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PPC Town Hall 31: Expectations for PPC in 2021

It’s 2021, and whether you’re a marketer or an agency, you would be preparing for yet another thrilling year of PPC. Right from the start, you need to be aware of the newest trends and features in paid marketing to leverage your PPC game. And that means you need to know of any curveballs that might come your way. In 2020, we saw experts deep-diving into topics like automation, privacy issues, and keywords, which we might be discussing more of the same this year as well.

To get a better perspective of what to expect in the coming months, we invited over some of the smartest minds of PPC and asked for their insights. Our panelists this week are some of your favorite experts from conferences like SMX, shedding light on what they expect from PPC in 2021.

As always, you can view this week’s episode as well as previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.

Here are 5 insights on what to expect from PPC in 2021.

1. RSAs vs ETAs

Brad: According to our data, we’ve seen more people trying out RSAs than Optmyzr users. We also see that a lot of people who still have them, have shrunk their usage. I’ve done a little bit of segmentation (since we did our session at SMX) on spending and account size versus declining RSA usage. And it’s definitely the smaller accounts that have declined their usage much less than the larger ones. We have seen that those who spend half a million to a million, plus have decreased usage more than those who spent 10-20 thousand dollars a month.

For a lot of these people, it’s more about results than getting that control. They don’t care if you’re a lead gen company. You may spend 10 million a month but in the end, you care about results.

Ginny: My question on it comes back to what are ‘results’? If we’re strictly looking at conversion rate or cost per conversion, then I can see where ETAs are often going to win. I’m wondering if advertisers might be looking at RSAs to open themselves up for more impression inventory. So is that a factor where people are considering more exposure than focusing on conversion rate?

Matt: In a lot of cases, you actually don’t have enough data for RSA to really even get their wheels spinning. It’s a multivariate type of testing and so often times we see that decisions are being made too quickly on winners and losers.

2. Identifying your business signals

Ginny: Having your own business signals mixed in with data you provide to the machine is becoming really critical now. This is where the real leverage can come, particularly the competitive leverage over your competitive sets. In order for people and businesses to identify their own business signals, they need to do some real analysis and investment, which takes a lot of digging. And then being able to present this in a way that can actually be used.

So the real question is, do advertisers keep pushing businesses to give more inputs even when some might want to keep that data to themselves rather than sharing it with Google? If yes, can we anonymize it and ensure that those inputs work within the algorithms.

3. Giving Google the right data and goals

Matt: Instead of fighting Google, let’s focus on giving them the right goals. One of our focuses will be feeding the data to the machine. And I think we’re actually going back to really seminal work in the whole web UX and web design area. If you look at Google Analytics, it’s moving away from discrete real things to events and connections that sort of represent proxies like scroll time or time on page. What I’d like to see is combinatorial data that would allow us to combine scroll depth and time on page, multimodally. How do we build up signals from the site we’ve got and trigger events that we can feed back to our bidding?

Our goal this year is to take a look at how we can understand what behaviors on the site represent good proxies to the next sort of actions. We also want to give those signals a little bit more attention, feed them, and try to develop audiences out of them.

4. Importance of setting up clean conversion

Brad: This is more important now than in the past because with all the privacy things happening, you doing your own data or attribution modeling is going to be essential. Even from a basic standpoint of modeling, you need to get it right because the privacy changes are going to mess up the data inside some of your platforms. Just to do some basic analysis, you actually need to have it yourself now and can’t rely on the platforms to give it to you because they’re not gonna have all the data they had previously.

5. 2021 Predictions

Brad: I will argue that as soon as Google removes keywords, their revenues decline significantly. Out of every advertising method out there, the intent of a search for someone saying ‘I want this’ is the strongest signal in advertising. It’s better than any programmatic, any audience or any other advertising methods. If people don’t get to use keywords for targeting, they might think of going programmatic.

Matt: I think that while Google may never take away keywords, they’ll definitely stop paying attention to what we’re actually telling them with our match-types. And I think that if you look at the loss of search query data may be Google feeding its AI and learning on all of our dimes! And they’re saying we don’t care what we [advertisers] know, they’re going to let their machines run wild, and decide for themselves what’s working or not!

Ginny: We still have some agency in all of this. I think we need to start using the machines in ways that they were meant to help us. And while they aren’t going to get it right all the time, we should be present to guide it. This is where your own data is going to be helpful. If you come in with a campaign that has been a disaster, all that data is not useful. For example, if you’ve set your campaign on broad match and end up reaching attorneys in Palm Beach when you actually run a hair salon, that data is useless. All of this can be avoided if you educate yourself and be an invested marketer. So much about this year is still going to be based on fundamentals.

Conclusion

Let’s face it - doing PPC in any year is tricky.

What with Google introducing changes, paid marketers need to leverage on every new trend that comes their way. Working along with the machine, feeding it good usable data, and relying on automation to boost your business goals might go a long way for PPC pros in 2021. To set yourselves apart from your competitors, consistently optimize your campaigns, utilize new tools, and look to expert strategies by industry leaders to pave your way to success.

PPC Town Hall 29: Revamping Outdated PPC Strategies

One thing that we’ve learned about search in the past year is that we all need solid PPC strategies that account for all sorts of change. With all the automation that’s coming from Google, whether it’s smart shopping, smart bidding, or seasonality bid adjustments, it’s important to automate, optimize, and intervene our way to success. And what better way to understand the way forward than to ask some of the smartest minds of PPC.

Our panelists this week are among PPC Hero’s most influential paid search experts of 2020. and they shared their tips and experiences on working around outdated PPC strategies.

As always, you can view this week’s episode as well as previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.

Here are 7 insights on revamping outdated PPC strategies.

1. Thoughts on Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Aaron: On our side, we saw that Black Friday was bigger than usual while Cyber Monday was slower than usual. It logically makes sense as on Balck Friday, everybody has a need to go bargain hunting, and that pent-up demand has shifted to online this year. Everyone thought Cyber Monday was kind of quiet because it’s the same as it has always been.

Kirk: We saw the same thing as Aaron [in a higher volume Black Friday than Cyber Monday this year, but we’ve heard others saying things a bit differently. It makes a lot of sense that the past weekend was a bit quiet as a lot of people were running sales earlier than normal. They had a Black Friday week-long or even month-long sale in November. Because of the earlier sale season, we saw consumers buying earlier than usual. So in some way what we saw in our numbers was that Black Friday was the main event, and Cyber Monday less so.

One of the reasons for this earlier shopping season is concern over shipping and delays. Because of this earlier-extended shopping season, we saw more out-of-stock products, more sales that went quicker this year.

Joe: While Black Friday was definitely much bigger than Cyber Monday and much earlier. For us in general, Black Friday was lower than expected but the entire month of November was higher than expected. Some stuff was reactionary to competitors starting early which was in the first-second week of November.

2. An unusual year for PPC

Aaron: At Tinuiti, we tend to work with larger data sets to focus on larger enterprise clients. So Smart Bidding in general tended to work pretty well for us. But one of the things that I always pick on Smart Bidding for is that it has too short of a memory. This Holiday season was one of those scenarios where that’s really valuable because it didn’t try to base itself off of what happened last year. We used seasonality adjustments pretty religiously for most of our clients. For example, if noon was a really popular time, we’d start tweaking our seasonality adjustments leading up to it and down after.

3. Using different shopping strategies

Kirk: We try to use a combination of both Standard and Smart. We constantly test them, see what’s working and what’s not. I’m always trying to figure out a better strategy to work for both Standard and Smart. With Standard, you get more of that control where you can give the system-specific search terms, which we’re focused on (even if they’re not always converting) as valuable information for brands.

Sometimes, we’d duplicate products or try something with the feed to get stuff in the upper funnel queries that might not be specific to one product. Smart shopping is not just on search but display, Youtube, and all that, so rather than be frustrated that we can’t control the search terms, we’re trying to figure out a way to group products around the ad content itself to emphasize specific call-outs in those Smart Shopping Ads for that specific group of products.

Joe: As I said earlier, our Black Friday started earlier than normal and our seasonality bidding was kind of thrown out of the window of what we expected to do. Since I work with smaller clients with very niche products (sometimes higher-ticket type item products). We understand that those really aren’t necessarily impulse-buys. So, we’re looking at the time of day, understanding that it’s gonna take multiple touchpoints for a user to buy this product. If we hit them enough with discovery, Google, and social initially, then we’re seeing that they later go back (late night hours) to purchase. We’re seeing a better performance as we’re adjusting the different schedules and updating how we want to boost our bidding and performance.

4. Converting digital newbies & feeding data to the system

Aaron: Something we’ve seen in the last six or so months, I’ve somewhat abandoned call to action. But giving turn-by-turn directions to these people who aren’t digitally native seems to work. You can tell them where to click, enter their details, make the purchase and know when it’s gonna get delivered or opt to come and pick-up yourself.

When you have data like shipping or pick-up preferences, you’ve to use it sensibly. It varies a lot depending on clients because it partially depends on cost and revenue centres as well. So maybe the digital team isn’t incentivized to drive people to the store and so we want to discourage it. But for those clients who are a bit more holistic, we’d look into the feeds and coach the bid tools to do what we want. For example, we see that for a certain demographic, this particular set of terms or ads tends to convert better as in-store pick-ups rather than a standard e-com shipping. Then we’d take that group, pivot it, and tell Smart Bidding that we want more store visits to set that group. The rest can be taken towards the more conventional way.

5. Get your messaging right in Responsive Search Ads

Joe: We utilize the pin option just to make sure that certain elements of the messaging show. It’s something that we definitely consider when we’re mapping it out. We will show it in front of clients too. We ask them if it really helps to add all these variations if four of them pretty much say the same thing. Google’s definitely gonna flag it, prompting you to add more keywords into your headlines.

Honestly, we’ve played around with what actually makes sense and that’s where we kind of focus on value prop. Maybe I’ll pin the first keyword which made more sense to the product type and then look at testing the other ones. Slowly, I’ve come to like RSAs. While they didn’t really work for me that well in the beginning, the more I see them working they are getting better. We’ve seen RSAs work pretty well with grants accounts by boosting impressions quickly.

6. Looking towards automation

Kirk: We’re looking more and more into automation to solve our problems. The whole idea of Google leaning hard into automation can be quite frustrating for PPC marketers like us who have been running things for a while. I may have practiced and learned something for over a decade, and then due to a specific change, I can find myself at the same level as an intern in my knowledge of the thing that changed. But the flip side of this frustration is – there’s an evolution that needs to happen in PPCers, too. We need to adapt to the system. And with automation at ZATO, we’re trying to think of reinventing the way we think about campaign structure and other things.

Specifically in thinking about broad match keywords, we’ve started testing things giving Google control over Target ROAS bidding, few very tightly controlled broad match keywords where everything else is excluded. We’re treating this less in terms of ‘what we want to get from this campaign in specific tracked ROAS’ and more of giving Google guidelines and then freedom for reaching the upper-funnel.

7. How do we structure our campaigns?

Aaron: When we think of structuring our campaigns in the present scenario, we’ve to look at conversion runways. If you think about Smart Bidding on its most practical level, it largely looks at the expected conversion rate. The way forward should start with the question – what do we expect from this group of people to do.

Talking about Skags and keywords, if the intent is fundamentally different then we’ll split it out. If not we’ll compress. We all know how Google is pushing towards consolidation and we’re establishing runways for the automation to make the right decisions. So we essentially split the groups out based on audience, demographic, keyword, or interaction. You don’t want to shrink data to the point where you’re making bad assumptions.

Conclusion

While automation has helped PPCers focus more on the strategic part of marketing, it has left us with little to control. With Google constantly introducing changes in 2020, it might be time to recondition the earlier approaches to get an edge over the competition. This is where all the expert advice and recommendations come into play by supporting marketers to operate in the periphery of the system and still manage it for better results.

Now more than ever, PPC marketers and strategists need to come together to figure out how to advance in the paid search industry. It might not be a bad idea to make use of efficient software systems, like Optmyzr, to track, manage, and optimize your campaigns. Try and experience our capabilities yourself by signing up for our 14-day free trial. You get full access to all our features – credit card free!

