Learn HTML5 Ads Before It’s Too Late

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in Advertising, Search
Learn HTML5 Ads Before It’s Too Late

If you are still using Flash ads, you have three more months until Google cuts you off. Starting June 30th, 2016 Google will no longer allow Flash in AdWords or DoubleClick. By January 2nd, 2017 Flash will cease to run on their networks.

I’ve collected a few quick and easy resources to get started with rich media ads today.

This ad format has some significant advantages. Your ads will run on desktop, mobile, and tablets. They can be built as responsive, formatting to the width of the device. And since they are responsive you only have to build them once for all devices & screen sizes.

Ads should be designed for mobile first. We are close t0 the point where mobile has completely overtaken desktop with use and screen time. According to a recent GlobalWebIndex study, Smartphones are becoming the primary devices for accessing the Internet. In Asia, the Middle East and Africa, smartphone adoption has already overtaken desktop.

Mobile Device Importance

“If you’re not able to reach your audience through mobile search or display, or you’re not providing a satisfactory mobile experience you will miss out compared to competitors who are.” – Danyl Bosomworth, smartinsights.com

Rich Media Guidelines

HTML5 ads are unique in that they’re built from many files to serve dynamic content, much like a web page. IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has published guidance for designing HTML5 ads. You can find the documentation on their website at http:/www.iab.com.

Google has also published best practice guidelines you can follow. This ensures that you provide viewers with the best experience possible.

Google outlines those as:

  1. Build ads in HTML5
  2. Design ads with device in mind
  3. Design for both mobile web and mobile applications
  4. Keep broadband speeds in mind when using mobile video

Not only do they provide a great framework for building rich media ads, they also provide all the tools.

Flash to HTML5 Converter

If you already have Flash ads and would like to convert them to HTML5 ads, you can use Swiffy. Upload your files (below 1MB) and Swiffy will convert them for you.


There’s also a google-swiffy tag on Stack Overflow. More than likely you will find that someone has already answered your conversion questions.

Build ‘Em Yourself

It’s easy to build HTML5 ads. There are a few apps that allow you to create ads, but Google Web Designer (GWD) is the easiest and cheapest (free) to use.

Google Web Designer Screenshot

Web Designer provides a comprehensive library of ad templates.  The desktop app consists of a simple linear timeline editor and drag and drop editing. You can also access the HTML & CSS to add extra customization.

One of the best features of Web Designer is that you can publish to DoubleClick or AdMob with a single click.

If you are building an animated ad, make sure to follow Google’s policies to ensure your ad gets published.

  • Animation is less than 30 seconds
  • Ads must take up the entire space of the image size
  • Don’t get fancy with upside down or sideways ads
  • Image ads must be relevant to your site or app
  • No strobing or flashing ads!
  • Don’t mimic content, new articles, or text ads
  • All ads must be G-rated and family safe

There can be severe consequences for breaking the rules. Your domain risks suspension from Google’s search results. Or worse you may no longer be allowed to advertise with Google.

Rich Media HTML5 Starter Files

Google provides a starter file generator located on this site. http://bit.ly/1RBkgzp

You can choose your ad format, the size, and open the starter file in GWD with the click of a button. The ad preview is also a cool feature, providing you with an idea of the finished ad.

HTML5 Starter File Screenshot

Buy a Template

Often you may find yourself if need of an ad and you don’t have the time to spend creating one from scratch. Luckily there are many free & paid templates that you can use as a canvas to build your ad.

Codecanyon.net, an Envato Market site, has an entire category of HTML5 ad templates. Most of the templates will cost you $10.00. That seems like an attractive price to time savings ratio to me. Each ad template also includes multiple sizes and is compatible with Google Web Designer, making it easy to change the ad colors, photos, and CTA’s.

CodeCanyon HTML5 Ads

Regardless if you are ready to tackle designing Rich Media ads yourself or want to start with pre-made templates, you should be preparing to switch both Flash and static image ads to responsive HTML5 ads before it’s too late.


Webinar Recap: The Most Valuable Google AdWords Features for the PPC Account Manager

Posted by on Mar 9, 2016 in Advertising, Search, Social
Webinar Recap: The Most Valuable Google AdWords Features for the PPC Account Manager

Google AdWords has many features useful to any PPC account manager. Experts on the subject, Mike McEuen, Director of Demand Generation at AdStage and Amanda West-Bookwalter, Senior Account Manager at Hanapin, sat down to share with their top ten features, along with useful tips on how to best utilize Google AdWords for your PPC campaigns.

Watch the webinar below to learn more about search query reports, ad extensions, ad rotation and bid settings, and more. Check out the live Q&A session with questions from our viewers for more in-depth tips and tricks.


