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Mona Elesseily – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Thu, 13 Dec 2018 17:09:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Paid search missed opportunities: Here’s a checklist to stay on track /missed-opportunities-heres-a-checklist-to-stay-on-track-309096 Thu, 06 Dec 2018 15:40:54 +0000 /?p=309096 Companies of all sizes make similar mistakes so it's important to focus on tracking all marketing initiatives and paying attention to core metrics.

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Companies of all sizes can stumble when it comes to their online marketing. A big misconception is that the mistakes large companies make are different than the ones made at smaller companies. The truth is companies of all sizes make similar mistakes. Here are some common mistakes companies make and ways to avoid them.

1. Not tracking all marketing initiatives

Believe it or not, this is more common than you think! In my experience, there are a couple of main reasons why companies don’t effectively track their online marketing initiatives. The first is pretty basic and it’s tracking implementation is time-consuming and cumbersome. In many cases, ensuring tracking is correctly implemented and firing correctly can take just as much time as it takes to design the marketing campaigns associated with them.

Also, companies can lose sight of what marketing is being tracked especially if a company’s marketing plan is extensive. Or, a company gets overwhelmed with marketing campaigns, channels, etc. and tracking falls by the wayside. Often, this stems from companies not having systems/process/discourse in place to keep on top of their tracking. Naturally, having process related to tracking and using a tag management system can make tracking much easier.

There are a few ways companies fall short. When reviewing tracking, we often find it in place, but there are gaps. Here are some of the more common ones we find:

Not tracking phone calls

Someone who calls your company is slightly more serious than someone who is casually researching your company online. Not understanding how many phone calls lead to sales is a mistake and can lead to the misallocation of marketing dollars. There are lots of call tracking solutions available to help track calls.

Not tracking live chat conversations

Chats lead to sales too! In the case of one of our clients, we’ve found that approximately 1 in every eight live chat conversations becomes a paying customer. In this particular case, we track every time a message is submitted and we measure how often a live chat user becomes a customer.

Not tracking offline conversions

Use proxy metrics like Google “store visits” or better yet import your offline sales info so you can tie your optimization to actual sales. There’s also software/hardware solution by companies like Hyllo.io that track foot traffic and marry the foot traffic data to sales that occur in your store.

Not accounting for mobile conversions

This one you can’t track 100 percent, but it’s worth mentioning. As you know, attribution breaks when people change devices. A good example of this is when someone searches on a mobile device and then converts on a desktop. As a result, mobile conversions may look like they are driving less traffic than they actually are or are more expensive than other device types because you can’t see the entire conversion path. Know this and be sure to factor it into your “tracking” math.

2. Lack of focus on core KPIs

If companies don’t laser focus, they are scattered and unfocused. Good companies focus on core metrics. Period. For example, one of our B2B clients wants to grow MRR (monthly reoccurring revenue) thru new unit sales, upselling # of units and increasing revenue per unit. To accomplish this, their sole focus on new user acquisition & CPA. They’d run around like chickens with their heads cut off if they concerned themselves with every metric under the sun.

So the advice here is to laser focus on core metrics, report on them and stick to them religiously. Get everyone in your organization rowing in the same KPI (or better yet OKR) direction. It’s also helpful to inform everyone at the company of the general direction and metrics. Even the people you don’t think need to know!

If you want to take this to the next level, you can use software (like Stitch), which pulls together info from your CRM, online advertising, etc. It can then be linked to Power BI to create custom charts and dashboards for visualization.

3. Chasing the latest and greatest marketing initiatives/platforms

I often hear “we want to try this new marketing thing or ad platform because we’ve heard it’s really good, effective, etc.” There’s no harm in trying but I like to set limits on how much time is spent on them. For example, I like to allocate a percentage of time (like 10 percent) to experimental initiatives. If they work, I’ll include them in the overall marketing plan. If they don’t work, we haven’t lost precious time barking up the wrong trees.

In my experience, tried and true strategies tend to perform better than newer/experiential ones. It makes sense to bark up the “marketing” trees that are already working and to work on getting them to perform optimally. I like to explore this by asking some key questions. Here are some examples:

  • What are our best target audiences? How do we target more of these audiences?
  • What are our best-producing channels? How do we extract more value/sales from these channels?
  • Who are our best customers? How do we get more of these customers?
  • Are we doing the best that we can to support our customers? How can we improve?
  • Is it easy to buy from us? How can we make it easier?
  • Is there any low hanging fruit? Have we optimized it?
  • It’s important to be strategic in growing your business and getting new customers.

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The Mad Scientists of Paid Search — SMX Advanced Session Recap /the-mad-scientists-of-paid-search-smx-advanced-session-recap-300561 Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:16:00 +0000 /?p=300561 Honoring a long-standing SMX Advanced tradition, 3 mad scientists share test results and analyze trends to unlock the secrets of attribution and paid search behaviors. Here's a recap of their session by contributor Mona Elesseily.

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In this lively paid search session, each of the Mad Scientist speakers brought fresh ideas, data and insight to our fast-paced world of paid search and consumer intent. Here is an overview of what they shared.

Andy Taylor, Merkle

Andy made five main points in his presentation:

1. Changes to exact match close variants

Initially, Merkle didn’t see a huge change, but they saw click volume increases by the end of 2017.

Here are some of his findings:

  • Andy estimates that 20 percent of exact match traffic came from close variants on a desktop by the end of 2017 for the median advertiser studied.
  • They converted at a 20-25 percent lower rate than true exact matches.
  • There was a 3-6 percent drag on the non-brand exact match.

You don’t want to fall off the first page because of close variant changes, so be sure to look at structured query reporter (SQR) for negative terms and filter them out where appropriate.

Changes can have an effect on multiple groups. For example, the phrase [homemade pop tart] could get pulled into an [artisan pop tart] ad group. He noted close variant changes corresponded to a recent change to ad rank. With this, Google emphasized the meaning of the query and was weighing bids more than quality score.

Andy also talked about phrase and broad match and thinks there is no big difference. Singular to plural terms or plural to singular was where he saw the biggest difference. Close variants will continue to grow, and a true exact match is not coming back.

