 29% from $1.37 to $0.97 comparing Q1 to Q4.
Google AdWords’s CTR Increased 21%
Based on AdStage data, Google AdWords CTR decreased by 21% from 6.87% in Q3 to 8.33% in Q4. The 2017 trend shows that Google AdWords CPMs decreased 2% from 8.47% to 8.33% comparing Q1 to Q4.
Google AdWords Q4 Trends
Across AdStage’s customer base, Google AdWords search spending increased by 146% year over year in Q4 2017 and by 9% QoQ. In addition, AdWords captured 91% of paid search budgets while Bing Ads earned the remaining 9% in Q4. This expansion will push Google’s share of the US digital ad market to 42.2%, according to eMarketer.
That said, Google AdWords and Facebook ad budgets are truly a duopoly gobbling up more than 60% of US digital ad investment. Looking into 2018, these trends aren’t slowing down as Google owns the #1 browser, search engine, email platform, and video network. As more performance marketers shift their focus and budgets into full lifecycle marketing rather than bottom of the funnel marketing, AdWords will continue to receive a lion’s share of the digital ad budgets.
Check out other ad networks
- Twitter Ad Costs for 2017 [NEW REPORT]
- Facebook Ads CPM, CPC, & CTR Benchmarks for Q4 2017
- LinkedIn Advertising Costs for 2017 [Benchmark Report]
- Instagram Ads Costs in 2017 [Benchmark Report]
Welcome to episode #72 of the PPC Show, where we interview the best and brightest in paid search and social media advertising. This week we’re joined by Gianluca Binelli, founder of Booster Box Digital.
In this episode, Gianluca joins us to talk about the rise of technical paid marketers. Stay tuned to learn:
- How he got started working at Google
- Why he decided to learn how to write scripts and Python
- Four products he built to solve and scale client issues using code (Zuul, Caligola, Cherry Picker, Pincer Move)
Listen to the Episode
Gianluca was at Google for 6.5 years working on different team within AdWords. First as Product Specialist, he then went on to manage online marketing for Google’s products in EMEA. Gianluca also served as Capital G’s Advisor, helping start ups with their online marketing in Google’s own late stage investment fund. He is the founder of Booster Box, a performance agency specialized in scientific marketing.
Follow him on Twitter.
Show Notes & Podcast Transcript
- Zuul – Sleep better at night knowing your brand is safe on the Google Display Network
- Caligola – email gianluca at boosterboxdigital.com
- Cherry Picker & Pincer
- Cherry Picker & Pincer Move Preso
JD Prater: Gianluca, welcome to the PPC Show.
Gianluca Binell: Thank you, JD, for having me.
JD Prater: Yeah, I’m pretty excited that you came all the way from Italy-
Gianluca Binell: All the way. All the way.
JD Prater: Just to come on the podcast.
Gianluca Binell: Just for you. Just for you, yeah.
JD Prater: No, I mean Gianluca was in town here in San Francisco visiting some clients, and reached out on Twitter. And I was like, “Oh, man, yeah. Come hang out.” And so, we hung out on Wednesday. And now we’re here recording again. I got more of his time on Friday. So, I’m excited. Thanks for coming back.
Gianluca Binell: I’m very excited. Thank you for having me.
JD Prater: No, we went and grabbed some coffee as you do with an Italian.
Gianluca Binell: You must.
JD Prater: And so he started explaining some of these really cool tools that he’s got working on. So, I’m gonna let him kinda share some of these things with you. But first, Gianluca, tell the good people more about you. Maybe add some, the CliffsNotes version.
Working at Google to Booster Box Digital
Gianluca Binell: Super. No, no, very, very happy to be here. This morning I was on the phone with my Mom. And I told her that I was going to be interviewed by a PPC podcast. She got all excited. And then she was very, very excited, but after a while she understood, BBC, the British Broadcasting Network. It was a little bit of a bummer then when I told her. “No, it’s not BBC Mom, it’s a little bit of a narrower audience.” But, I am excited anyways, even if my Mom doesn’t appreciate the PPC community as much as I do.
So, I’ve been in the PPC game for I keep saying 10 years for the last 12 years actually. But, can I stay at 10? I am originally from Italy as my accent, appearance, and name give out. And I worked at Google, always on the other side in different roles. First, I was product specialist. The guy that is whispering in the ear of your account manager what is the product for you, which I think is one of the most frustrating job in the world because you need to tell people to tell people to tell people to do something.
So, after two years now, of probably doing that, I developed all these theories. This product is perfect for this type of client. We should definitely do that. And more than that. And then, I rolled up my sleeves and moved to the marketing team where I was actually seeing the scope of my theories. And challenging some of the ideas that I had. And probably 90% of the things I theorized were wrong, but it was the 10% that worked out, which got me, they didn’t fire me. So, they kept me on the team for a while. And it was very exciting because I joined the marketing team. You always see from outside. The online marketing at Google, at least I felt it was a super mega sophisticated machine. Turns out there are humans as well there. So, nothing is perfect.