10. Search Query Reports

Running a search query report is any PPC account manager’s baseline. Search query reports are useful to get rid of irrelevant traffic and find additional opportunities to expand. When launching your account, broad match modifiers matches you with your actual searches.

Search query reports matches you with words that you are being paired with. This helps you discover negative terms that don’t lead to conversion, and ensures that you won’t show up for them in the future. When you come across a search term that does lead to conversion, it’s smart to add that keyword to it’s own ad group, along with similar terms, and create new ad copy.


9. Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are a useful tool that sometimes get overlooked, and can be seen as an afterthought. By successfully utilizing your ad extensions you can cover more real estate, become more relevant to your audience, and give yourself more opportunities for traffic. With this feature, you can increase click through rates and simultaneously decrease your average cost per click, just by taking advantage of your description area.


8. Ad Rotation and Bid Settings

Ad rotation helps you test your ad copy to make sure it’s catering to your end goals. Important features to take note of include optimizing for clicks, optimizing for conversions, or rotating evenly/indefinitely. For brand new campaigns with minimal performance history, you can start optimizing for clicks. With this feature, you can collect the actionable data you need to start A/B testing.

During the testing period, rotating the ad copy is a helpful comparison tool. Once you have enough conversion data and the account is actionable, you can switch to optimizing for conversions where you can choose the best ad to display based on your campaign goals and history.


7. Exclusion Targeting on GDN

This feature is helpful for conserving your budget so your ads do not show on irrelevant sites. In addition, you can exclude specific categories, such as mobile apps, which tend to be accidental clicks. By adding sites or mobile apps as negative placements, you rid your account of budget-burning traffic.


6. Labels

Labels is a great way to keep your account organized. Michael recommends for new PPC users to “label like a librarian”. In addition, you can get filtered views based on individual labels. With filtered reporting, you have access to quick and in-depth insights on how things are performing. In all, labels helps you keep your account clean and saves you time on reporting.


5. Auction Insights

Auction insights gives you important data on your competitors that will really impress your boss or clients. You are able to view your competitors’ impression share, average position, overlap rate, position above rate, and top of page rate for specific keywords. Using an outrank bid strategy, you can stop your competitors’ aggressive strategies that may be hurting your business. Use Auction Insights to inform your bid strategy so you never miss out on impression share.


4. Dynamic Search Ads

Finding new keywords is important to your ad campaign. Dynamic search ads is a useful tool for keyword mining, in addition to traditional search query reports. Using your search query report, you can identify keywords that people are searching for that you’re not targeting yet. Dynamic search ads is another useful tool to help expand your keyword portfolio, just be sure to keep a small budget on these campaigns so you don’t overspend.


3. Compare Time Periods

Compare time periods provides helpful graphs and metrics to view specific changes. You can check your performance to see if there is a drop in conversion rates and change your course accordingly to optimize your campaign. It’s always important to track progress over time and this feature provides insight into what is or isn’t working well to help you increase conversions.


2. Search Audiences

With so many different uses for search audiences, there is something useful for any ad campaign. For example, you can retarget an audience more effectively by increasing bids on more qualified site visitors, use broad keywords, and exclude previous converts. By increasing the bids on qualified buyers, your target audience is more likely to see your ads. Using broad keywords for your ad campaigns are a reminder for customers to come to your site when they aren’t searching specifically for you. Excluding previous converts is especially helpful if a second conversion has no value to you. Search audiences helps you reach out to customers with better precision for better results.


1. Scripts

AdWords scripts is a hot topic at any conference – they programmatically control your AdWords data. For example, you can use scripts to forecast how much money you have to explore new advertising opportunities like display campaigns. By automating these difficult tasks in AdWords, your job becomes easier and more efficient.



Q: In relation to ad rotation and bidding, how is much data is enough data before you should change a rule?

Michael: It all depends on what type of business you are, but typically, about 14 days once trends have developed. If you have a leaner budget, you might want to wait for 60-90 days.

Amanda: I would say, it’s more about volume of data, as opposed to time periods.


Q: Do call-only ads bid on the same ad space as mobile text ads with a click-to-call extension?

Michael: Yes, it does go into the same data auction as mobile. However, the experience is a little different. Instead of allowing options, any click leads to ideally dialing.


Q:There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to building keyword lists. Build a very large list, and whittle it down as you run your campaign. Or, build a small list, see what works, and build it out from there. Which school would you recommend?

Amanda: That depends on your business goals, and how much funding you have upfront for your marketing. For clients who want quick results and a lot of money to throw at it, I would say, go for the larger keyword set and see what works. In cases of lower funding, you’d want to start at smaller keyword sets.

