The Ultimate Guide to Amazon PPC Advertising

The Ultimate Guide to Amazon PPC Advertising

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

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

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

Amazon Guide Featured Image

How to create an Amazon PPC campaign

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

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

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

1. Select products to advertise

Amazon Sponsored Ads

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

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

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

2. Choose your campaign type

amazon ppc campaigns

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

  • Automatic targeting campaign

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

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

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

  • Manual targeting campaign

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

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

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

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

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

3. Choose your bid

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

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

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

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

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

4. Set up a budget

amazon ppc campaigns

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

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

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

How to calculate the ideal ACoS

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

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

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

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

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

Key takeaways

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

Increase Performance with Native Ads on Yahoo Gemini

Increase Performance with Native Ads on Yahoo Gemini

This is a guest post from our partner, Yahoo Gemini. To learn more about AdStage’s integration with Yahoo Gemini, go to the Yahoo Gemini Ads reporting and automation page – Ed. 

Native ad formats continue to rise, with an article from Business Insider stating that native ads will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. AdStage’s partnership with Yahoo Gemini, Oath’s leading Native and Search platform, enables advertisers to be well-positioned to take advantage of Gemini’s 1B users worldwide, including 85% mobile reach in the US.

Multi-tasking across devices has also increased dramatically for consumers – whether it’s browsing email and consuming content on their phone, or searching and shopping on their desktop. Gemini gives marketers the unique ability to reach consumers wherever they are, on whatever device, and when they are most likely to convert. Through Gemini, advertisers are able to leverage billions of data insights to create a customized segment of users based on the user’s interests, cross-device behavior, purchase habits, and purchase intent.

3 Ways Gemini Can Help Advertisers Increase Campaign Performance

1. Increase your CTR with Carousel Ads

Gemini’s Carousel Ads allow users to swipe through multiple images, with each card leading to a unique landing page if the advertiser prefers. In a recent comparison, advertisers who ran both static native ads and Carousel Ads saw 43% higher CTRs with Carousel Ads vs static native ads.

yahoo gemini native ads

2. Extend your Search initiatives with Search on Native

On average, a US consumer who searches on Yahoo may see 50 native ads in the following week across devices. Marketers can now reach those users with the help of their search query data, to target them across premium native content. Search on Native enables advertisers to combine the performance and relevance of their search initiatives with the scale and creativity of native. In a recent case study, an advertiser who supplemented their search buy with SoN saw 25% improvement in their CPA, with a 450% increase in sales.

“With Yahoo Gemini, we were able to extend the success of our search campaign to native supply, connect with these shoppers, and achieve results that exceeded our expectations.” – Rajneesh Gupta, VP of Marketing, Nextag

3. Reach your right audience, at the right time with Dynamic Product Ads

Gemini’s feed-based retargeting solution allows advertisers to personalize their ads based on a users’ unique shopping history. Following a one-time setup, our dynamic ads automatically update based on the product feed and a customer’s online habits resulting in increased scale with little effort. Coupled with Gemini’s owned and operated Yahoo and AOL supply exclusive to the Gemini platform, advertisers have seen CPAs decrease by over 22%, CPCs go down by 40%, and CTRs increase by 10% by leveraging Gemini’s effective Dynamic Product Ads solution.

With a focus on mobile, Oath is continuing to innovate with new ad formats within the Gemini platform specifically designed to enhance mobile experiences, aid in higher user engagement and increase brand love. Combined with our collection of leading, premium properties as well as our 3rd party network, Gemini helps advertisers accomplish their objectives, drive incremental reach and effectively increase performance for their marketing campaigns.

To learn more about Yahoo Gemini or to get started today, visit

Turning the Tables on YouTube Audiences

Turning the Tables on YouTube Audiences

Audiences were all the rage for advertisers and marketers in 2017. No longer just a tool for social media or display network marketing, audience targets became a major focus in paid search as well. From Customer Match to Similar Audiences, In-Market and Custom Intent, the focus for SEM has already begun to shift away from the “what” of your product or service to the “who” of your prospective clients and consumers.

YouTube Viewer Audiences for Search

Amid the flurry of audience targeting options being released and expanded nearly every month last year, one unique type of audience targeting in AdWords slipped in under the radar: YouTube Viewer Audiences for Search. This new targeting enables YouTube remarketing audiences for RLSA to retarget video viewers in search.

In this post, we’ll dig into this audience type in hopes of revealing why every paid search specialist ought to be taking advantage where possible.

To guide our exploration, we’ll draw upon the words of Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot:

“To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products” (emphasis added).

Why YouTube Advertising and/or Content Promotion is Worthwhile

As digital marketers, we tend to be very excited about the first part, and very ambitious about the second. Unfortunately, it’s not enough just to connect to the users who are already shopping for our product or service. The goal is to be smart and cohesive in accomplishing the task of marketing both in the “learn about” and “shop for” stages. So let’s first spend a moment on why YouTube advertising and/or content promotion is worthwhile in its own right.

According to eMarketer in 2017, monthly digital video viewership in the U.S. averaged more than 221 million individuals (81.2% of U.S. internet users). Internationally, Western Europe contributed another 219 million viewers of digital video monthly (68.2% of Western European internet users).

monthly digital video viewership in the U.S.

Think about YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine…you name it. It’s not hard to believe that so many of us are voluntarily consuming digital video at least once a month.

On the other hand, eMarketer’s projections for the next 3-5 years also show that viewership growth in the near future will be consistent but marginal.

Essentially, we are seeing that the market for digital video is nearing saturation in terms of consumption. Of course, this means that the market for video advertising is only going to grow more competitive as we all begin to compete for the same placements: to get in front of these valuable, attentive eyes and ears.

Using Video to Directly Populate Audiences

It’s time to turn the tables, think outside the box, and stay ahead of the game.We shouldn’t just value digital video as an ad format for retargeting website visitors or driving new website traffic for subsequent remarketing and direct ROI.

We don’t even need to argue for YouTube’s potential to “lift Branded search traffic” anymore. Video can now be used to directly populate viewer audiences for targeting on both Search and Display.

digital video as an ad format for retargeting website visitors

As Lee Odden (CEO at TopRank Online Marketing) once stated: “Content is the reason Search began in the first place.”

This is where we connect how people learn about and shop for our products or service. If vast digital video consumption is doing the “teaching,” then our Search remarketing must be ready to capture subsequent “shopping” moments for those users.

Making the Case for YouTube Advertising

Before a YouTube Viewer Audience strategy can successfully be executed, we first need to have some kind of presence on YouTube to generate views. This requires some kind of content strategy, video content production, and of course, some level of financial investment and buy-in from company decision-makers (which may or may not fall into your job description).

