Matt Umbro – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 04 Aug 2017 13:55:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to effectively segment accounts with multiple locations /effectively-segment-accounts-multiple-locations-279861 Fri, 04 Aug 2017 13:55:35 +0000 http:/?p=279861 What's the best account structure for multilocation business advertisers? Columnist Matt Umbro shares some setups that allow you to easily view performance by location for efficient management and reporting.

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One of the more challenging yet often overlooked aspects of PPC management is how to run accounts with multiple locations. For example, you may be advertising for a company that has franchises throughout the country (such as a Macy’s or REI) or a branch of locations unique to a region (e.g., Shaw’s grocery stores in the northeast US). Creating the right account structure is critical for any account, but when advertising for multiple locations, it becomes that much more crucial for long-term management.

In this post, I’ll speak to the various account breakout options for multilocation businesses while detailing the pros and cons of each. It’s important that you can easily segment performance by location. Clients will ask questions such as:

  • Which locations are performing the best? The worst?
  • Which locations need more budget? Less budget?
  • Which keywords/audiences are working well by location?
  • What does the competitive landscape look like in X location?

As management progresses, you can’t be spending hours on reporting. Your account structure needs to be set up in a way that allows you to easily view performance by location and, in turn, share this information with clients. It might not be as big a deal when managing five locations, but when that number increases exponentially, a poor structure will force you to spend your valuable time inefficiently.

Let’s discuss the various account setups.

One account with location-based campaigns

Separating campaigns by location in one account is my preferred method of management. For example, if I’m bidding on the same keywords in two locations, instead of targeting both in the same campaign, I’ll create two campaigns. Let’s say I’m advertising for a roofing company that has locations in 35 states. For each location, we only want to target 20 miles around each storefront, because that is as far as we’re willing to travel. The campaign breakout may look something like this:

Locations example

Campaigns segmented by location

Notice how each location has three different campaign types. Not only are we breaking out campaigns by location, but we can easily distinguish between brand, non-brand and remarketing performance. If we want to see the aggregate performance by location, we can create labels. For example, we can create a label called “Newton, MA” and filter performance.

This breakout has a slew of other benefits, including the ability to:

  • utilize location-specific keywords.
  • write location-specific ad copy.
  • create location-specific ad extensions (such as call extensions).

It’s not so much that you can’t take these actions if you don’t segment your account this way, it’s that management and reporting are going to be that much more difficult. It may take more time in the short term to set up the account in this way, but you will save yourself a lot of stress in the long run.

Whenever you want to add new keywords and copy across all campaigns, you can easily upload through AdWords Editor. Furthermore, you have a template for future locations. If the company opens another location in Plymouth, MA, you only have to copy the three campaign types, change the location and update the location-based keywords and copy.

The negative side of this account structure is the potential for many campaigns — sometimes in the hundreds. Even though the structure is sound, it’s time-consuming to make optimizations across all campaigns on a consistent basis. You can set up automated rules and scripts to help with management, but you’ll need to prioritize which campaigns get the most attention.

One account with general campaigns

This structure lumps multiple locations into individual campaigns. We can still segment locations and adjust bid modifiers per location, but the same set of keywords, ads and settings are used throughout. As an example, our non-brand roofing campaign will target all 20-mile radii around each of our locations. We may bid up 20 percent in Newton, MA, but the same ad copy will show in Newton as it would in Ipswich, MA.

Though day-to-day management might be more efficient because there will be fewer campaigns, we lose our ability to easily evaluate how various keywords and ads are performing per location.

AdWords map

Targeting a 20-mile radius around Waltham, MA

We could still create location-specific ad groups with location-specific copy, but we would potentially have hundreds of ad groups within one campaign, which isn’t ideal. You would also need to have a general ad group with roofing keywords that includes all of the locations as negative keywords. For example, if someone searches for “roofers in newton,” you would have to include “newton” as a negative keyword in the general roofing ad group to ensure the query triggers the right keyword (and ad). You can also use ad customizers to showcase the user’s location in the ad, but this particular ad won’t always show, as you need to have at least one static ad in every ad group.

Though this strategy isn’t my first choice, it may make sense in a few scenarios. If you only have a few locations (let’s say fewer than 10), it’s not as cumbersome to segment performance by location. You may also have a smaller budget, which actually makes it counterintuitive to segment so granularly. In other words, the individual budgets per location would be so small that you would potentially lose impressions because budgets weren’t high enough.

Finally, the traffic might not be there to warrant a more granular breakout. If you have five locations in southeast Idaho, there may not be a huge impression share, thus allowing for a simpler structure.

Multiple accounts with location-based campaigns

The other route you can take is to create individual AdWords accounts per individual location. Using our example, Newton and Ipswich would each get their own accounts. The campaign structure isn’t as important because you are only targeting one location in each account.

Though reporting would be easier, the challenging part would be flipping through multiple accounts on a daily basis, even if they were all under one My Client Center (MCC). You would also need to create unique conversion and remarketing codes per account. Generally, the more pixels there are on a page, the longer it takes to load, which will negatively impact conversion rate.

My rule of thumb is one AdWords account per unique URL. Even if the company is the same, but has two different URLs, I would create two different accounts. Perhaps our roofing company has different URLs per location. Examples would be and Even though the content is most likely the same (with the locations differing), it’s still two different sites. I would first recommend location-specific landing pages on the same URL (e.g., before going the multiple account route, but you get the idea.

Another reason to run multiple accounts would be for payment issues. Perhaps each location wants to pay separately instead of utilizing the corporate account. This breakout makes it easy for each location to pay Google directly instead of going through corporate.

Final thoughts

Each of these breakout techniques has its merits and negatives. Taking everything into consideration, I always prefer to utilize one account with location-based campaigns because it is cleaner. This style of management allows you to clearly review performance by location. Though management may be more cumbersome than with other techniques, it’s easier to act on the data.

After looking at the pros and cons, make sure you choose a structure that will work well for both you and your client.

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4 critical areas to consider when performing AdWords audits /4-areas-need-consider-performing-adwords-audits-274669 Fri, 12 May 2017 16:41:45 +0000 http:/?p=274669 AdWords audits are a great way to win business and check on the health of an account, but columnist Matt Umbro notes that there are some aspects of an audit that are easily overlooked or underexplored. Don't make these mistakes!

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Auditing a prospective client’s Google AdWords account is a tried-and-true sales tactic when hoping to win business. By reviewing accounts, missed opportunities may be found, while issues with campaign structure, settings and optimizations can be addressed. Many agencies have checklists and/or specific areas they review when auditing accounts. However, as AdWords becomes more complex and new features are released, the traditional audit doesn’t cut it anymore.

In this post, I’ll address areas that are often neglected or not given enough thought when auditing AdWords accounts. Some are more technical than others, but the theme is that one size doesn’t fit all. Too often, our preconceived notions don’t allow us to view accounts in a different light. Understand and be open to how accounts are set up as you conduct your audits.

Here are four common issues marketers run into when auditing AdWords accounts:

1. Misunderstanding conversion tracking

One of the first items to be reviewed is how conversion tracking is set up. After all, conversion metrics tend to give the most insight into client goals. Along with making sure the conversion pixel is firing correctly, an audit will assess the various conversion types and how they are performing. A good place to begin is the “Conversions” section within the “Tools” tab. You can see how conversions are categorized.

Conversion categorization

It’s then imperative to look at the actual web pages on which the conversions are occurring. Often, the URL will include some variation of “thank you” or “confirmation.” For example, or When the URL contains this form of confirmation, it’s easy to determine that the conversions are legitimate. But as more sites become responsive and utilize IFrames, they may not include a separate confirmation URL.