Michael: I completely agree there, if you go a little too in-depth, you’ll have months of data without actionable insights. Unless you have a large budget, it isn’t very opportunistic to cast a wider net.


Q: Which bid strategy would you recommend for AdWords search? I currently use a flexible bid strategy with first page targeting. How does this compare to just manual bidding?

Amanda: I’m employed to do PPC, and I want to be efficient as possible, so I do everything manually. It’s a great idea, if you have the time to do that. If you don’t have the time, this may not be the best strategy for you. You have to be smart about your automations and check back regularly to ensure that it’s profitable.

Michael: I’ve seen enhanced PPC both work phenomenally, and take a nosedive. That’s why it’s very important to check if it’s working. Manually, the best is having a philosophy that manages in a spreadsheet form. If you don’t have the time, a flexible bid strategy could work well, but it’s always important to go back and compare the results over a time period to see the impact.


Q: What is your method of consolidating and managing A/B test results and optimization?

Michael: It depends on budget and what you’re looking at. When A/B testing, you want to make sure to isolate your variables and stick to your hypothesis. Labels really help when checking results. You can see how things work in comparison to non-changing variables. Having too many experiments at one time makes it difficult to track impact. I record my expected result, make sure I have the timeline to determine if something works, and then compare results.

Amanda: At Hanapin, we’re super diligent about our ad testing. We have the creative testing cycle, where we follow a step by step process. We take a look at all of your site’s features, then list possible ad tests. We only run one ad test at a time, to ensure that it’s completely A/B. We then wait until it’s significantly relevant to determine what the winners are, and upload a new ad.


Q: Is remarketing required to do what you mentioned for search audiences?

Amanda: You don’t have to put remarketing ads on the display network, which is what remarketing is referred to as. But, you do have to place the remarketing code onto your website, and start collecting cookies into different lists.


Q: Can you talk about the pros and cons of using existing Google Scripts and having someone write custom ones for you?

Michael: Some of the alert type scripts work very well, allowing you to not be cautious on impact to your account. Looking at the bid modifier scripts, they can get more complex, causing unintended consequences. When finding someone to write them for you, you need to find someone that has the technical skills that also has knowledge of PPC.


Q: Any recommendations on how to find the best keywords?

Michael: As far as keyword mining is concerned, there are a lot of tools to help. One of my favorites is Übersuggest.

Amanda: I use the site as an influencer to find keywords that seem valuable. I also use AdWords keyword research tool, Quizio, and a lot of DSA campaigns.


Q: What is the rule on pausing keywords?

Michael:  General rule of thumb, if your keywords aren’t creating enough value, pause them. If you aren’t receiving a return on ad spend, and it’s been a considerable amount of time, I’d look to pause.

Amanda: You want to take a look at your funnel as well. You may have a top of the funnel keyword, trickling down and causing conversion. I’d check that out before you pause. I’d also take seasonality into account, some keywords work better certain times of the year.
Have any additional questions for Michael and Amanda regarding PPC ad campaigns or Google AdWords? Ask them in the comments section below, or follow them both on Twitter @Lonohead and @Amanda_WestBrook!

Talking Quality Score with Frederick Vallaeys

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Social, The PPC Show [Podcast]
Talking Quality Score with Frederick Vallaeys

We’ve been honored to have some amazing guests on PPCPodcast this year. What started out as a fledgling idea, slowly swept over the team. The podcast matured from a dorm-level production grade, to high quality mics, opening music, an incredible roster of industry leaders.

While there were many great moments, the interview with Frederick Vallaeys, CEO of Optimyzer, was my absolute favorite. Among colleagues and industry friends, there’s been a continual debate over which elements influence AdWords Quality Score. “Does account level Quality Score actually exist? How much weight does your landing page affect the calculation of your score?”

It’s fascinating to hear from an early AdWords team member, reveal insights into the thought process and methodology used to formulate one of the most misunderstood AdWords metrics. I find myself relistening to the interview, and catching new takeaways each time. Below, are some of the best snippets from the podcast.

What is Quality Score and how does it work?

It’s one of the 3 factors that goes into determining your ad rank. Fundamentally, Quality Score is click through rate. Back in the day, Google used a simple equation to calculate ad rank:

Max CPC bid x CTR = ad rank

Quality Score is a huge factor in how much you pay and how many clicks you will receive.

What are the most important factors in building a good Quality Score?

There are 3 key factors.

    1.  Historical CTR

On Google Search, when the keyword matches exactly to the query, what is the CTR.

    2. Relevancy factors

Predictive CTR looking at auction time signals. If you have certain factors, how do they correlate with CTR.