To help out those who need to justify an investment in YouTube advertising, we’ve compiled a group of statistics relating to the reach, device use, geographic locations, demographics, and user behavior associated with YouTube advertising.

Beyond the stats, though, the real need for video advertising comes from the reality that we no longer live in a world of easily defined, two-dimensional sales funnels. Buyer journeys are now a web of touchpoints from multiple devices and media, each as unique as the associated prospect. Skilled marketers must be prepared to address and nurture each of these users, at all times and on all platforms.

Data suggest that users consult YouTube for help with products and services before, during and after the decision-making process. Thus, YouTube can be an active player in all stages of the conversion funnel or buyer journey.

Video Content Strategy

So, to stay competitive and create the best buyer experience for every customer, a video content strategy is truly necessary. Without it, all that potential revenue and engagement is wasted. Not to mention missing the opportunity to capitalize on YouTube Viewer Audiences.

If the above stats aren’t enough to convince your company heads, you can always ask them to consider a new perspective for YouTube advertising: a low-risk channel for feedback that cooperatively assists more traditional video marketing efforts. You can also utilize earned actions KPIs and YouTube Viewer audience behavior to show that YouTube ads are successful.

Identifying and Building YouTube Viewer Audiences

For the purposes of this discussion, we won’t dive into the step-by-step of how to link a YouTube channel to Adwords or how to create a remarketing list. Rather, presented below is a framework for approaching your YouTube Viewer audiences by building personas associated with each. There are three foundational audiences that I believe every AdWords account will benefit from building, applying, and observing: “Website Strangers,” “Acquainted Visitors,” and “Non-Converting Fans.”

1. Website Strangers

These are users who have viewed at least one video from your channel (you can decide which videos to include/exclude based on your channel content). This means they have some familiarity with your brand. They have not, however, visited your website or completed any kind of conversion action. Thus, visiting your website is a clear next step to take in their customer journey.

Target these individuals with a Website Visit invitation. This might be in the form of a Text Ad on Search, or an Image or Responsive Ad on the Display network. Depending on your typical sales funnel, a website visit might lead directly to a conversion action, or it may transition the individual from a “Website Stranger” to an “Acquainted Visitor.”

2. Acquainted Visitors

These are slightly lower-funnel than “Website Strangers,” because they have engaged more directly with your brand. These are users who have visited your website once or more, or who have engaged more deeply with your content than simply viewing a video or ad. It may be that they liked or commented on your video, or even visited your channel page.

Because these users have an even greater familiarity with your brand, they can be directly targeted with a low-risk conversion invitation. That may mean signing up for an email newsletter or promo code, creating an account for later conversion, downloading a whitepaper, submitting a request for more information, or something else specific to your industry.

3. Non-Converting Fans

Lastly, it’s important to address individuals who engage more deeply with your content, whether by subscribing to your video channel or becoming a brand ambassador by sharing your content with others. They have already engaged with your website but just haven’t taken the step to convert.

These are users ideal to target with Discount or Promotional conversion offers. You might take advantage of Countdown ads in Search to increase urgency, apply a percent-off discount to your headline, or highlight some other offer to help close that deal.

3 types of youtube viewer audiences

Looking at these three foundational audiences, you can see that each is quite easy to compose. There is a lot of power in data collection and targeting capabilities for not a lot of effort on your part. A few sub-audiences built into a combination audience and you can quickly set yourself up for success.

Time to Put it All Together

Once your audiences are created, you can start applying them to your established Search campaigns for observation (or “bid only,” if you refuse to switch over to the new Adwords UI). This allows you to see how your Viewers are engaging with your current keywords and ad copy.

Utilizing AdWords ad customizers, you can also implement audience-specific messaging with IF-functions in your ad copy. As you monitor and quantify your audience behavior, you can then make informed decisions about bid modifiers or campaign structure to best address these YouTube viewers and nurture them in their decision-making process.

In addition to Search campaign application, do not forget the potential to utilize YouTube Viewer Audiences with Display campaigns. You might run a YouTube Viewer retargeting campaign for your Acquainted Visitors or Non-Converting Fans.

The Display network can also be a channel for inviting Website Strangers to your landing page. By breaking down your audiences to consider YouTube engagement as well as website behavior, you have the power to show much more tailored creative to these subsets of your prospect list.

And of course, once you have your audience lists established and your retargeting strategies in place, be sure to stop back here and share your thoughts. We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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How to Use Ad Extensions to Boost Conversion During the Holiday Season

Posted by in Search
How to Use Ad Extensions to Boost Conversion During the Holiday Season

Amid the flurry of holiday ads, achieving a high ad rank in AdWords almost seems like a miracle. The competition is tough! Many retailers launched their PPC campaigns very early this year to capture the growing number of online shoppers (up 18.3% YoY, as TechCrunch reported).

As a PPC advertiser, how do you stand out? Most importantly, how do you make sure you’re getting only the right people to click on your ads?

Your holiday promotions will likely be seen by very broad audiences. To maximize your budget, use extensions to expand your ad with more relevant details.

In this article, I’ll show you several ads from retail brands that dominated SERP on Cyber Monday, with suggestions and tips to apply in your next AdWords campaign.

Ad Extensions to Drive Relevant Holiday Traffic

adwords extensions example

For holiday campaigns, AdWords extensions are especially useful for a few reasons:

  • Win higher ad rank for relevant searches
  • Boost conversion and lower CPA by creating very specific callout extensions at a campaign or ad group level
  • Improve customer experience by pointing people to relevant product categories on your website with sitelinks
  • Decrease time to conversion by using call extensions to get the customer on the phone in one click
  • Improve relevance by scheduling time-sensitive sitelinks for holiday or flash sales
  • Decrease CPC by excluding comparison shoppers with price extensions

Below are a few examples of using AdWords extensions to maximize conversion and click-through rate during the holiday season.

Schedule Time-Sensitive Sitelinks

To highlight limited-time offers, you can use sitelinks and specify the dates and times you want them to show. In the example below, J.C. Penney adds a time-sensitive link to feature the additional Cyber Monday discounts.

adwords extensions cyber monday

To increase click-through rate on a flash sale promotion, you can create urgency by showing how many hours are left or announce specific product categories going on sale.

When you create new campaign-level sitelink extensions, you have the option to select start date and end date and add a schedule of when you want your ad extensions will be available to show.

how to schedule sitelinks in adwords

For example, you can add a time-sensitive sitelink to announce a flash sale or schedule call extensions to show during your business hours.