Historically, if you saw a URL in the web pages section that didn’t appear to be a confirmation page, your first thought may have been that it was a pageview conversion. For example, the URL contains the signup form and isn’t the confirmation page. Thus, conversions may be inflated because the pixel is firing on the form, giving an inaccurate representation of performance. Though this scenario still happens, there tends to be another explanation.

Some sites don’t have confirmation pages. Whether through an IFrame or the syntax of the site, when a form submission or purchase occurs, the URL resolves back to itself. Even though appears to contain the signup form, it’s actually the conversion as well. Here is where platforms such as Google Tag Manager or Google Analytics come into play. These platforms have the ability to track button clicks as conversions and showcase this data in AdWords.

If you see what looks like a pageview conversion, it’s imperative that you investigate how it is tracked. It could very well be that the button click is the conversion. Instead of telling the potential client that conversions are inflated, you’ve done your research to know how the conversion is set up.

2. Focusing too much on efficiency without considering volume

A few years ago, I analyzed an account’s efficiency against volume in an attempt to find the sweet spot. I wanted to see what the ideal balance was for hitting account goals but also increasing conversion volume. Needless to say, in many cases, either efficiency or volume needs to be sacrificed to improve the other. For example, if you want to bid on top-of-funnel keywords that are more expensive in an effort to capture additional traffic, your ROI will most likely decrease. This concept is important to understand when auditing accounts.

Audits look to uncover wasted spend. In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with this philosophy. However, we know that many factors come into play when analyzing account performance. As an example, a keyword that has seen 100 clicks with one last-click conversion may at first seem to be ineffective, but when digging deeper, we may find that:

  • the keyword is assisting in the overall conversion funnel.
  • only 20 clicks have come from mobile, including the click that resulted in the conversion.
  • the landing page doesn’t continue what is stated in the ad copy.

Unless you conduct in-depth research, your audit won’t uncover these findings. The days of the all-in-one audit automation through Excel or other tools are gone. Though these tools still provide valuable data, they only scratch the surface. Solely reviewing efficiency is too basic a view when there are many variables to consider.

3. Disregarding mobile

I think we’re in the seventh or eighth “year of mobile,” but judging by many AdWords accounts, you wouldn’t know it. I constantly see accounts that have negative -100% bid modifiers on mobile devices, don’t have mobile ads, or aren’t making sound decisions based on the data. More often than not, accounts I audit see more mobile traffic than they do desktop and tablet.

In many cases, there is an absence of a mobile strategy. The audit should point out recommendations that will help the client have a more effective mobile presence and lead to better conversion rates.

Now that advertisers are again able to create mobile-specific campaigns, it’s worth discussing if a breakout is worthwhile. Since mobile bid modifiers can be set at the campaign and ad group levels, and advertisers can use IF statements to write mobile-specific ads, device-specific campaigns aren’t as necessary as they once were. My rule of thumb is to test a mobile-specific campaign if roughly 70 percent of impressions come from mobile devices.

There are still benefits to creating mobile-specific campaigns, including the ability to:

  • set keyword level bids at the mobile level instead of a using a bid modifier.
  • write mobile ads without using IF statements or ad customizers.
  • write mobile-specific ad extensions without having to check off the mobile-preferred option.

It amazes me that mobile isn’t taken more seriously, but an audit should uncover actionable insights that will point the account in the right direction.

4. Not running a search term cross-pollination report

Continuing the theme of digging below the surface, cross-pollination reports list which queries are triggering ads in multiple ad groups. Let’s look at a scenario where I have two ad groups around “coffee tables” and “oval coffee tables.”

Ad groups

Each of the keywords is in modified broad match. Therefore, a search for “oval coffee tables” could trigger an ad in either ad group. The solution would be to add “oval” as a negative keyword in the “coffee tables” ad group. By taking this step, we deliberately tell Google from which ad group we want our ad to show.

It’s one thing to say that the account structure is sound, but it’s another to prove it. If the cross-pollination report shows that few queries are triggering ads in the wrong ad groups, the structure is in good shape. Conversely, if many of the same queries are triggering ads in multiple ad groups, there is an issue with targeting and organization.

Final thoughts

Audits give great insight into how accounts are performing, but most don’t address larger account concerns. I challenge you to look at and ask questions related to themes and not just concrete numbers. It’s more important to discuss why efficiency and volume fluctuate instead of making an absolute statement such as, “If we cut x spend, our ROI will increase by y.” Or review how mobile is impacting the overall funnel, rather than just saying, “The mobile bid modifier should be x.” Though the tactical aspect has its merits, audits should lead to strategy discussions.

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How to write PPC text ads in 2017’s sophisticated environment /write-ppc-text-ads-2017-268965 Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:19:24 +0000 http:/?p=268965 There are now so many ways to customize your search ads that optimization can seem complex. Columnist Matt Umbro discusses which components are likely to make the biggest impact on your CTR and conversion rates.

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I’ve been in the paid search industry for a nearly a decade. A lot has changed since I first learned how to write a simple ad with a 25-character headline and two 35-character description lines.

Though the fundamentals of ad copywriting and testing remain in play, text ads have evolved to the point where you must consider many different components. Between devices, formatting, ad extensions and audience types, writing effective ad copy is more reliant on multiple factors than ever before.

Just last month, AdWords rolled out IF functions to add another layer of ad customization. This feature allows advertisers to change the ad message depending on the user’s device. For example, a user searching on a mobile device could see a message that says, “Shop from your phone,” while the desktop message may say, “Shop our selection.”

IF function for mobile

An example of an ad using the IF function

This means you can now write mobile-preferred ads without ad customizers or creating a mobile-only campaign. Instead of writing two ads, you can now write one that changes the message depending on the device.

This new function is great, but you still must ask the age-old question: Should you segment your campaigns by device? Let’s begin our ad-writing discussion by first addressing this question.

Device-specific campaigns

When enhanced campaigns were launched four years ago, mobile-only campaigns became a thing of the past. Instead, we were able to set mobile bid modifiers and write mobile-preferred ads.

With hindsight being 20/20, though advertisers lost some control, it wasn’t the worst change in the world. It did allow advertisers to streamline management while still showing mobile ads to users on mobile devices. It did, however, require advertisers to create ad groups with multiple desktop and mobile ads to test messaging.

Toward the latter half of 2016, Google reversed course and brought back mobile-only campaigns by allowing -100% desktop bid modifiers. For example, if you set up a campaign with a -100% bid modifier on desktop and tablet, your ads will only show on mobile devices.

In making this update, Google removed the ability to create mobile-preferred ads, but now, with IF functions and ad customizers, there is no need for the mobile-preferred option.

The segmentation question persists. Even though you seemingly now have the best of both worlds, why would you want to create mobile-only campaigns? The answer lies in how particular you are about your PPC management. You must ask yourself:

  • Do you want to view your performance data by device specific campaign or all within the same campaign?
  • Do you want to write device-specific ads and ad extensions in different campaigns or all within the same campaign?
  • Do you want to set your keyword bids individually or by a campaign/ad group percentage? For example, will the bid be set at X amount, or will it be a percentage of your desktop bid?

My general rule of thumb is to create mobile-only campaigns if at least 70 percent of impressions are coming from mobile devices. Since my mobile traffic is so high, I want the ability to control each individual keyword bid while tailoring all my ad copy decisions to mobile users.

If you are running a campaign targeting all devices, check to see what the breakdown is. If you are finding a lot of mobile traffic (that is hopefully also converting), break out the campaign. To preserve your Quality Scores and campaign history, make the existing campaign mobile-only. This way, you are only turning off desktop and tablet traffic while not upsetting what has worked so well.

You can either put your mobile bid modifier to zero and update your bids accordingly, or you can keep the modifier as is and adjust over time. You can then duplicate the existing campaign and modify it to be desktop/tablet only with all the mobile ads removed.

Text ads and ad extensions

Your headlines are the most important part of your text ads. Though I’m not making a groundbreaking statement, your description line, display URL, and ad extensions only exist to complement the headlines. Where are your eyes drawn to in the ad below?