Example: If you have advertisers who have a billing address in the United States, but have a searcher’s IP address in Canada, does that affect CTR?

    3. Landing page quality

How many times should the keyword be mentioned in the ad text?

Adding keywords in your ad copy is a good thing, but don’t focus on it too much. Just make sure the ad stands out.

What are some pro-tips to increase your Quality Score?

If you can boost your click through rate, that’s what matters the most. Ultimately, it’s what makes Google money. Essentially, Quality Score is the calculation of different ways that Google can calculate CTR in different situations.

Focus on:

  1. Tightly structured ad groups
  2. Multiple ad texts
  3. No more than 30 keywords in an ad group
  4. Take advantage of all your ad extensions

What doesn’t impact Quality Score?

  • Keyword match types
  • Negative keywords

What’s a good Quality Score?

New keywords start at a Quality Score of 6. If your keyword remains at 6, I’d leave it, if it drops below 6, and you can’t make it better you might want to remove it from your account.

Is there an account level Quality Score?

There is no published number. But Quality Score is a learning algorithm. A learning system needs to rely on bigger signals when it doesn’t have enough data about a specific element. If Google doesn’t know how this ad text will perform against this keyword, they may look at the advertiser across the account and is the performance good or worse than average, and based on that they can set a base level Quality Score.

Listen to the full podcast:



Want to keep up with the latest PPC trends, tips, and influencers?

Join us every Tuesday Live @ 10am PT || 1pm ET for #PPCPodcast where we chat with industry experts from Microsoft, LinkedIn, Hanapin Marketing, Google and more.

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17 Free Photoshop Templates for Google Display Ads

Posted by on Dec 3, 2015 in Advertising, Search
17 Free Photoshop Templates for Google Display Ads

Create Compelling AdWords Display Image Ads

Designing creative image ads is one of the of the most fun parts of being a digital advertiser. It’s where you get to apply the visual side of your brain, creating engaging content that will drive click-throughs.

However, our display ads have been under attack by ad blocking software, and there’s no end in sight.

In fact, according to a study by PageFair, 45 million monthly active users in the United States use ad blockers. Those active users represent a 48% increase in usage between Q2 2014 & Q2 2015.

The stats above should motivate you to create compelling display ads for your audience so you can keep their attention.

Here are a few fundamentals to achieving best results with your display ads.

1. Use the Z-Pattern in your layout design

If you are advertising to viewers in the U.S. or other western countries, most people will read from left to right, top to bottom. In design, this is known as the Z-Pattern. Place your value proposition on the top left side of the ad, and your call-to-action on the bottom right. You have very little time to capture the attention of your audience and viewers will quickly glance to the areas they expect to find the most relevant information.

2. Use the Rule of Thirds

Everyone thinks of Leonardo da Vinci when discussing the Rule of Thirds. And it’s true he used it often in his drawings and paintings. There’s a reason that this technique is used by visual artists and that hasn’t changed in today’s digital world.

Evenly divide your ad horizontally and vertically with four lines. The four points where these lines intersect are your points of interest. Arrange essential elements so they touch one of these points to make your ad copy more engaging.

3. Write a Compelling Call to Action (CTA)

Do not just write “click here.” Let your viewer know why they should click on your ad. For example, if you are selling winter jackets & you show an ad with different color selections, a good CTA may say, “Choose My Color.”

Also, use a contrasting color for the CTA button, so it stands out from the rest of your ad.

The Free Templates

We’ve created a free Adobe Photoshop PSD template that includes 17 popular Google Ad sizes that you can freely use for your ad creations!

Enter an email address where we can send you the download link.

The 17 Google Display Ad Sizes in the Template:

  • Vertical Banner (120×240)
  • Skyscraper (120×600)
  • Wide Skyscraper (160×600)
  • Small Rectangle (180×150)
  • Small Square (200×200)
  • Vertical Rectangle (240×400)
  • Square (250×250)
  • Medium Rectangle* (300×250)
  • Half Page* (300×600)
  • Portrait (300×1050)
  • Mobile Leaderboard (320×50)
  • Large Mobile Banner* (320×100)
  • Large Rectangle* (336×280)
  • Banner (468×60)
  • Leaderboard* (728×90)
  • Large Leaderboard (970×90)
  • Billboard (970×250)

*Top performing ad sizes according to Google

Free Google Display Ad Templates Preview


When exporting the file, make sure the image size is no larger than 150 KB. Google will reject anything larger. The file types accepted are JPEG, SWF, GIF, and PNG.

**50 Essential Social Media Advertising Stats**

Ready to become a better marketer? Launch and manage your web and social display campaigns using AdStage. Your 14-day free trial is waiting.

