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Agree to Disagree

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords expert

Monday, February 6th, 2017

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Digital Marketing is often more art than science and reasonable professionals can disagree when looking at the same set of data. Based on this it should be no surprise that we do not agree with every “Best Practice” published by Google. I recently ran into one of these conflicts and I thought I would share it.

Google has a best practice that includes having 3 or more ads for each ad group and they claim that it improves CTR by 5%. This is followed by another best practice that ad groups should be set to optimize by clicks. The claim here is that this improves CTR by 5% and I accept that this is what they believe and there is no attempt to deceive anyone. It should be noted that I would propose that both of these are the same 5% because you need both of these setting to get the effect. I do not question their data only their conclusion. As you might have guessed I do not agree with this “Best Practice” and here is why.

CTR is a measure of performance that is important to Google because that is how they make their money. Google makes impressions but they sell clicks and the effectiveness of that conversion is expressed in the CTR. The challenge is that for my clients CTR is not the key metric. Their metric is always some form of conversion where business value is created for them. CTR is a measurement on the way to the value creation but it is not the creation itself. This fundamental difference is part of what causes us to look at the data from a different perspective.

Let’s look at the multiple ad copy recommendation first. The reason they get the result they want with multiple ad copy is because they get to pick the rotation method and as they say in Vegas – the house always wins. Odds of finding an ad that increases the CTR increases with the number of ads they have to give the clicks to. The downside to this is that it destroys the AB test that advertisers should be running to find the best copy. The Google algorithm is very fast to pick a winner, much faster than any professional recommendation we have seen on split testing. There is no doubt that at a Big Data level this is a winning process for Google but at the small business level that is not so sure. We believe that our goal should be the best copy not just the best CTR. Good ad copy is designed to get clicks from the right people not just the most people.  Remember most people – good for Google; right people – good for advertiser.

Rotation is an area where Google and Advertisers have had conflict in the past. There was a time when Google went beyond recommending rotation and removed the option forcing advertisers to do it their way. The push back from advertisers was so strong that Google backed off and put the option back and made it a best practice not to use it. Not their finest moment but it shows how valuable Google thinks this option is. The reason that we commonly run this with forced rotation is because we are running split tests and we want to make the call as to who the winner is. Google calls a winner much faster than we would recommend. We normally want to see a confidence level over 80% on an AB test before we decide which ad is the winner.

Google believes that CTR is the way to measure performance but they will do conversions, if you have enough data. The problem is that they are not considering all the other variables that are important to your data. We propose that AdWords is a conduit for demand and not a demand generator so the results are subject to outside influences. This is why it takes time to test. It is demand in the mind of the searcher that starts the process and nothing in AdWords Search influences. The best example of this was the Snow Removal Client who tried everything to get his conversions flowing but nothing worked until a huge snow storm hit. Trust me when I tell you there is no “Start A Snow Storm” feature in AdWords.

Testing is a complex process and it is never as easy as a single number. Test results are impacted by many variables and we have seen many conflicting test results. This is where “A” won the first test but lost the second. We often run margin of error tests with exactly the same ads at the same time and we get different results. In margin of error tests, we have found on CTR that a range of plus or minus 10% is common so when someone tells me that something is 5% better; I want to see how big the data are. If your normal CTR is 5% then the real CTR is somewhere between 4.5%-5.5% and anything in that range is too close to call.

Does this mean that Google’s approach is wrong – NO! It just means that there can be different right answers. Google’s method has some strengths and for some accounts it could be the best answer. The key here is to understand the strengths and weakness of each option and then apply the process that is a best fit for your specific situation. In a very broad sense Google Best Practices work best for large high volume accounts but are not always a great fit for small businesses with highly constrained budgets.

Smart professionals with good intent and the same data can come to very different conclusions. This is what makes marketing such an exciting occupation.

Improve Your Click through Rate & Quality Score Part 2

Posted by Ryan in adwords, adwords expert

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Last week, we explored improving the Click through Rate (CTR) to drive the Quality Score with a focus on reducing impressions. The other way to approach this is to increase the amount of clicks coming in through AdWords. There are many theories on how to increase the clicks, but only one that almost everyone agrees on.