7 Things to Prepare for this Holiday Season

The holiday season is the busiest time for e-commerce and with just days until Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, everyone in the search marketing community is knee-deep in last-minute preparations for the sale of the year. Considering what 2020 has been like so far, what else should we expect to be different? We can’t predict the unexpected, but we can point out some new trends that you should be prepared for.

More even than in previous years, we have seen a bigger rise in the number of online shoppers. Owing to health restrictions and lockdowns, people have turned online to look for products and services. We need to look at audience behavior, pay close attention to logistics, and keep a close eye on our messaging. And because we are living in such an ‘unprecedented’ year, we are bound to see some ‘unexpected’ things in the upcoming weeks. 

Here’s my take on 7 such things that we need to be prepared for this Holiday season.

1. Holiday shopping will start sooner

Holiday shopping started early this year and that’s backed up by Microsoft research showing that over 40% of shoppers intend to start earlier this year. Due to the pandemic, a lot of retailers have been very aggressive with deals throughout this year and that may have reset some expectations with consumers. We may now see deals lasting longer and pop up more frequently than before. 

While Black Friday is usually the unofficial start to the Holiday shopping season, this year shoppers won’t be waiting that long. Counting the fact that there are around 50 days between Amazon’s Prime Day (Oct 13) and Cyber Week, shoppers will have begun planning and purchasing for the Holiday season from early October. Moreover, considering the current health regulations, social distancing, and movement restrictions, shoppers might be looking towards a safer way to continue their shopping. This will prompt them to be less spontaneous and instead better plan their in-store visits, and even space them out over a few months to lessen the stress related to the circumstances of this unusual year.

2. Most shopping will be done online

E-commerce is going to be huge in the upcoming months. Even in Q1 & Q2, we saw an unprecedented push towards digital shopping and e-commerce. So the same wave is expected to follow through till the end of the year. According to a report published by Statista Research Department (Aug 10, 2020), titled United States: retail e-commerce sales 2017-2024, US online retail sales are projected to reach 476.5 billion US dollars by 2024. 

E-commerce has accelerated ahead of where everyone expected it to be. For example, the Snacks Daily podcast reported that the Disney+ streaming service has reached its 5-year goal for subscriptions just 7 months after launch, more than 4 years ahead of schedule!

Another thing we are expecting to see is a constant rise in the number of online shoppers post-pandemic, relying on e-commerce stores for their purchases. Data from IBM’s US Retail Index supports this and shows that the pandemic has quickened the transfer from physical to digital stores by 5 years! 

BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store) is going to be a huge hit. People who never dreamed of buying online may now use this hybrid approach. But for retailers, this brings a shift in the competitive landscape. Earlier, brick-and-mortar stores were just competing against pure-play e-commerce shops where consumers liked their convenience and low prices. Now they also have to compete against hybrid players with a strong BOPIS model, like Target and Walmart instead of just Amazon. 

While it’s true that physical stores were already competing with brands like Target and Walmart, that was based more on local convenience and low prices. But with consumers relying on the added convenience of shopping in apps and opting for BOPIS, things may get even tougher for old-school brick-and-mortar stores with no digital capabilities.

4. Holiday 2020 will be celebrated differently

Microsoft’s research data indicates that people will be celebrating differently than before.

More people will celebrate at home (40% will change usual holiday plans according to Microsoft’s data), with smaller groups. Which means less travel but more first-time chefs cooking their first-holiday meal. This in turn is a big boon for food delivery services like DoorDash which, driven by the pandemic, turned a profit for the first time and will have its IPO soon. 

Moreover, with people deciding to stay home, they might be more inclined to invest in self-pampering products like fitness equipment, beauty products, or even streaming subscriptions. So those industries will continue to see an increase in sales as the holidays roll around.

5. Figuring out shipping & delivery

Free shipping, which has long been a staple of e-commerce deals, is likely to take on a new meaning. With higher e-commerce sales, shipping logistics are more strained than ever and that’s on top of pandemic-driven supply-chain issues that have created empty shelves and shortages of a variety of products over the past months. According to a Salesforce report — traditional delivery providers (like FedEx, UPS, DHL) might face issues with capacity (by 5%) between the week before Cyber Week and Boxing Day. Consumers may be surprised when they have to order much earlier than before to get their gifts on time for their celebrations. 

And in turn, retailers and service providers will have to keep a lookout for unanticipated delivery delays of inbound and outbound goods, shipping surcharges imposed by carriers, and potentially higher than usual returns from consumers who are panic buying. 

6. Sale events will be game-changers

Contrary to previous years, Black Friday 2020 might not be able to get much in-store action, courtesy of the pandemic. And while Black Friday has been associated with big-item sales which require a lot of planning and intent, Cyber Monday has always been about online-shopping. 

In-person Black Friday shopping used to appeal to consumers for 3 primary reasons:

But things are different this year and despite the usual appeal of Black Friday, according to Microsoft, Cyber Monday is the sales event to be on the lookout for this year. If your Black Friday follows the trend and is lower than expected, it’s not too late to shift that budget to Cyber Monday over the weekend.

And for international marketers, the following data might be much insightful. In the US, these sale events might bring in consumers, UK & AU report lower numbers of shoppers attending them.

7. Rise of the gift cards

Microsoft says gift cards are growing faster than other categories this year. They are an ingenious solution to a big Holiday problem for consumers – choosing a gift and delivering it on time, even for procrastinators who waited too long! They can even help small businesses market their products and gain stability in the Holiday season by bringing in steady revenue with minimal investment. Consumers have been buying gift cards to support their local businesses in the pandemic.

As gift cards are traditionally excluded from sales events like Black Friday, that may explain why some people don’t intend to participate in the event this year (as explained in the point above).

The other items that are on shoppers’ lists are apparel, toys, electronics, and self-care products.

Conclusion

2020 has been a year with many ups and downs. Unlike earlier years, this year consumers won’t be crowding aisles for Black Friday sales, but rely on purchasing from the comforts of their homes. Since we only have a week to Black Friday, most marketers would have already put their plans and strategies in place. 

While you might not be up for making major changes directly to your ads right now, you can still create last-minute monitors and alerts so that you get some help staying on top of things during your busiest time of the year. If you don’t have these set up, do so now! Also, check out the tips we shared from speaking to 14 PPC experts about their advice on navigating Holiday 2020 and winning e-commerce sales

Go Beyond Bid Management: 4 Common Problems & How to Solve Them

When we think about bid management of our keywords and product groups, there are key areas that every marketer concentrates on. For example, targeting the right ROAS/CPA, ensuring that impression share is not lost, not losing the top spots to your competitors, giving lower bids to expensive or non-converting keywords, and so on.

While it’s right to focus on optimizations for setting the bids correctly, marketers should not forget other areas that need their attention as well. 

Here are some areas where marketers shouldn’t be limiting themselves to bid management to tackle common problems: 

It’s important to know the right thing to do for each of the above use-cases. Let’s wrap these pain points with the right solutions. 

1. Spread out your budget throughout the day.

Keep your bids as it is and implement hourly bid adjustments. Analyze historical data and find the times in the day which spend more and which perform better as well. So, you need to apply bid adjustments for different times of the day based on your goal. 

One way to get started would be to look at the times of the day when your conversion rate is high and check the impression share during those specific times. If you have a low impression share, it means that you aren’t able to drive as much traffic as you could for high-performing hours.

To fix this, increase the bid adjustments to grab more traffic. At the same time, for the time slots which don’t convert – apply negative bid adjustments or disable those time slots to not serve ads at all. This is like load-shedding – wipe out budgets during some time slots of the day and keeping it for the times of the day when you expect better performance.  

2. Don’t overspend your daily budget.

Use a budget tracker – to have a way to not exceed a given budget amount each day even if Google allows spending 200% of your daily budget. You can use solutions like Flexible Budget script at Optmyzr. The script runs automatically every hour to check the cost you’ve spent until the hour of the day and pause the account/campaign when the target budget is spent. Learn more.

3. Analyze the lost impression share. 

Before dropping the ball, it is very important to identify if it was the budget or ad rank (bid) that limited the performance of your account/campaign. Sometime back, a Digital Marketer shared with me that they’ve been increasing bids for high performing keywords to improve their impression share to 85% from current ~60% Impression share – but with no success. 

On analyzing their account’s performance with PPC Investigator, we found that increasing the bids didn’t help because they were losing impressions due to budget constraints and not the bid. Learning from this? While you increase the bids – don’t forget to check if you’re losing impression share because of insufficient budget allotment. 

4. Go granular – manage bids for each keyword.

Don’t limit yourself to set bids only at the ad group or campaign level. While you find high-performing keywords that perform better, it’s equally important to find keywords that are bleeding money. 

If you can identify the underperforming keywords and reduce bids on them, it will allow you to provide more budget towards better-performing keywords which will last for a longer period of the day and get you better results at the same time. 

Conclusion

What advertisers forget is that each time that a new bid is set, Google takes time to test it and bring you results based on the changes. So, if you change the bids too frequently, you might very well be hampering the learning cycle and eventually the results. 

The solution? You need to give your bids room to breathe and check out the other factors which you need to be concerned about apart from just setting your bids again and again.

14 PPC Experts Tell Us How to Win 2020 Holiday Shopping & e-Commerce

The holiday season is no longer upon us — it’s here. With Amazon kicking off Prime Day last week, the US market has entered the busiest time of Q4. And if you’re a search marketer, you’re probably still looking for ways to adapt to the new game that is e-commerce in 2020.

We spoke to 14 PPC experts to find out what advice they have for fellow search marketers to crush holiday sales and win big at e-commerce in Q4 2020. Here are their tips (in no particular order)!

1. Pick a campaign structure to help you win

Frederick Vallaeys, CEO, Optmyzr

Focus on profits rather than Google metrics like target ROAS. Remember that a higher ROAS does not automatically mean a higher profit so it’s important to find the sweet spot for your accounts.

Better yet, split up your shopping campaigns so that products are grouped by profit margin and then set a different tROAS for every campaign so that it achieves profitability. This works with standard and Smart Shopping campaigns, and it’s a great way to take back some control while still using Google’s amazing capabilities in automated bidding.

2. Optimize your data feed

Ed Goss, Managing Director, Ten Thousand Foot View 

We’ll all be running Smart Shopping campaigns sooner or later. Focus on data feed optimization as this evergreen strategy will become your primary differentiator. With Google ramping up product disapproval thresholds, a high-quality feed can also save you from constant troubleshooting.

At my agency, we’ve found many advertisers haven’t spent any time optimizing Merchant Center. Activating features like feed rules, promotions, product ratings, and even automatic improvements can substantially boost click share and ROAS performance.

3. Don’t break or lose trust

Navah Hopkins, Director of Paid Media, Hennessey Digital

If online retailers do just one thing to bolster their performance, it’s to ensure they’re not losing the sale because of lack of trust. 

Customers expect trust symbols:

The unspoken expectation is an online store will have more than one product unless the brand is clearly direct-to-consumer (DTC). If there aren’t a lot of products on offer (or if there isn’t a cohesive theme behind products being offered), it can deter prospects from going ahead with the purchase.

4. Optimize for profitability

Frederik Boysen, CEO, Profitmetrics.io

Q4 is the quarter of the year for most e-commerce. It’s Black Friday, the Christmas season, and sales. You have high expectations. Your product promotions are ready. Discount codes and campaigns are ready. Marketing budget is increased. But so is your competition as well.

Q4 is an e-commerce dogfight and the complexity of handling promotions, discount codes, free shipping, increased CPA, etc leaves you open to decreased profits even if turnover goes up. My advice is to track your profitability every day, on every order and every online ad, and get going with profit-bidding. No more guessing about profitability.

If you want to learn the difference between ROAS and POAS, click here

5. Be ambitious, open, and realistic

Matthew Soakell, Senior PPC Trainer, Mabo

My tips come in the form of three simple yet highly effective areas:

If you’re not using proactive Smart Bidding (rather than reactive manual bidding), you’re missing out on thousands of signals that Google can be responsive to in a split second.

Secondly, utilize promotions in the Merchant Center. If you or your client are running a Black Friday or Christmas sale, the world needs to know!

Finally, make sure that you’re not missing out on traffic (and therefore sales) because of something as simple as being limited by budget.