2. Need for speed

People are now looking for near-immediate fulfillment when doing their online shopping. Andy noted the growth of  “same day” and “fast shipping” (vs. free shipping). He said it’s because we already expect free shipping in some way, shape or form.

3. Another trend is voice search and search assistants

The phrase “OK Google” is stripped from queries, and Google doesn’t include the phrase as part of the query. So it’s unlikely we’ll need to add “OK Google” to keyword terms in the future. If you see it in your search query report (SQR), you can use it to give you a directional sense of how voice search is growing.

In many ways, search queries haven’t changed. Voice query length is similar to typing query length. It won’t be different in future, and we will use many of the same terms for voice search and typing search.

4. SQR can give you an idea of competition

A big competitor for many retailers is Amazon, and it’s kind of a big deal. Shares of queries using either Amazon or Walmart to search show Amazon ahead. It may make sense to bid on competitor terms. Amazon cannot effectively optimize every product that it sells.

5. SQR also shows how local search is growing

“Near me” queries have increased faster than location-specific queries. The share of Google paid search clicks tracked to the ZIP code level has gone up significantly over the past couple of years, indicating that Google is better able to assign users to granular location types. This is good news in light of the increase of “near me” queries, when Google has to identify the location in order to serve up relevant nearby businesses.

Andy’s SMXInsights:

Presentation deck: Query Trends to Know for 2018 and Beyond 

Andreas Reiffen, Crealytics

Andreas suggested we could go down the wrong path if we rely too much on data. Data is deceptive, and the reality is often very different from what we are seeing. He suggested that remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) skews our data so that we see a better return on ad spend (ROAS) than we should. The question is to what extent RLSA drives incremental sales.

In one example, he showed an increase in ROAS, but there was a 48 percent decrease in new customer acquisitions. What can be seen in general is that RLSA traffic drives many fewer new customers than any type of prospecting.

Andreas asked, “What happens if we start boosting RLSA?” He suggested a boost could stem from:

  • Previously free traffic that was pulled into paid search.
  • Incremental increases.

The better the numbers you see, the less incremental they might be.

This is a difficult situation, and impact is not necessarily incremental.

Andreas suggested retargeting is highly addictive and asked, “Is there a way back?” He suggested that no one in corporate management or Google has the incentive to answer this question honestly. A better question may be “Should we bid higher or lower?”

Engagement and recency define the buying propensity. If someone has put a dozen products into a basket, has viewed 30 pages and spent a significant amount of time on the website, and all this happened just a few seconds ago, it’s very likely that someone will buy — with or without retargeting an ad. The question is now whether we should bid high for people showing this behavior or should we bid low. Bidding high will show great numbers, but it might just be a waste of money.

He took us on a journey of his research, and he tested this by:

  • Having large groups and filtering down. He segmented by user in Google Analytics and exported data to Google AdWords.
  • Triggering events on what people actually do using Google Tag Manager.

He found a very effective way to test audiences based on a single criterion like cart abandonment. In order to build and test audiences by multiple factors like engagement and time, a more complex approach would be needed.

He suggested companies build data science capabilities and that operational teams are not enough. He suggested companies need data scientists to solve problems.

Andreas SMXInsight:

Presentation deck: Retargeting, Incrementality and Beyond: Data Insights from Behind the Scenes 

Andrew Goodman, Page Zero Media

Andrew said the value of mad science cannot be overstated! He suggested using tools and resources that Google has to offer, since they can help you make progress and answer tough questions instead of just making assertions.

He also talked about the importance of statistical significance. In the interface, the more green arrows you see, the higher the statistical significance.

He gave suggestions on using campaign experiments:

He also talked about enhanced cost per click (ECPC). It uses Google machine learning and predictive power. In the most recent test, he looked at a lot of data over a 6-8-week period. Results were a big win for ECPC, and Andrew recommends running your own tests.

Andrew also ran a “high bid” experiment. It was not a successful experiment, as the cost was higher, cost per action (CPA) went up and conversions went down. He suggested that one of the reasons was that ads already had a good positioning. He also tried smart display. ROAS worked out to be 0.11, which is a very bad return on investment.

To close his presentation Andrew suggested all paid search marketers should rigorously test everything and also:

  • Remove all negatives in a campaign and find out what true key performance indicator impact will be.
  • Test a version of the campaign with a large number of internet protocol (IP) exclusions in it, and then run another test version without the exclusions.
  • Run a version of your campaign without dayparts, and then run it again with dayparts. Was there any impact?

Andrew’s SMXInsight:

Presentation deck: Mad World: Tears, Fears and… (No, just some tests we ran etc.)

Want more info on Paid Search? Check out our comprehensive PPC Guide – 9 chapters covering everything from account setup to automation and bid adjustments!

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The new Google AdWords interface is coming soon. Are you ready? /new-google-adwords-interface-coming-soon-294830 Fri, 23 Mar 2018 15:20:00 +0000 /?p=294830 Bagpipe music in AdWords? Contributor Mona Elessily lists pros and cons of the new Google AdWords interface as she sees and hears it.

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Google is gradually rolling out a new AdWords user interface. Word has it this change will be complete and available to everyone sometime in the first half of 2018.

Many of us using the new interface have been asking questions like “Have you seen this feature/report/functionality in the new interface?” If you are frustrated by the new interface, you are not alone.

Realizing others may have the same frustrations, I chatted with folks in my office and got their take on the pros and cons of the new Google AdWords interface.

Pros of the new Google AdWords interface

Let’s start on a positive note and talk about the pros of the new interface.

I like the way the program page loads; it’s more fun now. Reminds me of the way the new Air Canada home page comes online. I like looking at quirky “spinning” things while I wait for a page to load.

Some of the alerts at the dashboard level appear to do a better job of highlighting recent performance changes in a potentially actionable manner. If a group of products is showing a lot more or less often, there’s a chance my competitors are changing their pattern.

It could also be that we aren’t keeping up with seasonality in either direction. There can be a lot of swings in behavior seasonally, and they can be sudden. So that type of information is a help.

