Archive for PPC

You Bid On Keywords Not Search Queries

I think the distinction between queries and keywords is important. A keyword is the flat, literal, lowest-common-denominator word that you want as much commercial intent in it as possible. A search query is the actual phrase that the user puts in the search box. More often than not search queries are absurd. The keywords you select are just as much about what queries you don’t want your ad to show up for, as the queries that you do want your ad to show for.

As seen above, search queries of all types are swimming through a stream and you lure the ones you want your ad to show up for by using keywords, match types and negatives.

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Categorizing Keyword Targets Into Campaigns

Keyword Categories

There are four main categories to think about when you categorize your keywords into campaigns: retailer, manufacturer, product and category. And then there are the multiple inter combinations of those four.

Prioritizing which category you should focus on depends on which category your business falls into. If you’re a brand manufacturer than the Manufacturer bucket will give you the best return and you wouldn’t worry about the retailer category. If you’re a retailer without your own brand than you need to worry about all four categories. Generally ROAS and volume looks something like this (varies depending on industry):

ROAS and Volume paid keyword categories

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Product Listing Ads Targeting Strategies

Product Listing Ads Targeting Strategies

  • Targeting at the Product ID level is the most granular but depending on how many products you have it can be unscaleable.
  • The next best option is to use category combinations. For example: combine the brand target of Fender and the adwords_label you’ve made for acoustic guitars so that you can place a specific bid of Fender acoustic guitars.
  • Targeting categories is like bidding on broad match keywords. The more labels you can make the better.
  • All Products is your catch-all that should still stay active after any other segments have been created. It can also give you ideas on new categories to make by looking at the search query reports.

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Combine Site Engagement With Remarketing Lists For Search Ads

Modifying a bid for someone who not only has been to your site before but you also have an idea of their activity on your site is powerful.

So a site that sells guitars can create a remarketing list for a certain brand of guitar by making a list based on any URL that contains that brand keyword. There are lots of cool things you can do with this.

To take this a step further you can create audience lists based on cart, product detail page, and category page. Then make a custom combination so that your bid increases a little if they have been to your site before, or increase it more if the person has not only been to your site before but has been to a product detail page or added something to cart before.

To go a step further still, you can use import remarketing lists made of audience segments from Google Analytics. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a list consisting of visits with 10+ page views or a count of visits greater than 2 so you can bid highest for visitors who have shown a high level of purchase intent
  • Visitors who came through your adwords brand keyword campaign initially can be served an ad that will take them to a page other than the homepage
  • Exclude visitors who bounced. If they didn’t show interest the first time don’t serve them an ad again
  • Use local ad text referring the city or state they live in using the city and metro data in Google Analytics
  • Use Days Since Last Visit to bid up on those visitors who have lapsed
  • Show different adtext to new visitors vs returning visitors using the visitor type segment
  • Exclude return visitors from seeing your ads if they search on your brand terms. If they already know about you don’t bother paying for a click to have them when they return

Really, there are an infinite amount of ways to make your paid search campaigns efficient by combining audience lists to search ads.

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Diagnosing A Paid Search Strategy

Paid Search strategies can vary widely. There is a different blend of direct response and branding that each company employs. How much does a company value educating new customers as opposed to getting sales from each click? How often are they testing new keywords to reach different and new target segments? How much are they willing to spend for the sale? What is the target ROAS and how willing are they to deviate from it?

These questions can be answered by looking at the amount of money a company invests at the different levels of Return On Ad Spend (or CPA). If you compare time periods you can see how paid search strategies change.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 4.25.30 PM

In this example you can see that a focus on direct response was increased year over year as that sweet spot of ROAS from 1 to 4 was much more heavily invested in – budget was spread much less evenly across higher ROAS levels. There is always a balance between profit and volume the more evenly the cost is spread out the more evenly the company values both metrics

in 2012 there seems to be more experimentation going on as the amount invested that got 0 return was higher.  Interestingly, in 2013 as the amount of money invested on the > 21 ROAS was much higher. Maybe there were a few pet keywords that even though got low return were important from a branding or competitive perspective. Or impression share on those high ROAS keywords was tapped out and additional budget was given to the wrong keywords.

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Paid Search Competitive Analysis Report Template (excel download)

This template is a snapshot for a particular month. It doesn’t show trends or give you the context of growth/decline over time. You can pull the Auction Insights report out of AdWords from a campaign or adgroup and then plug in the top 10 competitors to get these results.

Paid Search Competitive Analysis

Click To Enlarge

Ideally the first bubble chart gives you insight into where you sit in relation to your competitor’s impression share, avg. position and top of page rate. How competitive are you with these other advertisers? If you’re similar size and position expect high costs and aggressive bidding.

