Tag Archives: KPI

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.

Sabermetrics & Search Bid Management; ‘Moneyballing’ the Market

It took some time for the baseball world to accept the forward thinking Bill James. His work in advanced statistics, now known as sabermetrics, attempts to quantify all aspects of baseball to determine why teams win and lose. James’ approach has been highly contested since the late 70’s, but is now becoming widely accepted as a stat revolution in baseball.

My curiosity with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) grew with the acceptance and advancement of sabermetrics in Major League Baseball in the early 2000’s. The similarities between SEM and baseball seemed quite natural to me and easy to correlate. You have a batter and a pitcher, similarly representative of your ad and a consumer. At-bats are impressions, hits are clicks, home runs are conversions and so forth. Slightly more quantifiable stats in baseball, such as Batting Average, Slugging Percentage and On Base Percentage equate very similarly to CTR, Revenue-Per-Keyword and Average Order Value for any given keyword.

The age of “big data” for marketers had me convinced there are new sabremetrics yet to be discovered or written for search which would provide a tactical advantage for my clients in the search auction. The logical correlation seemed obvious and as with baseball, sabremetrics could help smaller advertisers/ ball clubs compete against the large advertisers/ big market clubs as many of us enjoyed in “Moneyball.”

So I began hurling ideas at the whiteboard in the spirit of Old Hoss Radbourn and his 60 win season (minus the alcoholism and shooting out his own eye) – positives, negatives, extrapolating new stats, correlating stats by macro and micro trends and the findings were quite astonishing… as well as completely inconclusive.

Although it seems SEM is poised to enter the age of advertising sabermetrics, it quickly became more complicated than it was at first glance. The issue lies at the root of aggregating data, as with individual players. An individual player will average between 450-600 at-bats per season based upon games played and order in the lineup; however there is no change in competition besides the pitcher. Keywords, on the other hand, may have millions of impressions and in very different market conditions and at different ranks over a short period of time. Factors such as day parting, budget management, geo-targeting, seasonality, competition and current bidding algorithms make the environment too variable to quantify additional metrics beyond our current capacity. Although it would be easy to assume in the age of big data someone could ‘Moneyball’ the SEM space, it doesn’t appear likely. Actually, it appears nearly impossible.

By this point you are probably asking, “So what is the right approach and aren’t you going to share something insightful?” The answer almost appears too simple, considering the complexity of the issue, but it is as basic as implementing strategic, statistical, and active management.

Bid management needs an active eye – a daily glance ensuring you adapt to ongoing market changes. This means multiple rounds of bid optimizations at different points during the week. The statistical layer includes identifying a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and leveraging the keywords driving your KPIs. The final, strategic layer comprises a variety of external market conditions such as seasonality, inventory and actualized return around various KPI’s to ensure you are maximizing actions for your given budget.

Sabermetrics may have changed the way GMs manage baseball teams and is even impacting other industries, but ad tech won’t be joining the party any time soon. Instead, we should embrace the fact that our industry only rewards those who actively participate in bid management, and those who succeed will earn their way to the top.

IgnitionOne’s Solution to Bid Management

Although developing new sabermetrics for search may not be a feasible solution, there are other technological approaches to addressing this challenge. IgnitionOne utilizes SPOT, which uses proprietary algorithms based on advanced statistical modeling technologies to accurately forecast keyword performance at varying spend levels. This can help marketers determine how aggressive bids should be based on goals and how to optimize spend by keyword to where it will receive maximum impact. By developing a technology solution which aims to provide insights at a level beyond what any new ‘search sabermetrics’ could provide, IgnitionOne can optimize keywords to achieve maximum performance at unprecedented scale.

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.

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.