The concept is simple and straight forward but complicated to implement. Make the headline about the search query and think of this as a conversation. The search query is what the person asked, your ad headline, and to a lesser extent the body of the ads is what you say in response. The search query is simply the words formulated by the person and submitted to the search engine. It is “in their words” what “they are interested in”. If you want a person to respond to your ad or page content the golden rule is to talk about what they are interested in. This may seem easy but trust me it’s not!

Applying this concept starts with separating keywords into smaller Ad Groups. By doing this, the number of variables connecting to your ads is smaller. The goal of this process is a one word to one ad relationship, but the maintenance cost of that can get out of hand quickly. Once you throw in the complications arising from broad match keywords and quality score, variations place a complicated problem on your hands. This is made even more complicated when you consider the matching changes that Google made for close variants.

The common-sense answer to this is to break the keywords into very tight groups of keywords where the variation in keywords will not impact the response to the search. In other words, we want keyword groups that you would write the exact same ad for. This creates more ad groups resulting in different challenges. For example, split tests will lack the volume needed to get meaningful results, so a different testing strategy must be formulated but that is for another tip.

In this process, start with your highest value keywords that have the lowest quality scores, and you will get the maximum return on your time investment.

Improve Your Click through Rate & Quality Score

Posted by Ryan in adwords, adwords expert

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Quality Score and money are the same thing so it is worth paying attention to this number. The bid in AdWords is money times quality score so quality score really is your money. The single biggest attribute in the quality score is the CTR (Click Through Rate) so it’s worth paying attention – assuming you like your money in your bank account rather than Google’s.

CTR is clicks divided by impressions so to move this number you need to increase clicks or reduce impressions. More your CTR and your quality score will follow. Impressions are the number of times your ad showed in the search results. The CTR is how Google converts the billions of impressions they make each day into cash that they enjoy. They make impressions but they sell clicks and the CTR is their efficiency rating; it’s easy to understand why they think this is important. Pay attention to what Google thinks is important and they will reward your account with lower cost and more traffic.

Regularly Conduct an STR

Start by looking at the searches that your keywords attracted and look for ones that probably do not create value for your business. You do this by running an STR (Search Terms Report), formerly known as Search Query Report (SQR), this is a detailed list of the searches that matched your keywords. This would probably be the end of this article if life was really that simple. The reality is that Google often gives you less than 10% of the searches and most of what they report are the ones that got clicks. At the bottom of these reports you will see a line that reads “Other Search Terms” and this loosely translates to the searches Google does not tell you about. The STR is a great source for negative keywords but hardly the end of this process.

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Keyword Planner

The next valuable tool in this process is the keyword planner. This is a tool from Google to help you build out your keyword list but you can download the data and use it to expand your negatives. There are more than a few problems with this tool but it still good for negative keyword research. Just like the STR you download the list and look for patterns to improve your negatives. One of many problems with this is that the data is not really very accurate because it is rolled up to these keywords and the STR compared to this will show you how this really is two very different sources of data.

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Conduct Searches

Conducting Searches is old school but it still works and is probably the most accurate of the tools commonly available to everyone. In this you conduct a search for your major keywords and look for results that are not related to your business. Then look for patterns you can use to get rid of these pages. This helps push your thinking on the negative keyword list and that is the key to reducing the impressions.

Negative Keywords

You must be careful with negative keywords because they can be silent killers of your traffic. So, they can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Negative keywords are expressed as broad, phrase, and exact just like positive keywords but the match logic is not the same. Broad negative keywords will not jump to plurals, stems, and synonyms like a positive keyword. The only thing a broad keyword will jump to is a different word order. You see giving the negative the same attributes as a positive would negatively impact Google’s earnings and as they say in Vegas “The house always wins”. The phase and exact operate just like the positive keywords before Google got more liberal in the matching rules in 2015.