Show Unique Selling Points With Callouts

Callout extensions look like sitelinks, but don’t actually contain the links. In the first example below, it’s “Pro Tips From our Experts” and “Scorecard Earns Points.” You can use callouts to show unique selling points or provide reassurance about shopping experience (for example, “Free shipping,” “Easy store pickup,” “Free returns”).

callouts in adwords cyber monday example

adwords callouts ecommerce

In the example above, Dick’s uses callouts to highlight its in-store services where certified technicians help customers customize or repair gear (“Pro tips from our experts,” “The Pros,” “Gear Service”). In the second example, Walmart uses callouts as a reminder of the brand’s promise of high-value, low-cost merchandise with its “Save money. Live Better” tagline.

While you can certainly add generic callouts at the account level, it can be effective to create them at the campaign or ad group level to narrow targeting. For example, for a campaign targeting people who shop for shoes, callouts could feature relevant shoe brands.

zappos adwords ad cyber monday

Don’t Overdo It

It’s tempting to stuff as many keywords as you can in your expanded text ads (especially if the keyword is “Cyber Monday”). But just like an overstuffed turkey can mean either undercooked stuffing or an overcooked bird, too many keywords in your ad means less room for copy that features how your offering is different.

In the ad below, that likely isn’t an issue, because the ad is for a deal aggregator. For a retail brand though, it’s wise to use the limited number of characters to highlight additional features instead.

adwords cyber monday ads example extensions

Relevance is Key

For e-commerce brands that want to stand out in search during the holiday season, relevance is key to success, whether it’s time, location, or advanced behavioral segmentation in Google Analytics.

How are you using ad extensions in your holiday campaigns? Let us know in the comments.


Bidding on the competition? Here’s a lesson from Equifax.

Posted by in Search
Bidding on the competition? Here’s a lesson from Equifax.

When a credit monitoring company Equifax was hit by a cyberattack that may have affected about 143 million Americans, people flocked to Google to find out what to do. As “Equifax” search query made it into the trending list on Google, the savvy marketing team at Lifelock, an identity theft protection company, quickly bid on the branded term and snagged the first ad position.

paid search for branding -- equifax

Lifelock’s smart bidding strategy is an example of how PPC marketers can leverage online search trends and breaking news to drive top-of-the-funnel leads and boost brand awareness. This strategy is especially effective when you reach people in highly receptive mindset (which was the case with Equifax).

In one Google study, they found that paid search can be as powerful as traditional media such as TV and print — and more cost-effective. In this article, we’ll share tips on how you can use PPC marketing to increase brand awareness.

Why Use Paid Search for Brand Awareness

Why should companies care about brand marketing? A company’s brand is one of its most valuable assets. Apple’s brand, for example, is worth $170 billion by Forbes’ count. Naturally, companies invest in branded campaigns to keep the brand top-of-mind and defend against competition. Most often, marketers use pay-per-click advertising to capture conversions at the bottom of the sales funnel, but PPC can be just as effective for brand awareness.

First, PPC marketers can react to news and industry changes almost instantly. What takes PR people days, weeks, months, and years, a PPC expert can sometimes test within an hour, depending on the traffic volume. Second, PPC brand marketing is very easy to measure. Where brand marketers struggle to justify return on investment, PPC marketers can quickly show hard and fast numbers.

So very quickly, and at a fraction of the cost, PPC marketing can amplify a brand’s voice and even protect its reputation.

Below, we’ve assembled three very recent marketing case studies. Whether you’re testing traditional media, dealing with a PR crisis, or attending a trade show in the next couple of months, you can use paid search to protect and boost your brand.

1. Paid Search to Boost Traditional Media

Visa Case Study: Paid Search + Traditional Media

Last week, Visa’s marketing team put together a last-minute video ad to promote recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey. The original ad, scheduled to appear in the NFL kickoff game, took the company over a month to produce and featured Visa’s mobile payment features. Shot on iPhone in just a few days, the new ad was a little blurry. But the production quality didn’t matter because the ad stood for a cause. However, Visa missed out on the opportunity to use paid search to amplify traditional media.

Search and social media advertising can work in tandem with TV to track affinity and gauge response in real time (something the majority of Super Bowl advertisers have tested). Visa could have easily boosted the impact of their campaign by bidding on relevant terms (such as “harvey donation” — their key message in the NFL ad).

paid search marketing for branding - case studies

Visa could have amplified their TV campaign’s impact with paid search

2. Paid Search in a PR Crisis

Samsung Case Study: Paid Search for Reputation Management

When Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones suddenly started catching on fire, the manufacturer issued formal apologies to customers and suppliers. But it was too late: Some consumers started referring to the model as “Death Note 7.” It was a PR disaster. Samsung lost billions of dollars in sales. In situations like this, while little can be done to erase the public’s sentiment, the company could bid on branded terms that include unfavorable keywords and point customers to a landing page that provides a rebuttal, explanation, or instructions on how to get a refund.

samsung galaxy note 7 fire search

Brands can reduce damage by directing consumers to relevant information through paid search

PR crisis mitigation is not just for large brands like Samsung. Smaller businesses can also benefit from proactive brand-saving paid search strategies to handle negative reviews and product recalls.

Delta & Lyft Case Studies: Monitor Competitors’ Brands

A nightmare for a brand can open up an opportunity for its competitors. Delta and Lyft, for example, are famous to respond quickly to their competitors’ missteps on social media. In response to “#DeleteUber” sexual harassment scandal, Lyft pledged a million dollars to the American Civil Liberties Union and launched a campaign called “Round up & Donate.” The lesson? Companies should be monitoring their competitors’ brands as closely as their own.

3. Paid Search to Increase Booth Traffic

Trade shows take weeks of planning and thousands of dollars in the associated costs and fees. Naturally, marketers want to deliver the best ROI. Paid search can capture relevant leads and even help you test if you should make that investment in the first place.

dmexo 2017 google search

IBM and AdSparc bid on dmexco 2017 search query to reach relevant audiences

Take Dmexco, for example, a must-attend digital marketing event in Cologne, Germany. IBM and AdSparc placed bids on “dmexco 2017” search query to drive the event’s attendees to their dedicated landing pages.

For Dreamforce 2017, as you can see below, the opportunity is up for grabs.

dreamforce 2017 google search

Sum Up

Paid search can boost your company’s presence and reputation — and not just in times of crisis. To leverage PPC for brand awareness, think beyond branded terms bidding and competitor search queries. For maximum impact, consider online trends and news, your company’s (and your competitors’) reputation, reviews, and upcoming industry events.

We post on this blog around three times a week. Want to join 40,000+ marketers and get a free weekly update?