From an aesthetics standpoint, I thought the old AdWords home tab was unattractive, even ugly. Looks better now.

With the new interface, the early bird gets the worm. Promotion extensions on ads are only available in the new interface, and that can give you a competitive advantage.

There are a lot of new features in this version, for example, the Audience manager. It lets you set a campaign targeting people who have already engaged with your website or content in some way:

In addition to the Audience Manager, there are a number of helpful new features, such as bid adjustments for calls and promotion extensions.

The cons

Let’s take a look at the not-so-helpful changes AdWords has made.

I don’t like having to reset all of my columns. Say I’m digging in at the campaign or ad group level. There are thousands of ad groups I am used to looking at across a few accounts. Why won’t Google just port over my current columns?

The new ones I’m seeing clog up the screen with irrelevant columns, and they don’t use my key performance indicators (KPIs). I hate modifying columns, especially when I have to do it repeatedly just to keep working as I was before.

And is it just me, or is the line graph above the rows of ad group information too big?

I want to see a bunch of rows of information, and I’m stuck viewing what, the first two or three ad groups? The state-of-the-art use of white space, large fonts and waste areas toward the top of the screen further cram the actual information down the page where I cannot see it. And I am on a full-size monitor!

When I switch to a 15-inch laptop, the graph takes up half of the page:

Another con for me is that when I first visit an ad group, it appears the keywords aren’t even sorted by clicks, impressions or cost. Shouldn’t that be the default?

Zero-impression keywords are listed in my field of vision. Now, we’re all used to that happening when one “loses state” occasionally, but it feels like it’s going to be happening a lot.

The “your change has been saved” dismiss box makes a ceremony out of every bid change. I guess you have to see this, but it feels slow and intrusive compared with the old version. If they want to make it really memorable, I suggest an automated bagpipe recording be played in honor of each and every bid change!

As for the look of the new interface, overall the system feels more “dashboard-like” and aesthetically appealing, but this is a workhorse for many of us, not a viewing platform.

When I was talking with Andrew Goodman (from my company) about the dashboard, he had this to say:

I know we’ll get used to it, but now, I work very quickly and efficiently in accounts and this interface is going to discourage me from optimizing. Is this what Google wants?

I agree new features are welcome, but new features aren’t the same as the user interface. All kinds of different changes are being mashed into this overall release. It may be hard to put some of the new functionality into the old interface because the old interface may not be able to support it. I’m sure audience management and ad testing will improve over the current interface.

At some point, this type of change is inevitable. An example is when you switch to “month view” by clicking on the month drop-down, close the picker, and then re-open it. It doesn’t reset to “day view.” Instead, it just gives you a list of months, which is confusing because you can’t do anything with them. You must click on “day view” to make any kind of selection.

Here’s another con as far as I’m concerned: The term “household income” is not available in Canada, so we are enticed to use the interface to see that juicy bit of data, but then we can’t get it!

I think Andrew summed up the new AdWords interface well with this story:

Look, it’s fully possible this is just one of those painful adjustments people like me tend to put off. For 20 years, I played golf with a 10-finger grip, which is also known as the “Caveman” grip. And so you know, it’s not a good grip! One day at the driving range I decided to teach myself the proper grip. The first few shots were pathetic. A month later, I was getting used to it. Today, my swing is natural with the new grip and I don’t slice anymore. I think I’d rather be practicing my golf swing right now than learning to use a new user interface from AdWords.

It goes without saying that advertisers should get acquainted with the new Google AdWords interface sooner rather than later. Good luck!

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Are you ready for the attribution changes coming to Google AdWords? /are-you-ready-for-the-attribution-changes-coming-to-google-adwords-292790 Thu, 01 Mar 2018 17:37:06 +0000 /?p=292790 If you're not, columnist Mona Elesseily will help you get up to speed. Here's her overview of attribution and five different replacement models available in Google AdWords.

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There is an old saying: the only constant in life is change! Word on the street and from Google is they’ll stop supporting last click attribution sometime this year. This means advertisers will have to opt into one of several other attribution models available in Google.

In this article, I’ll provide some general commentary on attribution as well as an overview of the different models available in Google AdWords.

What is an attribution model?

According to Google,

an attribution model is the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths.”

Currently, the default in Google AdWords is last-click attribution. Last-click attribution gives the click just before the conversion event (like a purchase) 100% of the attribution credit.  Every business has different marketing objectives so tailoring attribution models to those specific goals just make sense.

General pointers on attribution

To get started, here are some general pointers on attribution:

  •  Changing attribution models doesn’t change actual account performance, just your perception of it based on changes to what “counts” as a full or partial conversion. The various models report differently on existing account data so you are free to change models, as long as you inform all stakeholders of the major cosmetic changes and changes that may come with the change.
  • A new attribution model won’t muck up your account. You can go to the attribution models page to view what the various models say about your data, without actually making a change to your default reporting.

Below is a screenshot and you get to the tool by going to conversions > attribution > model comparison tool in Google Analytics.

Rumor has it Google is considering making its darling, the data-driven attribution model, the account default. It will be up to the advertiser to opt into other attribution models. This is similar to how Google automatically opts you into ads that rotate for clicks, users searching in, around, about, etc.

In the sections below, I cover other options for attribution in Google AdWords.

Another option — one I won’t cover fully here — is a function in Google Analytics that gives different weight and credit to different channels like paid search, paid social, email marketing and direct channels. A simple example of this would be to assign 25% to each channel.

It’s interesting that Google’s new attribution technology may now be seamlessly baked into Google Analytics (GA). We have to “adopt” a model, rather than have a separate tool that watches the “watchers”.