And when I joined the Google team we were three or four people. When I left, we were 54.
JD Prater: Oh, wow.
Gianluca Binell: Yeah, yeah.
JD Prater: That’s massive growth.
Gianluca Binell: Very exciting ride. And in that journey, Google does this 20% thing, which basically is from six to nine and weekend. That’s 20%, at least it was for me. And I worked with the guys at Capital G, the VC firm here in San Francisco. And so, that was very exciting because I helped them in figuring out the growth thing there. Figuring out what our opportunity for paid media for some of the companies that were investing into it.
And that was kind of putting all the dots, connecting the dots backwards. I figured out that even big companies, or unicorn, or supposedly unicorn, not necessarily were taking the full advantage of the huge amount of data there is out there. So, I bridged the two things together. The expertise I gained in the last 12, well, we’re gonna stick with 10 years in the industry. And I managed to be part of the team that became more and more sophisticated on all of our advertising in India. And the need in the market for helping companies making a better sense of the data they have available.
So, I went on into building Booster Box where that’s what we do. So, we are a scientific performance market agency. We’re focusing on large, medium-large international clients with big problems. So, they are more challenging to work with. And by big problems, I mean big data sets really. And we are based out in Tuscany, where else. Silicon Tuscany, the middle of nowhere.
Where the most, again, the biggest challenge that I face, we’ve been doing that for 18 months now. And definitely the biggest challenge I had to face was setting up the internet there in the office. But, now we have internet connection. We’re good to go. And there’s a very exciting ride to be, grab a glass of wine in the evening, and having an impact working on big problems. So, that’s what we do.
JD Prater: Nice. I mean, it’s kinda hard to beat working on big problems, especially with a glass of wine in your hand.
Gianluca Binell: It helps.
Rise of the Technical Marketing
JD Prater: It really helps, yeah. Well, that’s really cool. So, we got you on the show here today to kinda talk about the rise of the technical marketer. And then, talk about some of the tools that you have built because of that. So, in particular, I’ve noticed within PPC world, in particular, the amount of coating that’s almost needed now. Not necessarily needed, but everyone is getting more savvy. And so, if you don’t know how, it’s almost like you’re getting left behind, right? And so, you see Fredrick Valley, you got Daniel Gilbert writing these amazing scripts that we’re all using and some people are like, “I don’t even use scripts, right? I don’t even know what that is. What’s going on?”
But, you’re able to take that even a step further. So, what have you seen within the community with people getting more technical? Do you think that that’s true? Yeah?
Gianluca Binell: Yeah, absolutely. There were a few articles coming out in the last few years in this direction. The rise of the technical marketers. And I think overall, that’s a reflection that marketing has changed in the last 10, 20, 30 years. And the fundamentals probably are the same. Meaning find the user, find the magic, connect the two, right?
But, if you want to use a sport analogy. I was watching the Viking game yesterday night. It was super exciting. That was the first football match I saw in my life. If all the matches are like that, man, I’m hooked. And probably the fundamentals of football 30 years ago, 40, 50, are the same I guess. I don’t think the rules change, right?
JD Prater: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Gianluca Binell: But, the technology that is there now, right, even the materials, the shoes, the thinking, the process, the food, the training they do. Everything is changed. So, it is a different sport. And I think the same analogy, it works for marketing, right. Of course, the goal, it’s kicking the bowl in a certain direction anyways, but everything has changed. And I think the complexity of data that we have on the user, and the complexity of data that we have on the product makes the same job of finding a user, finding an edging, connect the two, much more exciting.
In all that complexity, I think that unlocks the need for a different type of skill set. So, just being the best and wining and dining probably is not anymore the keying element. You also need to be good at making sense of a complex data set. Or, knowing a little bit of statistics in order to get your head around on which one is the winner in A/B test, etc., etc.
So, I think definitely there’s a trend that is happening. It’s been happening for the last few years. And Dan and Frederick, the people you mentioned, and to be honest, I’m just very grateful to be playing this game now in a contest where we have so much access to data. Like you just said, “At the end Twitter will eat you up, and will be nerding out thinking about naturally, everything in the world.”
And I think we’re so lucky to be allowed this time where we can reach out to anyone in the world and we can learn statistics from MIT for free online. Tell that to our grandparents or our parents, right?
JD Prater: Yeah.
Gianluca Binell: So, I think there’s no excuses, right?
JD Prater: Right.
Learning Python and Writing Scripts
Gianluca Binell: The world is going in that direction as independency game, as marketing. I think it’s our responsibility to just embrace the fact that technology is rising and it’s just like gravity is happening. We’re just not gonna fight it, we just need to embrace it. And make sure that we are riding that wave.
JD Prater: Yeah. I think part of that too is you’re unlocking different abilities too. So, we’re going to get into some of the tools that you’ve built using technology, and using this code. But, how did you get started writing scripts or learning Python? How did you get involved?
Gianluca Binell: Okay. First of all to give you an idea of how good I am at Python, every time I make a script and I give it to my guys they’re like, “Aw, that’s sweet.” They trash it, and they rewrite it from scratch. So, on a scale from one to nine, I’m definitely at about four, which I’m very generous with myself.