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Quick Guide to Writing Successful Expanded Text Ads

Posted by in Search
Quick Guide to Writing Successful Expanded Text Ads

We all know the basics of good marketing copy: identify the problem, offer a solution, keep it brief, and the like. But for text ads — ads that show above and below Google search results — those basics aren’t enough. There’s a limit to how much you can tell in a 30-character headline — and almost endless possibilities to tailor ads to custom audiences.

We’ve put together a quick guide to writing successful expanded text ads, with examples to inspire you.

1. Include Your Target Keyword in the Headline

Keywords increase your message’s relevance to what people search. If you’re selling software to small businesses, your headline should explicitly say that your offering is suited to them. To boost the ad’s click-through rate, pair your target keyword with a strong call to action.

How to write text ads - example

Include targeted keywords in the headline to boost relevance and CTR

For example, if you’ve included accounting for startups as a keyword, your ad headline could be “Accounting for Startups – Request a Quote.”

How to write text ads - examples

Including your targeted keyword may help your ad stand out even if it doesn’t rank first

Learn why you want to write different ad copy for Facebook and AdWords.

2. Be Specific

Loose promises coupled with a tendency to exaggerate will discount your statement. Which is why a headline that says “Our Brand A is 15% Cheaper Than Brand B and C” will earn more trust and clicks than a headline that promises “Best Prices.” Highlight your key differentiation points with the messaging that is specific enough to feel real. 2-day shipping? Niche expertise in a particular vertical? Say so.

how to write text ads - example

Highlight what makes your business unique

3. Add Urgency with Promotions and Exclusives

Cognitive friction causes low conversions (or so says Neil Patel, who also believes that the greatest marketers are all masters of psychology). To reduce friction through ad copy, Neil appeals to scarcity, urgency, and loss aversion with phrases such as “four more left,” “limited time,” or expires after 24 hours.”

Neil Patel likes to jazz up his ad copy with the following words to add urgency:

– now
– fast
– quick
– hurry
– rapidly
– close
– approaching
– never
– seconds
– again
– over
– instant

That extra nudge can get shoppers to act when they search for things on Google but are not yet ready to buy. The approach works well for impulse purchases such as fast fashion (or exercise gear on January, 1st).

how to write text ads -- example

The scarcity bias works well for fast fashion and other impulse buys

4. Include Trust Signals

Trust signals are elements in your advertising copy that help buyers feel more safe and secure in their decision to click on the ad and buy your product. “Trust by association” is a tactic you can use to reassure customers to click through. “Featured in Forbes,” “Zagat-Rated,” “Allure Awards Winner” are all examples of trust by association.

how to write text ads - example

To increase conversion rate, build trust with shoppers

To add trust signals to your text ads, use reviews (“Google trusted store”) and callouts (“Money Back Guarantee”, “We Accept PayPal”). PayPal could be a particularly good callout for a small business, because many consumers are hesitant to give up their credit card information to some lesser-known brands.
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6. Link to Custom Landing Pages

Personalized landing pages reduce bounce rate and boost conversion rate. A well-crafted custom landing page matches the ad’s intent, copy, and design. For B2B marketers, if you highlight multiple integrations of your task management software in a text ad, link to the page on your website that shows existing connectors and custom enterprise add-ons you’ve built for clients, if applicable. For B2C marketers, if people are searching for black dresses, the landing page should feature dresses in that color.
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example of text ads

Link you ads to custom landing pages

Read more on how to personalize landing pages to boost conversion.

7. Sell to the Mobile Consumer

While some insist that mobile should be the focus of all advertising campaigns these days, you don’t have to create a mobile-first campaign to target on-the-go customers. With IF functions in AdWords, you can easily insert a specific message in your text ads if a person sees it on mobile, and a default text if not.

optimize text ads for mobile
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Naturally, all of your text ads and landing pages should be optimized for mobile devices. But a successful mobile campaign really starts with understanding the context of mobile shoppers.

mobile text ads

Drybar personalizes ads by location

Mobile technology empowered marketers to increase ad relevance using time, location, and other valuable data points, so use it.

mobile text ads

Hyper-contextual and location-targeted ads have higher conversion rates

8. Proofread and Check for Common Mistakes

Even the best ad will fall flat if you forget to check for errors and typos. The best way to review is to set your ad copy aside for a few hours after you’ve finished writing, and then proofread it again. Check structure first, then word choice, then spelling, and finally punctuation, or what have you. Reading your ad backward is another way to catch typos. Some PPC marketers like to create their own proofreading checklist and use it each time they build a new campaign.

Learn from Experiments

Above all, make sure you’re constantly learning from your ad experiments and optimizing. A good rule of thumb (and what AdWords recommends doing) is to build 3-4 ads per ad group and test several options.

Ready to get started writing expanded text ads? Use this quick guide to inspire (and structure) your creating thinking.

How to Use Bing Ads to Reach New Customers

How to Use Bing Ads to Reach New Customers

Don’t Overlook Bing Ads

It’s been seven years since Windows unveiled Bing, and since then, the search engine and the teams behind it, have made strides to catch up with the behemoth, otherwise known as Google.

Just in the past few months, new features have included a ‘Popular Content’ section showing you the most visited content sections from a website or web page, completely redesigning the Android version of its search app and including augmented reality, and even adding Game of Thrones content in preparation for the season 7 premiere. Perhaps even Windows 10 could have had a big effect since Bing is now integrated throughout the entire desktop OS.

Little by little, those efforts are bumping Bing’s numbers up. In comScore’s latest rankings for search on desktop, Google slipped .3 points while Microsoft (Bing) rose by .2%. In an amended deal struck in mid-2015, 51% of Yahoo’s desktop search traffic has to carry Bing ads, giving the search engine even more clout.

Of course, there’s still a huge difference between Bing and Google’s overall share of search, but Bing’s influence is larger than most people think.

comScore’s latest rankings for search on desktop

While the majority of people are hanging out on Google for their searches, being among the crowd isn’t always the best bet for marketers. In fact, Bing offers many advantages over Google.

The Power of Bing Over Google

Bing has less competition and cheaper PPCs

Using an example from digital marketing agency ymarketing, keywords “mens boardshorts” gave them a CPC of $0.48 on Bing compared to $1.35 on Google, for a cost savings of 64%. Fewer people to go up against means lower costs for marketers. You’re also more likely to get better placement since not many marketers are including Bing on their media mix currently.

Bing gives you more control and flexibility at the ad group level

When setting up an AdWords campaign, Google locks you into network, location, ad scheduling, language, and rotation settings at a campaign level, and ad groups are held to those restrictions. The only way to get around that is to set up a new campaign with different parameters so that you can extend the filters to ad groups. Bing allows you to adjust all those same options at any level, as well as assign different campaigns time zones, which could be a crucial factor for global clients.