6. Keep an eye on creative

Phoebe Holford, PPC Team Manager, Mabo

Check your creatives and keep your messaging seasonal! In the new automated landscape of PPC it’s sometimes easy to forget the basics. In Q4 refresh your smart shopping ad images, remarketing, and even your product descriptions to make sure you are shouting about your USPs and standing out from the crowd with seasonal content. In the Northern Hemisphere, think roaring fires and festive scenes, no ice creams or sunbathers. No group shots either resonate by reflecting current COVID guidelines. 

Top Tip: If you are looking for volume and reach try adding generic phrases to product descriptions “a perfect stocking filler”.

7. Look for stability

Kirk Williams, Owner, Zato Marketing

We are about to enter a period of time in e-commerce that digital marketers have never before faced. I believe the most practical thing we can do as marketers is to seek “stability” in our efforts. In Google Ads, I believe this stability can take 2 routes: algorithm stability and bandwidth stability.

By seeking algorithm stability, we need to give the machines the best shot at helping us in this time of potential upset. This means, we should minimize the amount of unnecessary changes we are doing too close to BFCM. My recommendation is to have your feed data locked down by October 31 so you are making no changes (other than normal pricing or stock changes, of course) in November as you approach the core season.

By seeking bandwidth stability, you are addressing the human side of PPC in ensuring you and your team have the ability to account for the unknown. If you are continuing to do normal sets of optimizations through the BFCM period, then not only are you potentially throwing off machine learning, but you are putting the pressure of normal changes on your team in a time that is sure to have additional pressures added at the last minute.

8. Expect more of the unexpected

Julie Friedman Bacchini, Founder and President, Neptune Moon

Since 2020 has already been an off-the-charts year in craziness, it is best to go into Q4 expecting at least more of the same! Get your strategies and ads in order as early as possible – both to ensure delivery delays don’t derail everything and in case ads start taking a lot longer to get through approvals. Talk with clients about expectations too and make sure they understand that things could get disrupted from any direction this year so there should be contingency plans in place for as many aspects as possible.

9. Deseasonalize demand

Gianpaolo Lorusso, Founder, ADWorld Experience

In my opinion, the key for success in Q4 campaigns for shopping & e-commerce in this strange year is in the general marketing strategy we all should set up to ride the long wave of incremental online purchases created by 2020.

We all know very well how important it is to set new ads (and extensions) and to push budgets on the right promotions when people are more willing to buy online, but the real challenge here is to turn a cash-flash into a structural and steady sales growth.

The key to all this is to deseasonalize the demand. And you can do it only partially by acting on campaigns; you have to change the structure of your promotions. From Black Friday to a week or even a month, let people know that they have not to wait till November 27th to have their discounted El Dorado and that they will find good bargains long after it.

Learn more about PPC in Europe by reading this blog post.

10. Look beyond just ads

Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director of Marketplace Strategic Services, Tinuiti

The array of options for e-commerce right now are pretty dizzying and even more so at a time when traffic is high and add in a marathon of shopping dates into Q4. So to get to it — if you are in-store and haven’t checked out Instacart, you definitely should. 

Shoppers are going beyond groceries and the self-serve platform makes it easy. If you are in retailers like Walmart or Target, there are sponsored product options that may be a fit with low or no minimum budgets to give it a go. If you’re DTC, definitely check out some of the lesser crowded options like eBay or Etsy to promote items often at a lower cost than you would on more popular channels. And of course, Google Shopping, Shopping Actions, Buy with Google. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a no commission platform right now.

11. Go beyond on the customer experience

Duane Brown, Founder & Head of Strategy, Take Some Risk

If you are in e-commerce, DTC, or even in B2B and sell a physical product, making sure you can deliver that product and make the last mile work for your brand is something all marketers should care about. If we can not get our brands to deliver a product in people’s hands, we won’t have anything to sell. We won’t have a reason to run PPC ads.

The battleground for Q4 2020 will be in the streets and in the warehouses across this country and around the world. This may not be the job we signed up for but if there is a roadblock stopping customers from having the best experience possible after clicking on our ads, we need to help brands remove that roadblock.

2020 has been a whirlwind experience. It can be hard to think about let alone predict the future. However, I truly believe that making sure we can get our products into the hands of customers is going to be a challenge this year and all brands need to plan for it. We can not run ads, spend tons of money, and then not deliver on our brand promise to get that item someone bought.

12. Get the fundamentals right

Richard Kliskey, PPC Manager, The McGarry Agency

To ensure Q4 success, we review performance trends and predict where the best opportunities will be relative to auction competition. This includes factoring in prediction forecast ranges where shoppers start earlier than last year. We build out promotional calendars and prepare in good time. Simple, basic tasks that might seem obvious still need to be triple checked to avoid missing out. This includes ensuring customer match lists are up to date, and that product feeds are in good health.

13. Be ready for greater competition

Andrew Lolk, Founder, SavvyRevenue

The competition will be fierce this year. Many omnichannel e-commerce companies will be chasing revenue online. Q4 accounts for 20-50% of most e-commerce revenue and with Covid-19 not being over by a long shot many will have to shoot for the stars.

Here it’s important to distinguish between DTC and “retail e-commerce” companies. DTC will experience more competition, but overall do great. They have seen a much bigger appetite for e-commerce and are living high off this. Retail e-commerce is trying to play catch-up, which is close to impossible. 

I’m therefore predicting a mad dash for revenue in Q4 across the US and Europe. Be ready to change course, lower ROAS targets, and come up with better strategies during Q4. Only the best survive.

14. Be realistic, transparent, and patient

Aaron Levy, Group Director of SEM, Tinuiti

I feel like a bit of a broken record, but Q4 2020 is going to be different than any Q4 we’ve had before. The keys to winning this year are expectation setting, transparency, and patience.

The fast rise in e-commerce and reticence to visit stores in person means shipping delays and curbside pickup. Companies will win with an omnichannel strategy (leveraging in-store pickup options in Merchant Center) and transparent shipping timelines to ensure consumers will get their gifts on time.

The other challenge to be cognizant of is slowed approval timelines within Google or Microsoft. Both have had resource issues (along with the rest of the world), meaning your ads for a 1-day sale may not get approved as fast as they would before. Get your sales planned well ahead of time, and leverage extensions to ensure ads show rather than fully swapping ads for every promotion.

Conclusion

In the coming months, we’ll all need to put more thought into everything that’s important to meet business goals. Whether it’s logistics, automation or bidding strategy, keep your audience as your focus. Share the right messages to the right people. Regularly monitor and update your accounts. And above all, be prepared yet flexible.

More importantly, make note of what experts and your peers have to say about the upcoming season. Gain multiple perspectives and apply those which help you fulfill both yours as well as your clients’ goals.

4 Proven Tips to Control Automated Bidding

During my 5 years as a PPC strategist, I’ve learned that the most common dilemma marketers face is choosing between automated and manual bidding.

While many other factors also come into the picture — budgets and targets, for example — choosing an efficient bidding strategy is the undisputed winner.

So let’s dive right into how we find the solution. Here are 4 proven tips I’ve seen PPC managers use to control automated bidding.

How much can you really rely on Smart Bidding?

On a past episode of PPC Town Hall, Google’s Partner Development Analyst Peter Oliveira said, “Smart bidding uses both aggregated and recent trends, [but] favors what’s been happening recently.”

While Smart Bidding looks more agile, it may not be as robust as you’d like it to be. This is because the automated system may not wait long enough to adjust bids. Those bids might be set based on new patterns, leading to potential anomalies.

So do you rely on Google’s Smart Bidding to get the best results? Or should you roll up your sleeves and take responsibility for manually driving the best results?

In my experience, the answer is a combination of the two.

Experts say that your choice of bidding strategy should depend on how much time you can devote to PPC management and your goals.

But according to a more recent train of thought from our CEO Fred Vallaeys, marketers should train automated bidding strategies to get better results — something likely to resonate with the world’s most renowned PPC practitioners.

As you rely on automated bidding strategies to stay agile (especially in the current scenario), add your own expertise and understanding of the market to strengthen Google’s automation.

The solution: Pick the right automated bidding strategy and train it to get your desired results efficiently. That means feeding it the right settings, like Target CPA and Target ROAS, at a very granular level.

1. Don’t be afraid to switch strategies to get more control.

Here’s my golden tip: Don’t set it and forget it.

Automation is only as good as what you feed it. You may start a campaign to achieve one thing, but don’t leave it there. Monitor its performance regularly, and when you don’t see the desired output, you can easily switch to the next strategy.

For example, when you want to generate conversions rather than get clicks, you’d choose the “Maximize Conversions” bidding strategy. After running that for 30 days or exhausting your budget, you can gauge the performance of your campaigns.

When you have a tool like Optmyzr, the next step is to check out performance using the Rule Engine strategy shown below. And if you’ve had enough conversions — say 50 in 30 days — you can switch to a more specific strategy like “Target CPA” or “Target ROAS”.

This is because the campaign is already able to spend more than its daily budget. In that scenario, taking control of the target values for CPA or ROAS can improve performance even further.

2. Get granular.

Align campaigns based on the goals and strategies you intend to use for optimization, right from the beginning. Think of it as a more futuristic approach to preparing your campaigns for a bidding strategy like “Target CPA” or “Target ROAS” from the beginning.

If you have different margins for the brand, categories of products, product types, or location targets you’re advertising for, then group them separately.

3. Update your targets.

Google allows you to set the target values for “Target CPA” and “Target ROAS” bidding strategies. Make use of this flexibility.

If you set one bidding target for all of your ad groups, it’s akin to expecting all the fingers on your hand to do the same thing.

One target for all your ad groups is likely to limit their performance, and you may also prevent Google’s machine from optimizing the best results for your different ad groups. Instead, optimize your target values based on each ad group’s current performance.

Check out one such strategy ready for you to try in Optmyzr: Optimize Target CPA & Target ROAS.

4. Don’t rule out manual bidding.

While automated bidding strategies may work for most of your campaigns, it might not be the solution in every scenario. Keep your options open.

Using Optmyzr, you can set up automation to find campaigns where automated bidding didn’t fare well. Switch them to a control group of campaigns where you can run manual bidding strategies.

Check out the image below showing how to find those campaigns using our Rule Engine:

Conclusion

Automated bidding strategies are a good foundation, but it’s the PPC strategist’s role to make them smarter. Analyze, introspect, and always be prepared to shift bidding strategies if you aren’t moving the needle on your goals.

And as you switch to other bidding strategies, keep in mind that the accumulation of data points over a period of time can guide Google’s engine to drive the best results for you.

Optimizing your strategies on automated bidding isn’t always simple, but Optmyzr can help you shave hours off execution. Our tools layer automation over what the ad engines provide, helping you leverage automated bidding while staying in control.

To try out the Rule Engine strategies in this article and many others, try Optmyzr absolutely free for 14 days.

10 Ways Customers Use Optmyzr to Retain Control with Smart Bidding

Marketers fear automation, but Smart Bidding is a great example of how it actually helps.

Teeming with data and interactions, Smart Bidding uses machine learning to create optimal bid strategies. And because it saves both time and money, it’s quickly become an important part of PPC.

But there’s a (literally) dark side to it as well.

Smart Bidding means surrendering control to the black box of Google’s AI, with strategies that simply don’t allow you to tweak aspects of them to your specifications. Simply put, you input your goals and Google uses your account’s past behavior to produce results.

What do you do when you want the convenience of Smart Bidding but don’t want to give up control? You turn to a tool like Optmyzr.

Here are 10 ways Optmyzr customers use our platform to retain control when they use Smart Bidding.

Understanding how automated bidding works

The keystone of AI or machine learning is the data the system uses to make decisions and predictions. In the same vein, the success of automated bidding strategies depends on the quality of the performance data that system is able to collect. This in turn depends on how your account is set up.

The performance of badly structured campaigns cannot be improved by putting them on an automated bidding strategy.

A good account structure and the right attribution model are vital to the success of any automated bidding strategy. If you’re using last click attribution, either change to another attribution model or run manual bidding.

Campaigns that run on automated bidding strategies need to be optimized in order to have the right data to work with. In theory, the only thing Google takes care of is setting bids — only one aspect of managing an account.

The rest is still on you.

