We’ve all heard it before.
You’re in a strategy planning meeting with your client (or your in-house stakeholders) talking through your digital strategy and further growth opportunities for the next year or quarter, and someone suggests, “Let’s launch a GDN campaign for XYZ initiative,” and another person quickly responds with “Oh the GDN doesn’t convert,” or “The CPLs are too high,” or “We’ve tried that before, it didn’t work.”
You know we’ve all heard this. Hell, I’m sure quite a few of us have even said this! I’ll admit, I used to be a non-believer, but over the past couple of months, I’m like a whole new woman – I’ve truly been converted – The GDN actually does convert!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should simply run a Display campaign with a couple of managed placements and call it a day. You still have to make sure you’re executing on the GDN strategically for it to actually drive results. Luckily for us, Google has really stepped up their audience targeting game on the GDN over the past year to make sure you’re not only adopting the network, but expanding strategically and effectively. Listed here a couple of my favorite targeting tactics, what I’ve been calling the GDN Trifecta.
Targeting tactic #1: Custom Affinity Audiences
The first of the GDN Trifecta are Custom Affinity Audiences. These are audiences you can create that are more tailored to your brand, compared to more broad, TV-like affinity audiences. I tend to think of these as a more generic, DIY audience-building tool, similar to what third-party data platforms have. You input the relevant data, and Google creates the audience you.
When you’re in the publisher creating these audiences, you can use a combination of:
- Interests (entered as keywords)
- URLs (to target based on the content of the site)
- Places (locations your audience might be interested in)
- Apps (apps your audience might be interested in)
Not all input options are going to be relevant for you, but they definitely give you the opportunity to be creative. You don’t have to only target audiences exactly speaking to your services, but you can target audiences of folks who are similar to your services, or even an add-on to your service.
- Competitor URLs & names
- This allows you to target users who are interested in your competitors
- Industry blogs/publications
- This definitely depends on the advertiser, but if there are common resources that folks in the industries they’re targeting visit, you should target those audiences
- Top search keywords
- Do you have keywords that perform drastically better than other terms? Use that data and build an audience off of users who are interested in those terms.
Targeting tactic #2: In-Market Audiences
In-Market Audiences have been around for a while now, with Bing even rolling them out to be available for Search campaigns (and Google having them in closed beta FOREVER). These audiences allow you to target users who are in the market for your services based on their online browsing behaviors. The no-brainer use case is to target users who are in the market for your services, which you should absolutely do. But you can take this targeting tactic to the next level.
Example: You are a telecommunications company (think internet or cable TV), and you want to expand your display prospecting efforts to help feed your digital funnel. You can use in-market audiences in two ways:
- Target users who are in-market for telecom services using the Cable & Satellite TV Providers and Internet Service Providers segments.
- Target users who are in the market for moving services, using the Moving & Relocation in-market segment. These are people who are qualified for your service and likely haven’t quite realized they need to find a new cable/internet provider.
- While this tactic will not likely provide last-click results, the impression is extremely valuable because it plants the seed with the user to think about your brand during the buying process.
- If the user clicks on your ad, this is even more valuable, because you now have the opportunity to build audiences off of these users and retarget them later.
Targeting tactic #3: Custom Intent Audiences
This beautiful newest member of the Trifecta is only available in the new UI and it’s absolutely worth the headache of switching over to the new UI to get the opportunity to use them, Secretly, I think this is a secret ploy to get us old time PPCers to adopt the new UI, at least temporarily.
Custom Intent Audiences use keywords and URLs to create an audience based on products and services your ideal audience is actively researching. These audiences provide the unique opportunity to utilize the “intent-based” state of paid search and share those learnings with your broader prospecting efforts. Us marketers are all about data, and this takes advantage of that and allows us to work smarter, not harder.
- Your highest converting search keywords
- These terms are already extremely valuable to you, so using Custom Intent Audiences will allow you to share those learnings on the Google Display Network
- Competitive non-brand keywords
- If you have been hesitant to further expand into non-brand keyword sets because they’re extremely competitive, this might be an opportunity for you to target users who have shown intent to search these terms, but at a lower price
- Content promotion
- Have you developed instructional content that is intended to drive users down the funnel? This is a good opportunity to capture those “how-to” type queries at a lower price than on the search network
Anyone who has worked with me in the past few months knows that the one thing I’ve been recommending to every advertiser when asked “what else should we do” is to expand further in the GDN. These three audience types above, the GDN Trifecta, are 100% why. The Google Display Network isn’t just for filling the funnel anymore; it’s about actually driving cost-efficient conversions. Most advertisers haven’t jumped on board yet, so my biggest recommendation is to jump on this train before your competitors do.