How to Create Gmail Ads in AdWords

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Advertising, Search
How to Create Gmail Ads in AdWords

Step-by-Step Guide for Creating AdWords Gmail Ads

Google announced that native Gmail Ads are now available for all advertisers in AdWords. Previously in beta, Gmail Ads are highlighted text ads with an accompanied logo, that appear on the Promotions tab. If clicked upon, the ad expands to a full page layout, with a lot of realty.

Gmail Ads - Promotions tab

Gmail Ads – Promotions tab


Below is a step-by-step guide on how to setup Gmail Ads in AdWords.

Create a Display Campaign

If you’re able to dedicate a modest budget to testing Gmail ads, I suggest creating a dedicated Display Network only campaign. Next, select your marketing objective for the campaign. Marketing objectives allow advertisers to align their campaign settings towards with desired goals, such as a form fill. Performance, ROAS driven marketers should choose from a “drive action” objective.

Google Display Campaign Marketing Objectives

Finish up selecting all your ideal campaign settings.

Select Your Placements

Gmail ads are selected in the ad group’s placements section. To reveal placement options, scroll down to the “choose how to target your ads” section, and select “use a different targeting method”.

Google Display - Placements Setting

Within the placements search bar, submit a query for the web address “mail.google.com”. Then select the domain as a placement.

Gmail placement

Refine with Keywords

Only using placement targeting can open your campaigns up to billions of weekly impressions on Gmail. Hone in on your target audience and conserve budget by adding keyword targeting.

Display keywords are utilized slightly different than search keywords. Where search can be exact and intent based, display keywords are broad match only. Display keywords help guide where an an ad will be shown based on the content of the website and previous user browser history. Contextual targeting is powerful for Gmail, as the page content is generated from users’ emails.

Display Network - Keyword Placements

Often, I’ll adopt a similar ad group structure to my existing search campaigns. Taking the best performing broad search keywords and adding them to display ad groups.

Consider Audience Targeting

When Google allowed single sign-on across all their products, it not only created a better user experience, but also provided Google with connected data on their user profiles. Advertisers can use this data to build custom audiences to target.

Custom affinity audiences is an option worth considering.

Custom Affinity Audiences

Create a custom audience, targeting users who visit specific websites or have long-term interests in certain categories.

Display Network - Custom Audiences

You can learn more about custom affinity audiences in this detailed post.


Add Creative

Within an isolated ad group view, visit the ads tab. Pull down the ad tab to reveal “ad gallery”.

Display - Ad Gallery

Choose “Gmail ads” from the gallery options.

Google Display - Ad Gallery

There are 4 types of Gmail ads:

  1. Gmail image template
  2. Gmails single promotion template
  3. Gmail multi-product template
  4. Gmail custom HTML upload

For this walkthrough, let’s explore the Gmail image and single promotion templates.

Gmail Image Template

This option is great for branding, featuring your image across the full page width if a user clicks through.

Image specs

  • Collapsed – 144px by 144px

Gmail Ads - Collapsed Ad

Add your advertiser name, a subject line, and a description. Treat your subject line as if it were an actual email headline – be succinct and to the point. Your description line should follow, by clearly revealing your value proposition.

  • Expanded – 650px by (300px to 1000px)

Google Display - Expanded Ad

Next, let’s explore the benefits of using single promotion templates.

Single Promotion Templates

While a prominent image can be a powerful way to showcase your brand, sometimes it’s not enough to convey your product or service benefits. The promotional template layout includes both a large area for images, and also provides space for a headline and copy.

In addition to the collapsed copy, expanded promotional templates allow for:

  • a large side bar image
  • headline copy
  • body content
  • optional header image

Image specs

  • Side bar – 300px by (200pc to 500px)
  • Header image – 630px by(50px to 200px)

Google Display - Template Expanded Ad

Final Thoughts

With the option to contextually target users by their email content, and lower cost per click averages than Search, Gmail ads provide a promising addition to your AdWords armada. Initial tests have shown click through rates as high as Search, and attractive CPA ranges. Have you tried the new Gmail Ads? We’d love to hear your findings!


#PPCPodcast with David Rothwell

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Advertising, Social
#PPCPodcast with David Rothwell

In this week’s PPC Podcast, we’ll be joined by guest speaker, David Rothwell of Rothwell Media. David’s expertise lives in the ecommerce vertical and with the winter holidays approaching in Q4, we’re excited to take a deep dive into Google Shopping Campaign strategy.

