Tag Archives: CPC

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.

IgnitionOne Releases its Q2 2013 Digital Marketing Report

Strong Quarter for Digital Ads Led by Mobile Search and Programmatic Display

IgnitionOne’s Q2 report reveals that US search spend was up 7% YoY, smartphones and tablets experienced triple-digit increases YoY, and retail and travel saw incredible growth in programmatic display ad metrics with YoY spend increases of 130% and 156%, respectively. Both verticals also saw average clearing prices for programmatic display exceeding two dollars.

Analysis of trends following Google Enhanced Campaigns migrations show that marketers experienced a jump in cost and CPCs driven by an increase in competition in the mobile (smartphone) and tablet space as well as a loss of granular/keyword level control of the mobile and tablet channels.

“Though traditional paid search continues to mature as a channel, we still see growth in this quarter and we expect that to continue moving forward,” said Roger Barnette, President of IgnitionOne. “Newer channels like mobile advertising and programmatic display are where we are seeing the greatest increases in spend as marketers continue to innovate to reach their audiences.”

To read a more in-depth rendition of the above and more about the digital marketing trends and conclusions of Q2, click here.

Search Myths Uncovered

By Judy Chan, Head of Search, IgnitionOne UK

Have you ever been given advice that you’re not sure whether to take?  There are many myths and unhelpful assumptions in how to manage your PPC activity.  PPC has a complex structure, with a huge volume of data in constant evolution.  Hopefully with some truths, we can help unravel some myths for you, and support you in managing a successful PPC campaign.

Be visible 24/7 – Not necessarily.  There are two options here for you.  Work out your peak periods: when are your best converting times?  You can then either A) be visible 100% of the time and up-weight budget during these peak times, (i.e. increase budget 5% during 8-9pm) or B) pause the account during periods that are not converting to increase campaign efficiency.

Include an extensive list of broad match terms – Broad match terms are useful in driving traffic to your website.  You can pull the search query report which gives you the actual typed keywords to expand your keyword list for more defined match types to increase quality score.  Make sure you create a supporting negative keywords list across the account to exclude irrelevant traffic.

Create a structure with one keyword per ad group – It is important to have a granular structure so that you can allocate budget accordingly to a group of keywords, however this does not mean that you need to create one keyword per ad group.  Remember, budget is set at campaign level, so if you have top performing keywords within an ad group, you will need to structure the account so that these have maximum budget to convert.  If necessary, move these top performing terms into their own campaigns.  Make sure the structure remains the same so that you have the relevant ad copy and landing page for each keyword.  This is an on-going process as performance of each keyword will fluctuate due to multiple factors including offers, seasonality and price change.

Get ideas from your competitors – Why not?  It’s good to know what you’re competing against.  Understand their USPs and how you can improve on what they are saying.  If you can’t compete with a price or offer in ad copy, then use something more generic.  Test and learn!

Managing your own PPC account in-house is easy – This is really dependent on the size of your account and internal expertise. Agency side will give you knowledge, expertise, cross channel media planning and daily support.  There is obviously a cost to using an agency, but the efficiencies could outweigh what you have in-house.  If you do go in-house, there are technologies out there which can support you in managing your campaigns, such as the Digital Marketing Suite

Focus on long tail keywords – It is important to expand on long tail keywords, but the volume in general will be much lower.  This will be an ongoing process to review your account structure.

Once you have your optimum account, you can review it less frequently–PPC is a continuous cycle.  You can always expand, learn and improve.  Seasonality, offers, price change, new products, competitors will constantly impact your campaign.  Always be aware by checking your campaign daily.

Position 1 is a must – not necessarily as you may be more efficient and profitable in lower positions.  It’s all about a combination of ad rank / quality score / CPC to hit your target.  Using a bid management tool can take the ease out of your day to day tweaking.  The tool will take into account the best CPC formula across your keyword set to meet your targets.  For certain terms you may want to take the strategic approach and maintain the number 1 position.

Make sure you run Google Display Network (GDN) – Treat GDN separately to your PPC campaigns, this will give different results to your PPC activity.  Create separate accounts to run these campaigns with individual budgets and targets.

A new account equals starting afresh with your quality score – True, but if you continue with the same structure you will end up with the same quality score.  Your quality score will only improve with constant optimisation of the account.

Monitor click fraud frequently – Don’t focus too much on this. Google and Y!Bing will have their own internal systems and teams monitoring this for you.  They will update the clicks to reflect this automatically.

