All posts by KatherineWrobleski

What Are You Doing with Attribution?

Attribution is a hot topic. Every digital marketer talks about it. But what are you doing with attribution? Cross-channel tracking solutions, like the IgnitionOne Digital Marketing Suite platform, collect data across various online advertising channels and attribute transactions according to a pre-determined, fully customizable model. But how can you use this analysis to optimize your digital presence? First, identify which data is valuable to your company. Next, interpret the data, and last, answer this question:  How is attribution actionable for my company or client?

 Use the exposure path for budget allocation.

Determine your campaigns’ primary KPI (key performance indicator) and determine how each channel contributes to your overall goals.

Idea 1: Maximize your investment in channels that drive conversions with a single exposure. This means the consumer sees a single ad, e-mail listing or organic result, clicks and converts. These channels should be fully funded until they reach diminishing returns. For example, 32% of single exposure transactions for an IgnitionOne hotel client are driven by paid search brand terms. Our analyst team has maximized investment in brand campaigns to ensure all of the potential single exposure transactions are captured.

Idea 2: Invest heavily in channels that appear often as the last exposure in the path to conversion. In multi-exposure conversion paths, each step is important, but the last exposure “closes the sale”. For the hotel client, the last exposure is a remarketing view in 23% of multi-exposure transactions, so our display team has maximized investment in display remarketing to ensure display remarketing is not limited by budget.

Idea 3: Evaluate assist value when allocating your remaining budget. Not every channel will drive single exposure conversions or show up as the last exposure in a multi-exposure conversion path. Some channels provide value as upper-funnel tactics. For the hotel client, display prospecting is used to build awareness for promotions and events. After the awareness builds, the demand is captured through channels that drive direct conversions, like paid search brand and organic search. Allocate a portion of your budget to channels that assist conversions and build awareness.

Use latency to drive your paid search bidding strategy.

Chances are you already consider inventory and availability constraints for retail, travel and other clients, but are you factoring latency into your bidding strategy?

The first exposure usually determines the latency to conversion you can expect in a particular conversion path. When the first exposure on a conversion path is a display prospecting view, the conversion path will be longer than when the first exposure is an organic or paid search brand click.

Example: The average booking window for the hotel client is forty days, which means the average consumer books his hotel room forty days before he plans to travel. Our analysts consider the hotel’s vacancy when bidding on paid media and planning display campaigns, to limit unnecessary spend forty days before dates when the hotel is completely booked. Additionally, the team uses latency trends to further optimize. The average latency to conversion for a single exposure path is less than two days, while the average latency to conversion for a multi-exposure path is eight days. Serving display prospecting ads, which generally have a longer path to conversion, would be most effective around forty-eight days prior to high vacancy dates (forty day booking window + eight day expected latency to conversion.) Paid search brand ads often drive single exposure conversions, so bids are maximized around forty-two days prior to high vacancy dates (forty-day booking window + two day expected latency to conversion.)

Use A/B testing to optimize your media mix model.

You have probably run advertising campaigns on paid search brand and non-brand, display prospecting and remarketing, e-mail, organic and social channels. Are all of these channels right for you?

A/B testing is risky, but the payoff is worth it. The goal of A/B testing based on attribution is to reroute traffic from a less efficient channel to a more efficient channel. The risk lies in temporarily cutting off or limiting spend on a particular channel. If your hypothesis that traffic can be routed to a more efficient channel proves to be true, you should consider altering your media mix to improve overall performance.

Example: The hotel client has recently optimized their organic presence. The cost of optimizing organic is far less than the variable cost of running a robust e-mail marketing campaign. The proposed test is to stop sending e-mails for a period of time and to analyze subsequent traffic and conversion trends. If the traffic is rerouted successfully to the more efficient channel (organic search in this case), then e-mail spend will be limited in the future.

Use attribution analysis to drive actionable results. As a starting point, use exposure paths to allocate your budget, analyze latency to add another layer to your bidding strategy and do not shy away from A/B testing. The possible applications of attribution analysis are unlimited, but the real value is when you start converting big data into big results.