Automated bidding is not a ‘set it and forget it’ deal. However, with bidding out of the picture, you’ll have more time for other tasks — the kind of search queries you want to show for, or the messaging you want to use in your ads.

1. Search Query Management

Search queries are still the primary source of traffic for search campaigns, so it’s important to monitor the ones your ads show for so you can remove irrelevant ones (add them as negative keywords). It’s also a good idea to add high-performing search queries as keywords because you can write more specific ads for them.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Keyword Lasso, Search Terms n-Grams, Negative Keyword Finder

2. Quality Score Optimization

Optimizing to increase Quality Score is one way to reduce your CPA and increase ROAS. Even though Google is automatically setting your bids in the auction, a high Quality Score requires a lower bid.

In other words, you pay less for each click.

Find keywords in your account with low Quality Score and move them to their own SKAGs with the more specific ads. Or, pause them if they have an irredeemable quality score of 1.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Quality Score Tracker, Rule Engine

3. Creating Ad Schedules

This isn’t about setting bid adjustments for different times of the week; your automated bidding strategy already does that. We’re talking about allocating campaign budgets to the more lucrative times of day by turning your ads off when they’re not profitable, making it something of a budget optimization.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Hour of Week Analysis, Hour of Week Bid Adjustments

4. Non-Converting Keywords

Pause keywords that have not converted in a long time but have accrued significant cost. This optimization should only be done if you aren’t running on last click attribution. Otherwise, you’ll pause top-of-funnel keywords and eventually reduce conversions.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Non-Converting Keywords, Rule Engine

5. Budget Optimization

You did budget optimizations before automated bidding, and you should continue to do them now. Reallocating budgets across campaigns based on performance helps improve overall account ROAS.

Check if high-performing campaigns are losing impression share due to budget, and increase their budget by giving them money from underperforming campaigns.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Spend Projection, Optimize Budgets

6. Tweaking Targets

If you’re running on the standard automated bidding strategy (target CPA and target ROAS), you can tweak targets at the ad group level. There are two instances where I’d recommend doing this:

Optmyzr Tools Used: Optimize Target CPA & ROAS, Rule Engine

  1. Increase target CPA for ad groups that are converting but losing impression share due to ad rank. For campaigns running on target ROAS, reduce ROAS. This is the same as increasing bids for high-converting keywords when campaigns are on manual bidding. It enables Google to bid more to drive more conversions.

  2. Reduce target CPA or increase ROAS for ad groups whose actual CPA and ROAS are significantly better than the target and whose impression share is already more than 70%. This reduces the chances of Google buying very expensive traffic when the automated bidding system thinks there’s room to increase CPA and win more traffic.

7. A/B Testing Ads & Updating Messaging

Ad text automation is probably one of the last things that will happen in PPC — writing ads always involves subjectivity and creativity. Responsive Search Ads are a step in that direction, but they only combine headlines and description lines; you still have to write them.

This is why it’s important to continually A/B test ads — so you can remove underperforming ones and keep messaging fresh.

Optmyzr Tools Used: A/B Testing, Ad Text Optimization

8. Performance Monitoring & Alerts

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is set up alerts to notify you of sudden changes in traffic, conversions, CPA, ROAS, or any other KPI that’s important to you.

This helps you stay on top of your campaigns, especially when something doesn’t go as expected. For example, if the CPA for a campaign suddenly shoots up, you’ll want to see why it happened and take appropriate action.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Alerts on the MCC dashboard, Rule Engine

9. Performance Audits of Automated Bid Strategies

Knowing when to pivot is critical to success, be it in PPC or any other business. It’s a good idea to regularly check on the performance of your campaigns’ bidding strategies to see if you need to pivot.

For example, if a campaign is running to maximize conversions, it might be time to move it to target CPA and ROAS. You can also see if certain campaigns on automated bidding strategies aren’t driving enough conversions and move them to manual bidding for a while.

Optmyzr Tools Used: PPC Audits, Rule Engine

10. Structural Account Audits

Regular account audits are so important for good structure. Check for things like too many keywords in an ad group, too few ads, campaigns with not enough negative keywords, or campaigns missing site links.

This ensures that campaigns in your account have a solid foundation on which automated bidding strategies can do what they’re capable of.

Optmyzr Tools Used: PPC Audits

Conclusion

We live in a world where competition is fierce and standards are demanding. PPC marketers rely on automated bidding more than ever to do more in less time. What automated bidding lacks intuition and human understanding, you can provide by optimizing your campaigns.

Help it help you.

There’s no one way to win with automated bidding, but Optmyzr offers several tools that allow you to layer your own automation over what the ad engines provide. If you don’t have Optmyzr, try our platform free for 14 days with access to all features.

Search Ad Masterclass Pt. 3: Optimize campaigns in 5 steps

Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at two core facets of any search campaign: writing ad text that’s designed to convert, and diversifying ad types to attract a wider audience.

This week, I want to discuss the third part of the process: optimizing your campaigns to improve their performance.

As every PPC marketer knows, taking a campaign live is when the testing and learning really begin. Using the insights that follow is how you develop a strong foundation into a memorable, profitable campaign.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways you can optimize existing campaigns to drive additional traffic and better conversions.

1. Understand the point of testing.

Imagine you’re in a mall shopping for clothes. What makes you decide to enter a store? Is it the window display? That big sale with 50% discounts? Points or cashback on your credit card?

The store won’t know until they ask; testing and identifying what really helps. Your PPC campaigns work in a similar way.

You could have drafted the best ad copy ever — proposing value, mentioning promotions. But until you test it in a way designed to provide answers, you won’t know if the ad text works or which parts are most enticing to users.

2. Pause ads that aren’t converting.

Performance metrics like click-through rate, conversion rate, and conversions to impressions served can help you identify if your ads resonate with users. After your ads have served for enough time or won enough impressions, you can begin testing them.

Traffic for each ad group will vary, which is why testing ads is a continuous process. This ensures that as soon as some of your ad groups have served the right amount of traffic, you can:

PPC expert and long-time Optmyzr customer Isaac Rudansky shared his best practices in this blog, explaining how Optmyzr can help you test your ads more effectively.

3. Turn winners into champions.

The next step is to test your ad components to find messaging that works the best across your campaigns. Some cool ways to manage ad content better include:

4. Keep seasonality in mind.

As important as it is to keep updating your ad text and content, it’s equally vital to keep updating any seasonal offers.

For example, running Christmas ads weeks after the season ends is a fundamental advertising blunder. Avoid mistakes like this by running audits of ad text and replacing these out-of-date ads with new content.

As an aside, you can also use the Rule Engine in Optmyzr to automatically pause campaigns based on seasonality or holiday timing. Find out more about that here.

5. Enhance existing campaigns.

There’s always a way to add a new edge to your ads, whether it’s through components you haven’t used or a change in strategy. Here are some ways to take your campaigns to the next level:

Conclusion

When it comes to optimization, testing is the most important component. Until your ads have served long enough to get some strong data behind them, it can be difficult to gauge just what is and isn’t working.

The further you get along this journey, the quicker and more scalable your optimization needs to be. If you’d like to see how Optmyzr can make this experience more seamless, you can try our platform completely free for 14 days — no credit card required!

If you have any other questions, write to us at support@optmyzr.com and we’ll be happy to start a conversation!

Search Ad Masterclass Pt. 2: Experiment with ad types for better results

In last week’s post, we talked about why it’s important to take the time to write ads that resonate with your target audience — and to update them periodically.

So you’ve written some ads and they’re performing well. How do you take it to the next level and move the performance needle?

This week, I’ll show you how your client or business can benefit from experimenting with different ad types on the Search network.

What ad types can drive the results you want?

The amount of diversity within Google’s selection of Search ads is considerable, and different ad types are better suited to different business goals. Today, I want to talk about three of the more popular choices if you’re just getting into writing PPC ads.

1. Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) according to Google:

Dynamic Search Ads are the easiest way to find customers searching on Google for precisely what you offer. Ideal for advertisers with a well-developed website or a large inventory, Dynamic Search Ads use your website content to target your ads and can help fill in the gaps of your keyword based campaigns.

When you run a DSA, Google uses structured website data to automatically create headlines and descriptions, and links landing pages that match user queries to your ad.

While a DSA might not offer the control and flexibility to customize or edit ad text, it’s the ideal way to get started with new PPC accounts — provided you have the web content and landing pages to support it.

Once Google starts generating DSAs, keep a close eye on their performance. You can use the best-performing headlines and descriptions in targeted Search ads or other types of specialty ads.

2. Expanded Text Ads

Expanded Text Ads (DSA) according to Google:

Expanded text ads are similar to the text ads that you’re used to, but with a few key differences:

  1. Expanded text ads have three headline fields… the third is optional.
  2. Expanded text ads also have two 90-character description fields.
  3. The domain of your display URL is based on your final URL domain.
  4. The display URL can include two optional “Path” fields.
  5. _Expanded text ads are mobile-optimized._

Running an ETA is entrusting Google’s machine learning to figure out what works best for your business. All you do is enter a combination of different text elements — make sure these aren’t just variants of the same message, but distinctly different value propositions and calls to action.

My recommendation is to create three or four ETAs using combinations of distinct headlines and descriptions within one ad group. Once these ads start performing, you can run additional tests to identify which ad copy yields better CTRs or conversion rates

And while you test your ads, you can also create variations of them to drive better performance. Some of the advantages of ETAs include being able to:

3. Responsive Search Ads

Responsive Search Ads (DSA) according to Google:

Responsive search ads let you create an ad that adapts to show more text — and more relevant messages — to your customers. Enter multiple headlines and descriptions when creating a responsive search ad, and over time, Google Ads will automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best.

RSAs allow you to expand your reach to show on inventories you might be missing with ETAs (quality score and bids).

Choose this ad type if you’d like to rely on Google’s disruptive methodology to find the right combinations of headlines and descriptions from the options provided to show ads created to respond to specific user queries.

When running an RSA, make sure that:

Remember that you can only have up to three RSAs in one ad group, and Google recommends running at least one in each.

The million-dollar question: All for one, or one for all?

Once your account is up and running, a combination of RSAs and ETAs can help you strike a balance between controlling your ad text and exploring new opportunities to show your ads.

While you set up these ad types, remember to create variations of ETAs — as well as the headlines and descriptions of RSAs — while keeping in mind the traffic you expect your ad group to serve:

This approach to ad creation should allow for earlier identification of winners — for Google to find better-performing headlines and descriptions, and to identify the better-performing ads based on A/B testing.

Conclusion

As always, keep a close eye on your campaigns — especially in the early stages of using a new ad type. You might discover something that affects ad performance that can be sorted out quickly.

A tool like Optmyzr can be of use. The Ad Text Optimization tool lets you import existing campaign data to find your best performing headlines and descriptions (with tracking templates), and we also have a feature that can help you build RSAs within our platform.

In the next blog post, I’ll show you how to optimize your ads and ad text to drive even better results. In the meantime, you might want to look at Google’s resource directory for ads and campaigns to better understand these (and other) ad types.

Search Ad Masterclass Pt. 1: How to write ads that get quality clicks

Write ads. Get clicks. Make money.

Simple, yes. Easy, not at all.

Across this three-part search ad masterclass, I’ll share insights I’ve picked up from working with some of the world’s most successful PPC strategists.

Insights that will help you:

Let’s kick things off with how you can write ads designed to win high-quality clicks that are actually relevant to your business.

Why relevant ad text drives clicks

Think of your PPC campaign’s ads as the window displays in a store, which are often a shopper’s first point of engagement. All your hard work winning an ad auction could be nothing more than an empty time-sink if your ads aren’t written to get clicks from people who want your product or service.

And despite all the automation implemented by Google, writing ads that get clicks still relies on the creativity of account managers.

Just as store displays are changed frequently to continue attracting traffic, so too is it important to keep updating PPC ads with fresh promotions — always while highlighting your value proposition.

A regular refresh to ad text that keeps up with industry trends frequently improves the chances of getting relevant clicks on your ads.

How to write ad text like a winner 

The image below shows ad results for the search term “buy women shoes”. The ad in first position is a great example of how to utilize the space provided by Google to promote value proposition via ad extensions and promotions.