Don’t bother with PPC, use SEO instead, it’s free! – PPC can give you instant ads appearing against your chosen keywords and positioning.  SEO is a long-term strategy and takes time and constant monitoring to retain the top position.  Although you may be in position 1 for SEO on certain terms, it doesn’t mean users will see your ad first as there may be multiple PPC advertisers appearing on the same term above your SEO ad.  Again, this is all about testing, and understanding whether running PPC and SEO alongside each other will give you incremental volume. Remember that each keyword will be different.

Remove keywords that don’t convert – Which attribution model is this based on? Most of us are still utilising the last-click model.  If this is the case, then this doesn’t mean these terms have not converted; you need to review your click path analysis.  When looking at a user journey, for example a holiday, which keywords do they type in before booking?  How many different display ads do they click on?  Each of these ads is a part of your click path. As they are different media, focus needs to broaden outside of solely PPC to include other channels such as display, email and Facebook. Take into account all channels, brand and generic terms that contribute to a conversion.  It’s not just Brand that converts.  Allocate part of your conversion to each click path and spend your budget wisely.

Use the best performing ad across all your ad groups – Test and learn!  Ad copy should be tailored specifically and relevantly to each ad group. Regularly rotate ad copy to identify your best performers and use the right tracking sources to support your goals e.g. if focusing on CPA, review your ads on CPA results to optimise and not just on CTR.

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.

Leveraging Rich Ads and Branded Sitelinks in Yahoo!/ Bing

With Yahoo!/ Bing (YaBing) releasing a beta for sitelinks, alongside the release of Rich Ads earlier this year, IgnitionOne investigated how to leverage the budgets of branded campaigns to increase efficiency to marketers’ YaBing account.  The basic premise of leveraging the two products’ budgets to increase efficiency lies in the ability to predict brand click-through rate (CTR).

How Rich Ads Work

Rich Ads run only on exact and phrase match types, can only run on brand terms or extremely relevant non-brand terms and the ad position only shows at a rank of 1. This design of the Rich Ads, along with the fact that no competitors can set up a Rich Ad campaign running on another marketer’s brand terms, indicates that the algorithm which dictates cost-per-click (CPC) for this product is slightly different from the algorithm we see in the perfectly competitive open market (i.e., the non-Rich Ads campaigns’ algorithm). The algorithm in the “open market” determines rank and CPC by looking at Quality Score (QS), which is usually a 10 for branded terms, CTR, as a relevancy proxy, and the next in lines competitors’ bid in comparison to your bid. Due to the Rich Ads’ design we can take out QS as a major determining factor for the CPC you are charged, as well as the next-in-line competitors’ bids. We also know that the algorithm is only predicting CPC as the rank and never changes for Rich Ads. This leaves CTR determining CPC. As we all know, CTR is determined by clicks and impressions.

So how can marketers use this information in tandem with their branded sitelinks strategy?

The Strategy

Since the Rich Ads algorithm primarily gathers information from within its campaign and pulls relatively little information from the market, it has more of a lagged model than the “open market” algorithm. Essentially, it uses past data to predict what will happen to the CTR in the future. The shift between the lows and the highs of brand demand (i.e., impressions) is where this gets interesting.

The lag experienced in CPCs, essentially based on impressions, is about 1-2 weeks (note: this may vary based on the amount of impressions your brand receives). During the period in which your brand has reached the descent from the apex of a high demand period, you will be charged high CPCs for about two weeks into your descent of demand within the Rich Ads campaign without the justification in ROAS (i.e., conversions or AOV decreases). This is when IgnitionOne recommends decreasing your daily budget caps so that your rich ad campaign will, in fact, flight (see Figure 1.0). From here, marketers should reallocate extra budget into branded campaign that has sitelinks, to ensure that all exact, phrase and broad match terms come in a rank of 1 (See Figure 1.1). This is important as the “open market” algorithm will adjust more quickly due to your competitors pulling out of the market/lowering their bids during periods of low demand. The algorithm will adjust more quickly also due to your ability to change more keywords’ average ranks to a 1, thus bolstering CTR, which will in turn lower your CPC. Once you see the Rich Ads’ CPCs coming down to where they should be, your brand should increase the budget to where it will not flight further.

Best Practices:

-Identify if your CTR follows this same pattern during extreme changes in brand demand.

-Watch your Rich Ads campaign to see how it performs during fluctuations in demand. You will need to understand your brand’s CPC lag time.

-Set keyword bids high in the Rich Ads campaigns. You will need to manage spend in your Rich Ads by daily budget rather than CPC, as there are no competitors bidding on these terms and no dispute for rank.