Different attribution models

Below is an overview of the five different attribution models that you can choose from in AdWords. They are:

  1.  Linear model. With this, every touch point that contributed to the conversion gets the same score. The first click gets the same amount of credit as the last click. Google seems to apply very partial credit in some cases, as little as 0.1 of a conversion. Does this mean there were potentially ten interactions by that user? Or does Google apply some weighting, even with the linear model? Google’s documentation on this isn’t extensive. This model is useful for any company that wants to sprinkle as much credit as possible around to any keyword that had a role in the user’s consideration process towards a conversion, so they can reduce the number of uninformative “zeroes” in the conversion stats. This can be especially important when we’re dealing with highly relevant, but low volume, long-tail phrases.
  2. Time decay model.  With this, the touchpoints closest in time to the sale or conversion get most of the credit. The keywords consumers interacted with within a few hours of conversion would get the largest weighting. This model is the most similar to last-click and would be considered the most “conservative” change to an existing account. This is an excellent option if you want the same type of attribution that you’re getting currently with a last-click attribution account.
  3. Position-based model. With this, 40% credit is assigned to each the first and last interaction, and the remaining 20% credit is distributed evenly to the middle interactions. I’ve never heard of anyone using this model, but if they did, they’d be looking to move some credit away from the last click, but not give too much credit to repetitive searching in the middle research phase, in cases where consumers really dithered — but would never have done so, perhaps, without the power of that very first interaction. This model is actually very clever.
  4. First-click model. With this, 100% of the credit is given to the first touch point. This is generally used for when companies are looking for growth and focuses on new user/customer acquisition. An example of this would be a company whose goal was to introduce their offering to new prospects so they can remarket to them or place them on an email list and sell them from there.
  5. Data-driven attribution model. Data-driven attribution is the most black box out of all of the attribution models. It analyzes various data points to determine what the specific weighting should be when a conversion occurs. It redistributes credit in favor of converting ads and associated keywords, ad groups, and campaigns.

According to the Google AdWords Blog:

“DDA (data-driven attribution) is different from rules-based attribution models. It uses your account’s conversion data to calculate the actual contribution of each search ad click along the conversion path… The model observes what your customers do before converting, and what they do when they don’t convert, to measure what’s important. Using Google’s machine learning, the models continue to improve over time”.

Note: advertisers have to qualify to use this type of attribution.

Google claims there’s a 5%-10% increase in conversions from data-driven attribution and the company says Ford recently saw a cost-per-click (CPA) decrease of 25% with this model.

I’ve come to expect a CPA increase (of 10% to 20%) from using Google’s automated products, so be prepared.

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5 New Year’s resolutions for your PPC campaigns /5-new-years-resolutions-ppc-campaigns-290206 Fri, 26 Jan 2018 15:24:57 +0000 /?p=290206 Contributor Mona Elesseily shares her insights on fine-tuning your PPC campaigns for 2018 and beyond.

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It’s never too late for New Year’s resolutions, so why not give your PPC campaigns a little New Year’s love? In this article, I’ll provide suggestions to tune up your campaigns in 2018 and get them firing on all cylinders.

1. Review your ad copy

Upgrading decent ad copy into fantastic ad copy almost always leads to better campaign performance, driving more sales and increasing conversions. In my opinion, it’s some of the lowest-hanging fruit around.

In prospect audits, we almost always find ad copy that is lackluster or that simply hasn’t been tested or updated in a while. Here are some easy ad copy suggestions to get you started:

  • Ensure all ads have the two-headline (expanded text ad) format. It’s easy to overlook ads which may still be using the old format, especially in large accounts. While auditing prospect campaigns, we are still seeing many with one-headline ads, so be on the lookout for this.
  • Explore extensions. We like that extensions allow ads to include more information, but we really like them because they make ads more visible and, as a result, more likely to get clicked. We also like that the larger ad units can push competitors farther down the page.
  • For a long time, the old “mobile”-only ads were still performing well in campaigns, but that no longer seems to be the case. As these ads are no longer performing as well for us, we’re removing them from campaigns. From a management perspective, it’s easier to manage ad groups when there are fewer ads in them.

2. Review your bidding strategy

I also recommend reviewing bidding strategy. One of my tips is to review bidding rules, as there’s always room to improve and/or enhance them. I use the data I extrapolate from reviewing rules to help make decisions and create new rules.

In my opinion, it’s important to examine campaigns to see what is actually happening and then enhance or create new rules so they work specifically for your advertising goals.

We get the biggest bang for our buck with these rules:

  • Reduce bids for keyword with high CPAs.
  • Increase bids for converting terms below X position (usually 3.5 or greater).
  • Decrease bids for non-converting terms.

There’s always room to expand parameters or add new parameters. You may also decide to create entirely new rules with tighter parameters. For example, for CPA between $10 and $20, $20 and $30, $30 and $40 and so on, instead of a broader range, like $10 to $40.

3. Review your keywords

It’s also a great idea to review keywords. Continue to build out keyword lists and ensure relevant keyword terms are in the account. Google recently reaffirmed that 15 percent of all searches are new and have never been searched before. This has been the case for basically as long as the company has been around.

Also, with voice search, more keyword terms can be incorporated in accounts, as people talk very differently from the way they type. Currently, 20 percent of mobile queries are voice searches.

Also, make sure all match types are in accounts. It seems obvious, but we often find them missing, especially in large accounts. The Google keyword tool is good for this.

4. Review your audiences

It’s also a great idea to review audiences. My biggest advice here is to not go crazy with audiences to start; adding a whole bunch of audiences at once can cause problems.

For example, there could be issues with inappropriate attribution — it may look like you’re getting traction from your new audience targeting campaigns, but it could be a sale you would have gotten anyway from a regular campaign. It can take visitors a few visits before they decide to convert. If you’re not careful, you could burn through your budget pretty quickly.

Also, a lot of remarketing does not move the needle; less is always more. We choose audiences wisely and build them slowly. Include them with bid modifiers set to zero so they accumulate data. Once you have adequate data, you can then make changes to the bid modifier.

For more information on audiences, refer to audiences to employ for extra online marketing bang!

5. Try out the new Google AdWords interface

My last suggestion is to get acquainted with the new Google AdWords interface. We’ve been tipped off that this is something we’ll all be forced to opt into in the first half of 2018, so don’t let this change catch you by surprise.

One of the things we’ve noticed is that the new interface is pretty clunky and not as intuitive as the old one. It’s been taking us time to figure out where Google has placed information in the new interface.

