Tag Archives: SEM

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.

IgnitionOne Selected as Yahoo! Preferred Partner

We are excited to announce that as of today, IgnitionOne is a member of Yahoo! Bing’s Preferred Partner Program, which recognizes us as a leading SEM technology provider who has committed to a higher standard of Bing Ads’ compatibility and advertiser experience. This title signifies that advertisers can expect a superior level of Bing Ads platform and feature support and insights from us, and that we have committed to meeting the program functionality requirements.

IgnitionOne is really honored to be a part of Yahoo!’s growth, and we are proud to be among only a few organizations that hold this badge. The announcement also signifies a commitment to our clients that we are constantly evolving to suit their needs and the demands of this innovative industry.  Search is an important channel for digital marketers and IgnitionOne delivers a best-of-breed solution for search that only becomes stronger through this partnership.

To learn more about our search solutions and how we can help you with your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns, visit our site here.

Read the full post on Advertsing.Yahoo.com.

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.

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.

For a Dynamic Campaign, Deploy Dynamic Titles

Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is the chainsaw of SEM.  Everyone can agree that it’s a cool and powerful tool that should have a place in every paid search manager’s proverbial tool shed.  At the same time, many marketers are apprehensive about actually picking it up and using it.  If one loses control of it, things will get out of hand and you’ll go from quickly and precisely sculpting your project to irreversibly marring it beyond repair, and you may even lose a finger (read: client) or two in the process.

While it’s true that if used poorly, DKI could render your ads nonsensical, the truth is that the dangers have been greatly exaggerated.  Some marketers have seen the unfortunate results of using DKI in misspelling-oriented keyword groups or retailer campaigns with a massive and diverse array of products. These marketers can wonder about the wisdom of this tactic after seeing unfortunately-phrased long-tail combinations dynamically placed above their carefully manicured description lines. However, many marketers have seen the consistent increase in CTR that DKI provides and wondered how they ever lived without it.

Confining DKI to the areas where it will be both completely safe and highly effective is remarkably simple.  When seeking out the keywords to break into a DKI-safe ad group, know first that all keywords above the title-length limit for the engine in question are inherently safe because they will trigger the backup title rather than the dynamically generated option.  While that seems obvious, it’s critical enough that it merits explicit mention.  Because it’s possible to sort out every single keyword that won’t actually show dynamically due to length, the long-tail keywords that otherwise would represent a large portion of the keywords that look like DKI trouble can be instantly cleared for deployment.

Once a marketer has cut down the potential DKI keyword list to keywords below this limit, they should be looking at a much smaller keyword set that will need to actually be looked over and approved manually.  If one can identify rule-based criteria for exclusion, such as keywords that begin and/or end in certain words that you know to recur through the set (i.e. prepositions), this would further narrow the selections.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion has proven powerful and easy to execute properly in IgnitionOne’s media initiatives. The copywriting process typically consists of developing the ad templates to be employed with static titles, and then creating a dynamic title version of every single iteration to be tested against its static version.  If a marketer is brought onto a project and there is nary a curly-bracket in sight, the first question that should arise is: “Why is dynamic keyword insertion NOT being tested for this initiative?”

These are just a few helpful hints and best practices for employing Dynamic Keyword Insertion.  The art and science of putting this wonderful technology to good use could take up a long chapter in a thorough book on SEM.  Hopefully this brief objective examination will help some marketers adopt the test-first, assess-later, fear-never attitude towards DKI that will improve their campaigns and have them exploring other avenues such as {Idea: Your Own} and {Tactic: Best Practice} in no time!