Listen in

We are just weeks away from the biggest holiday shopping season of the year. The time has come to start preparing for the occasion. We’re looking forward to getting David’s perspective on the following topics:

  • The standard structure of a Google Shopping Campaign
  • Suggested latency before seeing success with Shopping campaigns
  • How to account for the removal of Promotional Text
  • Recommendations for advertisers that are new to Google Shopping Campaigns
PPC Podcast

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/boonlee89/5636095832

As always, we’ll recap the morning’s #ppcchat discussions and discuss the latest news from our “This Week in Ad Tech” blog series.


Join us for the live #ppcpodcast with David Rothwell on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 at 10am Pacific Time.

Listen in

The Top 10 Most Valuable AdWords Features for PPC Managers

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 in Advertising
The Top 10 Most Valuable AdWords Features for PPC Managers

We are teaming up with Hanapin Marketing to host a webinar that will cover The Most Valuable Google AdWords Features For The PPC Account Manager. As you know, AdWords has tons of reports, targeting options, and optimization tools. But how do you allocate your time to make sure you’re getting the most value from these features?

Register for this webinar to learn expert tips like:

  • Using Auction Insights to find competitors to use outrank bidding strategies on
  • How to receive the ideal conversion volume and cost/converted click at positions 1-3 or lower
  • Utilizing Dynamic Search Ads as a keyword mining tool
  • Increasing bids on qualified, previous site visitors

Join us and our AdWords experts who will walk through their top 10 most valuable AdWords features.

Michael McEuen

Michael McEuen, Director of Demand Generation at AdStage

Amanda West-Bookwalter

Amanda West-Bookwalter, Senior Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

The webinar is on Thursday, August 13, 2015 at 9am Pacific Time. To guarantee a seat in this webinar, register today.

Register Today

Facebook Bulk Ad Creation, Google Analytics Insights, New Metrics, and More Come to AdStage

Posted by on Jul 15, 2015 in PPC News, Search, Social
Facebook Bulk Ad Creation, Google Analytics Insights, New Metrics, and More Come to AdStage

This month in AdStage: Create Facebook Ads in bulk, view Google Analytics Insights, measure cost per result on Twitter Ads, and more!

Facebook Bulk Ad Creation

Facebook Bulk Ad Creation

Quickly create and test dozens of Facebook Ads by combining alternate ad text and images in bulk. You can even customize multiple URLs at once for easy tracking. Bulk ad creation is also available for Twitter and LinkedIn Ads. Try it today.

Google Analytics Insights

Google Analytics Insights

You never need to leave the platform to view and analyze your Google Analytics Insights data. Save time comparing your ad spend to conversions by linking your Google Analytics account in AdStage.

Twitter Delivery Optimization and New Metrics

Twitter Optimized Delivery

Let Twitter optimize the delivery of your ads for campaigns with the Website Clicks or Conversions campaign objective. We also support reporting for your campaign objectives with the addition of Results and Cost Per Results metrics. Try it now.

New AdWords Metrics and Final URL Support

AdWords final URLs

We’ve rolled out support for even more Google AdWords metrics. This includes Total Conversion Value, Phone Call Conversions, Search Impression Share, and more. In addition, AdStage supports full campaign creation with Final URL Support on Google AdWords. Try it today.

How To Use SEMrush for PLA Keyword Research

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Advertising
How To Use SEMrush for PLA Keyword Research

This is a guest post by Marta Dalton, Manager of Web Marketing at ANSYS & Phillip Brooks, Content Marketing Manager at SEMrush.


Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are image-based paid advertisements for specific products (or SKUs) that appear in the SERPs triggered by searches for related keywords. The Google Shopping platform allows e-commerce vendors to build a database of hundreds, even thousands, of individual products within their Google Account and target ads based on a myriad of criteria, such as: keyword, demographics and geographic location, season and amount of inventory.

As with Google AdWords, an inefficient PLA strategy can be costly for any online business. Moreover, a successful strategy for either platform requires regular re-assessment of performance and goals in order to maximize performance. Successful digital marketing cannot rely upon a “set it and forget it” strategy.

Competitive Analysis

We’re going to show you how to use SEMrush to perform a competitive analysis using our PLA tool that will identify keywords in three capacities:

  • Keywords unique to your domain
  • Keywords unique to your competitor/s domain/s
  • Keywords shared by both your domain/s and that of your competitor/s

Each of these data sets can provide you with different kinds of actionable information. For example, keywords unique to your domain may be indicative of keywords for which you need bid defensively, as this represents an opportunity for your competitors. Alternatively, keywords that are shared by both you and a competitor may demonstrate opportunities for growth for either side.

This would allow you to check which ads are appearing for that keyword and which aren’t. This gap analysis shows conversion opportunities you might be missing out upon. Finally keywords that are unique to a competitor could show you which keywords represent an opportunity for you.