Bing allows transparent access to search partner targeting

Bing’s got nothing to hide when it comes to search partner targeting. Not only can you target just Bing & Yahoo, just search partners, or both, but you can also see who the search partners are and drop any partner who’s not giving you the numbers you want. Google, on the other hand, lets you target just Google, or Google and search partners, and refuses to pull back the curtain to let you see who the partners are, let alone adjust bids or exclude anyone.

Bing gives context with social extensions

In the first quarter of 2016, Bing announced Social Extensions, which are “placed under your ad copy that direct potential customers into social conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Tumblr. Searchers click on the extension and are directed to the associated social account or social post.” Bing also shows participating advertisers’ Twitter followers in ads to give additional validity to a business with which a customer might not be familiar.

bing ads social extensions

Bing lets you use demographics in search

In AdWords, you can set demographic targeting on the Google Display Network, but that control doesn’t extend to search. With Bing Ads, you can set the gender and age of who you want to see your search ads.

Now that you’ve seen the ways advertising on Bing can be beneficial over going the traditional Google route, hopefully, any skepticism about the underdog search engine has dissipated. Now let’s take a look at Bing’s targeting capabilities and how you can use them to your benefit.

Bing Ads Targeting Capabilities

According to Microsoft, Bing Ads and the Bing Network reaches 167 million unique users who spend 26% more online than the average internet searcher. Those are some pretty enticing numbers considering you can get much lower PPCs, too. Bing’s targeting capabilities aren’t drastically different from what Google offers, but they’re still worth taking a look at to fully understand them and determine how to use them to shape your campaigns.

1) Keywords

Bing provides a Keyword Planner (you’ll need to have a Bing Ads account and be signed in) that suggests keywords based on insights from historical trends and marketplace competition. You’ll need to start with your own seed list of keywords that you’ll input into the planner, as well as the URL of your website or a page on your website, and a category relevant to your product or service, then you’ll get a list of suggested keywords from Bing. From there, you’ll also see a bid landscape for each keyword where you can make decisions on what to go after.

2) Location

With Bing, not only can you show a store address in your search ad, but you can also specify a radius within a city or U.S. ZIP code in which to target your ad. This capability lets you focus your ads on search users who live close to your store. Bing gives another example of location-based targeting using the keywords “Seahawks jerseys.” As you can see in the graph below, it’s no surprise the most search traffic comes from Seattle, followed by California and Oregon. With this data, you can make sure you’re targeting these areas exclusively, or bid appropriately to ensure you’ve always got ads up in your strongest regions.

bing ads keyword insights

Once you have enough historical data through your campaigns, Bing will show you location based bid adjustments which are suggestions on how to tweak your account to get more from the locations that are responding best.

3) Language

Bing will do all the translating for you. When setting up a campaign, all you have to do is select the most common language in the region you’re targeting, and Bing will make sure your ads correlate to the language of the end-user’s web browser settings.

4) Scheduling

With Bing’s scheduling tool, you can parse ads out in 15-minute increments. If your campaign is focused on getting customers into a brick & mortar door, you can also set ads to run only when your store is open. Bing averaged its user data to come up with helpful trend charts showing volume by hour and days per device.

bing ads relative volume by day of the week

5) Device

You can limit where you want your ad to be seen – mobile, tablet, or PC. Bing has another helpful interactive graph that shows click-through rate, cost per click, and volume by device type and industry. It’s a great way to get a glimpse at what competitors are doing, and also set your own bar.

6) Demographics

In addition to the default HHI, education, and marital status, you can also target demographics like age and gender, which can offer some tailored opportunities when it comes to your ad creative.

7) Remarketing

Don’t miss out on interested customers. Bing lets you remarket to customers who have visited your site but may not have converted.


We’ve preached before (and we’ll do it again) about the importance of varying your media mix. Bing, with its large, engaged audience and low PPCs offers a great opportunity to experiment with a search engine you may have previously overlooked.

Gmail Ads Tactics To Improve CTR

Posted by in Search
Gmail Ads Tactics To Improve  CTR

Any idea how much time you spend on email per day? Per week? In a lifetime? The Washington Post has a fun, or perhaps dispiriting, calculator to help you determine those numbers.

According to the article, the average office worker spends just over 4 hours checking work email each day. Do the math, and you’ll see that’s 20.5 hours each week, and more than 47,000 hours over a career.

And that’s just work email. While that might be a little alarming for some of us, those figures scream opportunity to marketers.

We covered how to create Gmail Ads in AdWords when it was first made available to all advertisers, but as more marketers catch on, the need to stand out from the competition becomes even more crucial.

Below are some tried and true tactics to ensure your gmail ads are making the most impact.

Ensure The Right People See Your Gmail Ads

In other words, make sure your targeting is correct. To do that, ensure that you have a complete understanding of the capabilities Gmail Ads provides:

  • Keywords: much like SEO – use specific words someone has searched for that are relevant to your product or service
  • Affinity audiences: reach niche audiences using free form interests entered as keywords and/or URLs as a proxy for interest bundles
  • In-market audiences: target customers who are “in the market,” meaning currently searching for products or services similar to those you offer
  • Demographics: use traditional demographics like age, income, education, location, to reach relevant customers
  • Topics: target customers who are talking about certain subjects related to your product or service
  • Customer Match: reach current customers and people who are similar to them.

One important point to note is Google’s recent announcement that it will soon stop scanning emails to individual users for advertising purposes. However, as The Verge points out, “Google can still parse search histories, YouTube browsing, and other Chrome activity as long as you’re signed into your Gmail account.” So marketers won’t completely lose valuable customer data with this upcoming change.

Hook People ASAP

You have even less space in a collapsed Gmail Ad than you do on Twitter – about 40 characters. So make sure you get to the point immediately and put the most enticing information upfront. If you can get someone to click the ad, it opens up to a full page layout with tons more real estate, but that’s the catch – you have to be intriguing enough to get the click.

gmail ads example

Gmail Ads Example

Aside from leading with strong messaging (and we can’t stress enough – Test! Test! Test!), experiment with other ways to visually draw people in with the text. That includes using different characters or even emojis, as long as it doesn’t feel off-brand.

Research & Use Competitor Keywords

You likely have a list of keywords that you use for other marketing channels. Add to this list by taking a look at what your competitors are using, or words that are directly related to your competitors. Check out our post on using social research to find out more about specific companies for tips on how to dig up every bit of information possible.