I’ve been converted, have you?
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.
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]
Google Showcase Ads display results for commercial searches above AdWords ads, creating a unique opportunity to get your product into your customer’s shopping cart. Intrigued? Here’s the lowdown on how to build and optimize Showcase Ads.
What are Google Showcase Ads and how do they work?
A Google Showcase Ad (GSA) is a shopping ad containing several related products that appear above paid Google AdWords search results. Initially, these ads would pop up only when searching a broad, general category (such as “snakeskin flats”), but after running some additional searches I was pleased to discover that they can now be very specific… and crushed to find out that I will never be able to replace my size 10, black tipped, pointed toe Franco Sarto snakeskin flats. Thanks, Google.
The great thing about GSAs is that the first impression is free. Your account will only be charged if the customers expand and stay in your ad for 10 seconds or click through to your site. This function has a lot of potential to reduce your Google Adwords spending and increase marketing ROI by allowing customers to comparison-shop inside their initial search results. If pricing is competitive and your ad optimized, GSAs can be a game changer for merchants.
On the other hand, if you fail to create and optimize your GSAs, you’ve essentially handed your competition that coveted first impression, even if you have the bigger AdWords budget spend.
Google Shopping Ads display everything from large retailers to second-hand sellers, like Poshmark.
This makes setting up and optimizing GSAs a top priority for anyone selling merchandise.
Setting up your GSA
In order to take advantage of your GSA, you’ll have to jump through a few goops (Google hoops, which I swear is a thing!), and who better to teach you how to do that than Google itself?
Before you do anything, be sure to review the requirements to set up a GSA campaign. You can then learn all about Google Shopping Ads in the AdWords Help Center “About Shopping Campaigns” section, and get instructions on how to set them up in the “Create a Showcase Shopping” section.
By mapping your campaigns to conversion data with closed-loop reporting, you can show the forces that the extra investment and new budget allocation is worth it in the long run.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Showcase ads do not work with automated bid strategies, so you’ll have to either change your current campaigns to maximum CPE bidding, or set up a separate campaign.
As mentioned before, the initial view of the GSA is free, and you will only pay when someone expands your ad for more than 10 seconds or clicks the link, so make sure that they can immediately glean the information they need from your ad.
You can only use one ad per ad group, so plan accordingly. Adding extra ones will be a waste of time and effort.
How to optimize your GSA
Pick the Right Photos
GSA’s visual nature caters to the primal parts of our brain, but also makes it harder to stand out from the crowd. Have a look at the other photos in your category. Is there a way that you can make your product photo stand out? Adding a colorful background or using a model instead of a plain product shot (or vice versa) may help catch the buyer’s eye.
You’ll also want to make sure that your ad has enough contrast, as it is easy to scroll past ads when they are all lined up in a row.
Resize your photo with care
When setting up the ad Google will ask you if you want to use a product image or a cropped header image for the collapsed ad. If you are advertising a specific product, then use the product image that best fits the user’s search terms. If, however, you are advertising group of products rather than one specific product, then choose the cropped header image.
Use common SEO tactics
Since you are no longer bidding on individual keywords, it’s more important than ever to optimize your title by using brand name, style name, size, color, material, and other descriptive elements in the title of the ad.
Use negative keywords
While you can’t select keywords that your ad should show in, you can use negative keywords (either at the campaign level or in a specific ad group) to keep your ad from showing in irrelevant places.
Depending on what your product is, you may need to do some tracking to see where leads are dead-ending before implementing this tactic.
Update your feed daily
Google loves nothing more than up-to-date and relevant information, and you can increase your rank by allowing Google to fetch the data from your account on a daily basis, rather than the minimum required 30 days.
Add promotions to your stream
GSAs include promotional details, which can give your buyers an instant incentive to shop with on your site.
Google offers automated extensions that fetch promotions from your website and showcase them in your GSA, alerting your customers to discounts, price drops and free shipping. It also allows you to set up other promotions, such as percentage discounts, BOGO deals and more. The merchant promotions implementation guide will get you started.
Google may take up to 72 hours to review your ads to ensure they are compliant. Review their guidelines to make sure everything is in line, and give yourself a time buffer in case you are running any time-sensitive promotions or have a client deadline.