I want to stress that this is only a snapshot for a particular timeframe and this kind of analysis should be repeated on a regular basis to ensure your strategy remains viable.

SEMrush PLA Tool

It stands to reason that if we’re going to be performing competitive analysis, we must first identify just who our competition is. SEMrush has a feature within the tool that can help us do this quickly and efficiently. Our PLA Tool is a relatively recent addition, but it’s rapidly become very popular with our community.

Let’s look at the shoe retailer, Nike.com There should be some pretty healthy levels of traffic going both to their domain as well as the domains of their biggest competitors. Search volume for individual titles/products/SKUs carried by these retailers will also be robust as users search for the best places to buy from.

PLA Research Nike.com

Within the PLA Research Tool, enter the domain, and select “PLA Competitors” and SEMrush will deliver a list of competing domains sortable by competition level, common keywords and other metrics.

Here’s an example of PLA Competitors report:


SEMrush scales and sorts competitors using two parameters:

One is the number of common keywords–that is, the number of keywords for which both domains/advertisers appear in the same PLA block.

The other factor is the number of uncommon keywords. These factors are designed to ensure that competitors listed fall within the same industry.

For example, one site may have fewer common keywords but be listed as more competitive because it has fewer keywords in total–meaning that the majority of its business competes directly with the site being queried.

With this data we can not only can see what sites are competing with Gamestop, we can also extrapolate the domains competing with its competitors by feeding those domains into SEMrush for further analysis.

Competitive Analysis Using PLA Positions report


  1. Use PLA Positions
  2. Filter by the brand or the product category to ensure the CSV download is both manageable and usable.
    NOTE: in some cases you might want to start with a broad term and filter in Excel, or you might want to focus on a specific sub-category
  3. Hit apply and export to CSV
  4. Check out the URL structure and see if you can extrapolate category and/or item model number from there. Some competitors make it nice and easy.
  5. In this case we can get category and brand from the URL. Copy the “URL” column data to a new column, then use Excel’s “Text to Columns” tool to delineate the data based on how they’re separated (sometimes it’s a hyphen, in this case it’s a slash).
  6. Now we’ve got both “manufacturer” and “category” in separate columns–for the most part, anyway. (It seems that “accessories” here doesn’t follow the format, so we can isolate that manufacturer and then just move them over to the right by one column so that “accessories” lines up with the other categories.)
  7. With both “manufacturer” and “category” (maybe sub-category and the product too) off by themselves, we can filter and see what keywords are being targeted by this competitor in these areas.



Bonus Hack #1

Sometimes the URL’s aren’t that pretty and they’re just words separated by hyphens in no particular order (or the order changes based on SEO or the title). This is where the 80/20 Rule comes into play. We will focus on the categories or products that are most important to us and pull them out using the Find and Replace tool.

Copy the URL to a new field and label it “categories,” “sub-category,” “manufacturer,” etc. Create a heading for whatever data you want to separate out.

In this case, we’ve made a field to show “sub-category” which will extrapolate “Xbox,” Playstation,” “Nintendo,” and their model type. From this, we can pick the top 10-20 items we want to find and use wildcard characters in front of the text to grab them (in this case, we noticed that the syntax uses hyphens so we could search for “xbox-one,” “xbox-360,” “ps4,” etc.)

We can apply this search parameter to the data, which results in the nicely filtered result you can see on the image to the right:


From here we can copy the URL to a new column to pull out manufacturer and repeat other data from the URL using the same method.

Bonus Hack #2

Now that we have stand-alone fields separated using Bonus Hack #1, add-in the data from the “manufacturers” and “categories” headings of your other competitors (we also added a new column for the “competitor company” name,) we can use Excel’s PivotTable feature to see how many keywords our competitors are using in each category. If our competitors have a lot of PLA keywords in a category that is strategically important, or in which we have a lot of stock, we might want to revisit our strategy for those terms.


Bonus Hack #3

With this hack, we’re able to pull a manufacturer product code/model number from the URL. We can then see what prices our competitors are charging for the items in question and adjust our pricing and sales promotion strategies accordingly.

Now we just need to make sure we have active PLA’s running on those items and enough stock to meet the increased demand!

Bonus Hack #4

Once we have the data sorted by “category” and “manufacturer,” we can use Excel’s VLOOKUP function to check against our product list to see what we have in these categories that our competitors are NOT advertising on. If VLOOKUP returns “#N/A,” we know we’ve got a winner that they don’t have.

Using the data we’ve already gotten from the PLA Competitor tool, we want to examine PLA Keywords/Product Names that your site shares with competing domains.

We can accomplish this via a side-by-side comparison between our performance on Google Shopping and that of our competition.