JD Prater: Well, I’m at a zero. So, you’re doing better than I am.
Gianluca Binell: I don’t have a calculator now, but four is more than zero.
JD Prater: Yes, that’s right.
Gianluca Binell: So, when I started at Google I was literally in between two guys that were two of the best people I know in Google Analytics. And they were talking to each other. The only option not to learn was listening to music 24, seven, which I didn’t. And so things just sunk in. At one point, there was this tool, a script that they were featuring in Google spreadsheet. And then I started playing around with that. I remember the first thing I did with that was a stupid thing to automatically send emails to instead of taking notes for phone calls for my colleagues. When you call your account manager, it’s not his desk. And somebody else is picking up the phone. As I was lazy, taking notes it wasn’t part of my particularly favorite mundane task. So, I start playing with the script.
So, that was the get-go that got me hooked in finding. And the first time you write something from scratch. And then you works. It’s just magical, right? The first time you see a little word. So, I start with that. And then, I thought to myself, “Hopefully, it’ll be more on theory, a little bit on code academy.” And I try also to brush up a little bit more my sophistical skills as I mentioned that MIT has an online course. And there’s plenty of stuff online. I mean, everything, it’s everywhere for free. So, that’s what I’m saying. No excuses on that.
And yeah. So this is where the two main elements knowing, getting a little bit better in coding. The theory was for me, Code Academy. Then the second bracket was definitely playing with amazing resources that are out there in the community. So, on the Google developers side there’s so much, so much stuff that it’s unbelievably cool. And then, Frederick, all the people that you mentioned earlier, are sharing great stuff online.
But, I think the theory is the first pillar. The second one is figuring out what are the scripts that are out there and start playing with it. But, the third pillar, for me is people. Just for instance, at Booster Box, my company, now we do lectures. So, on a weekly basis we invite an external guest that is sitting with us. And it’s just explaining their job. And these people are people, investment bankers, or data scientists. They’re not necessarily are in the PPC game.
But, building that connection and talking with someone that is solving a similar problem in just a different environment, right? It’s really helping me and helping my team accelerating the level of knowledge. Even when it comes to scripting, right? So, having the opportunity to reach out to someone, a human being, a mentor, a person, just to bounce off ideas and say, “Listen, I’m using this approach. It’s not working. What do you suggest?” That is definitely key. And even on that one, we live in a fantastic time. We can reach out to anyone on Twitter, and Instagram. And the worst case, they’re just gonna say, “No,” or not pick out that message, right?
So, definitely feel free to reach out. And if you have tough questions on Python, reach out to JD. If you have easy questions, reach out to me.
JD Prater: That’s right. So, I wanna kind of rewind some of that because I think one thing you didn’t intentionally, but you glossed over. So, you actually started with a problem. And then you, “I’m lazy, right, and I wanna solve this problem.” Right, whatever it is. But, I don’t necessarily think it’s even laziness. I mean, you actually took the action to go solve the problem in a programmatic way, which is fantastic. So, that’s what I love about your tools, which we’re about to get into.
It’s really starting with, “Man, wouldn’t that be cool if … ” Or, “I have this problem, the client wants this,” and then it’s, “What can I do to mitigate that, or solve that in a way that’s scalable so people aren’t necessarily doing this manually every day, every hour, whatever it is.” But, there’s something running in the background, right?
And I think the other part to that too, is you also took action to go and learn. I think the people that you might say is lazy, I think it’s the opposite. I’m lazy. I have the exact same access to these resources that you do, but I’m not out there learning, right?
Gianluca Binell: Well, I guess, yeah.
JD Prater: And so you’re gonna push me to go and learn it this year, 2018. I’m gonna do it.
Gianluca Binell: It’s happening. This year is mobile. I think, look, I think it’s important that each one of us is focusing on the right priorities. And it depends at which point people are in their career or start with a basic example, right? If you are an agency or if you are solo, then definitely the skill set that you need to build is entirely different, right?
So, I don’t think that developing a certain skill is mandatory for everyone. I do think though, that not being afraid of that, that’s it, right? If you’re not afraid of seeing a script and playing with it, you’re already 99% better than anyone else, right? So, I think the key’s just not being afraid of testing something new, and whatever. That’s probably applicable in anything in life.
Tool #1: Zuul the Gatekeeper
JD Prater: Well, cool. Yeah, we’ll lets ship into some of the products that you built. So, we’re gonna talk about four of them specifically because as we were getting copies, talking about them, I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We gotta have that on the PPC Show.” So, which one do you wanna start with?
Gianluca Binell: Yeah. I think the first one I really like is what we call Zuul the Gatekeeper. In honor of the marvelous movie, Ghostbuster, that I strongly encourage everyone to watch again.
JD Prater: The original, right?
Gianluca Binell: The original.
JD Prater: Of course, okay.