Use Gmail’s Ready-Made Ad Templates

You are not cheating or cutting corners by using what’s already available to you. Gmail’s provided templates are already mobile-optimized and often perform better than custom HTML templates (the last part according to Google). Don’t go spending time or money on a developer before you test the templates. Gmail offers four templates outside of uploading your own custom HTML template.

Here’s how Google describes each:

  • Single image ad: a single image fills the body of the expanded ad
  • Single product promotion: an image or video with text advertises a single product or service
  • Multi-product promotion: several images with text advertise multiple products or services, each with a call-to-action button
  • Catalog creative: features more descriptive text than the multi-product promotion, to create an almost magazine-like experience with multiple call-to-action buttons

gmail ads templates

Once someone clicks on the collapsed ad and it expands to a full page, landing page best practices can be applied. Read through our 5 Easy Ways To Boost PPC Landing Pages post before creating your next ad to make sure you’re accounting for the most important elements. Just because one template was supposedly created for a specific purpose (the multi-product promotion ad is a natural choice for retailers), with enough creativity, you can come up with innovative ways to make the templates work for your goals.

Measure and Interpret Results

Finally, you’ll never know if something’s working, or how to change course to make a campaign work, unless you’re paying attention to performance. Use the following four tips to make sure you’re recording and understanding results correctly.

Google doesn’t automatically capture all the information you’ll need. You need to “opt-in,” or rather, set up your reporting table to record the relevant results.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. While signed in to your account, go to your Reporting tab
  2. Click Modify columns in the toolbar above your statistics table
  3. Select Gmail metrics under “Select metrics”
  4. Click Add all columns
  5. Click Apply

gmail ads reporting in adwords

Tip #1 – Calculate your external Gmail CTR by dividing “Gmail clicks to website” by “clicks.” That will help you determine if your full-page layout is working. A high volume of clicks to expand, but a low volume of clicks to website means your headline is compelling, but you have some work to do on your full-page ad.

Tip #2 – Take a look at your display impression share. If your share is low but you’re driving strong performance, consider raising your bids to increase impressions.

Tip #3 – The reach estimates widget lets you see an estimate of impressions available per week on the Google Display Network for your ad group, based on your targeting. If your possible impressions seem low, adjust your targeting.


Take advantage of the 4+ hours per day potential customers are spending in their inboxes with these Gmail Ads tactics. That’s more attention than you’d get from nearly every other marketing channel, and if executed correctly, will give you an unbelievably low cpc.

Is SEM An Effective Growth Channel For Startups?

Posted by in Agency, Search
Is SEM An Effective Growth Channel For Startups?

SEM is undoubtedly one of the most effective digital marketing channels that exist. When the right elements come together – a great product with good unit economics, relatively few competitors, and high search volumes – paid search scales very nicely.

But startups rarely have all these elements working in their favor at once, and they usually face a set of unique challenges when trying to build out SEM as a scalable channel. As a digital marketing agency that has worked with more than 100 startups of all shapes and sizes on SEM, we have seen and navigated these issues and want to share some insights about how to overcome them.

The Challenges

Startups have a set of unique challenges above and beyond the typical challenges faced by companies advertising on paid search channels like Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

The first big challenge is that many startups have unknown or unproven customer LTVs (lifetime values). Knowing your LTVs is the most important first step when considering doing any kind of paid advertising. If you don’t know how much money you’re making from a customer over their lifetime, you won’t know how much you can afford to spend to acquire them.

But for startups with relatively little operating history and low customer volumes, it becomes very difficult to accurately project LTV. A lack of LTV data is a bit of a chicken and an egg problem, since LTV can only be established once you have acquired customers. You have to expend some combination of time, effort, and money to acquire customers from any channel.

This is very important to understand – SEM can be used to help validate or establish LTVs, but if this is your goal then make sure you are clear on what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes a startup thinks they are trying to see if SEM is scalable for their business, but they realize they don’t have the right LTV data to assess the efficiency of the channel in the first place. It’s an important distinction that will change the approach and the resources needed to manage your SEM accounts.

One way to get around this catch-22 is to get industry comparisons by talking to VCs or people at similar companies who can augment any customer data you have. While customer LTVs for other companies will likely differ from yours, it’s a relatively good measure that can at minimum help you establish a benchmark for developing a target CPA.

How much you can afford to spend to acquire a customer (called a target CPA) is directly related to how much scale you can achieve from SEM. The higher your target CPA, the more scale you can achieve.The reason for this is diminishing returns. As you start increasing your SEM spend, CPAs also increase as you saturate the low-hanging, high-intent keywords that typically convert well and you reach for new keyword opportunities. Eventually your actual CPA will start bumping up against your CPA target and you will be forced to stop scaling spend until either you determine you can afford to pay a higher CPA or you are able to achieve lower CPAs with optimization.

Another challenge for startups using paid search is heavy competition from established companies. Because these incumbents know their LTVs and also typically have much larger budgets to work with, they can afford to be more aggressive with their bids on SEM and this can squeeze out startups trying to break in. In addition, sometimes these companies ensure they show up in a certain position – regardless of how inefficient it may be. This can make it very difficult for scrappy, unit-economics-driven startups to compete. This can be exacerbated for high-funnel keywords that are already very expensive and have relatively low conversions rates.

For an eCommerce startup selling subscription clothing boxes, a generic high-funnel keyword like “mens jackets” is unlikely to back out to a target CPA that’s based on their average customer LTV. However, when searching for this term you’ll notice Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, and Michael Kors bidding aggressively:

mens jackets search example

Even for these companies, it’s unlikely that the CPA from these keywords backs out for them directly, but they continue to spend millions of dollars per year to show up in the top positions for these keywords. Such companies may be bidding on the belief that the brand exposure they receive from showing up for generic keywords makes up for CPA inefficiency, or they may be bidding on these keywords purely due to a fear of missing out since their competitors are bidding on them. Regardless, this is not a battle that a startup is going to win unless their LTV, and thus target CPA, allows them to compete.

The best way to get around this is to bid on a variety of long-tail keywords, which will have lower competition and likely higher intent, but will also be cheaper. The more extensive your list of long-tail generic keywords, the more traffic you can drive without relying on competitive, generic keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner and third-party tools like SpyFu can help you find long-tail keywords with low competition that are relevant to your business.

Another common obstacle for startups looking to leverage paid search is that they’re often operating in nascent or emerging markets, leading to low search interest. This can limit the amount of relevant search volume available, which is a critical aspect to scaling paid search.