Go to SEMrush → Tools → Domain vs. Domain, enter the domain and up to five competitors’ domains into the input fields, select “Keyword Type” option, “PLA” and press “Go.”

With this data, we can:

  • See whether or not those domains compete in paid search results for your keywords and compare their PLAs’ rankings for each search term.
  • Generate reports for your domain’s unique keywords (excluding common keywords) to see search terms for which you are an uncontested leader.
  • View competitors’ unique keywords to understand the opportunity that you may be missing; and get ideas for improving your product feed in order to appear in paid search results for more queries.

Keyword research

So now we know who our competitors are. It’s time to identify where our opportunities lie. This is where keyword research comes into play.

From the Domain vs. Domain report we ran above, we can look at which keywords we share in common with a given domain, but we can also look at those keywords which are unique to each domain as well. These often represent opportunities that we can target.

We can use filters to pull out the headings that we want to focus upon. Then sort that data by “competitor position” or by “search volume” to find potential add-ins for your PLA’s.

PLA Copies Report

We can also use the Find and Replace method (from Bonus Hack #1) on the export from the PLA Copies Report to roll up keyword totals by heading (like we did in Bonus Hack #2.)



This report is particularly handy for creating a “hot list” of items. If we know we have overstock on a specific set of items (talk to your merchandising or purchasing team to see what you have a lot of and/or what stock is about to be written off because it’s aging) we can see what keywords our competitors are going after for those specific item(s.)

Are you using PLAs as part of your overarching digital marketing strategy? If so, what other methods are you using to identify keywords that correspond to products that your site carries?

We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

About the Authors

Marta’s background is an eclectic mix of technology and marketing, and she considers herself fluent in translating “techie” to English and vice-versa.  Her background includes a B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering and an MBA, both from Carnegie Mellon University, and a winding path that’s seen her lead digital initiatives under both CIOs and CMOs.

Phillip Brooks is the Content Marketing Manager for SEMrush, the leading competitive intelligence tool for digital marketing. He is a prolific content creator who has worked on campaigns for companies both large and small, including Electronic Arts and Turner Networks.

Inflow Chooses AdStage for Automated PPC Rules and Grows Client Revenue by 23%

Posted by on Jun 24, 2015 in Advertising, Automation, Search, Social
Inflow Chooses AdStage for Automated PPC Rules and Grows Client Revenue by 23%


inflow logoBased in Denver, Inflow is an inbound agency that provides complete digital marketing services to global clients. One of the world’s largest event management companies chose Inflow to manage its global online advertising efforts across its audiences in Australia, Dubai, Germany, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States. The paid team is primarily responsible for promoting nearly 1,000 regional conferences annually with Google AdWords, Bing Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Facebook Ads, and Twitter Ads.

Inflow previously used a solution that supported Google AdWords optimization. However, the paid team at Inflow quickly realized that it was far too inefficient to continue using that platform. As more events required promotion, the amount of reporting for each office quickly became extremely time consuming. Because of the magnitude of this account, Inflow needed a solution that would not only centralize all of the client’s ad accounts, but also streamline organization, workflows, and reporting.


adstage case studyInflow selects AdStage to manage, optimize, and report on all of the global ad accounts for its client, the leading event management company. Because the client has a global presence, its six offices each had separate ad accounts on different time zones. Because the native networks did not offer a simple solution to accommodate the time zone variances, the Automated Rules in AdStage made it extremely easy for the team to set-up dayparting on AdWords, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

When measuring the performance of the campaigns in AdStage, Inflow was able to easily create, customize, and schedule reports across all five networks in AdStage. The AdStage Global Dashboard provided the agency a stunning birdseye view of cross-network campaign performance that could be easily customized and instantly saved as a PDF file for the stakeholders to review.


With AdStage, Inflow experienced a significant time savings, which allowed them to focus on growing their client’s account.

adstage for agencies

  • Setting up dayparting with Automated Rules on AdStage saved the agency 5 hours per week from having to manually login to each network, pause, and unpause each campaign. Showing ads only during peak hours led to a 28% increase in conversion rates and a 31% decrease in CPA.
  • The AdStage Global Dashboard was easy to customize and showed cross-network performance, which saved the team 4-6 hours per week of aggregating the reports from 5 different networks across 6 separate offices.
  • With the extra time saved, Inflow was freed up to analyze more campaigns for the numerous events that were being promoted. This ultimately grew client account revenue by 23% in just three months.

“Any time savings we can get is profit for us, especially with reporting. If we can spend 5 hours instead of 8 hours on the same task, this is a win for us.”

— JD Prater, Sr. Paid Search Strategist, Inflow


To learn more about AdStage and start your free trial, visit www.adstage.io.