Gianluca Binell: So, Zuul the Gatekeeper was a very, very, nasty monster. I don’t know how to define it, probably, whatever monster, I think is a good definition. Our Zuul is much friendlier. And he’s basically a tool that helps us mitigate the risk of adding ads of bringing in the wrong placement. Let me start by the problem as you mentioned.
JD Prater: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Gianluca Binell: Everything starts from there.
JD Prater: It’s a great problem.
Gianluca Binell: Usually, tools start from people nerding out in the mini kitchen or getting a wrong email from the client. This is a story to start with a second scenario. So, classic email, Friday night. It was summer last year. And I still remember where I was. And I get an email from a CEO of a very large company, which is still one of our clients, fortunately. So, it’s a good story.
JD Prater: Good. Zuul’s working.
Gianluca Binell: Zuul’s working. Of course, somebody took a screen shot of one of our ads appearing in the wrong place. And you know, Murphy’s law is true. We’ve all been there, getting one of those type of nasty email. And there’s nothing that you can do, right, to avoid. To put yourself in a situation where you’re 100% in control of every single placement in the world.
So, you might remember a few months back. I think, it was May last year. There was this backlash on YouTube. Everybody was against Google. We shouldn’t buy GDN.
JD Prater: Pulling money out, yeah.
Gianluca Binell: Google’s not doing enough to protect us. I strongly disagreed with that approach because I think it’s our responsibility to, as an agency in my case, but as players in the market. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we’re using AdWords, and Facebook, and all the amazing tools that are out there responsibly. These are self-serving platforms, right?
So, it’s how well the self-service element. There’s a very beautiful Brainlabs article, Daniel Gilbert wrote something similar sometime ago underlining that the self-service element in the word self-service tool implies that it’s agency’s responsibility to take that ownership.
So, I think that pulling spend out of GDN and Facebook, and just stop playing, probably is not the best idea. So, from one side definitely, you cannot control fully 100% where your ads will appear, and probably, our own ads will appear in the wrong place maybe in the future. But, we started putting together a methodology in order to make the game this risk. So, from the basic things is loading, adding a blacklist of websites where you don’t to appear, adding a list of negative keywords that you want to exclude, excluding side by topics, etc.
What do you do if you don’t know who the bad guys are, right? So, what we did was literally, taking a list of all the bad keywords, a gigantic list of negative keywords. So, imagine tax fraud, pornography, keywords you would never want to be associated with. And we build a script that goes and pulls the placement where your ad appeared yesterday.
So, at midnight, close of business, the scripts calls AdWords. And it’s, “AdWords, can you please tell me the placement where we appeared yesterday?” That’s phase one. Phase two, we go and scan every single element on the page of each placement. This is not really every single element because we cannot scan images, we cannot scan videos. We are only scanning text.
We tried to scan videos, to be honest. We used the Google Cloud Video API, but I think technology is not there yet. So, the results that we got by submitting videos there where it works like this. You submit a video to the Google Cloud API, the machine analyzes it, and it tells you, “In this video, you find A, B, C.”
The level of variety in the output that you get is two probe probably, because you only get, “In this video, you find a man with a white T-shirt.” Well, thank you. So, if you don’t have men in white T-shirts in your negative exclusion, that’s not really gonna help you. So, videos definitely are a big limitation.
But, on text we managed to figure out that by first of all counting the appearance of specific keyword in the text contained on the website, that was already giving us an indication if the website was about, lets say, tax fraud, or pornography, or something you don’t really want to appear next to. And then the second element would be in the regression model that identified if a certain word is repeated more than once within a space of 2,000 characters. Then, we overweigh that element. And that really helped us identify with a certain level of accuracy websites where we appeared yesterday, and we don’t want to appear tomorrow.
So, what the script does at midnight, goes and calls the placement. Then, from midnight until four in the morning start measuring. If analyzing the website, and trying to identify if these sites were bad guys or not. And then by four in the morning, takes the decision and push that back in to AdWords. So, that the following day, your ads are not appearing on that website.
Now, this is definitely not perfect. It doesn’t capture 100% of the website, and is ex-post. So, your mistakes already was made. And somebody could have already taken a screenshot on the previous date, and sent it to the CEO. So, definitely, this is not a 100% guarantee of success. But, is a step that is helping us mitigating the risk of operating in the wrong place.
So, that’s why Zuul the Gatekeeper is the protector of brand for us. And then the icing on the cake on this story was the fact that we’re able to put the script into a tiny raspberry pie. To be honest, if the script works in the Cloud, it’s much faster. But, the fact that it’s on the raspberry pie, sitting in your machine, right? So, you plug it on your computer is giving us people, humans, a concrete sense of protection, right? So, at midnight the tiny raspberry pie in a very noisy way will start wiring out, calling the placement, and that’s where you feel protected. So, that’s really something that is helping me sleeping better at night. Thank you, Zuul.
JD Prater: Again, you started with the problem. The problem was it, we’re talking about brand safety. This is more and more important that we’ve been hearing this specifically, on YouTube in the last year. And so, I thought it was a really great way of using code. Making a tool that is doing something programmatic to where you don’t necessarily have to have someone in there manually checking every single placement. And of course, there is that additional layer that goes in and reviews.