An ad taking up real estate

The ad has many ad extensions, but the double headlines stand out

With the prominence given to the double headlines, many searchers gloss over the other text. It’s important to take up the additional real estate (as ad extensions do help to improve overall headline CTR), but the majority of searchers are going to click your ads based upon your headline messaging.

It’s imperative to include your targeted keyword(s) and call to action in the headlines. It’s also good to include any competitive differentiators, promos or urgency messaging if they will fit. Don’t save your most important messaging for non-headline text.

Though I sound like I’m devaluing the description and ad extensions, it’s important to ensure they are relevant. Again, these text components exist to complement your headlines. For example, if I’m bidding on “oval coffee tables,” I may test two ads with “20% off” messaging:

Ad #1: Shop Oval Coffee Tables — Take 20% Off Your Order
Ad #2: Oval Coffee Tables 20% Off — Shop Our Complete Selection

My description line could then be: From rustic to contemporary, you’ll love our lineup of oval coffee tables!

The description still includes relevant messaging that gives searchers more information.

My extensions will then include more information that is nice for searchers to see, but not critical.

  • Sitelinks — All Coffee Tables, Brown Coffee Tables, Coffee Tables Under $200, Clearance Coffee Tables
  • Callouts — Free Shipping Over $50, Money Back Guarantee, We Accept Pay-Pal, Free Returns
  • Structured Snippets — Rustic, Contemporary, Glass, Wood
  • Review — Google Trusted Store
  • Price — Product A: $199, Product B: $299, Product C: $399, Product D: $499

You can see how the complete ad may look. All the text is necessary to have, but it’s clear that the headlines are leading the charge to get that click.


We’ve discussed why and how you should incorporate mobile messaging, and we’ve gone over the anatomy of a good text ad, but we still need to consider our different audiences.

For the purposes of this post, I’m only including audience targeting on the Search Network, since we’re looking at traditional text ads. These audiences include remarketing and the recently introduced Demographics for Search Ads, where we can set bid modifiers by age and gender.

Ideally, you want to create a different message for each audience. For example, someone who has already been to your site sees one message, and a new searcher sees a different one. For Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), you can create a new campaign which shows a different message, or you can layer an audience to an existing campaign and bid higher.

Normally, I would recommend creating the new campaign so you are guaranteed to show the correct message and it’s easier to segment your data, but here come those IF functions again.

You are now able to create one ad that showcases a different message for each audience. That user who has already been to your site may be given a “10% off” coupon, while the new searcher views an ad that speaks to the product variety. Therefore, one of the key reasons you would create an RLSA campaign is negated, since the ad is customized for the specific audience.

You could still argue that an RLSA-only campaign allows you to bid on broader keywords, since the searcher has already been to the site. Similar to mobile-only campaigns, the decision depends on the data and personal preference. The takeaway is that it’s now easier to customize your ads per audience.

The other factor you may consider for campaign/ad group segmentation is demographics. You could potentially create unique ad groups per age and/or gender. If you only want 18- to 24-year-olds to see a certain message, you would create an ad group targeting this age range and set a bid modifier of -100% for the other ranges. Your keyword bids would then be unique for that age range. Subsequently, the 25–34 age ad group would have the other age ranges set at -100% and so forth.

There are two issues with this type of segmentation. The first is that you have the potential for many ad groups, to the point where management could get out of control. Granular segmentation makes sense if you have enough search volume or have a specific reason to go deeper, which comes to the second issue.

Google still only captures roughly 50 percent of demographic data. Everything else is classified as unknown. You don’t want to go more granular and make concrete decisions with a limited amount of data. Nonetheless, it may be worth testing with an ad group that has a substantial amount of data.

Final thoughts

Ad-writing isn’t one-size-fits-all. Though different audiences have always been viewing your ads, the options to craft custom messaging haven’t always been available. As these options roll out, we as advertisers need to make use of them to show our searchers better, more targeted ads.

As you are creating your campaign structures, ensure that you are considering the components that will determine if you see better CTRs and conversion rates.

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How you can better communicate PPC industry updates to clients /can-better-communicate-ppc-industry-updates-clients-257213 Fri, 02 Sep 2016 14:07:40 +0000 http:/?p=257213 PPC is about more than just managing accounts -- it's about managing client relationships, too. Columnist Matt Umbro provides some advice for how to talk to your clients about industry updates and account issues.

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As hectic as it can be, we are lucky to be in an industry that is constantly evolving. One day it may be a new ad extension, the next day an algorithm change; it could even be a complete transformation in how ads are written. Needless to say, it’s exciting to always be learning and trying new things. That’s great for us as PPC specialists, but how do we approach and communicate this constant change to our clients?

Our clients are savvier about PPC, and digital marketing in general, than ever before. They have a general understanding of the lingo, know the important metrics and keep abreast of the more impactful updates. Having clients that understand our job helps us with collaboration and allows us to better manage accounts.

I also realize that not all clients fully understand and embrace account management. For example, Google has begun showing an overall health score for AdWords accounts. On the surface, this feature is beneficial, but it’s seen from Google’s point of view. Needless to say, Google’s goals don’t always align with client goals. Kirk Williams said it best with this comical tweet:

Image of Kirk Williams tweet

A tweet from @PPCKirk

Situations like the one mentioned in the tweet are common. Clients want to know what’s happening and may react quickly with questions, sometimes becoming emotional. That’s OK. Clients pay us to manage their accounts and keep up to date with account happenings and updates. It’s our job to effectively communicate these updates and explain potential implications.

Be proactive

Whenever a new update or feature is released, your first thought should be how it will impact your clients. Even if you don’t think the update is a big deal, your clients will want to know what they should expect. Using this framework, you can communicate the change to your clients.

Here is an example of an email I wrote to my clients when Google announced that sidebar ads would be removed:


Hope you are well. On Friday, Google made an announcement with the major highlight being that sidebar ads (right hand side ads) would be removed. This announcement means that instead of up to 11 ads showing on the page, only 7, at the most, will show. Included in this announcement are these additional details:

• Up to 4 paid ads will show above the organic listings
• Up to 3 paid ads will show below the organic listings (at the bottom of the page)
• This update will impact Google Search Partners (such as Comcast and Earthlink), though not all Partners show sidebar ads
• Shopping ads will be unaffected

The immediate concern is that fewer paid search ads will yield higher average cost per clicks due to heightened competition. Though we may see some instances of this scenario occurring, we are already in large part bidding to be in the top 4 positions. In fact, based upon our research, we’ve found that actual clicks and conversions coming from sidebar ads are only a small percentage of total clicks and conversions. In addition, though we see a fair amount of impressions from sidebar ads, click-thru-rate is generally much lower because users are being drawn to the top ads and clicking here.

At this point, we aren’t too concerned with potential conversion losses. We will be monitoring closely and ensuring our top converters are always in the top positions. If we see any drastic changes over the next few weeks as this update is rolled out we will let you know, but again, based upon the data we are currently seeing, we are optimistic. If you would like to read more about this update we’ve written a post on PPC Hero

Please let us know if you have any questions or feedback. Thank you.

— Matt

It isn’t just the major updates. You should use your best judgement to communicate anything that could be impactful, especially aesthetic updates as clients see these on a daily basis (e.g., an ad extension vs. a report). Over the last year, here are some minor updates that have been important to share.

  • New ad extensions, including structured snippets and price extensions
  • Customer Match for Shopping
  • New AdWords attribution models
  • Bing Ads upgraded URLs

None of these updates have required an extensive explanation. For example, with the ad extensions I wrote a couple sentences and shared a screen shot. The point is that you are communicating these updates to your clients so they aren’t always asking you questions.

I do realize that it would be overkill to communicate every update. Use your best judgement and consider the personality of your individual clients to determine what updates are worth mentioning.