Even if this ad had only won second position, I would still be very likely to click on it:

A quick glance at the two ads placed lower reveal flaws that might have intrigued a click if they:

Taking ad text to the next level

Along with ad text that’s relevant to a user’s search, another aspect of your ads that can make a difference to performance is which ad type you select.

Google offers multiple ad types to help you advertise in a way that’ll help you achieve your PPC goals. If we’re sticking with Search ads, there are two highly popular ad types you can run in addition to regular search ads.

  1. Expanded Text Ads are popular with PPC strategists working across industries. Expanded Text Ads let you create an ad with three static headlines and two descriptions. It offers ample space to convey your company’s value proposition, and those of the products and services being advertised.
  2. Responsive Search Ads are a type of ad that automates the process of A/B testing. Google allows you to define up to 15 headlines and four descriptions, and A/B testing is automated. Google’s machines experiment to find the combination of headlines and description that are predicted to work best for specific user queries.

Conclusion

If you’re advertising on Google’s Search network, your ad text and choice of ad type play crucial roles in the performance of your campaigns — for both Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads.

Creating search campaigns that get quality clicks is as simple as this four-step process:

  1. Select ad types intelligently.
  2. Write relevant ad text that highlights value.
  3. Create well-structured ad group themes.
  4. Refresh your ads periodically.

Once you start seeing results from your campaigns and need support managing them at scale, a tool like Optmyzr can help you make bulk ad text changes across all your campaigns in just a few clicks.
Next week in part 2 of this series, we’ll further explore these ad types — plus one more that might get you additional results. In the meantime, check out this support article from Google for more amazing tips to help you write successful ads.

How to Start Selling the Easy Way On Google Shopping

Earlier this year, Google made an announcement that changed the way advertisers perceived Shopping campaigns. By making Google Shopping listings free, the world’s largest advertising network forced everyone selling tangible products to rethink their PPC strategies.

Suddenly, this component of the Google advertising network became much more attractive.

At first, brands and PPC marketers were captivated by the prospect of free ad space. Once the initial hype faded, it became clear that only a portion of Google Shopping listings would be made free and that certain conditions had to be met.

To take advantage of these free listings, advertisers need to have active Google Merchant Center accounts and enable their products to show on all surfaces including Google Images, the Google Shopping tab, Google Lens, and Google Search.

As of late May, our conversations with experts like Kirk Williams of Zato Marketing revealed that an average of 5-6% of Google Shopping listings were made complementary.

But that’s not the only reason it makes sense to give your products Google Shopping visibility.

If like many other brands, your business or client are just starting to get involved in building Google Shopping campaigns, this article will help you figure out how to sell on Google Shopping.

In this article, we’ll explore:

How to take advantage of Google Shopping listings

Google Shopping allows advertisers to promote physical, shippable products with a greater amount of visual appeal. Consumers searching for ‘blue shoes’ or ‘leather couch’ can view and explore a range of product listings that match closely with what they’re looking for.

Google Shopping campaigns come in two varieties: Standard and Smart.

Image sourced from versafeed.com

Standard campaigns are built manually to deliver on highly strategic goals. These require some understanding of product groups, campaign structures, and other campaign components in order to achieve a specific goal, such as a target ROAS.

Smart campaigns on Google Shopping reduce the entry barrier by using machine learning and automation to speed up the process. This makes them ideal for small businesses with limited budgets, or advertisers who don’t have the time to build out Standard campaigns.

While Standard campaigns afford greater control over location targeting, negative keywords, custom scheduling, and network placement; Smart campaigns require historical data but will determine placement and other parameters for you based on past performance of other campaigns.

Google Shopping: A proven channel for product visibility

Google Shopping campaigns have always been considered a core part of the PPC marketer’s toolbox. They carry a visual component, which has proven to be more attractive than plain text when products are involved.

Here are four more reasons why Google Shopping is a proven way to give your products the visibility they need, especially with the current economic landscape in mind.

How to sell on Google Shopping the easy way

Google Shopping campaigns can be highly valuable if your business calls for them. But it can be confusing and tricky to build them out if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Moreover, creating splits (e.g. by brand or category) takes a significant amount of time when done manually — and leaves you prone to human error.

Optmyzr’s tools for Google Shopping cover the full life cycle, allowing you to create campaigns and set structures from scratch. Use us to do the heavy lifting and help you create the campaign structures you want, quickly and without error.

With Optmytzr guiding you step by step, you can create both Standard and Smart Google Shopping campaigns and ad groups in just a few clicks.

Campaign Builder 2.0

Campaign Builder 2.0 is Optmyzr’s tool to build Standard and Smart Google Shopping campaigns from scratch. Anyone can link a spreadsheet or Google Merchant Center feed to get started in minutes.

Product Group Refresher 2.0

Product Group Refresher 2.0 optimizes existing Google Shopping campaigns by adding new products and product groups based on existing campaign structures. It looks at your current campaign structures and syncs with the feed to accurately reflect your inventory.

Machine learning provides suggestions, and you can even automate the entire process. For example, when new products are added to the inventory feed, Optmyzr can automatically create new product groups for them.

Manage Shopping Bids

This optimization identifies high-performing product groups, allowing you to raise bids for product groups that are driving results. It also shows which product groups are underperforming or failing, letting you lower bids for them.

By nature, this tool only supports Standard Google Shopping campaigns.

Shopping Analysis

One of our most popular Insight tools, Shopping Analysis helps Optmyzr users understand how their products are performing irrespective of structure. Use it to aggregate data and determine performance based on a number of different attributes.

Aggregate data by price to see the performance and ROAS that products at different price points drive. Or if you’re selling shoes, easily see which sizes are more popular and sell more, or which ones aren’t in demand so you can fine-tune procurement.

Shopping Analysis works with both Standard and Smart Google Shopping campaigns. With the former, you can use this aggregate data to change bids using the Attribute Bidder. For Smart Shopping, you can see which products are selling better — an insight that’s not easy to obtain in Google Ads.

Conclusion

While it’s admirable that Google is thinking of advertisers and supporting them with some complementary Shopping listings, there’s greater value to be experienced than just a couple of freebies.

Unlike services, products have shape and form — and people love to see what they’re buying before they make a purchase. Google Shopping campaigns enable you to do this while expanding your reach, allowing small businesses to flourish and hobbyists to turn passion into profession.

To learn more about how we can help you build and optimize Google Shopping campaigns with minimal time sink, write to us at support@optymzr.com or sign up to try Optmyzr free of cost.

Google Told Us Their 6 Tips to Impact Smart Bidding

The last time we sat down with Google to talk shop, the discussion found its way to managing PPC campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With supply chains disrupted and business models being tested, companies around the world are facing a variety of new conditions. And though the results aren’t uniform, what’s consistent is how every business has been affected in some way.

Many are struggling to find customers. Some are facing uncertain futures. A few fortunate ones are doing better than ever — will they struggle when things return to normal?

We put together some advice for PPC marketers that took the shape of this blog post. But in the weeks since, we’ve seen and heard the debate over automated bidding become one of the prevailing industry conversations.

Thankfully, our friends at Google had plenty more to say.

Here are their recommendations for 6 secret tips that can help you impact Smart Bidding and more reliably navigate a marketplace in flux.

6 Secret Tips to Impact Smart Bidding

As you monitor shifting trends and course-correct your business plan, you’ll also need to bring your strategic approach in line with what the current situation demands. To help you provide clients and customers with a fruitful experience without eating too much of your time, Google recommends Smart Bidding.

Let’s recap the tactics we recommended last time, as well as explore how they impact Smart Bidding.

1. Keywords

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Keyword optimization helps deliver more at the same CPA/ROAS goal, and ensures that brand strategies align with business goals. Broad match keywords allow the Smart Bidding machine to discover new opportunities for conversions.

Optmyzr Tip: You’ll still want to keep other match types and regularly review new search terms with tools like Optmyzr. The Rule Engine’s latest addition takes high-performing keywords with one match type and lets you add new match types at the ad group level.

2. Creatives

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Getting your creatives right prevents your message and customer experience are on the same page, which ensures that each bid brings relevant engagement.

Optmyzr Tip: Regulations and restrictions can change frequently. With the Ad Text Optimization tool, you can quickly and consistently change ad copy to reflect the real-world operating conditions of your business. The Add Responsive Search Ad tool is also useful to build RSAs for each of your ad groups.

The Responsive Search Ads tool lets you maximize your chances of getting meaningful clicks

3. Bids and Budgets

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Putting your marketing dollars where they’re likely to yield the best returns is PPC 101. You capture more leads at the same CPA/ROAS goal, and forecasting often captures the most recent demand trends.

Optmyzr Tip: Campaigns that worked a few months ago might not be winners today, for no fault of their own or yours. Put your dollars where they need to be with the Optimize Budgets tool. It can help you quickly re-allocate budgets based on how different campaigns are doing against your goals.

Optimize Budgets lets you see how to adjust spend to achieve specific goals

4. Target Constraints/Goals

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Using CPA/ROAS goal adjustments can help you control spend and volume. But to achieve the same thing for Max strategies, Google recommends using budget adjustments.

Optmyzr Tip: Use the Optimize Target CPA & ROAS on campaigns with automated bidding to increase conversions and Impression Share. You can also see converting ad groups that use other automated bidding strategies.

5. Account-Wide Best Practices

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Smart Bidding uses account-wide signals (cross-account under MCC, if applicable). If you’re struggling to see results from Smart Bidding, it might be because you’re still using Last Click Attribution in an era of erratic search behavior.

Optmyzr Tip: The Rule Engine allows you to create data-based strategies, like removing non-converting keywords related to COVID-19. Or for a fun way to keep your account in shape, try the Workouts that combine multiple optimizations to achieve a specific objective.

6. Audiences

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

First-party audience lists improve Smart Bidding algorithms, but Google lists have a neutral impact on Smart Bidding. For best results, provide your own customer information.

Optmyzr Tip: You always want Smart Bidding to have the latest and greatest information about your customers. Use the Customer Match List Updates tool (under Optimizations > Utilities) to keep your audiences in sync between your business data and Google’s audience repository.

6 Ways to Fully Control & Adjust Smart Bidding

While Smart Bidding might make PPC a bit less time-consuming, it’s far from a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality. There are many things you can do to affect the degree of control and influence you have over your bids.

Check out these 6 ways to fully control and adjust Smart Bidding.

1. Goals

Goals are the end objectives of your campaign; think of them as a destination. Tweaking goal values can change the way Smart Bidding tries to get there.

2. Conversions

Current market realities have impacted conversions across the board. Use the information in this space to inform your strategy and reshape the Smart Bidding process.

3. Constraints

Setting hard limits on your financials can enable Smart Bidding to look at creating value over volume. As always, keep an eye on things as you implement this approach.

4. Targeting

Audience is one of the most influential factors in PPC, and there’s no doubt that who and how you choose to target can make a difference to Smart Bidding results.

5. Budgets

At the end of the day, it’s all about the dollars. Experimenting with budgetary values can provide some of the most significant influence on Smart Bidding.

6. Misc. Adjustments

There are other adjustments you can make to shape Smart Bidding, including seasonal adjustments. We suggest exercising oversight when using some of these in today’s market.

Conclusion

It’s been said before but bears repeating: There’s only one way PPC professionals can do right by their businesses and clients — by having as much information as possible. That’s why we’ve partnered with Google to bring you these posts on how to gain maximum value from the tools at your disposal.

These recommendations from Google are intended to supplement a brand’s unique business strategy. Both Google and Optmyzr suggest you balance any automated bidding strategy by keeping a close eye on your accounts. After all, only humans can provide context to the data.

And be on the lookout for the third part of our collaboration with Google, when we discuss what advertisers in hard-hit industries can do to prepare for the end of lockdown.

Google Shifts Approach On Ads Editor, Partners Program, Trends & More

In the last couple of weeks, Google has both altered existing plans and announced new measures to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 on PPC and paid search. Some of these aim to make campaign management a bit easier; others are in response to what agencies and advertisers are experiencing.

Here’s our take on some of the recent changes in Google Ads.

It’s always interesting for us to see Google make changes to Ads Editor. Optmyzr CEO Fred Vallaeys, one of Google’s first 500 employees, helped build the initial version of the tool when it was called the AdWords Editor. It’s great to see that the product is still in use and receiving steady support many years later.