Google’s Dynamic Search Ads Beta: A Step Into The Future

By: Katherine Wrobleski, Associate Account Manager

Every day, 16% of Google queries have never been searched before. How is a media manager to keep up? Worry not-Google’s dynamic search ad beta alleviates this constant struggle with keywordless paid search ads generated directly from a marketer’s website. The program is designed to compliment an existing account’s structure, serving on long-tail, specific queries that are not picked up by a keyword set. Google reports that advertisers see a 5-10% increase in clicks and conversions on average with the beta, and the setup is fairly painless.

Is DSA Right For Your Account?

Benefits of DSA coverage

  • Robust – DSA provides incremental keyword coverage. The long-tail coverage may generate conversions at lower CPCs than core keywords.
  • Efficient – DSA set-up is quick and easy to maintain after tracking is set up within Adwords.
  • Dynamic – Ads closely relate to search queries without complex media management.

Considerations before setting up DSA

  • Landing page coverage should align with account’s KPIs (unless DSA is being used as a branding initiative).
  • A good negative build is imperative for blocking irrelevant queries.
  • DSA headlines are highly relevant to a user’s query but do not always align with brand guidelines. If a client has specific requirements for ad copy, DSA is probably not the best option.

Let’s Get It Started

When setting up DSA for a marketer’s account, the following options should be considered:

  • By category: Google will look for themes on the website and show ads for the top ten themes
  • By URL: Google targets a section of the website based on URL string
  • By page title: Google targets specific page titles on the website
  • By page content: Google targets text from a webpage (this is the riskiest option and generally not recommended)

You can also set exclusions on the Auto Targets tab to block non-converting subdomains (ie: the Contact Us page).

After targeting is set, it is time to work on ads. While the headline and destination URL are dynamic, the description text is static. Break up targets into different ad groups and write ads to fit the theme of each group. The default destination URL is {unescapedlpurl}, but if using a third party tracking system (like IgnitionOne), this template enables marketers to incorporate it. And always remember to add sitelinks, target only one language per campaign and apply a basic negative set.

How Do You Optimize A Keywordless Ad?

Search marketing veterans may cringe at the thought of ad group level bidding, but most clients are seeing DSA performance exceed the performance of pre-existing non-brand assets in their accounts. The daily budget for a DSA campaign should be set at around ten percent of a marketer’s  total account budget. Category level and Search Terms reports are available on the Auto Targets and Dimensions tabs respectively, and marketers should mine continuously for possible exclusions and negative keywords.

DSA Case Study

Some marketers may still be skeptical. I was too, until I set up a DSA campaign for an IgnitionOne hotel client in April of this year.  We capped the budget at 10% of the account’s total daily spend and set up five ad groups, targeting five different sections of the website, with bids set to target positions two through three. Since the DSA campaign’s inception, we have mined the Search Terms report and altered bids to optimize performance every few weeks. I also tirelessly searched long-tail keywords at random until I got a good sampling of the ads live in the SERP. You have probably heard the same horror stories I have of early DSA ads stringing together inappropriate headlines, but I am happy to report I only found one wonky DSA ad, and it was not too offensive.

After three months of optimizations, we reevaluated the beta’s performance for our hotel client. In July 2013, the direct response DSA ad group drove only 38% less conversions than all non-brand assets in the account combined, with less than 11% of the non-brand spend. The cost per conversion in the DSA group was 80% lower than the cost per conversion for the non-brand assets, and the average CPCs were 34% lower in the DSA group.

This Beta’s Bottom Line

In short, DSA provides incremental coverage for this client that consistently outperforms the existing non-brand assets in the account, in terms of conversion rate, spend, cost per conversion and average CPCs. While it may not be a perfect fit for every client, if you are looking to grow a mature paid search account, Google’s DSA may be the beta you have been waiting for.

The Beta Debate

To beta or not to beta…that is the question. It is always tempting for search marketers to load up a text ad with the latest ad extensions offered by Google or Yahoo!/Bing to command more real estate on the search engine results page (SERP), but does it pay off in the form of increased ROAS? The answer is sometimes yes, but a lot of times, no. So before you jump on the beta bandwagon, carefully consider your vertical and the KPIs to which you are managing to ensure the beta will actually help you achieve your goals.