We’ve touched on the ongoing updates, but let’s now shift toward managing client expectations with everyday account management.

Be transparent and put issues into context

Many clients will review their accounts on a consistent basis and ask questions or make inquiries. Here are some common questions I receive:

  • Why are these keywords below first page bid estimates?
  • Should we increase budgets in campaigns that are deemed “Limited by budget?”
  • Why is Quality Score low for these keywords?
  • Why are these ads disapproved?

Many of these questions originate from the surface. Notices such as “below first page bid estimate” and “limited by budget” show up immediately in the interface. The same thing goes for disapproved ads, as there is usually a notification that pops up. The problem is that these notifications aren’t shown in context. Clients see the issues and think something is wrong.

I don’t blame clients for rushing to judgment. Again, they are paying us to manage their accounts and want to make sure we’re not dropping the ball. Kirk’s tweet from earlier in this post is a realistic question a client might ask. Thus, we have to be transparent and put these issues into context.

You need to always answer these questions in relation to overall account goals. Let’s take, for example, the keywords below, where Google is deeming us below the first page bid.

Image of keyword data

Keyword statuses

Let’s say that hypothetically our cost per conversion goal is $10. The first page bid estimate for each keyword is $0.50 higher than our current max bids. However, we are below the conversion goal and our ads are showing in average positions above 2. Additionally, our exact match search impression share for both keywords is above 90 percent (not pictured). We could increase our bids, but at what point would we see diminishing returns? It might cost us more in the long run to accrue a few extra impressions.

It’s this type of thinking that you need to bring to the forefront when speaking with clients. Give them all of the angles so they understand the implications of optimizations. And this thinking isn’t to say that the account manager will always be right. Based upon discussion, both parties may decide to test a higher bid or budget, but the key aspect is that you are going below the surface to make these decisions.

Final thoughts

Just as you would want any type of advisor in your life to be proactive and communicate updates, clients want the same thing. We aren’t just managing the tactical side of PPC, we’re also relationship managers. Always be willing and proactive to communicate the landscape while explaining the reasoning behind your work.

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How to prepare for AdWords’ expanded text ads and device-based bidding /prepare-impending-expanded-text-ads-device-based-bidding-updates-251266 Fri, 10 Jun 2016 13:47:15 +0000 http:/?p=251266 Columnist Matt Umbro provides some advice for advertisers who want to be ahead of the game when Google's recently announced AdWords changes go live.

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By now, you’ve heard about all of the latest Google AdWords and Google Analytics updates announced at Google’s Performance Summit. The two main changes coming to AdWords include expanded text ads and the ability to bid by device. Many articles have been written about what these updates mean for advertisers, but today I want to focus on how you can prepare for these changes.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that the strategies outlined are theory-based, rather than tried-and-true methods. Similar to when Enhanced Campaigns rolled out, advertisers face a certain unknown.

Based on what we know of AdWords and our experience, these strategies are logical, but we won’t know the true impact until all updates are fully rolled out.

Expanded text ads

With the move to double headlines and longer descriptions, the way text ads will need to be written has changed. In fact, every text ad in all campaigns will eventually need to be written utilizing the new format. Needless to say, advertisers will be spending a significant amount of time this summer writing new copy.

Having experienced what’s ahead, advertisers who are already making use of extended headlines (where description line 1 is combined with the headline) will have less work. Instead of having to write two headlines, the existing headline and first description line can be recycled as the new double headline.

Let’s take, for example, an extended headline ad as it stands today. Here’s an ad for “oval coffee tables.”

Image of extended headline ad

An ad with an extended headline

In this example, the headline is 18 characters, while description line 1 is 31. In the new format, each headline is allowed 30 characters. Thus, our first headline of “oval coffee tables” can be used again, but we’re 1 character over for the second headline. Not to worry, though, as we can adjust the messaging in the second headline to be under the limit.

Image of double headline ad

An ad with a double headline

Even though we had to adjust the second headline, our messaging is similar between the current and new ad formats. In many cases, it will be less time-consuming to adjust the extended headlines you are already using instead of creating new double headlines. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t test new double headlines, but you’ll save time by working with your existing copy.

The second part of the new ad format is the extended description, now up to 80 characters. For a long time, I haven’t put as much emphasis on description line 2 (since it can’t show in the headline). Between the extended headline and the vast amount of ad extensions, the description can get buried. Thus, even though the description has been extended, my philosophy hasn’t changed. I like to think of the extended description similar to an organic meta description. It’s nice to have the content, but ultimately, searchers are drawn by the headline.

When you write the new descriptions, don’t obsess about making them perfect. You’ll still want to make sure you utilize the targeted keyword(s) and see that the description is accurate to the product/service, but you should spend more time with your double headlines and ad extensions. In some cases, I’ve actually copied on-page content to use for the description.

The other caveat is your call to action (CTA). With this new format, more advertisers will be making use of the CTA in the double headline. However, if the double headline doesn’t have the CTA, make sure it’s present in the description.

Rolling out the new ads

Even if you don’t yet have the option to create expanded text ads in your account, you should create an Excel template with the new fields. The template should include all of this information:

  • Ad State (active or paused)
  • Customer ID
  • Campaign
  • Ad Group
  • Headline 1
  • Headline 2
  • Description
  • URL Path 1 (if applicable)
  • URL Path 2 (if applicable)
  • Final URL
  • Mobile Final URL (if applicable)
  • Tracking Template (if applicable)
  • Custom Parameter (if applicable)

You should begin writing expanded text ads in your campaigns and ad groups seeing the highest volume of traffic. This way, you’ll begin showing your ads first for keywords with high traffic. Then begin to move down the line.

You are still writing new ads for every ad group, but at least you are focusing on the higher-impact ads first. I would also recommend writing at least two different pieces of ad copy per each ad group, as you always want to be testing.

Ad copy is a good segue into the second update, the ability to bid by device. With the new ad format, mobile preferred ads have been removed, thus facilitating the need for advertisers to review campaign targeting by device.

Bid by device

For the first time since the release of Enhanced Campaigns, advertisers can now bid by device, including tablet. Bid multipliers will still be in place, but advertisers can choose the campaign base device.

For example, advertisers can create mobile campaigns with a -50-percent multiplier on desktops and -70-percent on tablets. Or campaigns can once again be segmented by device, where bids are only for the particular platform (though the other two platforms will need to have the bid multipliers set at -100 percent).

Aside from device specific bidding, the extra incentive to create device-based campaigns is your ad copy. Since we can’t tell Google anymore to show mobile-specific ads in a campaign targeting all three devices, it makes sense to break out campaigns. That said, you should take a hybrid approach to device-specific campaigns. Enhanced Campaigns may have gone overboard with no tablet bid multipliers, but the idea of making management easier is still relevant.

First off, I wouldn’t create tablet-specific campaigns unless you have compelling evidence to do so. For example, a campaign that sees half the cost per conversion of what’s seen on desktops may make sense. But even then, you could raise the tablet multiplier. Your ad copy is already the same as desktop, so writing tablet-specific copy wouldn’t necessarily improve results. It’s more likely that within desktop campaigns, you will lower your tablet multiplier or set it at -100 percent.

The challenge becomes separating your mobile campaigns from desktop. If you have a campaign seeing strong mobile performance that has mobile-preferred ad copy, you’ll want to continue utilizing this mobile messaging. You can keep everything as is, but again, you lose your ability to write different copy per device. Let’s look at a campaign with significantly better mobile performance where the mobile multiplier is -25 percent.

Image of device performance

Device performance

Mobile sees more conversions and converts at half the cost of desktop. Instead of creating a new, mobile-specific campaign, we’ll want to utilize the history already present in this campaign (so we won’t have to start over). I would suggest keeping this campaign as the “mobile” campaign.