Our goal in tips is to be short, direct to the point, and immediately actionable; so, we are going to limit this to the discussion of reducing the impressions. If you get rid of impressions, you really do not want your CTR will make your money worth more. In another tip we will cover ideas for improving the click part of the calculation.

Add an Ad Extension Today

Posted by Ryan in adwords, adwords expert

Monday, November 14th, 2016

There are several available additions to your ads beyond the 140 characters and spaces known as Ad Extensions. Ad Extensions can be used to supplement your ad copy and give you an extra opportunity to show extra information about your business to potential customers. The usage (or non-usage) of ad extensions is one of the factors Google takes into consideration as they determine your ad rank.

An ad extension gives your ad more prominence on the search results page, improves your visibility, and gives visitors more opportunities to reach your website. AdWords shows one or more of your extensions with your ad when it calculates that the extension will improve your performance, (however a specific extension is not guaranteed to show 100% of the time). You are charged as usual for clicks if the ad itself or one of the extensions is clicked on.

There are a few different objectives that having ad extensions can help you meet.

Drive Phone Calls

• Call Extensions: This is used primarily for mobile searches and gives people a button which will help drive phone calls. On a desktop device, the call extension will add your phone number to your AdWords ad.

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Find Your Business Location

• Location Extensions: This is used to help your customers find your nearest location. For Location Extensions to work, your Google My Business page needs to be linked to your AdWords account.

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Spotlight Various Parts of Your Website

• Sitelink Extensions: These extensions add links to other pages on your site. The below ad shows an example of what these sitelink extensions look like.

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Below is the documentation from Google themselves on the required steps for adding ad extensions to your AdWords account.

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The implementation of ad extensions tend to lead towards higher click through rates, which presents you more favorably in Google’s eyes when Quality Score is calculated. In addition, the extensions will help give additional information in for your prospective customers.

No matter which of these extensions is applicable to your business, this is one quick step to make your ads stick out better today than they did yesterday.

Update Your Keyword Matching Settings

Posted by Ryan in adwords, adwords expert

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Today, our focus is going to be on keyword matching settings. To get the most efficient performance out of your ads, you can choose various keyword matching options to get the ideal balance between the Quality and Quantity of Traffic. Adjustments to the keyword matching settings can help improve Conversion & Click through Rates which in turn can help improve the Return on Investment you are getting out of your AdWords account.

The order of keyword match types by highest to lowest volume is as follows:

Broad, Modified Broad, Phrase, Exact

However, there is also an inverse relationship between the highest volume of traffic by match type and the highest quality of traffic. The order from highest to lowest quality is as follows:

Exact, Phrase, Modified Broad, Broad

For example, let’s say you sell acoustic guitars and that you are running a Google AdWords account to help drive business. The default setting for any keyword options is Broad Match. While this has the highest volume, it also has looser matching which means that this is vulnerable to matching you up to lower quality searches. A broad match can jump from singular to plural, stems of the words, order of words, and synonyms. We have even seen it jump languages! For example, the broad keyword of Acoustic Guitar would match up with all of the below searches.

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By changing the keyword matching type to modified broad (+acoustic +guitar) it starts to refine which searches you are matched to. The + sign next to the words is a required to convert this to modified broad. For words with the + qualifier in front of it, that word must be in the search. However, the order in which they show up for is not yet relevant.

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The next step for tightening your keyword matching settings would be to convert your keywords to a phrase match “acoustic guitar” as noted by the quotation marks. This requires that the word Acoustic Guitar is shown in this order however you can still have words before or after this within the search for your ads to show up.

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The most qualified keyword matching version is exact match which is denoted with square brackets. However, this match type is also going to get you the lowest volume of traffic. In this case, the only time the Search Query will show is for a search for your keyword only.

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While this is a change that can be made very quickly, this has the poten
tial to have a very positive impact on the quality of traffic and overall performance of your AdWords account.

Are Your Ads Getting The Right Rotation?

