4 Things That May Surprise You About Automated PPC Bidding

My Post - 2019-09-16T122741.084.pngIt’s no surprise that Google, with its massive capabilities in machine learning, is pushing hard to take as much control over PPC bid management as possible.

They believe that by letting the machines handle number-crunching and pattern recognition, advertisers will get better results.

And having more happy advertisers obviously helps the bottom line and makes Google and their investors happy, too.

But when bids are automated, it does not mean that PPC is automated. Good news indeed for those of us worried about our future prospects as PPC rockstars.

There are important things to know about automated bid management and I’m going to share a few here based on conversations with advertisers who expressed surprise when our tools and scripts uncovered some aspect of bid automation they were unaware of.

1. You Can Lose a Huge Impression Share (IS) with Automated Bids

I’m not sure I can explain why, but some advertisers I speak with believe that once they turn on automated bidding from Google, the things they used to worry about in the past will all of a sudden take care of themselves.

Impression Share is a good example.

Advertisers on manual bidding monitor this metric as an indicator of missed opportunity.

After they enable automated bidding, they stop monitoring it, and when their account later goes through a PPC audit, they are surprised to find there is a lot of lost IS.

There can be many reasons for lost IS, but the key point is that automated bidding only works to try and set the appropriate bids based on what it knows about the person doing the query (probability of conversion rate), and the value the advertiser may get from the conversion (predicted value of a click).

Bids may be increased when a competitor’s actions lead to changes in expected conversion rate and value per click, but the bid automation will also try to stay within the bounds determined by the advertiser’s targets for CPA or ROAS.

So if a competitor raises bids there is no guarantee the automation will be able to respond and more impression share may be lost.

Bid Automations Are Bad at Sharing Insights with Advertisers

If conversion rate drops after the launch of a new landing page, bid automation will dial back bids so it can continue to deliver conversions at the desired target, but it will not tell the advertiser that their new landing pages are terrible, and so more impression share may be lost.

But until an alert is triggered, for example using a tool like Optmyzr, or until the advertiser notices a drop in volume, they may have become so disconnected from what’s happening in their account that they find themselves shocked to see that they have lots of lost impression share even when they assumed that bid automation was handling things.

The bottom line is that advertisers should continue to care about details.

They should monitor metrics like conversion rate, IS, etc because these are INPUTS and OUTPUTS of automated bidding but they are not the things that are automated.

2. Bad Targets Are Just as Bad as Bad Bids

The previous point covered how externalities like changes to a landing page, changes in consumer behavior, or changes by competitors can cause problems with automated bidding.

But the reason can also be related to the bids themselves.

Issues arise when targets are set badly. Think about the first campaign you ever managed and how you set the CPC bids for that.

It probably wasn’t scientific or based on expected conversion rates because you were so new to PPC that you’d simply be guessing (or relying on third-party data).

So most of us, when we set our first bid, we probably used the Goldilocks principle and we picked a number that felt good… not too high, but also not too low.

This was OK because the day after, we’d log back into Google Ads to check results. If we saw that we were getting a ton of clicks but very few conversions, we lowered our bid.

Of course, bid automation handles increases and decreases to CPCs, but we are still asked a number at the beginning: what is your target from which the system will then calculate the CPC?

Despite Google’s best efforts to suggest a target based on recent history that is likely to provide continuity in the campaign, many advertisers see automated bidding as a magical system that will help them achieve the results they never could achieve manually before.

They set a target that is too low and then walk away since it’s now automated.

That is a mistake.

Remember that bid automation is fundamentally just about:

  • Predicting conversion rates and value per click.
  • Using those predictions from a machine learning (ML) system to set the CPC bid that the engine uses to rank ads in the auction.

Knowing this, it should be clear that if you set a bad target, it may lead to bids that are suboptimal:

  • If the target is too conservative, you may lose volume.
  • if the target is too aggressive, you may reduce profitability.

As with manual bidding, it actually makes sense to monitor the performance and change the target based on what you see.

For accounts managed in Optmyzr (my company), we use an automation layering methodology to identify when automated bidding is losing impression share for parts of the account that drive conversions.

By simply letting advertisers know that there is upside potential if they are willing to get more aggressive with their targets, they can take the right action, or even simply automate this process. – Read more

Google Ads Introduces Seasonality Adjustments for Smart Bidding

My Post - 2019-08-30T160001.756.pngGoogle Ads is rolling out seasonality adjustments for smart bidding for search and display campaigns.

Smart bidding strategies set bids automatically to help advertisers improve the performance of their Google Ads campaigns.

Smart bidding is already designed to take seasonality into account, but sometimes there are occasions outside of regular seasonality patterns when an advertiser may want to spend more on ads.