To keep the same -25-percent bid modifier, just multiply all bids by .75. You’ll then want to adjust the ad copy for the expanded format. I would replicate your mobile-preferred messaging as best you can within the restraints of the new format. For example, you may put “order from your phone” in one of the double headline fields.

The next step is to duplicate the campaign for desktop while setting a -100-percent mobile bid multiplier. It’s true that you are losing your desktop traffic history, but the impact will be much less compared to mobile.

When performance difference isn’t as staggering between devices, it’s a judgment call as to which device gets the new campaign. I would most likely create a new campaign based upon which device sees lower traffic numbers. As an example, if desktop and mobile convert at the same rate, but desktop traffic is 80 percent of overall traffic, I would keep this campaign as desktop only.

You may decide that you want to keep some campaigns as is, even without mobile-specific ads. It’s worth testing, but pay close attention and be willing to set up new campaigns if performance on one device decreases significantly.

Final thoughts

These new AdWords updates are exciting for advertisers, as they allow for greater paid search real estate and a return to campaign-level device control.

With these updates come account restructure initiatives that we haven’t had to deal with since Enhanced Campaigns. That’s why it’s crucial to begin crafting your strategy now, while starting the process of creating your new ads.

The post How to prepare for AdWords’ expanded text ads and device-based bidding appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Get up close with PPC KPIs to improve your performance /make-informed-decisions-better-understanding-paid-search-kpis-244772 Fri, 18 Mar 2016 13:49:54 +0000 http:/?p=244772 What are the primary metrics that define success for your PPC campaigns? Columnist Matt Umbro explores the pros and cons of optimizing for some common paid search metrics.

The post Get up close with PPC KPIs to improve your performance appeared first on Search Engine Land.


There are many paid search metrics that can define success in an account. In one account, the goal may be to reduce the cost per conversion, while another account may care more about showing a better return on investment.

Often, optimizing for these metrics requires differing strategies. That’s why it’s important to understand each metric as it relates to the entire account, instead of viewing in a silo.

In this post, I will explain the pros and cons of focusing on individual metrics as a way to portray how they are all intertwined. The success of any paid search account requires advertisers to consider all metrics, even if one is preferred. The metrics I will be reviewing are:

  • cost per conversion;
  • return on investment;
  • advertising to sales; and
  • average order value.

The common theme you’ll be reading about is efficiency. In other words, if you are solely focusing on improving the efficiency of these metrics, you will lose conversion volume. As you review each metric, consider the importance of new acquisition in comparison to hitting efficiency goals.

Cost per conversion

Pros: This metric tells you how much you are paying per conversion. The conversion can be anything you deem important, but the most common examples are purchases and lead generation form fills. For example, if I spend $40 and see two conversions, my cost per conversion is $20.

Cost per conversion is a great way to set thresholds on what you are willing to pay for each conversion. Let’s say you are selling sweatshirts and don’t want to pay more than $10 per conversion because you will lose money if the threshold is any higher.

You can set your budgets and bids accordingly by striving to hit this number. The same thing goes in lead gen campaigns. You may determine that a lead is worth $40, and all optimizations should be made to be under this number.

Working toward a cost per conversion goal ensures that you are cutting out inefficient spend.

Cons: The main negative with optimizing toward cost per conversion is that it can hamper account growth, especially in e-commerce accounts. Using our sweatshirt example, the average cost per click may be $3. After only a few clicks, we’ve spent more than $10.

Once enough data is collected, we may find that the ideal cost per conversion is closer to $20. If we don’t adjust our goal, we’re losing out on conversions — and potentially larger orders — in order to stay within our threshold.

Ideally, the marketplace would determine what your cost per conversion goal is, but that doesn’t always happen.

Return on investment (ROI)

Pros: Simply put, ROI looks at how much revenue you made after all expenses. Aside from the actual revenue, this metric can be expressed as a percentage or dollar figure. If you spend $10K and make $20K, your revenue return is $10K. Looking at ROI is critical in e-commerce accounts, as you can easily determine how much you are spending vs. how much you are making.

ROI is a great high-level metric to gauge account performance. Especially for business owners who only want to see the bottom line of their paid search efforts, ROI accomplishes this goal. The problem is that ROI can be misleading.

Cons: Similar to cost per conversion, optimizing for higher ROI limits growth, while potentially hindering new customer acquisition. Using a rudimentary example, let’s say the revenue return is $100K with 1,000 sales. However, by investing additional budget and only seeing a return of $80K, you would garner 1,200 sales.

The question becomes whether those 200 extra sales are worth a loss of $20K in revenue. They may not be, but those 200 extra sales also represent customers you would not have received otherwise. And with all sales, there is the potential for repeat purchases down the line.

Advertising to sales

Pros: Calculated as a percentage, this metric divides ad spend by revenue. If you spend $500 and make $2,000, your advertising to sales percentage would be 25 percent. The lower this percentage is, the better, as it indicates greater efficiency and ultimately the more revenue you are making per dollar spent.

Cons: It isn’t necessarily a negative aspect, but you need to be cognizant of overall costs. Depending on the industry, a higher advertising to sales percentage may be okay, especially if the product is one that facilitates repeat buyers.

A product like air filters, for example, is something that needs to be bought on a consistent basis. The initial advertising to sales percentage may be 50 percent, but over time, that metric drops to 30 percent because there is repeat business.

Average order value (AOV)

Pros: AOV tells you how much customers are spending per purchase. If you see 10 orders and total revenue is $1,000, the average order value is $100. AOV is influenced by many factors, including:

  • product sale price;
  • promotions (free shipping, discounts and so on); and
  • customer loyalty programs.

Sometimes there is a disconnect in what the advertiser perceives the AOV should be and what it actually is. For example, 80 percent of the products on a site may cost over $100, yet the AOV is only $75. These numbers indicate that the AOV is being weighed down by consumers purchasing the 20 percent of products that cost less than $100.

From the paid search side, a lower AOV may indicate faults in the strategy. Perhaps the advertiser is targeting the wrong keywords and associated products or isn’t specific enough in messaging. Someone looking for “cheap sunglasses” most likely isn’t in the market to buy a pair that costs over $100. The advertiser may want to:

  • implement a negative keyword list around “bargain” terms;
  • remove lower-cost products from the Shopping feed; or
  • in ad copy, indicate that prices “start at x” to prequalify the user.

Cons: Just like cost per conversion, AOV doesn’t take into account new customer acquisition. Furthermore, it’s easy to disregard the total revenue accrued. Using our example from above, the AOV may be $75; however, let’s say total revenue is $7,500 for a total of 100 orders. You could have an AOV of $100, but it might mean only 60 orders for a total of $6,000 in revenue. In this case, the lower AOV resulted in more orders and revenue.

Final thoughts

By themselves, each of these metrics is a determining factor in paid search success. However, you must consider all of them when setting account goals and making optimizations.

Solely focusing on individual metrics in the name of efficiency can hinder account growth. Assess and determine how critical each metric is and what thresholds you are willing to allow in the name of successful and consistently prosperous accounts.

The post Get up close with PPC KPIs to improve your performance appeared first on Search Engine Land.

How Much Did Countdown Ads Play Into Advertisers’ Strategies This Holiday Season? /much-countdown-ads-play-advertisers-strategies-holiday-season-239558 Mon, 11 Jan 2016 15:33:09 +0000 http:/?p=239558 Many advertisers have seen great results using the countdown customizer in AdWords, but just how many utilized them during the holiday season? Columnist Matt Umbro sought to find out.

The post How Much Did Countdown Ads Play Into Advertisers’ Strategies This Holiday Season? appeared first on Search Engine Land.


At the end of 2014, I wrote that dynamic copy needed to be an integral part of paid search advertisers’ 2015 arsenal. I spoke to the positive results I had seen with Google AdWords ad customizers.