Posted by Ryan in adwords, adwords expert

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Today, let’s check in on your campaign’s ad rotation setting. Proper ad rotation is crucial to getting a valid split test from multiple ads in Google AdWords and the default value may not be in your best interest. If one of your ads is not getting a fair rotation in the test, it will not be clear how much it can contribute to your success. This is where the picking the right rotation setting becomes important.

From the Campaigns tab in your AdWords Account with a campaign selected:

Make sure that your campaign is set to All features (shown below):

AdWords Campaign Settings

Scroll down and find Advanced settings for Ad Delivery, Ad Rotation, and Frequency Capping:

Adwords Ad Rotation Settings

In most cases, our recommendation on this setting is the “Rotate indefinitely” setting but the other settings have their value as well, so we will discuss them all.

Optimize for clicks is the default that Google recommends and that makes perfect sense for Google or for the advertiser who does not want to spend the time to do the testing properly. For Google, this improves the click through rate and that optimizes Google’s revenue. For the advertiser that wants to save time, it does the test and moves on quickly. However, Google is very quick to move on this optimization and many, including us, believe that they move too quickly.

Optimize for conversions is a setting we are often fans of but only under certain conditions. You need to have enough conversions that the system can do this optimization and typically this is about 30 in a month. At the Ad Group level, few businesses have the volume required for this setting.

Rotate evenly is a lazy person setting that runs the test for 90 days and then optimizes the ads. This allows you to set up a test and it will automatically conclude and set the winner. While we are not huge fans of this, it is useful if AdWords is not something you work on all the time. By using this setting, if you fail to get back to the test after data is collected it will go to the optimized ad at 90 days.

Rotate indefinitely is our go to recommendation and clearly Google disagrees with us. Google’s recommendation on this setting is clear “Not recommended for most advertisers”. They never qualify why they do not recommend this setting but at one point they removed the option from the system. This action resulted in a huge protest from smart advertisers that resulted in Google bringing the feature back. We recommend this because it forces the test to run until we call a winner, not Google. In many small businesses, the data never reaches a valid level and this setting indefinitely gives us multiple ad delivery. We think that Google’s is thinking with their wallet not yours and clearly this is best for their revenue.

In closing, this is not an area that you need to visit frequently but it is a setting that all advertisers should understand.

AdWords Essentials – Split Testing

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords expert, split testing

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

split-testSplit testing is an essential skill for an AdWords Expert professionally managing an account in today’s world. In this article we are going to explore some of the details that need to be considered to run a professional split test. We could write an entire book on this topic and still not cover it all, so for this article we are going to limit our scope to split tests conducted in the search network of Google AdWords using text ads.

First thing to consider is the goal of the split test; they can be designed to:

  • Learn something new
  • Experiment with a break through idea
  • Test the Margin of Error

Why do we bother with split tests?

Splits help us test what we think is true against what in reality is how our specific market is reacting. With over 20 years in this field I cannot tell you the number of times that market response has surprised a wide range of experts. One thing that we know for sure is that split test results are clues, not facts and it takes lots of tests to increase the probability that the item being tested and the results being seen are the same thing.

A/B Tests – Learning Something

Technically, all split tests that run 2 ads are an A/B test. For the purpose of this article, an A/B test is one that is testing a single variable. This results in ads that evolve in small steps because you can only change one thing at a time. To reiterate, CHANGE ONLY ONE THING per test. Using an A/B strategy requires a long term view and the will to stay the course. If you are part of the instant gratification society it is unlikely you will be successful with a true A/B approach.

Multi-variant – swinging for the fences!

When most people talk about split tests this is the type of test they mean. They write completely new ad copy and put it in competition with the current winner. The challenge is that when the new ad wins there are so many differences that you have to guess at what caused the result. This is not to mean that this does not have value because it does. If what you need is a breakthrough ad then this is the way to run that test, but you have to accept the fact that this the equivalent of swinging for the fences. If it works, it is a home run but it is also risky and likely to result in a strikeout. When you are trying to find the message that resonates with your audience, this is a valid strategy. As the account matures it might make less sense.