Expect to have to reset things in the new interface. For example, we’ve needed to reset all our columns in the new interface. The default is a lot of irrelevant columns that don’t tie to key account KPIs. This happens a lot, so give yourself time to work out these bugs.

There are certain features that are only available in the new interface. One example is promotion extensions. If these extensions make sense to you, there could be an advantage to using the new interface sooner rather than later.

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7 tips to ramp up your holiday advertising /7-tips-ramp-holiday-advertising-285991 Fri, 03 Nov 2017 14:38:34 +0000 /?p=285991 Search marketers, are you ready for the holiday shopping season? Columnist Mona Elesseily shares tips for getting the most out of your holiday paid search ads.

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It’s never too early to start thinking about holiday advertising, as Q4 is the biggest quarter for many retailers. Naturally, many of our clients have their holiday advertising plans in place for the Christmas holiday season.

But it’s not too late if you haven’t already started. In this article, I’ll cover some quick and not-so-quick ways you can prepare yourself for the holidays. Depending on your business, you can use many of the same ideas for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

1. Label all key holiday brands

I label all Christmas campaigns but highlight key products and/or strategic brands we’re focused on for the holiday season. This provides sanity in accounts with a very broad Christmas focus.

Apply a quick filter, and you can be looking at exactly what you want without getting bogged down and/or distracted by other account details like generic categories.

2. Use ad extensions

Naturally, ad extensions are a great way to incorporate holiday messaging and get searchers right to information they’re looking for. Here are some examples of how one can use the various extension products for the holiday season.

We like to include sitelink extensions for all holiday pages. Here’s an example of sitelink wording we’ve been using to promote specific pages: Stocking Stuffers, Baby’s First Christmas, Gift Guide, Gourmet Treats, Home Entertaining & Hostess.

We also incorporate visual sitelinks, as the images are effective in drawing attention to ads. Though not holiday-themed, here’s an example of visual sitelinks on a mobile phone:

We use callout extensions to highlight delivery around the holiday season, as it’s one of the biggest concerns of shoppers during the holidays. Here’s some sample wording we’ve used: “Guaranteed Christmas Delivery,” “Dec 18 Last Shipping Date.”

We use promotion extensions. We include the date range when the offer is valid and have found that shorter date ranges tend to convert better than longer ones. Try percentage discounts, especially if the discount is significant (e.g., above 30 percent). Numerical value discounts can be effective for larger-ticket items if the discount is a larger number (e.g., $150 off). The promo code is useful to track sales.

We use structured snippet extensions. Under the header “types,” you can try Christmas Deals, Late Deals, Last-Minute Deals and so forth to get extra Christmas verbiage into ads.

3. Build out generic terms

During the holidays, we like to build out generic terms, as there are more opportunities for ads to be seen and for people to purchase products. In the New Year, we examine data and figure out what makes sense to further expand. Here are some examples:

  • Gifts for age/boy/girl/child.
  • Toys for age/boy/girl/child.
  • Types of toys (wooden, educational, building/construction, dolls, plush, etc.).

We also try giving generic terms a holiday angle. Be creative and dig deep to find permutations and combinations that you think make sense. The keyword tool can be a great way to find opportunities here. We recently came across “secret Santa gift ideas.” Here are some other examples:

  • Baby’s first Christmas.
  • Christmas toys, holiday toy stores, holiday toy shop.
  • Christmas gifts for her, best gifts for her, etc.
  • Christmas gifts for him, best gifts for him, etc.
  • Gifts for pets.

4. Revamp ad copy!

Of course, adding Christmas terms to ad copy is an effective strategy, so go Christmas-crazy in your ads. Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Buy Today & Receive Before Christmas
  • Shop Now For Stress-Free Holidays!

The countdown feature is also very effective when incorporated into ad copy. Here are some ideas:

  • Holiday Shipping Ends in {countdown} days. Shop Now!
  • Hurry, Only {countdown} days to order for Christmas!

Many people buy for themselves during the holiday season, so don’t forget to target this group, too. Personally, if I see something I like, I buy one for me and one for someone I’m shopping for. In ad copy, something as simple as “Treat Yourself” can be an effective strategy to target these shoppers.

5. Shopping campaigns

In particular, we find that adding Merchant Promotions to Shopping campaigns is very effective. The “special offer” link makes ads stand out from competitors. Shoppers are always looking for a deal, so these promotions are immediately appealing to many searchers.

We’ve compared deal verbiage in headlines, sitelinks, Shopping ads with no Merchant Promotion and Shopping ads with Merchant Promotions. From the latter, we’ve seen hands-down the best increases in conversions and decreases in CPA from using this strategy.

6. Remarketing

For the holidays, we like to retarget visitors who visit holiday pages. Using Google Analytics (GA) custom audiences is powerful because they can be tied to data available in GA like particular behaviors, time on site and so on.

We also like Smart Lists. They are remarketing lists that Google creates for you based on your conversion data in Google Analytics. With this, Google considers various signals like location, device type and browser and gauges if a user is likely to convert. The list includes users they think will convert relatively soon. The data used is recent and can really help holiday sales. (For more info on different audiences, take a look at this article.)

Of course, using Dynamic Remarketing (based on items people have previously searched for) is an effective strategy, too.

7. Don’t forget Bing!

In some accounts, Bing accounts for 30+ percent of our overall search traffic. So don’t forget to target Bing! We complete work in Google (like new holiday buildouts) and import campaigns fairly easily over to Bing.

The holiday season begins now

Many shoppers have already begun their holiday shopping, so don’t delay! What tactics are you employing to boost your paid search campaign performance this holiday season?

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Audiences to employ for extra online marketing bang! /audiences-extra-online-marketing-bang-283821 Thu, 05 Oct 2017 16:44:41 +0000 http:/?p=283821 Which audience lists are you using to amplify your paid search efforts? Columnist Mona Elesseily shares some of her favorites.