The second bubble chart shows the relation of avg. position and top of page rate with the competitors you overlap with the most. The more bubbles of similar size, the more competitive the auction is.

The Top Of Page Rate column chart gives you an idea of how aggressive you are relative to the competition for that data you’re analyzing. Are the competitors that are ranking higher than you also winning out the most when you are in the same auction?

I copied over the colors from the bubble charts to the bar charts so that you can follow one competitor across all comparisons. This way it’s easy to see if a competitor with high overlap rate ranks higher than you when in the same auction.
Is ranking higher than one of your competitors important to you? With the Who Is Ranked Higher chart you can see how often that is happening and with the other column chart you can see how competitive they are overall.

Download the Paid Search Competitive Analysis Template (.xlsx)

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Should You Pay For A Paid Search Bid Management Tool?

Bid management tools (Marin, Kenshoo, Acquisio, DoubleClick For Search) tout productivity, and increased efficiency but not without a hefty cost – charging 3% – 5% of spend. So is it worth it? Here are some of the pros and cons these tools promote and a comparison of what you get for free from AdWords:

  •  Cross-Publisher editing is a big feature. When you see both AdCenter and AdWords in the same place it’s much easier to manage and strategies can be spread seamlessly across the two.
    • No arguments here, obviously Adwords will never give you the ability to edit AdCenter in it’s interface.
  • Doing bulk edits by downloading data into a spreadsheet, making edits, and then re-uploading is essential for increasing productivity across thousands of keywords and ads.
    • AdWords editor does this for free (but not across publishers) and it’s a pretty new feature in AdWords as well.
  • Customizable dashboards allow you to make better reports faster which allow for better analysis.
    • If you’re not content with the charts in the AdWords interface, you’ll need to use spreadsheets which are slower but you can make them exactly how you want and aren’t limited to the features of the dashboard tool.
  • Flexible auto bidding algorithms allow advertisers to manage millions of keywords and ads effectively. Bidding algorithms look at all the possible signals available to decide what to bid so you can reach a desired CPA or ROAS which would be too difficult for any one person to do manually.
    • AdWords Conversion Optimizer is competitive with other tools as it is the only bidding algorithm that makes bids in real time, the rest do so reactionary through the API. Also, AdWords allows adding any keyword to Conversion Optimizer regardless of account structure making it pretty flexible. What it doesn’t have (yet) is options outside using a target CPA to optimize instead of a target ROAS.
  • Dynamic account expansion allows large advertisers to create campaigns, adgroups and ads much faster using their product feeds and smart software.
  • Conversion attribution allows you to give keywords different levels of credit depending on what point they were clicked on in the funnel and use those rules in your bidding strategy.
    • With AdWords you can get insight with the Multi-Channel Funnel reports and more insight if you use Google Analytics but its not easy to incorporate learnings into bids.
  • Customizable alerts that allow you to get an email if a swing in traffic or drop in CPA happen to a specific campaign/keyword/adgroup
    • Automated Rules in AdWords allows you to send emails that get triggered for changes in any metric.
  • Tag any element of your account to easily find and schedule anything.

Also consider:

  • When AdWords comes out with new features it usually releases them in AdWords before making them available in the API so things like Dynamic Search Ads are not available in many of these tools that rely on the API.
  • Enhanced campaigns are taking a lot of the complexity away that justifies these bidding tools – consolidating duplicated and triplicated campaigns for device, time and geography.

You can see that most features are mostly marginally better than what you get for free from Google. In my opinion, a bid management tool only make sense for very large advertisers with small SEM teams. I think their value propositions will continue to run thin as Google ups its investment in AdWords editor and the AdWords interface.

The real reason why many people use these bid management tools is because it takes the responsibility of paid search away from themselves and gives it to an algorithm. A computer can look at many more signals than a person can look at, make thousands a tweaks to bids at a time and learn as it goes – who can argue with a search manager that it’s not a good decision to invest in a tool like that? Besides whatever increases to ROAS it provides it also gives you a justification and an excuse to upper management if the program goes well and if it goes wrong.

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Should Affiliates Bid On Your Brand Keywords?

The only affiliates that really want to bid on your brand keywords are coupon sites – Slickdeals, Couponcabin, Retailmenot, etc. because discounts are incredible clickbait, and with the 30 day post-click attribution windows (which most affiliates are set up on), discount ads on brand terms work out to be very lucrative for affiliates. So brand terms are usually out of the question.

The question does come up in regards to “brand + coupon” keywords though. If customers are proactively searching for coupons it can make sense to let affiliates bid on those keywords. The cost is all incurred by them, you only pay if a sale happens and if you were to put an ad up for your site like you would for a typical brand term, customers would likely bounce because they want to find coupons, not your homepage.