People have to know something exists before they can search for it, or at least something closely related to it. If a startup is selling a whole new class of product or service, this poses a challenge. For example, in the early days of Uber and Lyft, no one knew what on-demand ride sharing was, so no one was searching for it. Only as the market matured did search interest start to skyrocket, as shown below:

Historical interest in “ride sharing” via Google Trends

Historical interest in “ride sharing” via Google Trends

How can you access search volume at scale when your industry is so new that people don’t even know it exists yet? This can be a daunting obstacle, and it takes some creativity to get past it.

Targeting competitor keywords and tangential products is one way to do this. For example, in the early days Uber could have bid on competitor keywords like “avis car rental” and “yellow cab taxi”, or tangential products like “quick transportation” and “call a taxi” to build awareness of its product and drive conversions via SEM.

However, the relevancy of a keyword to the product at hand will determine the conversion rate and so again it comes down to what CPA you can afford to pay for these keywords. Waiting for your market to develop is sometimes necessary in order to truly achieve scale from SEM while hitting your CPA target.

The Advantages

We’ve addressed the challenges in making paid search a profitable and scalable channel for startups, but what about the light at the end of the tunnel for those companies that are able to overcome those challenges?

The most obvious and most important advantage of paid search is the value of intent. Users are telling you exactly what they’re looking for when they type in a search term, which usually indicate higher levels of purchase intent than indirect signals like audience targeting that are available for other paid acquisition channels. As a result, no paid advertising channels come close to paid search conversion rates.

Intent-based search ads allow you to capture the low hanging fruit. Someone searching for “ride sharing app” is already generally aware of your product and is probably deep enough in the marketing funnel to download the app and use it. Search ads let you maximize demand capture.

But intent is also valuable for capturing higher-funnel interest. Someone searching for “quick transportation” is sending a direct signal that they’re looking for a fast way to get around, even if they’re not aware of the existence of ride sharing. This goes to show that you can find conversion volume from keywords that are not directly related to your product or service offering, assuming the unit-economics work out when comparing LTV to CPA.

Brand keyword coverage plays an important role in all SEM programs, but it’s especially critical for startups who should be capturing everyone searching for them. All the effort and resources expended driving awareness of a startup can be wasted if a potential customer searches for your brand on Google and gets poached by a competitor’s search ad. Branded search ads can help you protect your investment in other channels.

Given how valuable these earned branded search queries are, it should come as no surprise that bidding on competitors’ keywords can be a very effective way to reach potential customers at the bottom of the funnel who are ready to make a decision. This can be especially beneficial for startups who are in markets with well-known incumbents (i.e. lots of customers searching for their branded keywords).

While established companies may have larger budgets and more brand name recognition working in their favor, startups also have some things working in their favor.

For one, startups are able to move very fast and learn quickly due to their small size and lack of red tape, allowing for high-tempo testing and optimization, which is for scaling a paid search program. For another, startups can prioritize growth over profitability in pursuit of capturing a market, allowing them to better compete with established companies in ad auctions.

Finally, startups tend to have new and refined product offerings compared to their older competitors, creating the potential for higher conversion rates and customer LTVs. This can make it easier to compete with established competitors.

A Word to the Wise – Don’t Ignore Paid Search

Startups eventually have to acquire new customers efficiently and at scale in order to become mainstay businesses. In the early days that’s no easy task, as even defining efficiency goals based on LTV benchmarks can be arduous. Succeeding with SEM as a startup requires being nimble with testing and learning, and it sometimes necessitates sacrificing short-term efficiency in favor of long-term growth.

There will always be established competitors with much larger budgets trying to box out startups trying to break into their market, but there’s a huge opportunity for the startups that are able to successfully overcome the challenges associated with SEM. People expressing their intent through a search query is arguably the most powerful marketing signal that exists. And tapping into that signal using paid search engine marketing can be the source of a highly scalable customer acquisition channel.


3 Big Google Shopping Campaign Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

Posted by in Search
3 Big Google Shopping Campaign Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

Here at we’ve reviewed over 100 Google Shopping campaigns over the years. In that time, we’ve seen pretty much every money-wasting mistake that it’s possible to make in Shopping. Some of these are rare, one-time-only type errors. But some of these are surprisingly common. And, in fact, there are 3 mistakes in particular that we see being made in almost every account we review.

With this in mind, there is both good and bad news for Shopping advertisers. The bad news is that these mistakes are common and probably costing you money. The good news is, these mistakes are quick to fix.

A few clicks here, some minor adjustments there and presto! You should have a more profitable Shopping campaign in less than half a day’s work. So, let’s dig into each of the mistakes and the solutions for them.

Mistake 1: Not Bidding Per Product / Item ID

When we take over Shopping campaigns that have previously been run in-house, this is by far the most common type of error we see:


Not Bidding Per Product / Item ID


What we’re seeing here is one of the main ad groups within this client’s Shopping campaign, before we came along and optimised it. Within the ad group we have the product group. Bids are controlled at the product group level and you can split out your feed however you want. You could have all products in your feed in one product group, or you could have one product group per category, one product group per item, etc.

The mistake we often see, the one you’re seeing in the above image, is having the product groups split out into any level higher than the single product / item ID / SKU level. In the above example we see that all products are in one big product group for the whole account. Another common error we see is having one product group per category.

Whenever you are lumping lots of different products into the same product group you reduce your ability to bid optimally per product. CPC bids are controlled at the product group level. This means that if you have 1 product group with 84 products in it, you only have 1 CPC bid for those 84 products.

Your products will all tend to have different prices, conversion rates, click-through rates, and margins. Each one will thus have its own unique ideal CPC bid, and this ideal bid will change over time as the competitive landscape shifts and search volumes naturally fluctuate.

So, don’t limit yourself to only 1 CPC bid to cover multiple products. Split out your product groups as finely as possible: right down to the individual item level. This way, you can give each product the individually customised CPC bid that it needs and deserves.

The Solution

The criminal part of all this is that the one-product-per-product-group structure is REALLY easy to set up. You just need to subdivide your product group:

subdivide google shopping product group

And then select Item ID as the option to subdivide by:

subdivide shopping products - big flare


This would give you a very simple structure of having 1 ad group with all your products in it, and each product having its own product group. There are many other ways of structuring your ad groups and this is just one of them, the simplest one. What we’ll show next is the next level of ad group / product organisation, the SPAG.

Taking This 1 Step Further: The SPAG

SPAG stands for Single Product Ad Groups. This is taking the one-product-per-ad-group structure even further and splitting it out so we have one product in each ad group. If you have more than a few products in your feed, this is going to take a while to do, so I’d recommend using a tool such as or to help you do this quickly.

The main benefit of splitting out your Shopping campaign into SPAGs is a highly increased ability to “funnel” search terms using negative keywords.