For example, the launch of a new product is an occasion where conversion rates could spike. This would be an ideal time to manually apply a seasonality adjustment in order to maximize the performance of the ad campaign.

“Let’s say you’re planning a flash sale for the weekend. Historically, you’ve seen a 50% increase in conversion rates when you’ve run a similar sale. With seasonality adjustments, you can apply a predicted conversion rate adjustment and Smart Bidding will consider that adjustment for the date range selected, while trying to hit your target CPA.”

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Google Ads Introduces Seasonality Adjustments for Smart Bidding

Advertisers can create seasonality adjustments by following the steps below:

  • Sign into your Google Ads account.
  • In the top-right corner, click the Tools icon.
  • From the drop-down menu, select Bid Strategies under “Shared Library”.
  • Under “Bid Strategies”, click Advanced Controls.
  • Select the Seasonality Adjustments option at the top.
  • To create a new seasonality adjustment, click the blue plus symbol.
  • Give your adjustment a name and description, fill in the event’s start and end dates, and choose your scope and devices.
  • Adjust your conversion rate to reflect your estimated conversion rate change.
  • Click Save.

Google recommends using seasonality adjustments only if major changes to conversion rates are expected, because Smart Bidding already manages seasonal events such as holidays. – Read more

7 Expert Tips to Boost Your PPC Performance Today

My Post - 2019-08-23T114609.432.pngOver the last decade, the number of account and campaign parameters to consider has shot up almost 20 times.

How are PPC specialists expected to know which actions to choose for the best results?

And what exactly do you need to do to continually increase performance while staying ultra-competitive in the marketplace?

On August 14, I moderated a sponsored SEJ webinar presented by Adzooma’s Puneet Vaghela and Sal Mohammed.

They shared seven essential PPC optimization strategies that are proven to boost ROI, save time, and reduce spend.

Here’s a recap of the webinar presentation.

So much has changed in the paid search landscape in the past few years. Today, it has become a complex ecosystem with:

  • Numerous channels (Google, Bing, YouTube, etc.).
  • Multiple devices, locations, seasonality.
  • Increased competition across brand, generic and shopping activity.
  • Complex bidding rules and bid modifiers to automate bid management.
  • Laser-focused audience remarketing strategies.
  • Ludicrous amounts of data available for strategy and planning.

With all of this to consider, it’s essential to determine what actions to take through all the clutter of managing a PPC account.

Here are seven areas to consider when optimizing your paid search campaigns if you want to bring the greatest returns.

1. Account & Campaign Settings

No one has an infinite marketing budget, therefore it’s important to find efficiencies wherever possible in your account.

There are three different settings in your account and campaign that you can easily change to boost PPC performance. – Read more

Search marketing is moving back toward more human interaction

My Post - 2019-08-13T170718.729.pngPPC expert Mark Irvine shared his insights during SMX London on what lies beyond the data to manage walled gardens with new opportunities in mind.

At SMX London in May, I attended two presentations with PPC expert Mark Irvine. He was recently crowned the number one PPC Expert by PPCHero in their annual list.

Irvine works as a data scientist for Wordstream, a Google Ads and Microsoft Ads management and optimization platform. Examining data and explaining what it means is his expertise and I interviewed him for my 2019 Search Trends report.

Social trends predict search trends

Some of the data from his analyses goes beyond search to the trends his data is showing across multiple platforms.

This slide from Irvine’s presentation at SMX examines how an hour of trending on Twitter affects searches. In this case it doubled on Google and within six hours, the searches increased fivefold. There is a good case for real-time marketing and this view of the data is something we rarely see in digital marketing because of the channel specialization and the difficulty with access to cross-channel data. – Read more

Don’t Get Entangled in These PPC Snags!

My Post - 2019-08-13T161502.082.pngYour campaigns might be running along perfectly fine right now.

But someday soon, you might suddenly find yourself entangled in something you didn’t anticipate.

You’ll have to struggle to free yourself before you lose sight of your goals – or your results sink.

Snags can happen anytime in your PPC programs.

You’re most susceptible to these snags when you’re new to paid search advertising.

When you know where the snags are hiding, you can take proactive steps to avoid them.

This article will help clear the PPC waters for you.

1. When a Daily Campaign Budget Really Isn’t a Daily Campaign Budget

Google Ads allow you to set a maximum daily campaign budget amount.

A reasonable person would take that to mean once you’ve spent your max budget for the day, no more would be spent.

But a reasonable person would be wrong.

In October 2017, Google Ads changed its rules so that your campaigns can spend up to twice your average daily budget.

The “max daily budget” is now something that is calculated and applied over the course of a month, not day by day.