Gianluca Binell: Of course.
JD Prater: But, being able to go in and say, “Hey, check out all the placements.” And then you’re crawling the site for the text. You’ve assigned weight to it. And this is all done while you guys are sleeping. So, by the time you guys wake up you guys have an answer, right?
Gianluca Binell: Exactly.
JD Prater: So, fantastic. I love that story. I love the tool. And I haven’t even seen it, but I just think it’s a great way of using code to benefit PPC or so. Yeah, good work on that one.
Tool #2: Pincer Move
Gianluca Binell: Absolutely. A similar logic we try to replicate a singular approach of scanning content in order to recycle existing keywords. Let me start by the problem again. So here we often work with clients that are an established business. They’ve been in the PPC game for a while, maybe four, five, seven, years. So, you’ve plenty of data, right? And sometimes these businesses are maxed out. So, it’s not as easy as . We forgot to add extension. That means with demand you need to figure out what are, in a way you can call it, lateral thinking. And try to figure out, “Okay, we have this type of information. How can we reuse this information in a different context?” So, what we did in this case was try to figure out, we know where these keywords that are working very well for us. How can we use this keyword in a different way and not simply buying ads on word search.
So, we call this tool Pincer Move. I’m a geek on Roman history. So, the Pincer Move is this move that Hannibal and the Romans were fighting. I don’t know the year to be honest. So, the Romans developed this technique on laterally attacking the enemy. So, not where the enemy was stronger, but on the sides.
So, we started by that type of approach. Already is the following. Let’s say you have a keyword that’s working super well on Google search. Let’s say the keyword French Press café it’s working amazingly well for your coffee commerce. And you’re winning first position, mazotoff, great for you. But, you really want to squeeze out more traffic from that keyword.
So, we take that keyword. We crawl the top 10 results on Google. And then, we automatically submit these results as part of GDN. So, we will be targeting specific places, the specific placement, sorry, as GDN placement of the results that are appearing on the top page.
In other words, when somebody is clicking on that keyword, is searching for that keyword, if they click on your ad, great. If they click on your competitor’s ad, there’s really nothing you can do about it. But, if they click on our organic results, this is a zero sum game, right?
JD Prater: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Gianluca Binell: So, the rest of the CTR goes to someone else. So, if they’re clicking on organic result, and if that organic result is selling ad inventory, you wanna be there. Now, of course, some of this placement will be Wikipedia, or competitors, or placement that are not part of the Google Display Network. But, if someone is selling that inventory, you want to be there. So, the Pincer Move is a tool that is helping us. Once you have figured out that these keywords are working well for you on search, you can try this approach to scale that beyond search exactly with the same keywords.
JD Prater: Yeah, I think this is another really smart tactic, right? So, if you’re not able, or I should say maybe you’re not ranking organically yet. Maybe you have an SCO team that’s really trying to get you in that top 10. And this is something that again, you can use as long as that organic result is part of the GDN network. And again, it’s a programmatic way. You’re scanning it going, “Okay, cool. Two of the 10 are. Fantastic. Automatically add them to this ad group. And we’re gonna be bidding on them at this price,” right?
Gianluca Binell: Exactly.
JD Prater: Fantastic.
Gianluca Binell: If you’re lucky enough also to have direct media buying.and the client has that type of contact, or you as an agency are covering that as well, this is also a great way to form your direct media buying team to pick up the phone, and start calling those placements.
JD Prater: And this is, I mean, I think this is another good one, reviews, right. So, French Press coffee reviews, right. And we all know there’s a ton of review sites out there. And we know that a lot of those review site do sell inventory. And so, again, maybe you’ve got the top position. And now, they click on the first organic, but you’re also showing an ad there, right?
Gianluca Binell: Yeah.
JD Prater: I mean, you’re just … Great job on that one. I really like that one. So, that one is called Pincer Move.
Gianluca Binell: Pincer Move, yeah.
JD Prater: So, you’ve got Zuul. You’ve got Pincer Move. What else you got?
Tool #3: Cherry Picker
Gianluca Binell: We also have something that we call Cherry Picker. It’s funny you mention reviews. The place for reviewing the word is YouTube. So, you guys, if you’ve ever been in touch with someone from Google talking about YouTube. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. We heard that sentence. The problem is when you try to buy YouTube, okay, fine. You can buy remarketing. You can follow people when they are watching a YouTube video with your French Press coffee product. Great. And it works from a performance perspective, right? But, trying to get YouTube to work beyond branding from a performance perspective aside for marketing is quite difficult.
JD Prater: It’s tough. It is.
Gianluca Binell: Now, there are 46 million, trillion, zillion, thousand of videos uploaded every nanosecond on YouTube, something like that. Probably a little bit more than this number, by the time you are finishing this podcast. So, definitely strictly from a Google perspective, but from an advertiser perspective, trying to figure what is the content of the video, right?