Let’s say, for example, you have two products, product A and product B, that would match the query “blue trainers”. Product A is low margin and less profitable, product B is a bestseller with high margins and conversion rates. Of course, if someone searches “blue trainers” you would prefer them to see Product B’s ad, not product A.

Without a SPAG structure you could try to do this by setting bids appropriately, but it’s never going to be foolproof. With a SPAG structure you can now create a negative keyword in A’s ad group for “blue trainers” and all the traffic for that keyword will now correctly be funneled to product B. If you don’t split out into SPAGs, you lose the ability to do this, as negative keywords are controlled at the ad group level, not the product group.

Mistake 2: Not Splitting out Brand vs Non-Brand

You’re already splitting out your brand traffic from your non-brand traffic in your Search campaigns, right? Please tell me you are! Brand traffic is an entirely different beast to non-brand traffic. It consists of people who already know your brand and want to come directly to your site and (hopefully) buy something. Non-brand traffic will contain a much higher proportion of new vs returning visitors, and thus it needs to be treated differently to Brand, different targets, different bids, etc.

So that’s why every search marketer worth their salt is already splitting out brand vs non-brand traffic in Search. Why isn’t everyone also doing it in Shopping? I think the answer is that, because Shopping does not have keyword targeting, most Shopping advertisers do not even realise that splitting out brand vs non-brand traffic is even an option. But it is!

The Solution

Using a clever campaign priority strategy combined with the correct negative keywords, you can indeed split out Shopping into brand vs non-brand searches. Here’s how:

1. Create Your Brand Campaign

This is going to be an exact duplicate of your normal “Generics” or “Non-Brand” campaign. Set this campaign to medium priority level in the campaign settings.

2. Set Priorities For Non-Brand

Now that you have your brand campaign set up, head over to the settings for your non-brand campaign. Make sure to set the priority level to high. Well, really the important thing is that non-brand has a higher priority than brand. So another perfectly viable option is to have brand set to low priority, and non-brand set to medium or high priority. This might all sound a bit confusing so far, why would non-brand be higher priority than Brand? Well, wait for it, this next step explains all…

3. Add Brand Keywords As Negative Match to Non-Brand

Go into your non-brand campaign and add in your brand terms and all associated keywords (plurals, misspellings, etc) into the negative keyword list for the whole campaign.

And there you have it! You now have a fully functioning brand / non-brand split in your Shopping campaigns. When someone searches for a brand term that triggers Shopping ads, they will not see the non-brand ads because those terms have been negative matched from your non-brand campaign. When someone searches for a non-brand term that triggers Shopping ads, the higher priority on the non-brand campaign will kick in and ensure they see the non-brand ad not the brand one.

Now you’ll be able to set specific bids for brand Shopping and split it out accurately on your reporting, just like in standard Search campaigns.

Mistake 3: Insufficient/Infrequent Bid Optimisation

How often are you currently updating the CPC bids on your Shopping ads? If you are like most advertisers whose accounts we review, the answer is, “Oooh maybe once a month, at most, but often a lot less than that.” This attitude towards bid optimisation, and a poor strategy behind bid optimisation, is probably the main reason why we see client Shopping campaigns underperforming versus their targets.

The Search advertising marketplace for your products is shifting, dynamically, ALL THE TIME. Competitor’s are adjusting their prices and releasing new products or updates. Search volumes are going up and down. Conversion rates are twitching according to time of day, day or week, and season.

Uncountable other factors are influencing consumers to buy more of or less of your products. This is happening in real-time, potentially thousands of times per day. With this in mind, you can’t really expect to have ideal CPC bids in Shopping if you only update them once per month, right?

There’s a challenge here, of course. We’d all like to have CPC bids updated in real-time to maximise our profit or ROI goals. But, what if you have thousands of products listed? How are you going to optimise so many bids with the frequency of updates required for optimal profitability?

The Solution

The answer is, trust in the machine. Automated bid management by Google and by third-parties has gotten really good over the past few years. We are at a point now where, assuming you have enough conversions (about 30-50 conversions per performance group or portfolio will normally do it), an automated bid management system can do a very good job of dynamically updating bids and hitting your performance targets. The only remaining challenge now is setting the right Adwords goals (ROAS, CPA, Clicks, etc) to match your overall business goals (profit, revenue, growth, etc).

At Big Flare we’re a big fan of Adspert’s bid management tool. Despite not having access to as much data as Google’s free built-in bid optimisation tool, Adspert has often outperformed Google in many of our tests. However, as with any third-party tool worth using, Adspert is not free. Google also has it’s built in bid management algorithms that you can use for free and that do a pretty good job as well.

Whatever the tool or algorithm you use, we recommend you get on one right away. Shift your bid management system from checking once in awhile and updating manually, to setting up automated bid management and then checking on the results once per week to make sure your Adwords bidding goals and results are delivering the business goals you are trying to achieve.

To set up an automated bid strategy with Google, simply head over to: Shared library > Bid Strategies and create a new strategy.

create a bid ROAS strategy - Big Flare


For Shopping campaigns, and for eCommerce PPC in general, Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) based bid strategies are recommended. Out of the bid strategies available on Adwords, only ROAS can bid based on the actual return you are receiving, rather than just on the number of conversions or clicks.

set a 300% ROAS bid strategy - big flare

Name your bid strategy something meaningful. If this is going to be a Shopping only bid strategy, then name it with “Shopping” at the start then add your performance goal too. Select which campaigns you want to include. This can also be done via campaign settings. Set your performance target (in the example above, a ROAS target of 300% was set) and then click save.

There is the advanced option available to set a minimum or maximum bid, but for most advertisers this is not recommended. Simply let Google bid whatever it needs in order to achieve the target you set. As long as your performance target is being met, who cares what maximum or minimum CPC bid is being used? Click save and you are good to go.

A Note on Not Panicking

AdWords bid strategies take time to learn and adapt. Do not just switch it off in a panic after two days if it hasn’t met your goals yet! Depending on how many conversions you have, the bid strategy could take anywhere from 1-4 weeks to reach optimal performance. When you start out, be patient and wait for it to dial in your bids. If you drill down into the bid strategy, you’ll be able to check the progress of its learning curve.

progress of its learning curve


And there you have it. The three most common AdWords Shopping campaign problems we see in client accounts, and the exact solutions for them. There are, of course, plenty of other common problems that we see coming up in more than a few Shopping campaigns, so this is not the be all and end all of Shopping campaign improvement. But, if you are currently running Shopping ads in-house, it’s likely that the three above items are three things you could be doing better with only a minimal investment of your time and effort.

Are you making any of these mistakes and did this article help? Are there other challenges you are having with Shopping? Feel free to share in the comments below!