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These days, there are so many audience possibilities that it can be confusing to figure out where to begin. Not all audiences are created equal, though — so in this article, I’ll discuss several that we like to use to amplify our marketing efforts. Specifically, I’ll cover similar audiences, Google Analytics smart lists, Google Analytics custom audiences and “AdWords optimized” audiences.

Before getting started, here are some general pointers:

  • Adding a whole bunch of audiences at once may seem tempting, but doing so can cause problems. For example, there could be issues with inappropriate attribution — it may look like you’re getting traction from your new audience targeting campaigns, but it could be a sale you would have gotten anyway from a regular campaign. Naturally, it sometimes takes visitors a few visits before they decide to convert. Also, you could burn through your budget pretty quickly if you’re not careful.
  • Set appropriate date ranges. For RLSA campaigns, we like to use 180 days so we get a good idea of how many people we’re reaching via a particular list. For display remarketing, we go longer (540 days) to capture people making longer-consideration purchases or to capture renewals that occur after a year (like insurance). For the most part, we find that 30-day windows are too short.
  • Set an impression cap. It’s best to consider this on an account-by-account basis. No one appreciates being targeted like crazy!
  • A lot of remarketing does not move the needle. Less is always more. We choose audiences wisely and build them slowly (more on this below).

Here are some of the audience types we’ve been exploring.

Similar audiences

This is a fairly new audience type on the search side. With this, Google creates an audience that’s similar to, say, all converters or all cart checkout visitors. It’s intended to reach new customers — as opposed to RLSA, which targets your existing site visitors based on their previous actions.

People are added to a similar audience list if not already on an RLSA list, and you can add similar audiences to keyword, Shopping or dynamic search ad campaigns. It’s based on similar query behavior in the last 24 hours, so there’s very high recency with these lists.

What we’ve found is there’s a tradeoff between volume and efficiency. Lower-funnel audiences (like all converters) will have fewer conversions than higher-funnel audiences (like people who’ve viewed the cart page). We find we have to add higher-funnel audiences to get significant traction with these campaigns.

We like to slowly add audiences from the bottom to the top of the funnel. It’s an approach that allows us to primarily home in on areas that we think will convert best and methodically gauge what’s working and what’s not working for us.

Google Analytics Smart Lists

Smart Lists are remarketing lists that Google creates for you based on your conversion data in Google Analytics (GA). With this, Google considers various signals like location, device type, browser and so on, and gauges if a user is likely to convert. The list includes users they think will convert relatively soon.

You need to have 10,000 daily page views on your site and 500 monthly transactions for Google to create a list specific to your site. Otherwise, they use proxy data and generate a list based on other (similar) companies’ signals and data. Naturally, a list works better if it’s based on your own data, but it’s still worth testing if it’s a proxy list.

In our testing, Smart Lists using customer data generated a higher ROI than other types of audience lists. In several cases, we saw a 20 percent increase over other list types.

Google Analytics custom audiences

These types of lists are powerful because they can be tied to data available in GA like particular behaviors, time on site and so on. Naturally, there are nearly endless ways in which you can customize audiences. Some of our team’s favorites are listed below.

  • If you have any lifetime value stats, you can build an audience reflecting the profile of your most profitable customers.
  • You could also target people who had a high average order value and haven’t purchased in over a year.
  • Try targeting people who left a review on the site with GA Events.

‘AdWords optimized’ audiences

In your AdWords accounts, click on Shared library, then Audiences. Here, you can see something lurking in there called the “AdWords optimized list,” and it’s described as a “combined audience based on various data sources.”

At this point, many of these pre-created audiences have more traffic available for Display than for Search. In some of our accounts, the traffic we’re seeing is pretty significant and is estimated in the millions (first list below). It’s also worth noting there are audiences “Similar to AdWords optimized list” (second list below).

Naturally, the “AdWords optimized list” would likely convert a lot better than the “Similar to” audience.

Currently, we use AdWords optimized list with CPA bidding to see if we can get some additional conversions on the Display Network. It may prove to not be so effective for direct marketers who want to drive sales, but it may work well for brand-type advertisers.

Find your audience

What audiences are you targeting in your paid search accounts? Feel free to let us know on social media!

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5 strategies to improve your ad copy /5-strategies-improve-ad-copy-274973 Thu, 18 May 2017 13:28:29 +0000 http:/?p=274973 Need some ideas to make your search ads really shine? Columnist Mona Elesseily provides tips for improving your ad copy to increase conversions.

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Ad copy is a very important element in online advertising, but it’s often “set and forget” — once written, advertisers move on to newer and/or sexier strategies and tactics.

Ad copy is often one of the first areas I focus on to boost advertising efficiency. And, if I focus on iterating ads, I can often continue to improve ad performance. In this article, I’ll suggest some elements you can use to put some pep into your ads and improve their overall performance.

Before getting started, here are some general pointers:

  • Good ideas can take time to come together, so put some time into your ad copy. I brainstorm ideas and intentionally sit on them for a while. I find this valuable, as I often come up with additional ideas when I’m not specifically thinking about my copy. (Keep a device or pen and paper handy to jot them down!) The extra time also gives me time to brainstorm and/or run ideas by colleagues, run a mini-focus group or talk to potential customers to further refine ideas.
  • Ad copy should be concise and to the point. Just because you’re given a certain amount of space, it doesn’t mean you should use it all. In fact, we’ve been testing shorter headlines (especially second headlines), and they’ve been converting better than the longer ones.
  • Come up with a plan to consistently iterate and improve the performance of ads. A simple calendar reminder (say, once every two weeks or every month) can be a very good way to keep on top of this.

In the sections below, I cover ways to improve ad copy to increase conversions. They are in no particular order. I suggest layering the strategies on top of each other for added ad bang.

1. Reduce buyer anxiety

Many people feel anxious about making purchases online. Try to incorporate elements that make people feel less anxious. One way to do this is to emphasize your company’s credibility — e.g.,”in business since 1984,” “as seen on TV,” “as featured in The New York Times.” These can be enhanced with features like seller ratings and review extensions and are very effective in helping people feel more comfortable making a purchase from you.