JD Prater: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Gianluca Binell: So, what we do is, what Google offers, is the opportunity to buy keywords on YouTube in terms of what is used to be called, through the in search. I don’t know if it has a new name. But, the problem with that approach is that these keywords are broad. So, definitely broad keywords are something that were scrolling 2006. And since then, we all figured out what we shouldn’t do.
So, what we are doing is actually trying to cherry pick this specific placement. So, very similar to the Pincer Move logic. Once we figure out that reviews are a thing for e-Commerce selling French Press coffee, then we will take the keywords. We will match them with unboxing, where were you, etc., etc. And then we’ll have a bunch of keywords that are suitable for YouTube. We go and plug into YouTube every single keyword and then we’ll extract each specific YouTube video. We take the YouTube videos and then we target them specifically with a TrueView in-stream.
So, at this point from a user perspective, you’re about to watch video on skiing in Aspen. And if you are skiing in Aspen, you want to be in front of the eyeballs of a user that’s about to watch that video. So, definitely this is something that for our performance, advertising, perspective, has been proven to be very successful for us. And it’s something that we’re putting out there in the world. Giving back.
JD Prater: Yeah, so this one with all of these two, we’ll have links for all of you guys in the show notes to go in and check it out. But, this one he does have the code that we’ll be sending a link to. There’s also a slide chair presentation. But, this one I thought was really cool within YouTube. So, if I’m looking for French press reviews and we maybe have an ad on that one as well, but also we’re scraping the YouTube organic. He’s pulling out that YouTube video ID and adding that as a placement for his ads as well.
Gianluca Binell: Correct.
JD Prater: So, that’s another brilliant move of utilizing organic. And using it again, in a programmatic way of writing some code to say, “Lets scrap these lists. Let’s pull this out. And then, lets start bidding on this without having to go in and manually type in all of these keywords.” Keep a list of all of these YouTube videos because no one has time for that. I mean, that’s probably hundreds of keywords, thousands of keywords. And you’re able to do this in a way that’s really fast, really scalable.
Gianluca Binell: Exactly.
JD Prater: So, saving that time. I love the automatic part of that. The automation stuff.
Gianluca Binell: Yeah, we really try to strive for automation as much as we can. I think we mentioned earlier, being lazy is a big portion of that. And the second thing is being process oriented as much as we can. The reality is that the way I see this job growing in the future is really all this stuff is gonna be automated anyways.
JD Prater: Sure.
Gianluca Binell: So, if we drive automation better because that will allow us to move faster and closer to the strategic part. Linear data doesn’t have to be figuring out what are the negative curve terms from the SQR or fixing those bits, right? But, you can sit and think on strategic stuff with your client on how you double the revenue next year, right?
JD Prater: Yeah, and that’s all. That’s how you don’t lose your job to automation, right?
Gianluca Binell: Exactly.
JD Prater: If your job is going through looking at YouTube placements and seeing how they are ranking, I mean …
Gianluca Binell: There’s something wrong with your life.
JD Prater: There’s something wrong, man, because he already has a Python script that’s going to put you out of business. Let’s go to the last one.
Tool #4: Caligola
Gianluca Binell: Again, Roman history.
JD Prater: Thumbs up or thumbs down, right?
Gianluca Binell: Thumbs up or thumbs down, yes. So, Roman history. We call this tool, Caligula. So, the idea here is, is the following here. You know when you set up a brand new company and you’re putting the keywords. A keyword that potentially has a second meaning. So, lets say the keyword panda because you’re selling panda, an Italian car. Let’s say it’s a car brand, right? You’re selling cars, lead generation for cars. And you are very happy. You close your computer. You go home. The day after, you go in the office. You open the computer. You see the SQR and, “Oh, my gosh. Panda is also an antivirus and panda obviously, is the animal.” And you forgot.
So, how can you not have to wait to make a mistake in order to figure out what negative keywords you want to add in your campaign. So here, really there are a few steps that one can take. Obviously, you can go proactively on the keyboard plan mill, plaguing your keywords, trying to run an engram on the output, and you will see that panda is also an antivirus. So, you will add antivirus as negative term. And that’s easy enough to do for terms that you know are ambiguous already like in this obvious example.
But, if you have plenty of keywords, if something is not obviously, ambiguous. How could you predict, which terms will give you trouble from a search and report perspective. So what we did was literally trying to search each one of these terms on Google because we are insane. But, obviously, we did that with a bot.
So, in this case we’re talking about a very large e-Commerce selling thousands, and thousands, of products. These products, the brands of these products are wines. So, a wine often in Southern Europe is a family name. So, imagine Binelli wine. How cool is that? I should branch out.
JD Prater: Binelli.
Gianluca Binell: Yes. And so, how could you, especially on family names, right, try to discern if a certain name has also a secondary meaning beyond the wine or whatever you’re selling. So, in this case, we went out on Google and search every single one of this term. So, at this point that for Binelli wine you have these 10 results.