When evaluating whether or not a client should participate in a new beta, the media team at IgnitionOne takes into account the following considerations:

  • Vertical – While it makes sense for a travel or retail client to run Google’s new image ad extensions, the beta will not be as impactful for a telecomm or banking client. Google users will be interested in seeing images of a luxury hotel or fashion house’s latest line, but not as intrigued by a stock photo man on the phone or a pile of cash. Running banal stock images will not increase CTR or any other return metrics.
  • KPI (Key Performance Indicator) – To what metric are you optimizing your client’s account? If you are lucky and the answer is simply site-traffic or awareness, then the world is your oyster (the world of betas that is.) But, if your KPI is ROAS, as it is for most advertisers, then choose your betas carefully. For example, running Google’s communication extension may encourage users to sign up for a newsletter, but it also may discourage them from actually clicking through to the site and potentially making a purchase. Another recent example of a newish product that has the potential to decrease ROAS is Yahoo RAIS Video ads. Because the video does not link through to your site, you are essentially trading potential conversions for video views.
  • Tracking & Reporting Capabilities – If the results are not “trackable”, then they do not exist. While a beta may help drive incremental revenue, if you cannot track the performance and report on it, that revenue (and your effort in setting up the beta) is wasted. For example, enabling call extensions for Yahoo|Bing! campaigns may look great in the SERP and will drive traffic to your call centers, but if your campaigns are not integrated with a call tracking technology, those conversions will be lost. Most times, your technology platform will not have built in support for betas, so you may have to set up workarounds, like dummy tracking.
  • Budget Constraints – Any budget allocated towards testing engine betas should be incremental. Never rely on a beta product, like Google’s DSA (dynamic search ads) or Yahoo|Bing’s in-stream ads to spend your core budget or drive revenue towards your overall goal. Betas should always be tested with a small incremental budget before they are launched across an entire account and expected to boost performance.
  • Client’s Level of Risk Aversion – Now I am scared of many things, including heights, public speaking and tick borne illnesses, but engine betas are not among them. However, many clients prefer to stay with the tried and true and are hesitant to enable betas before they are a proven success. For example, clients with highly particular brand guidelines tend to stay away from betas that have any type of dynamically generated ad-copy, since the predictability of how the brand will appear is low during the beta period. Other clients are not satisfied unless they are on the cutting edge of something, even if the risky behavior costs them performance. Of course, the smartest advertisers fall somewhere in the middle, but always consider your client’s risk aversion when proposing that they test an engine beta.

The bottom line for betas is to proceed with caution. Marketers should carefully consider their vertical, KPI, tracking and reporting capabilities, budget constraints and risk aversion before opting into the latest and greatest engine offering.

Search Marketing for Retailers: Media Levers

Nobody wants to be marketed to. In fact, society is developing workarounds to avoid unwanted marketing interruptions almost as quickly as markets are finding new ways to interrupt consumers. However, unlike television commercials, street teams of guerilla marketers or even radio advertising discretely delivered by your favorite on-air personalities, search marketing is designed to reach consumers who actually want to be reached.

The challenge for retailers is to deliver the right message to the right consumers at the right time. In order to meet these objectives, retailers must start thinking like the consumer.

IgnitionOne works with many high profile retail clients whose primary KPI is to increase ROI. While our algorithmic optimization team can quickly deliver a lift in performance using our Proprietary Portfolio Optimization strategy, there are many levers you can pull on the media side to amplify this effect.

1. Audit Your Account & Ensure Quality Keyword Coverage

Bigger is almost never better. While building out long-tail & obscure keyword coverage may provide incremental value, it is important to pause or remove keywords with a negative ROI over the long term. If your keyword set alone cannot spend your budget, consider expanding your account with new tactics, such as mobile or remarketing for search, which will increase your spend and potentially your profit margin too.