Here’s a quick roundup of what’s included with Google Ads Editor 1.3:

New Features

Updated Features

Optimization Score in Google Ads Editor. Image courtesy of Google.com.

Optimization score, which is now more present in the new Ads Editor, is Google’s way of guiding advertisers to make common best-practice optimizations. But it’s important to remember that Google’s advice is just a suggestion and may not be relevant for your account. 

As a simple example, Google may suggest increasing budget when there is impression share lost in a campaign with conversions. This may ignore that your account has a strict monthly budget cap and raising the campaign budget would bump the total account spend over the limits. Of course Optmyzr’s tools and scripts to help manage and optimize monthly account budgets would still work, regardless of whether an advertiser accepts Google’s budget suggestions.

Also, PPC marketers have the freedom to make changes in the tool they’re most comfortable with. It’s not necessary to make all changes from the Google Ads interface.

“Contrary to what many PPC pros think, Google doesn’t care where you make your edits,” Fred revealed.

“Many marketers believe you have to log into Google Ads and press that final button to get the improvement to your Optimization Score, but that’s not the case. You can continue to use a tool like the Ads Editor, or Optmyzr to audit and optimize your campaigns.”

Fred Vallaeys, Optmyzr

Google Partner Program

COVID-19 is affecting us all, and the world’s largest search engine is no exception.

In February, Google announced sweeping changes to its Partners Program that would start to be enforced from June. Some of these included a minimum 90-day ad spend of $20,000 and requiring accounts to follow Google’s recommendations for Optimization Score.

As Susan Wenograd writes in Search Engine Journal, recent events have forced Google to postpone these new rules to 2021, allowing existing Partners to retain their status and specialization badges and non-Partners to apply using current criteria.

Fred believes this is the right move.

“It’s good that Google has pushed this to give agencies more time and space to deal with the challenges their clients are facing. But at the same time, it’s important that existing and prospective Partners take the time to push ahead and prepare for these changes to take hold in 2021.”

-Fred Vallaeys, Optmyzr

Optmyzr Tip: While existing Google Partner agencies should prioritize client success, don’t wait until it’s too late to get moving on the new goals. If you’re just now applying to become one, let the 2021 criteria serve as your north star.

Ad Credits for Google SMBs

Another widely-lauded move from Google is the announcement of $340 million in ad credits to help “alleviate some of the cost from small and medium-sized businesses to stay in touch with their customers during this challenging time”.

Much like we advised agencies to do all they can to ensure their clients don’t envision a future without them in this earlier post, it seems Google is also wary of losing steady income from a segment that makes up a significant portion of its ad revenue.

Image courtesy of Google.com.

In the midst of a $1.7 billion European Commission fine, the last thing Google needed was a sharp drop in ad revenue — but that’s just what COVID brought to the table. Alphabet’s first quarter earnings were well below expectations, and there’s little evidence to suggest that Q2 will be any different.

Perhaps Google is playing the long game, looking at 2021 revenues and hoping that keeping SMBs on their ad network yields a better payoff than waiting for them to bounce back on their own.

Google recognizes how volatile the current market is and how rapidly it’s shifting — it’s why they recommend that advertisers plan weekly rather than monthly for the near future.

Google Trends reflects this sentiment in search behavior. A tool that’s normally used to reliably find and compare popular search terms, discover related topics and queries, and observe geographic trends is painting incredibly different pictures from one week to the next.

So what’s the value of Google Trends in a dynamic environment?

“The business value is that it can help you figure out what you want to put in your ads. Your value propositions might change based on what people are experiencing and searching for,” Fred says.

“For example, while travel might have once been about the cheapest tickets or the most luxurious hotels, when it opens back up the popular searches might revolve around cleanliness or low-density properties.

“If you dive even deeper, you can unravel more insights. If people want to travel but are still wary of taking flights, they might decide to drive. So in this scenario, hotels might notice a surge in search volume for something like ‘free overnight parking’.”

Fred Vallaeys, Optmyzr

Google Trends. Image courtesy of Google.com.

Businesses might have to explore qualities that they never looked at before. And while they may have an inkling of what’s to come, they have no idea of the degree to which it may occur. In this case, Google Trends serves as a good barometer of demand and search behavior.

Optmyzr Tip: The Rule Engine allows you to build custom strategies to optimize your Google Ads accounts based on fluctuations you observe in Google Trends, such as identifying keywords that exceeded the CPA target for the last 7 days but met the CPA target for the previous 30 days.

Conclusion

As the world’s leading search engine, Google’s actions set the pace for the majority of the PPC community. During both peaks and troughs, many agencies take their cue from Google or use their behavior to influence strategy.

It’ll be interesting to see what more they do to revitalize hard-hit industries and keep paid search on the radar for businesses, especially once the market has experienced a full quarter of COVID-related challenges.

PPC Town Hall: 9 Insights on Bid Management, Paid Social & More

Following last week’s successful PPC Town Hall, we returned with a 4th edition featuring some of the most knowledgeable minds in the PPC and paid search space.

If you happened to miss this week’s chat or any previous editions, check them all out on our YouTube channel or listen to them as podcasts over here.

This week, we focused on bid management in dynamic environments (such as the one created by COVID-19). Optmyzr CEO, Frederick Vallaeys, moderated a panel that included:

Let’s take a look at 9 key insights from this week’s conversation that every agency, advertiser, and consultant can act on.

We’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be achieving any degree of ‘normal’ in the immediate future. With so much volatility across markets, it might be a good time to explore Google’s Performance Planner if you haven’t already.

To quote Google, “Performance Planner is a tool that lets you create plans for your advertising spend, and see how changes to campaigns might affect key metrics and overall performance.”

Google Ads Performance Planner. Image courtesy of Google.com.

Performance Planner works with the latest data at any given time, but the current climate means that said data is rarely predictable and stable from one week to the next.

Peter recommended checking in on Performance Planner every week to explore the impact of shifting CPA, ROAS goals, and manual bids.

“The market is changing so frequently that a target ROAS that gave you a great volume last week might not do the same this week.”

2. Not all businesses have been affected equally.

Just like in every crisis, certain businesses are doing well even as others struggle to stay afloat.

You might have a client whose product or service is experiencing incredibly low demand, or one that’s waiting on overseas shipments and can’t run more ads until they’re able to fulfill additional orders.

Martin has seen that spectrum play out for some of Bloofusion’s client base.

“With our e-commerce clients, we’ve seen a number of differing challenges in the current crisis. Some were overwhelmed by demand. In a few cases, supply is an issue. Others have problems to keep up with packing and shipping. They’ve scaled back or turned off their campaigns to gain a little breathing room.”

3. Products that make isolation less boring are in demand.

With most states in the US (and many geographies around the world) under ‘shelter in place’ orders, it’s no surprise that Google has observed a significant uptick in volume for search terms related to products that make the experience more tolerable.

“We’re seeing that as people are spending more time online, usage is increasing across multiple devices,” Emi said.

“Consumers are searching for many things including technology that helps them work from home (+750%) as well as connected televisions (+37%), streaming devices (+38%), and gaming consoles (+48%).”

4. Consumers want to stay healthy and informed.

But not everything is about work and recreation. Consumers are also looking to maintain their health — and that of their finances.

“In healthcare, consumers are looking to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy while at home. For example, searches related to ‘online workouts’ increased 12x in the past 90 days,” Emi revealed.

Alongside that, people are also preoccupied with what’s happening in their bank accounts. With unemployment hitting record levels and even those in secure jobs suddenly looking cash flow issues in the eye, there’s been a surge in search volume for many related topics.

She added, “Consumers are also looking for financial help, professional advice, and mobile apps to plan for the future with a 9x increase in ‘financial help’ queries e.g. rent/mortgage relief, loan relief, deferred payments.”

5. Hard-hit industries are starting to figure a way out.

It’s worth noting that Tinuiti has an insightful tracker that monitors Facebook spend performance segmented by vertical (signup required).

A quick glance shows that travel is down 79.5% month-on-month but has risen 13.5% week-on-week. Fred speculated that this could be a sign that some of the industries COVID forced to pump the brakes are starting to put new strategies in place.

“People still want to travel; we just can’t,” he said. “These companies could realistically be building desire and demand, identifying an audience searching for these things during this restrictive phase, so they can convert them when travel opens up again.”

Google Trends. Image courtesy of Google.com.

In the case of the automotive industry, which is also showing signs of resurgent spending, Susan speculated that it could be an effort to supplement TV commercials advertising never-before-seen offers like extended windows for no payments and 0% financing.

Either way, it’s evident that businesses that can’t convert at their usual pace are starting to acquire new users to fill the top of their funnel. Which means…

6. It’s a great time to use social media to build TOF.

You don’t have to be as hard-hit as travel or hospitality to consider taking advantage of low-priced social media.

Given that your clients have the budget to do so, now’s as strategic a time as ever to front-load your pipeline with consumers who are high on intent but limited in their capacity to act.

In other words, you can build desire and demand to a fever pitch — and do so with a fraction of the budget you’d normally need.

“We’re seeing some of the cheapest Facebook media with CPMs as low as $2-3. If you have the flexibility and the budget to focus on some top-of-funnel activity, it’s not a bad time to acquire users even if they’re not all going to convert right away,” Susan observed.

If you want to dive deeper into paid media performance during COVID-19, check out her article on Search Engine Journal.

7. Smart bidding offers more control than you realize.

While some advertisers and agencies might be hesitant to allow machines more than a modicum of control over their paid search strategies in the current environment, Smart Bidding might actually empower you more than you thought.

By using tens of millions of data signals, Smart Bidding pairs your inputs with similar auctions in the industry, so it works even if you’re short on first-party data.

“Smart bidding has the ability to pick up signals and compare it to other things going on in the market to make those adjustments. While it uses both aggregated and recent trends, it favors what’s been happening recently,” Peter noted.

Google Smart Bidding considers a multitude of signals to set the right bid for every query. Image courtesy of Google.com.

The key is to remember that as human operators, we’re capable of watching the news and observing the world around us, and then using those observations to provide context to your paid search programs.

You really can influence Smart Bidding to work for you as long as you don’t ‘set it and forget it’!

8. Hyper-segmentation might actually be a good idea.

Under normal circumstances, it’s not absurd to look at the US as a single market: largely the same regulations, similar opening hours, and common methods of fulfillment.

Today, that’s simply not the case. States are enforcing their own COVID-19 restrictions, and even individual counties and cities can impose their own limitations.

So while it’s not the best idea to hyper-segment under normal circumstances, it might be useful to at least try it out right now — and Smart Bidding could be of help.

“Smart Bidding lets you bid at the intersection of each bid adjustment you can manually set,” Fred shared. “One example is adjustments for a location like New York which has been hit hard, one for time of day, and then another for the audience. It can look at the actual scenario of that one auction and how that combination actually matters.”

Peter agreed that if you see significant discrepancies in a geography or other parameter, separating campaigns can afford you a greater degree of control by putting individual levers on your campaigns.

9. Experts are making it easy for PPC pros to stay informed.

As the PPC community continues to face a number of hardships with finding reliable data, some of the industry’s leading experts have developed scripts that enable marketers to make quick observations about the shift in behavior.

One example is this COVID-19 visualization script developed by Fred, which overlays government actions related to the pandemic on Google Ads performance metrics.

“The idea is to help you see if certain events, like store closures, the start of shelter in place, the closing of schools, or the introduction of social distancing correlates in any way with drop-offs or spikes in performance.”

Martin has also developed a script that compares pre- and post-COVID behavior.

Google Ads script by Bloofusion and Martin Röttgerding generates charts showing account performance before and during COVID-19. Image courtesy of Bloofusion.

“Overall trends may be a traffic shift from mobile devices to desktop computers, people searching later at night, and weekdays blurring,” he said.

“However, we’ve found that this is not true for every account. In many cases, these things have remained more or less stable. The script can give you some handy charts about the situation in your own accounts.”

Conclusion

We started the first PPC Town Hall with two objectives in mind: to provide a safe space for paid search pros to vent and share their thoughts on everything that’s been happening, and to steer clear of using it as an opportunity to promote any kind of software or services.

Since then, the PPC community has embraced these weekly conversations, and they’ve evolved into a source of insights on how to approach these new problems that none of us really have all the answers to.