Cross Traffic Tests

Sometimes an account simply lacks the volume to do a test in a reasonable period of time but has enough traffic at an account level. In these cases you can sometimes engineer tests that tie all or most of the traffic together. The key to this, is creating ad copy that is generic enough to run the same headline or body in all the groups. The compromise here is that the more generic the copy the weaker the ad tends to be, so getting the test at all costs can sometimes be too much. While the headline is giving up too much the body text can be tested.

Margin of Error

A margin of error test is exactly what it sounds like. Everything in split testing is a clue not a fact and you have to understand the range of accuracy you are dealing with. In a margin of error test, you run two identical ads and run them against each other. This shows you how much the data might be off, based on no variables that are under your control. When this is done several times, a range of error will be visible that you can use to decide how probable the result will repeat. Over the years we have noticed that in most accounts this is about plus or minus 10% of the rate being evaluated. So an account with a normal 2% CTR could come in from 1.8% to 2.2% simply from the margin of error. If the result of a test is within this range then it is too close to call.

Common Mistake 1 – Confusing clues with facts

Clues are data that indicate support for a theory but are not proof. A fact proves that a theory is universally true. In marketing clues are common and facts are exceptionally rare. How rare you ask? Good question: in the last two decades in digital marketing, I have yet to find a fact. As you build the case for your decision the more clues, the more likely what you believe is true.

Common Mistake 2 – Not considering outside events

AdWords does not operate in a vacuum. The best example I can give to you is a snow removal business that wanted more sales leads. No matter how much they advertised and promoted the business, they just could not move the needle. Then a huge snow storm came and the phones lit up like a Christmas tree. The truth is that search marketing serves the demand but almost never creates demand. This is simple to understand when you stop and think about the first step in search, which starts with a need, then a search query, and finally the search engine results.

Common Mistake 3 – Thinking that the body text counts

In most cases the body text (two lines under the headline) simply do not change the results. We think the reason is that people do a search, see the headline they need, stop reading, and click on the ad. We have tested this many times and changes in the headline create meaningful change in the traffic but the body text does not. We often see people struggling for hours to create the best copy possible often for little or no return for their efforts. Invest your time and testing on the headline and write good informational copy for the percentage of the audience that do read those lines.

 

 

 

Mobile is changing the AdWords World

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords expert, Mobile Marketing

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Burn-BobI propose that it is impossible to scale the web experience from desktop to mobile or the other way around with today’s tools. I am sure that hordes of web designers are gathering to burn me in effigy for uttering such heresy. After all, everyone knows that responsive design and CSS fixed all these problems. This is sadly, “Not True.”

I am not arguing that responsive design does not work because technically, it does. However, technically scaling the content does not cure the communication challenge. The audience expectations and needs are different on a mobile device compared to a desktop. I propose that mobile users are looking for short copy that delivers the content they want quickly. They want the phone number and address at the top with the phone number active to a click to call feature. Mobile devices are not designed as a reading device for long reflective research. Desktop users are often after all the details and while long and short copy is still a debate in the industry, there is little doubt that long copy belongs in desktop and short on mobile.

Getting your design to pass a mobile friendly test is only the first step in the process of adapting your content for the mobile world. The web experience that happens after a click on your ad, is how clicks convert into business value. So here is the second big shocker: “Size Matters!” There is a big difference between mobile and desktop audiences, and trying to use one set of content for both is going to result in a compromise somewhere. You have to rethink your audience and design the communications for them.

Google is in the throes of converting AdWords Design from Desktop First to Mobile First. We propose that both of these are important and each has its own issues. It’s not as simple as what goes first. Going mobile fixes some things and breaks others. Different audiences respond differently. I know a lot of people and I know their needs, wants, and expectations are different when they are working at their desktop compared to their phone. In many cases, the desktop user is more reflective and more likely to be in research mode looking for deep levels of information. The mobile user is often looking at much less content that is very direct and to the point so their goals are often to find a phone number, address, or other very short information. The massive amounts of data that the desktop values are a barrier to the information mobile users seek. For many audiences, especially mobile audiences, a small direct to the point website in mobile is what they want. The complexity of this goes beyond desktop and mobile because there is at least one more dimension to consider. Are they operating as a consumer or a business?