I also like to emphasize the “no extra fee” angle, and you can use wording like “no hidden fees,” “no booking fees” and “no minimums.” You can even try stronger language like “no bait and switch” if your brand/industry lends itself well to such language.

You can take it a step further and create “positive” anxiety. Effective strategies for this are to state that special pricing ends by X date or is available for a limited time. The countdown feature is an awesome complement to this wording. You can also highlight potential loss by using wording like “don’t miss out!” or “why miss out?”

2. Reduce buyer friction

It’s also important to eliminate potential barriers to purchase. For example, I spell out how easy it will be to get, use or return a product or service. It provides additional reassurance and can effectively nudge people to make a purchase. Here are several examples:

  • Quick turnaround: “ships within one day,” “inventory available”
  • Return policy: “free returns,” “30-day returns,” “no hassle”
  • Ease of use: “within minutes,” “quick and easy,” “3 easy steps”

A good website/mobile experience is ultra-important here, too. Too often, people get frustrated with an interface or online experience and bail altogether on making a purchase.

3. Create contrast

An effective way to stand out is to create contrast between you and your competitors. For this, it’s best to focus on USPs and value propositions. Aim to know these like the back of your hand, and use them readily in copy. They must resonate with your target audience, so take the time to really understand what makes your potential buyers tick.

Too many times I’ve been told a company absolutely understands their customers, only to find out this isn’t the case. Luckily for us, ad copy is a fantastic way to test different USPs and propositions against each other. I like to use at least one USP and two value propositions in my ads. Mix and match until you find the best-converting “cocktail.” Below are some ideas of elements you can incorporate into ads:

  • Quality: “high quality,” “durable,” “best selling”
  • Low price: “low-price guarantee,” “prices starting at $10,” “bargain prices,” “wholesale pricing”
  • Selection: “over 5,000 items in stock,” “huge selection in stock”

4. Provide incentives

Buyers are highly motivated by incentives, so it makes sense to include them in ads. Here are examples of some of the more compelling ones I use:

  • Discount offers: “up to 50% off,” “save an extra 25%”
  • Freebie offers: “free white paper,” “buy one & get one (BOGO)”
  • Free shipping: “free shipping,” “free overnight delivery”

5. Use vivid words to grab attention & inspire action

Standing out is a huge part of the advertising game, so think of ways to make your ads pop. I like to take existing ads and simply switch up some of the vocabulary previously used.

Here are some examples of ads with some pop:

Go forth and improve your ad copy!

The above are just a handful of suggestions for improving your ad copy to increase conversions. What ad copy improvements have worked for you?

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What’s love got to do with Valentine’s Day? /whats-love-got-valentines-day-267925 Thu, 26 Jan 2017 16:22:31 +0000 http:/?p=267925 Looking to woo consumers this Valentine's Day? Columnist Mona Elesseily shares insights from Bing Ads (and her own experience) to help your holiday ads flourish.

The post What’s love got to do with Valentine’s Day? appeared first on Search Engine Land.


Traditionally, Valentine’s Day is a day for people in relationships to celebrate their love. But more and more, people who are not in committed relationships are making Valentine’s Day purchases. Clever marketers have caught on to this and are targeting other markets to boost overall Valentine’s Day sales.

In this article, I’ll cover other audiences marketers can focus on to boost Valentine’s Day sales and provide marketing tips to help you come out swinging with your Valentine’s Day advertising.

Data in this article is from two Bing Ads presentations: “Search Bing for Love: Valentine’s Day 2017 Insights for Digital Marketers” and “Valentine’s Day Insights to Woo Digital Marketers.”

Before getting started, here are some overall statistics on Valentine’s Day:

  • Valentine’s Day is the fourth largest spending day of the year after the winter holidays, back to school and Mother’s Day.
  • The average person spent approximately $150 on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2016.
  • Approximately 55 percent of adults plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
  • In 2016, Valentine’s Day spending was $19.7 billion dollars.

There are a few interesting trends happening around Valentine’s Day. They are:

1. Wider Valentine’s Day scope

Now more than ever, people are purchasing Valentine’s Day gifts for a number of different people in their lives. Here’s a breakdown of who people are buying for:

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 8.40.12 PM

Here’s a breakdown of how much money people are planning to spend on each of the groups listed above in 2017:

  • Significant other — $99
  • Coworkers (is anyone from Page Zero Media reading this?!) — $54
  • Family members — $50
  • Classmates & teachers — $36
  • Friends — $36
  • Pets — $26

Believe it or not, 19 percent give gifts to their pets, and $681 million was spent on pets last year. Yeah, you heard me right!

My nieces buy for me, and I come up with special gifts (activity-based) for them. Valentine’s Day gift-giving is much broader than it used to be. The main takeaway here is to not get trapped into thinking the holiday is for a single specific group of people.

2. Singles on Valentine’s Day

Over half of Americans are single, and many choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Now more than ever, singles are purchasing gifts for a whole variety of reasons, and for many different people. Furthermore, Singles Awareness Day was created as a reaction to Valentine’s Day and is celebrated on February 15.

Some of the ways singles celebrate are getting together with single friends/family, treating themselves to special gifts or purchasing anti-Valentine’s Day gifts (see image below).

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 8.40.51 PM

3. Relationships on Valentine’s Day

And, of course, there are the folks in committed relationships. Here’s the most interesting information I came across on people in this segment:

  • 14 million people planned or expected a marriage proposal on Valentine’s Day. This figure is approximately 12 percent of single Americans. As such, engagement rings are the most searched jewelry item in the jewelry category.
  • Only 21 percent of Valentine’s gifts shoppers plan to purchase jewelry (see graph below), but it generates the second-highest revenue around Valentine’s Day. Other jewelry-related searches (on mobile) include earrings, Pandora charms, Etsy and necklace.
Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 11.57.14 AM
  • Most couples are more likely to choose gifts on their own without input from their significant other. This means people don’t always get what they want. The screen shot below shows what people want for Valentine’s Day vs. what they get. I find this useful, and it helps guide/inform my Valentine’s Day advertising spend.
Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 7.57.54 AM