We’re in this together, and we’ll get out of it together.

Please join our next PPC Town Hall on Wednesday, April 22.

How to Pick a Profitable ACOS or ROAS Target

Online advertising can get expensive but thankfully the ad engines like Google, Bing and Amazon all have controls that help advertisers keep costs at the right level for their business goals.

In this post I’ll share how to use your profit margin in conjunction with either target ROAS (tROAS) or target ACOS (tACOS) to achieve break-even on your ad spend. Once you know how to pick the right target so you don’t lose money on PPC, you can dial it up or down to find the right balance between profits and revenue.

The Difference Between Google ROAS and Amazon ACOS

First let’s take a look at what ROAS and ACOS mean and how they are calculated.

Google uses ROAS

When it comes to reporting columns, Google uses terms like ‘Conv. value / cost’ or ‘All conv. Value / cost’. ROAS (return on ad spend) isn’t a metric you can pick: 

But the good news is that ROAS is simply one of the ratios expressed as a percentage so it’s just multiplied by 100 and a ‘%’ sign is slapped on the back:

Google does use the term ROAS in one of its automated bid strategies: Target ROAS (tROAS).

Amazon uses ACOS

Amazon shows the ACOS (advertising cost of sales) metric in its interface more prominently so advertisers are immediately exposed to it when they start advertising on Amazon.

ACOS is based on two of the other metrics Amazon shows by default in its interface:

ACOS and ROAS both serve the same purpose of giving guidance on how to make online ads profitable but at first glance the two metrics seem very different:

While the formulas look quite different, that’s mostly due to the difference in nomenclature between the two ad platforms. Where Google calls it ‘cost’, Amazon calls it ‘Ad Spend’. 

Google cost = Amazon ad spend

Where Google calls it ‘Conversion Value’, ‘Conv. Value’, or ‘Value’, Amazon calls it ‘Sales’.

Google Conversion Value = Amazon Sales

So once we standardize the terminology and swap out all the synonyms, we see that ROAS is the inverse of ACOS:

We need to know product profit margin before ACOS and ROAS become useful.

So how are ACOS and ROAS helpful in bid management? How might we decide what a good target ROAS or target ACOS might be? To do that, we need to understand margins.

Product profit margin or gross profit margin is the ratio of profit over revenue for a single product. The simplest way to think of profit is as the value of the sale minus the cost of producing the thing that was sold:

Let’s look at an example where we sell 3 products for the same price but they all cost different amounts to make. Or for an Amazon reseller, they all cost a different amount to buy from the manufacturer:

Combine margin with ROAS or ACOS to find your break-even point

Now we have all the pieces needed to find how much we can spend on advertising to break even on each sale or conversion*. 

To make sure we don’t lose money by buying ads, our ad spend to get a sale should be no more than the profit we get from that sale.

We make a profit when:

profit on the item sold >advertising cost to get the sale

That’s simple logic to understand, but to communicate this goal to the ad engines, we need to translate it into the jargon they use. That means we need to bring it back to ROAS and ACOS.

What is a Break-Even ACOS

ACOS it’s very simple to equate to break-even if you know your margin. The numbers have to be the same.

What is a break-even ROAS?

Because ROAS and ACOS are the inverse of each other, our break-even point on Google is when is (product profit margin)-1 . That’s the product margin divided by 1.

Let’s see that in a different more visual way:

The bottom line

So there you have it, the perfect ACOS or ROAS to break-even on your ad spend on Google or Amazon. On Amazon, it’s the profit margin of the product you sell. On Google it’s the inverse of that same number.

*You don’t really break even by spending no more on ads to get a sale than what you gain from that sale as that doesn’t consider other costs to run the business of selling things. This is why knowing the break-even point is just the start and you should add a target profitability so you make money.

Thinking Outside The Box #2 – Bid by Weather

You know that old saying “when it rains… apply bid changes”. Well, that’s not really how it goes, but it’s most definitely one thing you can do with our Rule Engine!

On our last “Thinking Outside The Box” post, we showed you how to create a date-driven automation to change your campaign status. And that’s just one example of the many different (and powerful) use cases we have for Rule Engine.

Now we’ll show you how Optmyzr can help you automatically bid by weather.  A similar case was also covered in the “Advanced Rule Engine Examples” video by our co-founder Frederick Vallaeys.

Step 1: Create the Recipe

For this example, we’ll create a recipe to modify bids at the ad group level using values such as “Current Temperature” or “Current Weather Condition”.

Keep in mind that this is just one of many use cases for the Rule Engine weather bid management. Among the possibilities you’ll find you can:

Step 2: Set up the spreadsheet

To set up the spreadsheet, you’ll need to make a copy of this Google Spreadsheet, and share it with rule-engine@optmyzr-automation.iam.gserviceaccount.com

You’ll need to generate your own API key here https://openweathermap.org/appid#get and follow the rest of the steps listed on the sheet “Instructions and Keys”.

Note: For the last step on the spreadsheet, you can download your list of campaigns from the “Connect External Data” section in the Rule Engine by clicking on “Get Sample Data For Your Account” and paste it exactly as it is on the “Paste CSV from RE here” sheet.

Step 3: Add the Zip Code

Now let’s add the corresponding City or ZIP Code to the campaigns. The spreadsheet has a couple of sheets to get weather data. Depending on which one you want to use, you’ll have to manually add the City or ZIP code to your list of campaigns.

For cities, please follow this format {city},{country code} (you can get a list of country codes here).

Note that if the country code is not specified, the OpenWeatherMap API might return data for the wrong city.

To link the spreadsheet to your recipe, you’ll need to paste the spreadsheet’s URL in the “Connect External Data” section. Make sure you specify the sheet from where the Rule Engine pulls weather data, and the correct column types (Current Temperature: Number|Current Weather Condition: Text).

Read further on “Connecting External Data in Rule Engine”

Step 5: Build the recipe

Let’s get down to business! Having completed these previous steps, you can now use any of the weather data from the spreadsheet to build your own custom optimization. Remember the spreadsheet has campaign data, so that’s the scope you should use when adding the conditions:

Let’s suppose that we have a couple of campaigns for “Sunglasses” in Madrid and “Shorts” in Toulouse. If temperatures start to rise, we might want to increase the bids for the ad groups in those campaigns accordingly.  The first rule does precisely this. If the temperature rises above 27ºC, and the weather condition is “clear sky” it applies two actions:

  1. We increase the bids for the ad groups in the campaign by 10%
  2. We label the ad groups (for the example we’ll use: Bid by High Temperature) – **This step is critical, as it helps to revert the changes with Rule-2.**

But what happens if the temperatures drop? The second rule reverses the changes applied by the first rule. To do this, we check all ad groups with the label “Bid by High Temperature” and apply two actions:

  1. Set the bids back to their previous value. We achieve this by using an expression where we divide the Current Bid by 1+(0.1) where 0.1 = 10% increase.
  2. We remove the labels “Bid by High Temperature”.

Note: In the same ****spreadsheet you can change the temperature units used (Instructions and Keys sheet – Step 4) and see a list of all weather conditions the Open Weather Map API can return (Descriptions sheet)

Step 6: Test, preview & automate 

All set! You can now preview the suggestions and if everything looks ok, you can go ahead and automate it to run on a daily basis.

Try it out! If you have any questions, or if you’d like us to have a look at your recipe before you start running it just email us: support@optmyzr.com – we’ll be glad to help you.

Understanding Google’s new Extension of Phrase Match and Broad Match Modifiers

Watching this year’s Google Marketing Live event, one of the things that really intrigued me was Ben Gomes, Google’s SVP of Search, explaining the process of how query matching has evolved from the first Google searches up to this day. 

He used the following example:

“The pictures of modern TVs are phenomenal, except sometimes they look strange. And the question is “How do you ask a question about ‘my TV looking strange’?”.

See, the question is no longer a simple query, as it would be to search for “my TV is not connecting” or “How do I fix the resolution on my screen”, but rather a much more complex concept. He then proceeded to explain how by using ML and Neural Networks, they were able to take that query and transform it into a neural embedding. This query’s neural embedding then matched the neural embeddings contained in their documents and that allowed them to match to the best result.

This process is known as Neuromatching, and although it’s no new information, seeing it graphed onto a neurolinguistic “word cloud”, and hearing the explanation of why this was so, gave me a fresh perspective into where we’re heading today. 

The Prelude

Last year we were introduced to an expansion of exact match close variants that included same meaning variations. Using Google’s own example, the exact match keyword [yosemite camping] would now also match to queries such as “yosemite campground” and “campsites in yosemite.” It was no longer just about the keyword the user typed into the query, but also the implied meaning of what they typed.

This was a pretty big change, which meant among other things paying much closer attention to search term reports for their exact match keywords. Some embraced this change energetically, while others were at first more hesitant as to why these changes were being made. These are just a couple of examples:

This year we’ve been struck yet again with another change: Google is now extending same-meaning close variants to phrase match, broad match modifiers.

The Change

But what does all of this mean? In a nutshell, it means that broad match modifier and phrase match keywords will now also begin matching words within the search query that share the same meaning as the keyword.

Google is broadening the results to not just the query, but rather the intent as well. With its vast work regarding ML and AI, it now stands a better ground to understand what the intent behind a query really was. 

Using Google’s example, with broad match modifier, the keywords +lawn +mowing +service may now match to queries such as “grass cutting and gardening services” or “rates for services that cut your grass”. 

With phrase match, the keyword “lawn mowing service” will also include queries for “grass cutting service near me” or “local lawn cutting services.” 

The Future

But coming back to Ben Gomes. If we look at these two changes made to keyword matching as standalone changes, they might not be as exciting as if we look at where they are coming from – and where they are headed. The purpose of Google search from day one has been to find the best way to match what the user needs, to what type of results they can offer. This new change seeks to cover all these extensions and variations.

You can read further on how to prepare with Frederick Vallaeys’ post on 3 Things to do Before Google Changes How Keyword Match Types Work.

Why Smart Bidding and Last-Click Attribution are a Dangerous Combination

Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation are three trending topics in the industry today. It’s an accepted fact that automation is here to stay so it’s our job to learn how to make the most of it for our PPC accounts. In my book “Digital Marketing in an AI World”, I explain that one of the roles humans will have to play when their old job has been automated is that of the “PPC Doctor”: someone who knows the right medicine for their patient and who also understands potentially dangerous interactions. This post covers one such interaction that can lead to disastrous results in PPC.

We’re talking here about Google Ads’ smart bidding strategies. Even though they’re designed to help advertisers reach a determined goal, they lack the human intuition for understanding how to deal with gray areas, and are prone to bad decisions when they’re fed bad data. Specifically, they can do major damage to accounts that are using last-click attribution (LCA) models.

Understanding Last-Click Attribution Model

Last-Click is one of the 6 different attribution models offered by Google Ads. It gives all the credit to the ad and keyword which was last clicked before a conversion.

For example, let’s say you are advertising athletic shoes. There’s a sequence of queries done by a user that goes something like this: “Sneakers” > “Running Shoes” > “Adidas Running Shoes” and finally they search for “Ultraboost 19”. This is just a simple example to illustrate that users tend to start with broad queries and get more specific as they get to understand what it is they might want to buy.

If your campaign is using the Last-Click attribution (LCA) model, then all the credit for the conversion will be given to the ad shown for the final query: “Ultraboost 19”, and no credit will be given to any of the queries that preceded it.

Conversion Funnels and LCA

So why is this so bad? When you give all the credit to the last-clicked ad/keyword, it’s like saying you don’t think there was any value to all the queries along the way that helped the user become aware and familiar with your offering. You’re assuming the user would have discovered to search for “Ultraboost 19” without having been exposed to any of your other ads. This is generally a false assumption, especially for consumers who are not very familiar with your brand and its latest offerings.

Consumers today have more interactions than ever before with brands while researching what to buy. Brands that are not present at the earlier stages of a user’s discovery process may not be in contention to win their business later down the line.

So using last-click attribution would mean that “Sneakers”, “Running Shoes” or “Adidas Running Shoes” are assigned no value.

Attribution Models Inform Optimizations

Why is it so important to assign the correct value? Doesn’t the attribution model just change the numbers in reports? The answer is ‘no,’ the attribution model populates the conversion and conversion value metrics and most account managers rely on these to decide where to allocate their budgets, where to change bids, what queries to add as keywords, and what negative keywords to add.