Did you know that the marketing industry has been debating this very issue for generations? It’s true, because all we did was change the words that describe the problem. In the olden days, before the internet was part of our everyday lives, marketing debated the short versus long copy and the debate continues today. What has changed, is our ability to interact and modify our behavior based on user input.

Maybe this could be as simple as asking the visitor what they want. Do you want a short and to the point answer or do you want all the details? The other alternative would be to give them the short version with a connection to the long copy on a section, by section basis. The bottom line here is that our world is changing and our methods of communication have to keep up.
I like to close all my articles with some actionable items that our readers can use today to make their account better. This topic is resistant to a short-fix actionable item so what I hope is that you will rethink your audiences and find a way to deliver the right type of copy to the right audience.

Are Audiences the new keywords?

Posted by Bob Dumouchel in adwords expert

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Audience2

I was inspired by the article by Christi Olson posted on Search Engine Land on this subject. While I respect her research and the quality of the article I do not agree with every detail. There is no doubt that PPC strategies need to evolve and that audiences will be a big part of that but audiences and keywords are two very different things. New thinking about the audience and keyword combinations are not a replacement for keywords but they certainly supplement each other. We propose that keywords are events that are part of the overall purchase cycle, while audiences are people who care about the message. In this article we will take a different approach to the same facts and see if that takes us to a different place.

Advertising is evolving and on that we have consensus. Christi’s article proposes that audiences should be used in replace keywords. I propose to you that the goal of advertising needs to change. As an advertiser we should seek to only deliver an ad when the person has an interest. In most research this is called the Point of Purchase or Sale but in reality it is the Point of Want. If you pitch your product at the point of want the consumer will see your advertisement as a service and welcome your content. Nobody wants to be sold but almost everyone wants to be educated at the point when they are making the purchase decision – that needs to be the new goal of all advertising.

Most people hate advertising because it is badly timed not because they object to the information. SEM starts to give us some of the tools we need to improve that situation but we have to think differently. Keyword searches are events that are clues to the interests of the consumer and using these clues in combination of audiences, placements, and keywords it is possible to engineer a delivery model that is much closer to the point of want than what we have today.

The next big thing would be to build audiences based on keyword impressions rather than script execution. The tools for management of the audiences will also need to improve, especially in the area of time frame of the audience event.

Mobile Impressions

Posted by Diego in adwords expert

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Smart PhoneEver since the rollout of the Call-Only Campaign type, mobile traffic has been odd and we are seeing some strange results in a few of our accounts. One client who is a local service provider believes, as we do, that mobile traffic is extremely important. This client’s account  is large and well established. That being said, the data from the account is normally predictable but we were concerned about the volume of the mobile traffic. To address this concern, we ran a test that we would like to share.

We started our test with a Search Campaign with no override on mobile traffic as our Control. The mobile traffic volume for this Campaign came in at 20k impressions in the first month. Once this control was in place, we created a Call Only Campaign and put a -100% override on the Control Search Campaign to effectively turn off the mobile traffic and force it into the Call-Only Campaign. After 30 days the Call Only Campaign (mobile) traffic volume came in at 80k impressions, effectively pulling in 4 times more mobile traffic than the Search Campaign.  

To our surprise when we returned the mobile device override back to “no override” in our Control, we experienced even more impressions! Collectively this configuration (having the Search and Call Only Campaigns both running) got 100k impressions, not the 80k we expected. Because we were surprised by this we ran the test again in another region and that yielded the same results.

While the logic behind this is still unclear to us, what is clear is that running both campaign types gets us a higher impression share in a very competitive market. Mobile traffic continues to follow the approximate 80/20 share split between the Call Only and Search Campaigns with the Call Only bringing in 80% of the mobile traffic and Search bringing in 20%. This test was conducted with a CPA bid Search Campaign. We are currently looking at a CPC test; So far the results seem to be the same however the data is still incomplete.

If mobile traffic is important to you, we recommend that you test your account to see if you get the same results.