Then in June, I presented a case study of the AdWords countdown customizer that showed the CTR and conversion rate to be higher on dynamic ads than on their static ad counterparts. Needless to say, I’ve seen great results with dynamic copy.

As a follow-up to these posts, I wanted to see if advertisers made use of countdown ads this holiday season. As a reminder, here is what a sample countdown text ad looks like:

Image of countdown text ad

A countdown text ad

Along with the countdown customizer, I looked at Shopping ads to see if advertisers were using Merchant Promotions. This feature allows Shopping ad units to include a “Special offer” link, which opens a pop-up that contains the promotion. In this pop-up is a countdown of how much time is left until the offer ends.

Image of Shopping results

A Merchant Center Promotion that dynamically counts down to the end of the sale

On a daily basis from Nov. 23, 2015–Jan. 1, 2016 (a total of 40 days), I reviewed the text and Shopping ads for 10 unique queries. I recorded the total number of ads and how many of them made use of the countdown features.

For example, a sample search may have yielded 11 text ads and eight Shopping ads. Of the 19 total ads, I recorded how many times a countdown was utilized. The 10 queries I used were a mix of generic and specific terms:

  • snow boots
  • cubic zirconia engagement rings
  • superhero t shirts
  • square picture frames
  • queen bed sheets
  • baseball batting gloves
  • martin guitar strings
  • kitchen window curtains
  • ceiling fans
  • gas grills

All searches were conducted on a desktop computer between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. ET from Massachusetts. Additionally, searches were conducted through Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Finally, ads with dates and/or events were not counted in this study. An ad may have referenced a sale ending on a specific date or a Black Friday promotion, but if a countdown was not used, the ad was considered static.

The Results

Over the course of 40 days, I saw 5,992 total ads. Of the 2,975 Shopping ads, 358 had a countdown (just over 12 percent). Of the 3,017 text ads, zero made use of countdowns.

Let me repeat that: I did not see one text ad utilize the countdown feature.

Image of ad breakdown

The ad types breakdown

Of the 5,992 combined Shopping and text ads, 5.97 percent of them were dynamic. In other words, roughly one out of every 20 ads made use of a countdown.

Here’s a breakdown of the Shopping countdown ads, sorted from the highest percentage of countdowns to lowest.

Image of shopping ad breakdown

Shopping ad breakdown

The top three queries all saw at least a 21 percent ratio of countdown ads to all ads. “Queen bed sheets” led the way, with just over 30 percent, or roughly three out of 10 Shopping ads which contained a countdown. On the opposite end, “martin guitar strings” didn’t see any countdown ads, while “baseball batting gloves” and “ceiling fans” saw very few.

In looking at specific dates of interest, we see that the number of Shopping countdown ads vary. (Please note that the shipping dates are from FedEx.)

Image of shopping ads by date and event

Shopping ads by date and event

It’s no surprise that many of the major holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, saw low percentages of countdown ads to all ads ratios. The rationale is that shoppers have most likely bought before the actual holiday arrives.

The top four highest percentage dates all occurred between Nov. 25 and Nov. 30, including the three consecutive days after Black Friday. This makes sense, as generally, merchants offer sales through this whole Black Friday/Cyber Monday period. It is surprising that Black Friday only saw four countdown ads.

Main Takeaways

The data are extremely telling of advertisers’ strategy during the holiday season and willingness to adapt to dynamic features. Most alarming is the lack of countdown text ads.

As I stated in the opening paragraph, I have seen great results with the AdWords countdown customizer. Beyond the case study, I’ve worked with many clients who have benefited from the urgency it provides.

And don’t just take my word for it. Read what others have said about the benefits and impact the feature provides. Google also presented a case study for Rosetta Stone that showed an 8.7-percent increase in conversion rate with the use of the countdown customizer.

Having reviewed the data, I’m amazed that the text ad countdown feature is rarely being utilized. I understand that advertisers are including time-sensitive offers (such as “Take 20% Off On Black Friday”), but a countdown is a highly effective way to encourage an action sooner rather than later.

My thoughts are that advertisers either don’t understand how to implement the feature or don’t believe the effort is worth the reward. Regardless, both are poor excuses.

When the feature was first introduced, it was confusing to implement, but Google now makes it easy. All you have to do is type “{“ when creating your ad, and the feature will automatically pop up.

Image of countdown ad

Setting up a countdown customizer ad

Furthermore, countdown ads can now be duplicated in AdWords Editor, meaning you don’t have to manually create each one. In terms of the effort being worth the reward, start by creating countdown ads in your top 20 impression ad groups. This way, you are implementing the ads where you know there will be traffic.

Another takeaway is that advertisers know about Merchant Promotions but aren’t utilizing the feature more. I am a little more sympathetic in this case, since you do have to sign up for the feature. However, once you do sign up, it’s easy to create and schedule promotions with little effort.

Final Thoughts

I know I’ve written about countdown ads in the past and continue to harp on them, but it’s because I’ve seen what they can do. Dynamic ad copy is necessary to stand out.

It’s not just about the message, but how visually appealing you can make your copy. Though countdowns aren’t images, they have the ability to draw attention away from Shopping ads or make specific Shopping ads stand out.

As an industry, we need to embrace these countdown features to provide better, more dynamic ads.

The post How Much Did Countdown Ads Play Into Advertisers’ Strategies This Holiday Season? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Sitelinks, Callouts & Structured Snippets, Oh My! /sitelinks-callouts-structured-snippets-oh-230137 /sitelinks-callouts-structured-snippets-oh-230137#respond Fri, 11 Sep 2015 14:16:25 +0000 http:/?p=230137 Paid search advertisers now have another tool in their kit -- structured snippet extensions. Columnist Matt Umbro explains how to employ them and how they fit in with your other AdWords options.

The post Sitelinks, Callouts & Structured Snippets, Oh My! appeared first on Search Engine Land.


At the end of August, AdWords released a new manual ad extension called structured snippet extensions, which it says it introduced because of the success of an automated extension — dynamic structured snippets — released earlier this year.

This new extension allows advertisers to include additional details about the business by utilizing 12 “headers,” including:

  • Amenities
  • Brands
  • Courses
  • Degree programs
  • Destinations
  • Featured hotels
  • Insurance coverage
  • Neighborhoods
  • Service catalog
  • Shows
  • Styles
  • Types

For example, a hotel could list its amenities, from free wi-fi to room service. Or a store could list the brands it carries. Here is an ad from Overstock that uses the structured snippet extension to showcase various styles of oval coffee tables.

Image of structured snippets

Structured snippets being used in an Overstock ad

It’s important to note that unlike other extensions, such as sitelinks and locations, structured snippets are not clickable.

However, like all other ad extensions, structured snippets help advertisers secure additional search real estate while helping to improve the headline click-through rate. For a complete breakdown of structured snippet extensions, make sure to read WebRanking’s in-depth post.

Extension Overload

You may be thinking that structured snippets are similar to callout extensions, and you would be correct. In fact, in the AdWords blog post announcing the new extensions, there is a graphic that explains when to use each extension and details the individual features of each.

Image of table

Comparing callouts and structured snippets

I’ve mainly used callout extensions at the account level. Since they tend to be higher-level facts about your business, account level is fine. With structured snippets, advertisers can choose from 12 headers, thus allowing for more granular segmentation at the campaign and ad group levels.

There is one more wrinkle to this extension discussion — sitelinks. They were the callout extension before this extension existed. Advertisers still used sitelinks to showcase additional relevant pages, but they also used them to highlight the business.

For example, “free shipping” may now be a callout, but at one point it could have been a sitelink leading to the shipping page. Or “24/7 support” may have led to the customer service page.

I mention sitelinks because of the dynamic they have in relation to callouts and structured snippets. All of these extensions are similar, but slightly different. Used correctly, they can give advertisers the ability to create powerful ad copy.