Okay, so that’s our first step. The second step is we will go and match the content of the H-1 and the mental tuck. So, the least thing that you get on Google versus a positive library. So, a library that contains keywords that are describing your product. So, in this case will be wine, winery, etc. So, we will at this point be able to assign a score to each one of these listings. And this is binary, right? That’s why Caligula, yes or no, thumbs up, thumbs down, because we will have zero, one, scoring to each one of these H-1 and mental tuck.
So, lets say the first organic listing on Google is about Binelli Wineries that contains the word winery. Great, one. This result is definitely relevant to our gain, to what we’re selling. We go on with the second result, the result, etc. And at this point, we are able to give a final score to each one of the terms.
So, numbers, high numbers. So, something close to 10, probably very highly relevant. Terms that are closer to zero. So, on the lower end of this spectrum, probably they could be potentially ambiguous. So, at this point you are able to isolate terms that are potentially ambiguous. And the real icing on the cake here, is the fact that there’s a second part of the script that scans also the description. And then runs and engram on that. And gives you back suggestions of negative keywords.
So, let me give you the panda example. Let’s say you will plug in the keyword panda on Google. Google will tell you, “Okay, the first result is panda antivirus. The second result is panda zoo whatever.” So, clearly, none of these two results are referring to panda car. Panda car by the way, I’m pretty sure nobody knows in the world. You guys should definitely Google that. It’s horrible car from the ’80s.
JD Prater: Never heard of a painted car, okay. Look it up.
Gianluca Binell: If you never heard of a Panda car, your life is good.
JD Prater: Okay.
Gianluca Binell: Use that as a benchmark. So, at this point the first that we have to identify that panda very likely is an ambiguous word. And then the last part of the script will crawl the content, sorry. The H-1 and the mental tuck of the first result. And the second result, we’ll run an engram on those. And then we’ll suggest to you, antivirus and animal and zoo as negative keywords.
So, that is really cool because this is something you need to run once, only in the beginning, that saves us a lot of money because from now on when you set up a campaign you can go home knowing that the following day in that SQR that you’re gonna check out, you’re not gonna find horrible, obvious mistake that you should have known better to exclude in the beginning. So, Caligula really cool, thumbs up, and thumbs down in order to figure out which terms are ambiguous or not.
JD Prater: Gotcha. I really like that one too. So, I’m sure people listening are wondering, right. So, could it mess up? Does it mess up, right? So, is there an element of human review before it goes live?
Gianluca Binell: Yeah. So, these are all, you can see them as a human assistance. This is all human assisted because we then need a human to watch the review the negative keywords. So, imagine stop words especially in known English languages are very difficult to predict. For some reason in French, the script always messes up. So, the engram sometimes could pick up stop words.
By stop words I mean, and, of, it, etc. The engram could pick up stop word as a suggested negative. And then imagine, you could exclude the keyword, for, from your entire campaign. And maybe that’s a bad idea. So, definitely we need a human in order to review that. But, as I said, this is at the campaign bidding moment, sorry, the campaign building element. So, it’s a phase where the human is heavily involved. And we will have a human review that.
JD Prater: Yeah, definitely. I like the idea of the human assisted type of automation that goes into it. But again, you’ve scaled their work. It’s not them manually going out and doing it. It’s you going out and bringing the work to them to then review and say, “Yes, no, okay, ship,” right?
Gianluca Binell: Yeah.
JD Prater: And that’s way faster. It’s way easier for me to go, “Yes, no,” right?
Gianluca Binell: Caligula, there you go.
JD Prater: If my decision is that binary, you made my life a lot easier. So, I think these are fantastic tools that you have-
Gianluca Binell: Thank you.
JD Prater: … put together. I encourage you guys to go check out Gianluca. He’s at BoosterBoxDigital.com. And where can people find you on Twitter?
Gianluca Binell: On Twitter, my handle is K-T-Z style. And I was very young when I picked out that handle, so sorry guys. I know it doesn’t look professional now.
JD Prater: And I’ll make sure to again, link to that so that you guys can reach out at any time. We’ll be linking to these docks in the show notes. And he’s already said, “Hey, reach out to me,” if you guys have any questions that you’re across because he can help anything that may come up as far as implementing.
Gianluca Binell: Sure.
JD Prater: So, really good stuff.
Gianluca Binell: If it’s hard Python stuff, JD.
JD Prater: Yeah, if it’s hard Python stuff, I’m just gonna laugh at you. So, all right. Well again, thank you so much for flying all the way in from Italy to be here.
Gianluca Binell: Thank you, man. Thank you.
JD Prater: All right. Well, thanks everyone for tuning in. We’ll be back next week for another episode of The PPC Show.
10 Free Google AdWords Scripts
When you scale your AdWords accounts, you start to find even some of the most basic tasks start to take up huge amounts of time. I remember stepping up from managing smaller AdWords accounts with a few hundred ads (where I could easily keep track of my split tests in a few minutes per day), to some much larger ones where there were tens of thousands of ads. It would have taken me literally hours a day to review each one by hand.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The key to keeping on top of your AdWords accounts when you scale is Automation. And, one of the most straightforward ways to automate tasks is to use AdWords Scripts for optimizations.