Some brands don’t want a coupon page on their site because they don’t want their products associated with discounts, but If you do have a page on your site that feature coupons like this Macy’s page, not letting affiliates bid on your brand + coupon keywords so you can have all that traffic for yourself can be very effective. The problem is this: most visitors don’t believe the brand’s page will have all of the coupons that are really out there. Chances are they will click on your ad and then leave to a coupon site anyway to see if there are any more coupons out there.

I think there are three options:

Affiliates Bid On Brand Terms

Because of the 30 day attribution window in search, most of the “brand + coupon” keywords are not last touch (affiliate is) but are still taking credit, so the paid search marketer loves the coupon keywords in his account because they perform really well and pull up account performance overall. Parting with them would mean doing what is best for the company, not whats best for his channel.

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Two Most Important Steps For Managing Product Listing Ads

Product Listing Ads are currently one of the least transparent, (no avg. position, no impression share, no keywords) yet highest converting products in AdWords. By holiday 2013 I think PLAs will be one of the highest cost sections of any ecommerce paid search account. After you have set up your Product Listing Ads campaign(s) and added an adgroup targeting All Products, it feels like you’re done but there are still a few more things that you can do to improve PLA performance.

1. Create product targets as granularly as you can. Download your Google Merchant Center feed and add attributes per sku to the the AdWords_Label column. You should categorize for type, category, price, margin, style, sku and whatever else you can think of. If you can get all the way down to one product per adgroup, even better. There are two reasons for this: 1. the more specific you can be with your product targets the more specific you can be with your promo text which is set at the adgroup level, 2. you want your cpc bid to match as closely to the value of a click from that product as possible. If you have a very general product target then it will be hard to know what your bid should be when there is a wide range of products that match that target.

2. Use negative keywords to optimize your ads. You can’t bid on keywords with PLAs but you can see the queries that triggered your ads and add them as negatives (under the Auto Targets Tab > See Search Terms > All). Negative keywords are sometimes necessary to make distinctions between product variants. For example, if you sell a small and a big version of the same product you might want to add “small” and “little” as keyword negatives for the big version (and, conversely, add “large” and “big” for the smaller version).

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5 Use Cases For AdWords Remarketing For Search

AdWords Remarketing for search allows you to change your bid for a keyword if the user has been to your site before. Here are some interesting tactics to utilize this new feature:

Drive Incremental Sales With High ROI
Its hard competing with broad keywords while maintaining your ROI goal, as a result these broad keywords tend to be left inactive. So, create an adgroup that only competes in auctions for broad high volume keywords if the user has been to your site before.
Implementation:

  1. Create an adgroup for your high volume keywords
  2. Create a remarketing list for visitors to your website
  3. Add that remarketing list containing visitors to your adgroup

Bid More For Repeat Customers
If you have data that shows repeat customers on your site have an average basket size that is 20% larger than that of a new visitor you can bid more aggressively to put your ad in front of those repeat customers.
Implementation:

  1. Create a remarketing list based on visitors to a purchase confirmation page
  2. Add that list to a copy of an existing Adwords adgroup
  3. Edit bids so that they increase bids by 20% (or whatever) versus your original adgroup

Stop Paying For Clicks From People Already Subscribed To Your Email
If you have a goal to convert users to your email marketing list then you would want to exclude current subscribers from ever seeing ads. Once they have visited a page on your site that only email subscribers can get to, you can exclude them from your search campaigns.
Implementation:

  1. Create a remarketing list based on visitors to a subscription confirmation page.
  2. Navigate in Adwords to an existing campaign aimed at obtaining new subscribers
  3. Add your remarketing list containing visitors to your subscription confirmation page
  4. Click Custom Combinations
  5. Choose None of these audiences (“NOT” relationship)

Treat Different Users Differently
If your website has three different offerings to visitors you may want to message those repeat visitors with tailored ad messages.  So, customize the advertising message these visitor groups will see.
Implementation:

  1. Create three remarketing lists by putting three different remarketing tags on different portions of your website
  2. Make three copies of an adgroup
  3. Edit adtexts for each adgroup copy to put the most appropriate message to the users
  4. Add the appropriate remarketing list to each adgroup

Re-engage Comparison Shoppers
If your customers tend to compare you to your competitors back to back you could serve ads on competitor’s brand terms only after they have visited your site first. Bidding on competitor’s brand terms tends to be expensive but using remarketing for search could make it more affordable.
Implementation:

  1. Create an adgroup for your competitors keywords
  2. Create a remarketing list for visitors to your website
  3. Add that remarketing list containing visitors to your adgroup

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