Using Sitelinks, Callouts And Structured Snippets In Harmony

Let’s look at a visual representation of how these three extensions can be structured, based upon my preferred layout. Though not represented in the graphic below, callouts and structured snippets can be set at the account, campaign and ad group levels. Sitelinks can only be set the at the campaign and ad group levels.


Image of structure

Ad extension structure


Now, let’s look at three scenarios of this structure in use.

Scenario 1: E-commerce Account

This merchant sells sunglasses for both men and women. The items we can call out include:

  • Free Shipping
  • Free Returns
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed
  • In Business Since 2000
  • Live Chat

If this client had many positive reviews and received third-party recognition, we could use these features as callouts. However, the seller ratings and review extensions would cover these value-adds. For the purpose of this scenario, we’ll assume that the positive reviews are being utilized by these two extensions.

To begin, we’re going to create a sunglasses frame style campaign. Our ad groups include:

  • Full Frame
  • Half-Frame
  • Rimless
  • Folding Readers

At the account level, we’re going to use the five features listed above as callouts. At the campaign level, our sitelinks can speak to gender and accessories (for now, we won’t use ad group level sitelinks):

  • Men’s Sunglasses
  • Women’s Sunglasses
  • Sunglass Cases
  • Lanyards

Our structured snippets will also be set at the campaign level, where we’ll be using the “Brands” header:

  • Burberry
  • Maui Jim
  • Oakley
  • Prada
  • Ray-Ban

Here is what an example ad would look like for a search for “full frame sunglasses.” This image and two below are courtesy of Andrew Hogan’s ad extension preview tool.

Image of text ad

An example ad for “full frame sunglasses”

Our ad copy speaks directly to “full frame sunglasses,” while we have relevant callouts, sitelinks and structured snippets. Again, we can go more granular, but we would have to weigh the time needed vs. the potential results. As a side note, like sitelinks and callouts, not all structured snippets will be displayed at once.

Scenario 2: Software as a Service (SaaS) Provider

This company offers a network management solution for mid- to large-size businesses. Our callouts are:

  • Easy Deployment
  • Pre-Configured Templates
  • Live Tech Support
  • On-Demand Reports

For this individual campaign, we’ll target “network management/monitoring” keywords. Our ad groups include:

  • Network Management Software
  • Network Management Solution
  • Network Management Tools
  • Network Monitoring Software
  • Network Monitoring Solution
  • Network Monitoring Tools

Since the landing page will most likely be honed for lead generation, and the navigation will be slimmed down (if not removed altogether), our sitelinks can speak to the business. They may include:

  • About Us
  • Resources
  • All Solutions
  • Free Demo
  • Reviews
  • Testimonials

Due to the nature of this product, many of the structured snippets aren’t applicable, so we have to get creative. We can utilize the “Service catalog” snippet to list various problems that the software addresses:

  • Network Visibility
  • Root Cause Analysis
  • Identify Bandwidth Issues
  • Troubleshooting

Here is an ad for the query of “network management solutions.”

Image of text ad with extensions

An example ad for “network management solutions”

Scenario 3: Local Service Provider

Let’s take a look at one more example of a carpenter who services a 50-mile radius around Boston. We can use callouts to say:

  • Licensed & Insured
  • Accepts All Payment Types
  • Works Weekends
  • 20 Years Experience

The campaign’s ad groups will speak to the various service offerings, including:

  • Additions
  • Renovations
  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchens

As with the SaaS provider, our sitelinks can speak to the business. We can also use the sitelinks to generate brand awareness and followers, especially if the site is bare bones. Assuming the service provider is on social media, we can link to the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts (to name a few). Our sitelinks may be a hybrid of:

  • About Us
  • Testimonials
  • Like Us On Facebook
  • Follow Us On Twitter

Since our ad groups already speak directly to service offerings, we can utilize the “Neighborhoods” snippet to tell users where we do business. Theoretically, the advertiser is only showing ads within the 50-mile radius, however, the end user doesn’t know this. This snippet reinforces the area of service, which in this case includes:

  • Back Bay
  • Beacon Hill
  • Charlestown
  • North End
  • South Boston
  • West End

When a user searches for “Boston carpenter,” here is the ad that shows.

Image of text ad with snippets

An example ad for “Boston carpenter”

Final Thoughts

The scenarios presented in this post are only a few ideas of how to use sitelinks, callouts and structured snippets together.

The important takeaway is to understand the purposes of each extension and craft your creatives accordingly. Each extension has its own value, and when used together, they can make your ads more relevant.

The post Sitelinks, Callouts & Structured Snippets, Oh My! appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Gauging The Impact Of The AdWords Countdown Customizer /gauging-impact-adwords-countdown-customizer-222419 /gauging-impact-adwords-countdown-customizer-222419#respond Fri, 12 Jun 2015 14:37:42 +0000 http:/?p=222419 Have you been using the countdown customizer to spice up your search ads? Columnist Matt Umbro shares the results of a case study which suggest that this feature may be worth testing.

The post Gauging The Impact Of The AdWords Countdown Customizer appeared first on Search Engine Land.


I’m a huge advocate for dynamic ad copy. Between Dynamic Search Ads, dynamic remarketing, ad customizers, and even dynamic keyword insertion, making ads stand out needs to be a part of your strategy. Most importantly, I’ve seen great results from dynamic copy.

For example, instead of promoting a sale through a static ad like this one:

Image of static widget ad

Example of a static ad

We can show an ad that dynamically counts down to when the sale ends:

Image of dynamic widget ad

Example of an ad with the countdown customizer

At this year’s Hero Conf (an event run by my employer), I presented a case study about my experience with the AdWords countdown customizer. For this client, the countdown customizer was a large part of the ad copy strategy. The key takeaways from the presentation were:

  • Click-through rate (CTR) was higher with the countdown ads vs. static (non-dynamic copy).
  • Conversion rate of countdown ads was nearly double that of static ads.
  • Conversions were at their highest with 1 – 2 days left of the promotion.

The client I used for this study was a little more than halfway through their busy season at the time of my presentation. (The busy season was January through May.) Thus, data only went through March 24 instead of the end of May.

In this post, I’ll be showcasing and analyzing the totality of the data to determine how effective the countdown customizer was to performance.


For this study, I compiled data from eight different instances of the countdown customizer. Depending on the promotion, the countdown ads began anywhere from five days before the end of the event to two days. All instances ran for at least three days, including the final day of the promotion. The promotions were either for free shipping or a percentage off the total price.

Some other notes regarding the study:

  • Static ads did not include any copy from the Shopping, Remarketing, Display, and Gmail Sponsored Promotions campaigns. I wanted to do a fair comparison strictly between static and non-static Search Network text ads.
  • In over 95% of the ads, description line one included the countdown and ended with a period. This formatting allowed for a longer and more pronounced headline when ads showed above the organic listings.
  • In most cases, the promotion ended at 11:59 PM on Mondays. For this client, traffic is always highest during the weekend. Even though Monday may have been the last day of the promotion, the volume wasn’t as high as the weekend.
  • Countdown ads were not implemented in every campaign, but rather the top 10 – 15 ad groups across the account.

The Results

I went into the study expecting the CTR to be higher for the dynamic ads since they are more eye-catching and elicit urgency. This hypothesis was proven true, as the CTR of the countdown ads was more than a percentage point higher than static ads.

Image of CTR by ad type

CTR of countdown ads vs. static ads

What was interesting was that both cost per conversion and conversion rate performed much better for dynamic ads. In the graph below, you’ll see that conversion rate was nearly double for the countdown ads compared to the static ads. The countdown ads also saw a $3.66 lower cost per conversion against the static ads.

Image of conversion metrics

Cost per conversion and conversion rate of countdown and static ads

Also of note is that the countdown ads accounted for about 9.50% of total clicks and almost 16% of total conversions.