So what are the best AdWords scripts? Here are the 10 I absolutely could not live without.
This is hands down one of the best AdWords scripts ever written. It allows you to automatically record your Quality Score once per day so you can keep track of your historical quality score without having to purchase any software.
And, not only does it help you keep track of your historical Quality Score, it also allows you to create a dashboard within Google sheets that shows you your current quality score distribution and impression weighted Quality Score.
The script provides a number of settings that you can change to add further charts to your dashboard, such as click-weighted Quality Score.
Split testing when you have a few ads is not a problem, but when you have 10,000 or even 100,000 it becomes a big problem. This automated ad creative testing tool makes it easy to keep track of all of your split tests.
It works by analyzing the ads within an ad group and making a calculation as to whether there is statistical significance. This can be set to test a range of different metrics such as CTR and conversion rate.
Once statistical significance has been reached the script labels the ads as either “Current Champion” or “Loser 95% confidence”. It can also be configured to email you to say that a split test has finished.
One of the limitations of AdWords is that you can only use 6 different bid buckets per day, but you are likely to find that your conversion rate changes hourly.
There is however a workaround for this using AdWords Scripts and the Google Sheets API. It allows you to set the different bid modifiers for each hour within Google Sheets and then import them using the API into AdWords to change bids 24 times per day.
There are a significant number of industries where AdWords performance is affected by the weather (literally!) such as automotive, travel, home improvement, retail and many more, and for maximum ROI is it essential to change bids to reflect what’s going on outside.
This script allows you to increase or decrease your bids based on the weather in the location where a user is searching.
Most merchant feeds allow you to pause your Google Shopping ads when they are out of stock but there is no similar functionality built into Google search.
This script allows you to pause ads that are linking to out-of-stock products by scanning the page for the “out-of-stock” piece of code.
Seeing trends within your search query reports is fairly straightforward when you have a small AdWords account, but this becomes a lot more complex when you have millions of different search queries to review.
The solution here is to use something called N-Gram analysis, which allows you to see the aggregate performance of individual words or phrases. So, for example, if you are selling Alloy wheels, you would be able to see the performance of all of the search queries that contain the color “silver” for example.
Keeping track of your competitors is fundamental to AdWords success, however, it can be time consuming on larger accounts. The solution here is to use this competitor tracking script that allows you to map your competitors’ impression-share over time.
There are several limitations of using AdWords experiments. For instance, not being able to test the campaign settings themselves. This AdWords script provides a workaround in that it allows you to test virtually anything.
It works using labels. The results of the tests can be reviewed within the dimensions tab and will look like this.
This AdWords Script allows you to see how your AdWords performance changes hour-by-hour in the form of a heat map so that it is easy to visualize.
This script has also been updated so that you can see the performance of each device (mobile, desktop and tablet) hour-by-hour.
Most readers will know that visible Quality Score is made up of “expected CTR,” “landing page experience,” and “ad relevance”. This script allows you to visualize how your account is doing based on these three metrics so you can see which aspect of your account needs to be improved.
If you are interested in learning more about AdWords Scripts here are some good resources:
Simplify your ad reporting and automation across search, display, app, video, & shopping campaigns on Google AdWords.
Who doesn’t love seeing a finished version of their project? Whether its an ad, a postcard or a deck, you’re filled with a sense of pride every time you look at your just-completed handiwork. But while there’s no harm in sending yourself a piece of direct mail or a promotional email, there are downsides to seeing your search ads in the wild.
If you search for your ad on Google, you’ll pay for it… directly or indirectly. In this post, I’ll show to how to preview your search ads without paying for it using the Google AdWords Ad Preview Tool.
Why You Shouldn’t Search for Your Ads
Once you start running ads on Google AdWords, it can be incredibly tempting to do a search and see your ads serving in the wild. But you have to resist the urge because conducting searches to check up on your ads can hurt your performance.
The issue is that when you perform a search that triggers your ad, you rack up ad impressions that don’t lead to clicks. This can lower your click through rate (and reputation) and it can prevent your ad from running as often as it should.
Do it enough times, and you might never be shown the ad again because Google might think you’re uninterested in that ad and will instead show you ads from your competition. Of course, don’t click on your ad either, since that will directly cost you money.
How To Preview Your Ads on Google AdWords
To check up on your ads without affecting your performance, you can use the Google AdWords Ad Preview Tool. It’s like an alternative Google.com where the impressions are free. The links don’t work, but you’ll be able to see if your ads are running.
Instead of searching for your ad on Google, use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to see where your ad appears in search results for a particular search term. Also, the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool will tell you if your ad isn’t showing and why, so you can make any needed changes and begin reaching customers.
This is an easy way to check how your ad appears in context, and the tool provides the same results as a Google search, without accumulating any impressions.
Bonus! How To Preview Your Bing Ads
Now that you know how to preview your ads without paying for it, you can admire your handiwork without accruing costly impressions. For more help, check out our full list of Google AdWords help articles.