In other words, Google calculates your monthly charging limit, which is the average number of days in a month multiplied by your average daily budget. And then they promise to not go over that over the course of a month.

Let’s illustrate with a few screenshots.

We’ve set a $50 budget in the example below: – Read more

13 Landing Page Best Practices to Help You Make a Mark on the Internet

My Post - 2019-08-13T155348.702.pngThe internet is a constant force. A never-ending, all-consuming, stimulating space of new and old information that is updating every millisecond.

And as creators, our job is to make our mark on it.

That can feel a little (okay, REALLY) overwhelming.

But the daunting nature of the internet is the very thing that also makes it our greatest asset. It’s a never-ending, all-consuming, stimulating space where we can share our brand, every millisecond.

A recent study found that U.S. adults spend nearly half a day interacting with media- 11 hours and 6 minutes to be exact. And while the reality of that is a little astonishing, I see it as a major opportunity, and you should too!

Want to know why? Because we are creators.

And as creators who are determined to leverage the full force of the internet in our favor, we have to create content as though our lives depend on it. Because, well, they do.

If you’re wondering how to start leveraging the full force of the internet in your favor, you need to know two words: Landing Pages.

What are landing pages?

Landing pages are hosted web pages where new visitors and existing members of your audience can learn what your brand offers. With landing pages, visitors have the chance to subscribe to your content and/or product in exchange for an email address.

Why are landing pages important for your business?

Easily accessible and hyper-focused with your branded pitch, landing pages serve as a superior lead generating machine for your business.

Think about your own recent Google search- you enter your keywords into the search bar and in seconds, you’re shown thousands of pages that Google deems relevant to your search.

Overwhelm inevitably sinks in as you begin sifting through the pages wondering, “Is this the best answer to my question?” As a consumer, you’re looking for a relevant and quick solution.

Observing your own consumer habits is a great way to anticipate prospective needs. Since you know the journey of a consumer, you know exactly what they need, and you know what they don’t need. – Read more

10 Tips to Win at Local PPC

My Post - 2019-08-02T171336.949Local PPC is near and dear to my heart: helping members of the community profit by contributing to their communities is both satisfying and scalable.

From SMBs driving leads to their owner-operated shop to a national brand channeling the trends of an individual location, and everything in between, there are decidedly right and wrong ways to leverage a PPC budget.

Here are my top 10 ways to win at local PPC.

1. Claim Your Local Listings!

Google My Business (GMB) has evolved a lot over the years.

Leaving your brand’s local listing open for a malcontent to wreak havoc on your brand is not only is bad branding, but it also deprives you of a powerful SEO/PPC marketing channel.

GMB allows you to:

  • Monitor and respond to reviews about your business.
  • Share promotions.
  • Unlock placements on the search engine result page (SERP).

The data from GMB helps inform ad placements, as well as provide reviews.

Google my business (GMB)

Unfortunately, GMBs do require a physical address (no P.O. boxes) – some businesses opt to use their home address or main office, while others forgo GMB.

Claiming your location requires requesting a post-card with a unique code (usually arrives in 10-15 days).

It’s worth noting that Microsoft Advertising does not require a claimed listing to include location extensions.

2. Set Campaigns Up by Location vs. Service

There are pros and cons to each, but the structural choice ultimately boils down to the following:

  • Are all of your service areas the same?
  • Are there distinct market indicators that require more budget allocation control?

If different locations you serve represent drastically different market opportunity (due to affluence, demand, and other factors), you’ll want to make the campaigns oriented around your local market, and the ad groups as your services.

location specific campaigns

If the services you offer represent drastically different margins, volume, and other factors that influence your ability to service your customers, you’ll want to make campaigns service focused.

The ad groups will be the different ways those services can be sought after/allow you to layer on audiences for ad copy. In this scenario, all locations would be lumped into one campaign.

service specific campaigns

A major deciding factor is whether you have your GMB claimed for each location (and if it’s possible to have one per location).

As mentioned earlier, GMB opens up additional ad placements, extensions, and ways to engage with your audience.

You can’t tell Google which location to serve, so ideally you’ll only have one GMB listing per campaign. – Read more

Small-budget guide to testing ad copy, landing pages, and more

My Post - 2019-07-30T170947.246When you have a smaller digital marketing budget, you might think that testing should take a backseat to efficiency and driving conversions – but that would be short-sighted.

In order to stay competitive, continue to take up more market share, and keep up with the changing digital space it’s important to always be testing.

That said, you can test almost anything, but don’t get bogged down with your options. With a small budget, it’s important to focus on one or two tests at a time to make sure that you can reach statistical significance relatively quickly.