2. Restructure Your Account To Match The Granularity Of Your Website

For retail clients, your search structure must match the granularity of your website. This will allow you to deliver very targeted ads and landing pages at the ad group level. When the site structure changes or the client is running a product-specific promotion, both landing pages and promo ads can easily be updated.

3. Dominate the page

I cannot express how valuable real estate is on the search engine results page. You should strive to maximize your brand’s presence using some or all of the following tactics:

  • Start a Google + page.
  • Run sitelinks (enhanced sitelinks are even better).
  • Manage your Google Places account.
  • Enable location or call extensions when applicable (particularly on mobile channels).
  • If you manage two complimentary brands, consider bidding the primary brand into first position and the secondary brand into second position. You will only pay once for the click but will garner free impression share for the secondary brand.
  • Consider running Paid Listing Ads (make sure they are semantically optimized; consumers do not want to read through product SKUs).
  • Try Remarketing for Search on non-brand terms only. These ads will target users who have already visited your site, which means they have a high propensity to convert.

4. Go Mobile

Consider the searches you conduct on your mobile device and your desired results. Most often, you are looking for quick answers with the intent of taking immediate action.

  • Differentiate your ad copy. With the rollout of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns, you can set mobile-preferred ad copy and landing pages. Use this to your advantage and deliver text ads specifically targeted to mobile users with location and/or call extensions enabled. If you do not have a mobile optimized site, consider opting into the “Phone Only” option.
  • Keep in mind that mobile ads only make sense in top positions. Mobile users rarely scroll to the second page, so be sure to review device-specific analytics to ensure mobile is profitable for you.

Now that you have fully optimized your search account, start Googling! You heard me right. Though it may sting a little to pay for your own click, online marketers need to experience their ads from the consumers’ point of view, and the best way to do that is to get out from behind your database and follow your own carefully crafted path to conversion.

It All Adds Up: Optimizing Your SEM Creative

Opportunity is knocking at your door: Text ads are the gateway to your consumer. Through your creative, you have the opportunity to draw the consumer into a click or give the click (and possibly conversion) away to a competitor.  Optimizing your ad copy is a continual process that starts with understanding how it impacts your Google Quality Score.

It’s a chain reaction: your creative affects your Quality Score, which affects your CPCs & Rank.

Multiple components of your ad copy affect your Quality Score, including:

  • Historical Display URL’s CTR
  • Historical CTR of all ads across the account
  • Relevancy of keywords to ads
  • Performance on Google (and Display sites if applicable)
  • Performance on targeted devices (Google assigns a separate Quality Score across different devices)

Always pause or delete underperforming text ads and maintain ads with a strong history across your account to earn a top Quality Score.

Back to the basics: never lose sight of Search Engine Marketing best practices.

Before optimizing your text ads, test multiple variations, keeping in mind Paid Search best practices, such as:

  • Organize your keywords thematically and write ads specific to each group’s keywords
  • Highlight your unique selling proposition and include a call-to-action
  • Consider including the keyword in the title using Dynamic Keyword Insertion
  • Format ad in a visually compelling manner
    • Include “www” in Display URL
    • Experiment with exclamation points in the descriptive text
    • Include trademark symbols
    • Use proper capitalization
    • Write different ad copy for device-targeted campaigns

The numbers don’t lie: use analytics to guide your ad copy optimization.

After you have tested multiple variations of ad copy, following the best practices above, it’s time to turn to analytics.  IgnitionOne offers advanced analytics and reporting capabilities that take the guess work out of ad copy optimization.  Be sure to set your ads to even rotation before testing, and pull reports after your ads have acquired a statistically significant number of impressions.  Then, simply choose your top performers based on the metric towards which you are optimizing your account.

The customer is king: the end goal is to please your consumers and earn their business.

Keep in mind your top performers may change with seasonality, competition, promotions and other external factors, but you can always make sure your ads are as relevant as possible, maintain your ads’ history, deliver a unique selling proposition, make your ads visually appealing and use data to optimize the ads across your account.  And above all else, remember that your ultimate goal is to deliver a timely and relevant ad to your consumer.