Image of ad data

I didn’t necessarily think that countdown ads would perform that much better, conversion-wise, against static ads since the landing pages were the same; however, the data proved me wrong.

Days Left

The next area I explored was the performance by days left, including the day the promotion ended. Here is the performance of conversions and conversion rate.

Image of conversion data

Conversion data by days left

Conversions gradually increase from five days out to three, then see a huge bump with only one and two days left. The day the promotion ends sees many more conversions than days three through five, but not quite as much as one and two. Conversion rate also follows a similar trajectory as it really starts to boom with two days left.

The sweet spot for the countdown ads occurred when there were one and two days left of the promotion. Both conversions and conversion rates were at their highest points of the six total days being tracked. Remember, however, that most of the time the one and two days left occurred on the weekend when traffic was at its highest point.

I also reviewed CTR by days left and saw the same pattern. CTR gradually ramps up and then hits its sweet spot with 1-2 days left.

Image of CTR data

The CTR flow during the countdown


Though the case study I’ve presented here has the most data, I’ve used the countdown customizer in other accounts and have seen similar results. At the very least, the countdown customizer affords advertisers a proven way to increase CTR. Judging by the results I’ve seen, it also helps to improve conversion rate and lower cost per conversion; however, these metrics are just as likely influenced by the landing page experience.

For e-commerce advertisers that run promotions, using the countdown customizer isn’t a matter of, “Should I use it?” but rather, “How do I include it?” While it’s always been important to be testing at least two ads in every ad group, I would go a step further and recommend that at least one ad utilize the countdown (when applicable).

It should also be acknowledged that Shopping ads have a countdown of their own. Using the “Promotions” section within Google Merchant Center, you can list the sale end date and Google will include a countdown. In this example, the free shipping offer for Eddie Bauer ends in 19 days.


A countdown within a Shopping ad

Why do I bring this feature up? The complete landscape of paid search continues to evolve. Text and Shopping ads both now have countdowns. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bing Ads follow suit with a countdown parameter of their own. Additionally, I’m positive Google will bring the countdown customizer to Display. (Think how powerful a remarketing ad with a countdown would be!)

Based upon the data I’ve seen and the ever-increasing dynamic ad layouts, utilizing the countdown customizer is a sure way to bring attention your ads and brand.

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Need To Grow Your PPC Account? Look To The Search Queries /need-grow-ppc-account-look-search-queries-216735 /need-grow-ppc-account-look-search-queries-216735#respond Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:09:33 +0000 http:/?p=216735 Many paid search marketers use Search Query Reports to identify negative keywords, but columnist Matt Umbro shows that these reports have the potential to do so much more.

The post Need To Grow Your PPC Account? Look To The Search Queries appeared first on Search Engine Land.


One of the most common inquiries I receive from e-commerce clients is how we can garner additional, profitable traffic. Of course, this inquiry can happen at any time during the agency-client relationship, but I want to focus when it occurs after many months of management. To phrase another way, clients want to continue growing after the account has been built and (seemingly) all themes covered.

Expanding into new paid search platforms is a given for growth, but the purpose of this post is to examine an integral part of campaign expansion within AdWords and Bing Ads accounts, the Search Query Report (SQR). We all make use of this report, but I don’t believe advertisers know the true potential it has for account growth.

The most common use for SQRs has generally been to find negative keywords. There will always be terms that can be added as new keywords within existing campaigns and ad groups, but the report is primarily meant to find poor performers for exclusion. However, within dynamic, Shopping, and top-of-funnel campaigns, SQRs are a goldmine for new keywords.

Let’s focus on each campaign type and the specific parameters for expansion.

Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) don’t utilize keywords; instead, ads are triggered based upon the user query matching a theme or product on the site. Google claims to use its organic technology to best match the query to the landing page. Often times, the DSA headline will be the designated page title, even in cases like the below example where the headline is 10 characters over the 25 character limit.

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A dynamic search ad with a 35 character headline

For better or worse, there is a certain amount of uncertainty with DSAs. Even when negative keywords are liberally implemented, poor queries will still come through. The idea is to have a low enough bid that these poor queries won’t tank performance.

For example, you may have a $0.30 bid and, out of 100 clicks, only receive 2 conversions. Assuming we are charged the full $0.30 each click, our total cost is $30 for a cost per conversion of $15 (30/2). In comparison, a standard text ad campaign may have an average cost per click of $0.70, receive 100 clicks, and garner 4 conversions.

Conversion rate would be better in this campaign, but cost per conversion is higher than the DSA campaign at $17.50 (70/4). All of this to say that we’re willing to bring in (some) poor quality traffic in the short term in order to expand in the long run.

When we review our SQRs, we find the keywords that are converting and look to build new campaigns. Some new campaign opportunities are going to be easy to find. Let’s say we see queries around the theme “brown oval coffee tables” that have converted 5 times over the last 30 days for a 5% conversion rate.

We know the landing page is relevant to the query, so we would look to create a new campaign around this theme (or create a new ad group in an existing campaign). Along with the converting DSA queries, we can expand our keyword list in this new campaign to capture a greater portion of the qualified traffic.

Other queries can lead to more of a grey area. We may find that the query “reeve mid-century oval coffee table” converted once in the last 30 days, spent $1, saw 2 clicks and 3 impressions. Efficiency wise, our conversion metrics are great. However, since this query and associated variations are so niche, putting these keywords into their own campaign may trigger “low search volume.”

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Low search volume notice

In essence, our goal to create a more targeted campaign could potentially hurt us. We would be removing a converting query from the DSA campaign to place in its own campaign that may not receive impressions. Most converting queries will lend themselves to stand alone campaigns, but for ones that appear to be “one-off” converters, it’s best to keep them as is in the DSA campaign.


Many of the same principles discussed for Dynamic Search Ads apply to Shopping campaigns as well. There aren’t as many irrelevant queries with Shopping, but keywords are still absent. The queries found in Shopping campaigns allow advertisers to see what shoppers are searching and in turn create text ad campaigns.

By adding text ads, advertisers will get double the exposure for queries. In the example below, ATG Stores has both text and Shopping ads.

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An advertiser with both Shopping and text ads

Another source of expansion in Shopping campaigns is the Item ID report located in the Dimensions tab. This report shows click and conversion metrics for all products shown in the ad units.

Whereas looking at the Shopping SQR would show which queries converted, the Item ID report tells us which products were clicked (similar to a destination URL report). For example, the term “Verilux lamps” may be a great converter, but the ad showing the product with the ID “VD01AA1” is getting those converting clicks. A text ad campaign around top performing IDs would be valuable to test.

Top Of Funnel

Though top of funnel (TOF) campaigns contain keywords, they tend to be broad since they target those in research mode. For example, we would bid on terms such as “coffee tables” and “coffee stands” instead of “oval coffee tables” or “mahogany coffee tables.”

These more specific queries would get their own campaigns with highly relevant ad copy. In turn, terms like “oval” and “mahogany” would be negative keywords in the TOF campaign, as we want to ensure the specific queries trigger the correct ads.

Our TOF campaigns are a great source of new keywords since we’re allowing leeway for expansion. The goal is that we’ll find queries we hadn’t thought of that will allow for new campaigns. Let’s say we find a common theme around “rustic coffee table” keywords.

Not only can a new campaign be created, but also potentially a new landing page if this category isn’t on the site. If the merchant doesn’t sell these products, we can either add “rustic” as a negative keyword or discuss the possibility of offering this inventory (which would involve a much larger discussion).

Final Thoughts

Search queries are one of the most important aspects of PPC, yet they are still underutilized when it comes to account growth. It’s amazing how actionable SQRs can be. Branching into additional PPC platforms is necessary for new audiences, but don’t discount how much growth can be gleaned strictly by assessing your search queries.

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