In this post, we’ll focus on some of the most important tests you can run:

1. Ad copy testing

2. Landing page testing

3. Testing new engines and ad formats

Ad copy testing 

Ad copy testing can do more than lead to more efficient ads. It can be a very effective tool for testing messaging that you can apply to other marketing efforts like your website, emails, and other digital marketing collaterals. Testing different messages can also help to understand your customer base and the ways they engage with your ads. Is there something that is getting a strong CTR but not converting down-funnel? Maybe you aren’t qualifying the user. My recommendation is to run at least two versions of your ads at all times, with particular attention paid to calls-to-action, pre-qualifiers, and value propositions.

In the image below, a bunch of hotel aggregators shows different value propositions – discounts, price comparisons, and selection:

ad copy testing examples

If you’re a hotel aggregator trying to draw eyes and clicks, consider those main value props and how to stand out from the crowd. If you have a unique selling proposition, for example, exclusive access to boutique hotels, use it and see how users react. – Read more

Three reasons PPC campaigns fail that nobody seems to care about

My Post - 2019-07-18T160931.230.pngGoogle “how to make your PPC ads convert better” and your search results will be littered with blog posts like this:

Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. It’s “quick and easy”. Use these “rapid growth hacks”. Here are some “tricks”. Here’s how to copy the best-converting PPC campaigns.

And, honestly, I get it. I’m not criticizing fellow writers for doing their jobs. These posts are great for SEO. Google wants you to put out quality content that answers people’s questions as quickly as possible. Writers are going to do that.

Perhaps these guides will help you, perhaps they won’t. But I’ll tell you this for free: they are selling you a dangerous lie.

Here’s the truth: optimizing your PPC campaigns is not easy. Sometimes it’s not even that quick!

But it’s incredibly powerful if you do it right.

“Be first, be smarter or cheat”

In the brilliant 2011 film Margin Call, bigshot investment banker John Tuld says: “There are three ways to make a living in this business; be first, be smarter or cheat.”

Copying your competitors is cheating. Following “ten tips” guides – even if you see some success – is cheating too. It could work – but it probably won’t work that well. And what if it doesn’t? What do you do next?

It’s why understanding and deploying what comes next is essential. There are no lies here: my way is harder, and it might take longer. But it’s smarter. It gives you the mindset you need for success.

Reason one: don’t follow the herd, be a wolf

I’ve been helping businesses run PPC campaigns for a long time. Generally, businesses are run by busy people who don’t have enough hours in the day. This time pressure forces them to rush. They scramble around looking for best practices to apply.

But here’s the problem: general best practices aren’t specific enough to your business.

See, what works for Shoe Salesman might not work for High High Heels. And “10 quick PPC ad hacks for any business” are unlikely to work well for either business.

It’s why free tools like the Adzooma Performance Score Report are much more valuable than generic lists. They look at data that’s specific to your business and provide actionable feedback – Read more

4 Tips to Write Your Best Google Ads Ever

My Post - 2019-07-16T174210.459.pngFor those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer’s in full swing.

If you’re anything like me, the warm temperature and glorious sunlight has erased the appeal of anything that doesn’t involve drinking outdoors and listening to OutKast’s catalog on repeat.

As tempting as it is to grab an overpriced sixer and throw on Stankonia, you’ve still got leads to generate and sales to make. Even if you’ve created watertight keyword lists and razor-sharp lookalike audiences, something still stands between your prospects and your business: ad copy.

At the end of the day, you need people to click on your ads—awareness campaigns on YouTube and the GDN notwithstanding. To be more precise, you need the right people to click on your ads. In order to make that happen, you need to elevate your copywriting game.

Writing ad copy for Facebook isn’t quite the same as writing ad copy for Google—different platforms favor different techniques.

1. Align your messaging with the customer journey

Google strives to serve users the most relevant search results possible. When judging the relevance of the various ads competing in a given auction, Google relies on keywords. In a nutshell, keywords help Google determine which ads are relevant to a particular query. That’s why it’s considered best practice to target specific keywords with your ad copy.

Now—I’m not about to argue that you shouldn’t include target keywords in your ad copy. However, I am of the opinion that keywords shouldn’t be your main focus when writing ads. Instead, you should be focused on meeting the unique needs of whoever’s searching for something related to your business—and that means aligning your messaging with the various stages of the customer journey.

Here’s what I mean by that. Across the pool of search queries triggering your ads, the users making those searches are at different stages in the customer journey—the path people take from the realization of a problem to the purchase of a solution. Whereas someone at the very beginning of their customer journey—known as the awareness stage—is mostly interested in learning more about the options they can choose from, someone nearing the end of their customer journey—known as the conversion stage—is far more likely to make a purchase. – Read more