-Set the Rich Ad campaign serving setting to “accelerated.”

-Do not turn off your Rich Ads campaign during the period in which your CPCs will not justify the ROAS. You will need the Rich Ads algorithm to collect data in order to get CPCs where they should be.

-Ensure your branded campaign has enough daily budget to take over the Rich Ads campaigns’ daily spend when you switch over.

NOTE: How to predict changes in CTR

Impressions and clicks rise in periods of high demand for your product or brand. However, it is common that in periods of extremely high demand, clicks are able to maintain at the same rate as the demand (i.e., impressions). Due to this effect, brands typically can experience drops in CTR. Since CTR is the main dictator of our Rich Ads CPC, brands using this product can experience higher CPCs during high demand periods. This is not a huge detriment to the account as conversion rates tend to be fairly high in Rich Ads campaigns and also during times of high demand. Conversely, CTR increases as impressions decrease during a brand’s offseason causing CPCs to decrease in Rich Ads. It is during this time that IgnitionOne would recommend keeping Rich Ads budget caps high.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Are You Listening to Your Customers?

Imagine a stellar PPC program: Its CPCs are under control, the account is hitting monthly budgets right on the dot without caps, negatives are in place, and the structure is solid… However the lift in conversions and conversion rate is minimal at best. The above scenario seems to be common and most companies are content with their conversion rates because they believe their sites are fully optimized. Should a conversion rate really be acceptable just because it is on par with industry averages? Even when considering all the blood and sweat put in to drive quality traffic? Put in perspective, the performance of a brick and mortar store’s sales manager who cannot close the deal with 98 out of every 100 customers would likely result in one out of work manager.  So, why should we treat the online sales so differently?

The solution to overcome this fatigue is simple – listen to visitor engagement. Various customer insights tools, such as IgnitionOne’s engagement scoring technology, help advertisers overcome this strenuous task. Some of the applications of this technology that directly impact the conversion rates include:

  • Interactive Pop-Ins : Interact with those users that reach a threshold where they are more likely to convert
  • Smart Remarketing : Remarket to a selective pool of high quality leads
  • On-site Content Optimization :  Display the most relevant content to the user
  • CRM integration: Personalize email content based on relevant content
  • On-site to Off-site : Drive in-person store/showroom traffic through online incentives

Engagement metrics can shed some light on a PPC account’s performance from both direct response and branding perspectives.  Below are the metrics that are tied to campaign, group and keywords performance within the Digital Marketing Suite

  • Number of Sessions
  • Average Session Time
  • Average Score Change
  • Average Final Score
  • Average Page Views
  • Total New Users
  • Total Returning Users
  • Interest Categories

Now let’s look at one of the cool ways to slice and dice these engagement metrics and see how they can be utilized to close the loop for your SEM strategy. Below is a quadrant approach which divides keywords into two groups based on their location in the conversion funnel: Low Assisting vs. High Assisting.

The Low Assisting quadrant suggests that keywords higher in the conversion funnel with few conversions and low engagement (minimal average score change, low number of sessions, low number of interest categories) should be considered for replacement via search queries. Likewise, those low assisting keywords with high engagement scores indicate that the visitors are highly involved on the page but are not turning into closers. The area of improvement for these terms is testing landing pages or interacting with the visitor via Conversion Optimization tactics (pop-ins, lead forms, vouchers, etc.)

The High Assisting quadrant suggests that keywords lower in the conversion funnel with few conversions and low engagement should be maintained at best for future value.  On the other hand, high assisting keywords with high engagement scores should be considered true introducers, where as it falls on the advertiser to assign the trade-off value as a direct converter versus contributor.

While the above examples explain only a couple of direct response scenarios, a lot can be deduced from analyzing this data, including branding initiatives. The key benefit of this technology is adding in the visitor intent into the equation and tying it back to a PPC program’s success. It gives advertisers the chance to actively listen to their customers’ online behavior and let them choose what they desire to do with that information. Are you listening to your customers?

Want to learn more? Visit IgnitionOne or contact us.

What About Search Partner Networks?

SEM managers should be concerned with partner network traffic when seeking to increase efficiencies for a particular account.

I’m not here to outright denigrate the search partner network.  It’s a great solution to a potential problem for all parties involved.  There are a lot of smaller portals out there through which users can search the web, and these users undoubtedly constitute a considerable amount of valuable traffic.

That being said, even your engine rep will probably pitch it to you as a marginal revenue segment of your search spend rather than an efficient channel that stands on its own merit and can be expected to compete on KPI’s with the principle publishers.