Here are some useful Valentine’s Day advertising/marketing tips:

  • Shoppers tend to spend less on non-significant others. So the tip here is to focus on affordable gifts if targeting consumers who are shopping for coworkers, family, pets and so on.
  • Kick Valentine’s Day campaigns off in January to capture early shoppers and beat the Valentine’s Day rush. Valentine’s Day shopping ramps up in first two weeks of February, with clicks spiking between February 7 and February 14 (see graph below). Three out of 10 people buy gifts on Valentine’s Day, so continue full steam ahead with your budget on February 14. Continue advertising on February 15 if you to target Singles Awareness Day purchases.
Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 9.02.44 PM
  • Focus advertising on the weekdays, as CPCs tend to be lower and CTRs higher (in my experience). As you know, many people shop between tasks/errands and so on on mobile devices, as opposed to carving out specific time to search for perfect gifts.
  • Not only are people browsing/buying via mobile, but they’re sharing images via mobile to get input on gifts from friends and family. With this, it makes even more sense to have fast and well-optimized mobile sites.
  • Ads selling gifts (not flowers or chocolate) perform well with superlatives (e.g., best, top, great), details on pricing and a solid call to action in ad copy.
  • Repurpose holiday remarketing lists, as lists have been tested and just need to be refined for Valentine’s Day behaviors. Also, consider Valentine’s Day specific dynamic remarketing campaigns for shoppers who’ve interacted with specific products. We use both of these strategies to effectively increase lifetime value of customers.
  • One of my latest tricks is the price drop feature (Bing). It detects a price change in the Bing feed and shows it in product ads. It’s a fantastic way to get your product ads some extra attention.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Ad extensions for the entire decision journey /ad-extensions-entire-decision-journey-264156 Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:13:33 +0000 http:/?p=264156 How can you use ad extensions to move potential customers further down the sales funnel? Columnist Mona Elesseily shares some tactical advice.

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Not only do ad extensions work to encourage immediate sales, but they can also be used to move consumers along the decision journey/buy cycle. In our work, we’ve effectively used ad extensions in many stages of the buy cycle, for instance:

  1. When searchers research products online (research stage)
  2. When searchers home in on a specific product
  3. When searchers want to see products in person/offline
  4. And, of course, when they are ready to buy something immediately (online/offline)

In this article, I’ll cover appropriate ad extensions for the decision journey stages I mentioned above. I’ll also provide pointers and warn of potential ad extension pitfalls.

1. When searchers research products online (research stage)

At this stage, our goal is to convince shoppers that they want to buy a particular product/service. The most effective extensions for the research stage are:

  • extended sitelinks
  • review extensions
  • video extensions (Bing only)

Below, I’ll talk specifically about extended sitelinks and video extensions.

Extended sitelinks

Sitelink extensions give you the ability to add additional links to your ads. When we talk about “extended sitelinks,” this means that you have filled out the optional description line for each sitelink.

sitelink extension no link description sitelink extension extended sitelinks

Extended sitelinks create more room to grab interest and encourage people to engage with your brand/product/service. It’s also a good place to focus on information I know will resonate with searchers.

Here are a couple of sitelink pointers:

  • In many cases, extended sitelinks perform better than sitelinks with no link descriptions. In our experience, they have higher click-through rates (CTRs) and more conversions. We’ve seen a 3x increase in conversions and a 25 percent decrease in CPA from using extended sitelinks.
  • Using ETAs (expanded text ads) with extended sitelinks is an awesome one-two punch.
  • Extended sitelinks combined with one or two additional ad extensions performed well for us in our testing.

Video extensions (Bing Ads only)

Many people watch videos before buying a product or service. For example, many folks who do DIY home repairs gauge the difficulty of a job by watching a video or two. If the job doesn’t seem difficult, many searchers will then go on to buy the products needed to make repairs. So, easy how-to videos are a great way to encourage sales.

Here are some effective video tips:

  • Aim for short videos. For a how-to video, three to five minutes is ideal.
  • Aim for “quick and easy” solutions. For example, no one wants to watch a 45-step tutorial on how to fix a leaky faucet. They won’t be compelled to watch or to attempt to fix their faucet.

2. When searchers home in on a specific product

Once searchers are interested in your brand and/or company, we like to use callout extensions or image extensions to provide additional information.

Below is an example from Nike. In the ad, they provide more info and “call out” the following info: “Extended 60 Day Returns · All Orders Ship Free · Now Delivering to Canada.”


We also like to use image extensions (Bing only). Images really grab users’ attention, and a big reason we’re seeing more images in SERPs in general is that they are so visually engaging. Below are a couple of ways image extensions can appear in Bing:


If your product feed isn’t up to snuff, image ads are certainly an alternative way to get eyeballs.

3. When searches want to see products in person/offline

Ad extensions are also effective at directing people to offline locations. Naturally, location extensions and call extensions are a good way to encourage people online to transact offline.

Here are some pointers:

  • With call extensions, be sure to turn them off (schedule them off) when your call center is closed, or you’ll do more harm than good.
  • A good strategy is to use different numbers for different customer needs. For example, you can dedicate one number for calls to your sales department and another for calls to your service/technical support team.

Seller ratings are also good at encouraging offline sales (and can be effectively used in the research phase as well). It’s worth noting that the thresholds for Google Trusted Store seller ratings have recently changed.

Now, in order for star ratings to appear, you need at least 150 unique seller reviews from the past 12 months. The previous threshold was 30 reviews over a 12-month period.

4. When they are ready to buy something immediately (online/offline)

There are new extension products that help people buy directly in PPC ads. For example, Bing has action link extensions,which allow advertisers to include a direct call to action, like a “buy now” or “reserve now” button directly in an ad. Google has been testing variations of this type of ad unit as well.

There are also app extensions, which naturally help people download apps. Of course, the trick with any app is not the initial download but finding ways to keep people engaged and using your app.

Final thoughts

Ad extensions were created for a reason: to make your ads more engaging and useful to searchers. When used strategically and thoughtfully, ad extensions can help move prospects closer toward the final sale at all stages of the buyer journey.

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