Include GTIN (if you have them)
Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) – including UPCs, EANs, ISBNs, MPNs, etc. – help Google determine the exact brand and item you are selling, allowing them to place your product with greater accuracy. Google prefers these to other attributes, stating they make your ads richer (so we can assume that using them might also end up making us richer).
Don’t fret if your product is custom-made and doesn’t have a GTIN, as Google understands that store brands, OEM parts, preorder parts, and vintage items usually don’t have them. Instead of using a GTIN, Google recommends you submit as many attributes as you can.
Measure and automate ads
Check out our case study with the fashion watch retailer MVMT, who was able to raise revenue by 108% and double conversions using AdStage’s PPC automation software, while also lowering acquisition cost by 18%.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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.
In some cases, PPC doesn’t pay off from the very beginning! Don’t just give up without giving it another try. Follow these simple yet powerful tips to improve your AdWords performance.
1. Use Conditional Keywords
Are you using carefully selected keywords but they are not performing well? You need to switch your keywords strategy right away. Sometimes even targeted keywords don’t convert (for multiple reasons). For example, information seekers search the same keywords and buyers, but are not ready to buy.
Let’s suppose you are a house removal company in New York and targeting the following keywords…
- house removals
- house movers
- moving companies
- removals company
They are your main targeted keywords and are eating your most of the budget. Pause them! Instead use conditional keywords where the user is looking exactly for the service you are offering but with a solid and well defined condition. For example:
- international removals
- interstate moving companies
- furniture removalists
- nationwide moving companies
- apartment movers
- office relocation
- local moving services
In my experience, these types of users are most likely to convert at higher conversion rates. It will lift up your conversions and decrease your costs.
2. Use Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are another great way to optimize your AdWords account performance. Don’t confuse them with ‘conditional keywords’.
As I said earlier, conditional keywords have clear and solid condition attached to the search query, whereas long tail keywords don’t necessarily need to have one.
For example, for removal companies, long tail keywords might be:
- best house removal companies
- cheap house movers in new york
- where can I find moving companies
To get even better results, use long tail conditional keywords which in this case could be:
- long distance interstate moving companies
- discount interstate moving companies
- best interstate moving companies nyc
- moving companies for interstate moves
- full service interstate moving companies
- interstate moving companies near me
One conditional keyword will have several long tail keywords so there is a solid chance that you get good conversions from such keywords.
3. Create “Near Me” Campaign
This is, perhaps, the most neglected technique for getting more conversions and improving account performance. People are getting more localized day by day in this mobile world.
More than 50% of traffic is already on mobile and they are well aware of the fact that Google knows their location already. I know if I type “near me” next to my search query, this will bring up much more localized service providers.
But there is a catch. In this scenario, you are targeting entire New York and in such big cities, not everyone is close enough to visit your business. Even if they see your ad, they are least likely to convert. You need to target those who are physically close to your business location when make a search online.
Here is how you do it—create a separate campaign for “Near Me” searchers. Let’s suppose you are based in Long Island. Go to you campaign’s setting tab and then location. Click on “Add Location” and then select “Near Me” campaign. Search for “Long Island” and add it.
Now you are targeting people physically located in Long Island (add as many nearby areas as you want). Add all relevant keywords. Few examples are below…
- house movers near me
- house removals nearby
- closest house movers
- local house removal companies
If, in some cases, you don’t find your area in the AdWords location targeting interface, try your zip code instead, and if doesn’t work either, target by “Radius”.
You can even target generic and broad keywords in this campaign with even less fear of losing money. Here are a few more tips to consider:
- Add localized messaging in your ad copy
- Use the location extension
- Enable the phone calls extension
There is another way to target visitors near your location. You must have your business registered with Google My Business. The next step is to link your “My Business” location with AdWords account. Read this Google guide for further instructions on how to link it.
After it’s done, heads toward the advanced location targeting window and click on “location groups” tab and select My Locations from the dropdown as shown in the image below. Select the radius you want to target, let’s say 2 miles and click on Add.
This is a convenient way to target users near your business location especially when you have multiple business locations. This targeting technique will apply to all business locations you have in your Google My Business account.
That’s how your ad will look like on mobile.
(Image courtesy of Google)
At this point you may want to add multiple radius targets to single campaign to find the best radius that works for you. Let’s suppose you targeted 2 miles initially. Now repeat the whole process again and target 4 miles, then 7 and 10 (or what makes sense to you). In this way, you can learn about the impact of distance from your business location and later set your bids accordingly.
You should also check the ‘distance report’ more frequently to see how far the customer was when she saw your ad. This can be found under the “Dimension” tab. Choose ‘Distance’ from the ‘View’ drop down.