Assessing partner network performance, and turning them off when warranted, is completely essential to your entire SEM effort.  Omitting a partner network can do much more than just save you the portion of the budget it’s absorbing.  Switching off a poor performing partner network can cause an uptick in every metric for a given campaign, and this comprehensive array of benefits can lift a campaign into an entirely different tier of performance.  If you’re reading this, you don’t need me to tell you the heights that harmonic interplay between rising CTR, falling CPC, and steadily climbing conversion rate can propel an SEM initiative to.

Before anyone rushes out and turns off every partner network that is currently missing marketing goals, no matter how narrowly scoped the view or by how small a margin they fall short, it’s important to be aware of the potential negatives of such a sweeping measure and decide on strategy with a caution/aggression balance tailored to your efficiency/volume needs.

At IgnitionOne, we tend to err on the side of caution when switching off partner networks, and choose to do so with “mature” search campaigns.  The reason we make this one of the last major optimizations is simple: the search partner network can respond just as strongly to optimization efforts as principle-engine search, and so to cut the network early in a campaign’s lifecycle is to miss out on possible gains that other optimizations that would possibly drive the partner network into profitable territory.  It’s best to think of most optimization measures as paint, and the partner networks as part of the canvas: see what brush strokes the space affords you and what picture you can paint before cutting out part of the picture.

When we’ve decided it’s time to cull the partner herd, we take approach that examines multiple metrics.  The first thing to look for may be partner networks missing a KPI goal such as ROAS or CPA, but that’s just scratching the surface.  It’s important to make sure that the problem is truly the partner network and not some other factor, and for that reason, we look for networks that perform below both client goals and the campaign’s engine search traffic.  If a partner network’s CTR, conversion rate, and ROAS are lower, and its CPA, is higher, we will cut it.  CPC is tricky, as sometimes a partner will provide too many cheap clicks to give up on, whether the rationale is that conversions will eventually have to follow, or that the impressions are good for branding.

A key metric some managers miss is Average Rank.  We don’t like to cut a partner network unless its average rank is around or above the engine search average rank.  If your ads aren’t showing at the same rank on both networks, how can you expect the same performance?  Lower ad rank on a search partner network is something we tend to see get hammered out over time, and so it’s best not to give up yet if you see your partner networks hampered by this effect.

Once you’ve made these changes, be sure to pay close attention to the affected campaigns and verify that you’re seeing the response in the metrics that you expected.  Tricky elements like click-path assists and other unforeseen indirect consequences could demonstrate that the partner networks you cut were providing value that wasn’t immediately apparent to you.

What Google Phrase and Exact Match Close Variants Means for Marketers

Google is releasing changes to paid search that allow the option to run phrase or exact keywords on closely related terms. Variations of keywords that include singular versus plural, misspellings, acronyms, abbreviations, accents, and the consideration for alternate suffixes can all be found using this new Google element. By using this feature, Google’s matching technology can identify any variation of these keywords and apply them to your search advertising.

In light of this change, marketers will want to examine their keyword strategy for Google campaigns:

  • Advertisers are automatically opted into the new Google feature.  They will be entered into more auctions, and more ads will show for these variants if they do not opt out of using the variants of phrase and exact keywords. This could potentially affect the competition on keywords by inadvertently increasing the CPC for advertisers
  • However, Google has indicated that the Quality Score will still be determined by exact keywords and not by close variants and that quality score and first page bid estimate should not be affected
  • Initial adoption is best suited for advertisers who are limited in their campaign management capabilities rather than advertisers who closely manage their campaigns. Advertisers who closely monitor their accounts should use this new keyword match type as an additional lever for keyword discovery similar to current strategies applied against broad match terms for both positive and negative contributions

Google has shared initial results that show an overall increase in click volume at comparable CPCs and noted that this may vary from advertiser to advertiser. This additional traffic is likely to be less relevant and less efficient than current traffic. That being said, the new matching behavior is a good feature for marketers who do not currently have extensive positive and negative keyword assets. This may also work for marketers whose main goal is enhancing traffic. CPC for any close variant matched keyword will probably be lower than the CPCs of the actual term, due to lower demand and competition.

For marketers who do have extensive keyword sets built out, this may have a negative effect on performance. These advertisers should monitor keywords closely since increased CPCs may make these terms (which in the past were cheap due to low CPCs and low traffic) inefficient moving forward. Additionally, since the quality score will still be based on exact match keywords and not close variants, it is important to make sure any misspellings and plurals are also included on both exact and phrase match as standard best practice.