(Image courtesy of Google)
If a user happens to be in the area close to your multiple business locations, he will see all of them in the ad and can choose one which suits him best.
(Image courtesy of Google)
Tip: Schedule your “Near Me” campaign to run during your operating hours.
Note: This technique is applicable to all other campaigns in your account as well and works perfectly fine for the visitors physically close to your location.
4. Enable Mobile Click-to-Call
This is most important and least used feature by AdWords advertisers in this mobile world. Please note that I am not talking about the “phone calls extension,” I am not even talking about the “calls from website.” I am specifically talking about “phone number click” on your mobile site.
There are 3 types of call conversions you can track from within AdWords interface. If you have a phone number displayed on your website and are not tracking all three of them, your stats are not accurate (especially when you have to report to client about AdWords performance).
i) Call Extension
Majority of the advertisers are well aware of this feature known as “Call Extensions”. Visitors see “call” button next to your ads on mobiles or your “phone number” on desktop devices.
(Image courtesy of Google)
ii) Calls from website
In this type of conversion, Google displays a dynamically-generated forwarding number when someone visits your website after clicking your ad. Your own phone number will be replaced by this forwarding number, so you can measure how many people called you after landing on your website either on mobile or desktop.
(Image courtesy of Google)
Fewer AdWords advertisers are taking advantage of this feature as compare to call extensions.
iii) Phone click on mobile site
This is perhaps the most important call tracking source. It will turn your dead phone number on your mobile site into live clickable phone number. Here is how Google describes it…
“When someone visits your mobile website after clicking one of your AdWords ads, conversion tracking can help you identify clicks on your phone number. Unlike website call conversions, this feature only tracks clicks on your phone number, not actual phone calls. You’ll see click data instead of call data (such as call length) in your conversion reports.You can measure clicks on a text link, image, or button.”
(Image courtesy of Google)
When visitors land on your mobile website after clicking your ad and decide to call instead of signup, they have to manually dial your number. Giving them the option to click to call will definitely increase your conversion rate.
On a side note, I checked ten different websites currently running paid campaigns in New York for “house removals” related keywords and found the following worrisome facts…
- 3 out of 10 companies don’t even have a phone number displayed on their websites
- 4 out of 10 websites are not even responsive (mobile-friendly)
- 10 out of 10 are not tracking phone number clicks on mobile devices
- 9 out of 10 websites aren’t tracking calls from website
- 8 out of 10 haven’t enabled click to call function for organic users on mobiles
- 2 out of 10 don’t have Google Analytics installed on the websites
- 9 out of 10 don’t have AdWords conversion tracking installed on their websites
Let me remind you once again, all these 10 websites are currently running paid campaigns on AdWords.
5. Find & Use a Winning Landing Page
Easier said than done, right? Give me few moments and I’ll show you how easy it is to implement a winning landing page on your website especially for paid campaigns right from the beginning.
The best practice to be always testing your landing pages and ultimately find best performer. But it’s time consuming and can cost you good amount of money if you are running paid campaigns so where should you start?
Start from spying on your competitors, we need to take help from a PPC spying tool here. Let me give you an example of SpyFu which is very useful to look at the ad history of our competitors and for how long they are using the current landing page.
Enter a domain of your well established competitor and look back into history for how long they are using the current landing page, also check their ad copy, call to action, display URL, landing page content and If the competitor is using the same landing page for several weeks or months then you find yourself a winner.
6. Bid on Competitors
This might be the most effective and cheapest way to get more conversions. Most of the advertisers are aware of this technique and they are bidding on the brand names of their competitors but you know what?
They are bidding on their online competitors, what they are not doing is considering the offline competitors into online landscape.
Every business has offline competitors spending heavily on TV, print, or radio advertisement and you know what the interesting part is? They don’t even have a websites!
This is a huge opportunity for you to bring their customers to your own website.
Let’s suppose you just find out that you need a plumber and at that exact moment, you watch a compelling TV ad about “Acme Plumbing Company,” after the ad is gone, you don’t remember the phone number they shown on TV or the address, what you remember is—the company name.
So what the next thing will you do? You’ll search for them online.
I am getting 400 leads a month for one of my client by using this technique and these 400 leads are coming from a single competitor who is advertising heavily on TV and print but doesn’t have a website. I am just bidding on their brand name and you can imagine the cost/conversions, right? It’s less than 20% of avg. cost/conversion of that account.
Now it’s up to you!
Let me know in comments which technique you are NOT using yet?