This could all be okay if a human was managing all this manually. For example, while the lack of conversions for a keyword like ‘sneakers’ might normally be grounds for a bid reduction, an account manager would likely realize that they’d still want to bid for this keyword. Human judgment would win out over purely following some logical rules and the account might do fine.

But like I said before, automation is increasingly doing more of the day-to-day account management and it lacks the human judgment that averted disaster in this scenario of an advertiser using last-click attribution.

Smart Bidding + Last-Click Attribution

When last-click attribution is being used, the keywords “Sneakers”, “Running Shoes” or “Adidas Running Shoes” from the example above, will be reported as non-converting, although they are still valuable keywords because they help consumers unfamiliar with your brand discover your brand’s offerings as they do their research.

Now here’s where results can get really bad… by combining bid automation with last-click attribution. The job of automated bidding, like target CPA (tCPA) or target ROAS (tROAS) bidding from Google, is to calculate the appropriate CPC that is needed for the ad to enter the auction.

The ‘right’ CPC is determined one of two ways:

  1. For tCPA, Google uses the predicted conversion rate to calculate CPC
  2. For tROAS, Google uses the predicted conversion value for a click to set the CPC

But if the attribution model hasn’t been assigning conversions to upper-funnel searches, it will predict that conversion rate will be low and that the value per click will be low. So now the automated bidding system will start to reduce bids for these upper funnel keywords. And eventually bids will get so low that the ads may stop showing altogether.

This is bad because it means you’re reducing the volume of prospects who will be exposed to your brand at earlier stages. Eventually your funnel just dries up and the only sales you’re left with are those from people who already knew your brand and products very well — the people who knew to search for “Ultraboost 19”.

Final Thoughts

Considering the significant risk of making bad decisions for the reasons explained above, we advise all our customers to switch away from using Last-Click attribution. If anything, simply switch to a time-decay model which is most similar to last-click while still giving some value to all stages of the funnel.

When it comes to automations like smart bidding strategies, or automated bids using another platform, knowing how they interact with your measurement systems is an absolute must if you want to avert an account blowup.

Key Takeaways from SMX Advanced: Automation, Measurement and The Role of PPC Pros Moving Forward

As the Spring conference season winds down, in-the-know search marketers have a lot of fresh insight following a packed SMX Advanced in Seattle. Start-to-finish, organizers and everyone at Third Door Media hosted another powerful elite search marketing event.

The impact of machines, artificial intelligence, data, and ongoing innovations from Google and Bing were evident across sessions this week. But it’s also clear we, as search marketers and PPC pros, still have a lot to learn and contribute in the increasingly AI-fueled universe in which we work.

Automation & Your Role in PPC

For one of my two presentations at SMX, I participated in a panel, “Next Generation Automation.” Core to the session, we focused on two levels of automation to consider if you want to grow your business – whether as an agency or the in-house PPC expert:

  1. Automations provided by the engines (e.g. Smart Bidding)
  2. Automations you create to streamline your in-house processes

Not surprisingly, many PPC pros spend much more time thinking about the first level than the second. However, PPC rockstars flip that mindset and focus more time and energy on the automations they can do in concert with the built-in automations that keep expanding within Google and Bing. How your own automations interact with the big engines’ automations can set your game apart from competitors.

Think specifically about automations that can streamline workflows. For example, you can set up workflows that automatically assign tasks to the right account managers and present the account managers with a filtered list of things to do. So the machine makes some suggestions for the person to review.

You can also layer your automations. Think about creating a tool that monitors an automation like ‘close variant keywords’ from Google and automatically flags low performance variants, and possibly even automatically breaks these out as new keywords with lower bids or as negative keywords. This is quite easy to do in Optmyzr with the Rule Engine. No scripts required.

The examples above just scratch the surface of what PPC pros can do with automations you can do on your own – in tandem with the expanding automations within the big engines. We explored automation through scripts earlier this year, which is always a good topic to revisit.

SEM Keynote: Machines & Automation

Machine learning, AI and automation were common threads through many SMX sessions, including the Tuesday keynote session that featured four top thinkers in our industry.

Ginny Marvin was part of that keynote group. As SEL Editor-in-chief and one of the people on the 25 Most Influential PPC Experts list, Ginny has authority when she says we can’t reverse the trend of automation so we need to figure out how to coexist with it. She also gave a nice shout-out that my book “Digital Marketing in an AI World” is very topical.

When Ginny talks about machine learning (ML), she likens it to going on an airplane flight with a toddler. When parents attempt this feat the first time, it’s typically horrible because the toddler doesn’t know how to behave and parents have unreasonable expectations – plus they didn’t buy the now-seemingly-giant toddler their own seat. The next trip, that parent takes his or her learnings and decides that buying the child his own seat will help a lot and they teach him how to behave on a plane. Before they know it, the increasingly travel-savvy parent has a teenager who’s a pleasure to fly with and who even helps carry the family bags.

ML is much like flying with kids. You need reasonable expectations and must work hard to teach the machine what you expect of it.

Ginny’s topic snowballed perfectly with the keynote portion by Nic Darveau-Garneau, Google’s  Chief Search Evangelist. Nic spoke extensively about how ML can only work well if you give it good goals. When possible, don’t give it proxy goals but give it the real goal you care about so it can optimize for that.

Advertisers have grown so accustomed to measuring and optimizing everything, so they unrealistically expect EVERY click to be profitable. But the new camp of advertisers knows the focus should be on in-channel profitability, which allows the ML to figure out where to best allocate budget and set bids for the overall best performance.

“How your own automations interact with the big engines’ automations can set your game apart from competitors.”

Part of transitioning from the old to the new camp is to shift the expectations of your boss or client. Don’t give a keyword-by-keyword breakdown of ROAS. Instead, show them how their budget can drive profitability over the next three years. Nic laid out a beautiful vision, but I believe the PPC pro still needs to know where to optimize so those more detailed reports are useful to inform new strategies. For example, if you ignore the details of RSA performance, you won’t know that perhaps the ML is stuck because you gave it bad headline variations to choose from. As a smart PPC pro (and possibly one using the new RSA Builder from Optmyzr), you can act on these insights and help get the absolute best performance out of each channel.

Discussing PPC Automation with Ginny Marvin

During a rare moment of “downtime” at SMX, I appreciated the opportunity to catch up 1:1 with Ginny for an upcoming podcast. She graciously did a recorded interview with me about my book, specifically talking about how the changing role of the PPC professional as machines take over more and more of our daily tasks.

Clearly there are opportunities for PPC pros to elevate their game and be much more strategic. The machines may seem like a threat to our roles in marketing, but as Ginny and I discussed, they actually provide great opportunity for us to get out of the weeds and the tasks and put our critical thinking, strategic minds, and our creativity to use much more effectively.

Here’s what is really exciting: We are only scratching the surface of what machines and AI will do for our industry in the coming years. Position yourself well to ride the wave of AI-infused PPC. Don’t fear the machines. Work WITH them. After all, People + machines = always better.

We updated this post on June 14th with a link to the podcast.

SMX Advanced 2019: Automation & Machine Learning Take Center Stage

Search marketing is at an interesting place in its evolution. The industry is maturing, but at the same time evolving at speeds more like a Silicon Valley startup. We find ourselves in the midst of yet another era of hyper-fast innovation and change, leaving marketers with a whole new set of challenges to figure out.

That’s why it’s great that we get industry leaders together at many conferences throughout the year, including SMX Advanced in Seattle next week. These conferences help keep us all on top of everything new. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are creating opportunities to automate many of the core functions of search marketing.

All of this can be exciting – and overwhelming – for search marketers and PPC rockstars who have to adapt to changes on the fly. Many are left wondering if they will even have a role in PPC or if they’ll be automated out of a job.

Machines + People: More Essential Than Ever

The Optmyzr team devotes a significant portion of our time staying on top of the innovations, changes and opportunities happening at breakneck speed.

I’ll be presenting during a couple of deep-dive sessions at SMX in Seattle June 4 & 5. Tuesday afternoon, Brad Geddes, Duane Brown and I will chair a discussion entitled “Automation: The Next Generation.” It’s always a pleasure to be on stages and webcasts with these two top professionals. We’ll preview what’s ahead for more automation as machines help the search engines and third-party providers like Optmyzr streamline the tasks associated with PPC.

Wednesday I’ll be on stage with Susan Wenograd, one of the new senior leaders at Aimclear. Susan and I will conduct the Advanced SEM Clinic to close out the morning sessions. Among key topics, we’ll explore the role of automation, AI, and machine learning to help PPC pros understand their opportunities in SEM moving forward.

The Impact of Automation on PPC

A few key things come to mind as we prepare for yet another important industry conference. Mentioned earlier, search marketers understandably look at the future with excitement, mixed with some angst. After all, robots and automation have rendered a lot of manufacturing jobs obsolete. Is the same outcome inevitable in our space?

Not likely. Here are a few things to consider:  

First, let’s look at smart bidding. This process was ripe for automation and, thanks to innovations at Google and Bing (and Optmyzr), much of it is automated. Exploring a bit deeper, though, the need for a different, more strategic human role is evident. Smart bidding is far from “set-it-and-forget-it.” In fact, Google now offers MORE levers for advertisers to better inform bid automation that matters to specific business types.

Take, for example, the deeper abilities to manage seasonal bid adjustments, conversion value rules, creating separate conversion goals by campaign. Machines can only do so much for each of these. The smart PPC pro can apply his or her time and knowledge on much more strategic aspects of bid management. Rather than schlepping through tasks, the PPC pro can actually apply more energy to higher level strategy.

Second, it’s clear that in-platform management of campaigns is becoming much easier and automated. In many instances, more junior level PPC pros can run the majority of campaigns without any real challenge.

Managing across platforms, however, is becoming quite challenging. Google, Bing, Amazon – they are all creating walled gardens to keep people in their system. Tools like Optmyzr help bridge those gaps and make it easier to optimize across the platforms and see the connections and comparisons to help them make more informed decisions to boost performance in total. Insights gleaned from performance in one platform will be tapped for actions in another. No more walls.

Third, as more point solution automation options become available, PPC pros must figure out the interaction of seemingly disparate automations. Think about the challenge of figuring out how good responsive search ads are. On the surface, it seems RSAs offer lower conversion rates. But they also automate against entirely new queries, so the gains are strictly incremental. It takes a PPC rockstar to think beyond the singular metric when multiple automations may be at play – and find value others may miss.

Here’s another example: What happens with smart bidding if you also have an automation that turns campaigns off before the end of day? Is there a risk that the smart bidding system may have been holding back spend for later in the day, but the automated shut-off interfered with that action? The human expert is required to assess the deep-in-the-weeds strategy and understand the interplay of automations and potential consequences.

Futureproof YOUR Agency & Career

Automation is exciting, intimidating, challenging, even troublesome – but in total it’s a great thing for our industry and the humans who can connect the dots. Smart PPC pros are the ones who will embrace the innovations that are fueled by AI and machine learning. They’ll understand their value in the equation Machines + People = Better.

If you are attending SMX in Seattle, I hope to see you in one of my sessions or in a hallway or networking session. Invest your time at the event to map out your future in our industry.

And shameless plug time! A reminder that my new book (which has already become a best seller in the Online Advertising category on Amazon), “Digital Marketing in an AI World: Futureproofing Your PPC Agency” is now available on Amazon. I plan to have a few copies with me at SMX. The book digs deeper into the AI revolution in our industry and provides a tangible guide for PPC pros to claim their space in the next frontier of PPC. I hope you check it out.

See you in Seattle!

Fred’s Book for PPC Rockstars is Out! Digital Marketing in an AI World

The Optmyzr team is excited to see our cofounding CEO, Fred Vallaeys, publish a new book: “Digital Marketing in an AI World”. It’s now out and available on Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.

Book cover of Digital Marketing in an AI World by Frederick Vallaeys and Optmyzr

The book explores the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning – specifically how it is changing the world for PPC professionals. We see this book as a survive-and-THRIVE guide for PPC pros navigating a universe where some fear being automated right into obsolescence.

As Fred shares in his book, the new AI era is actually a time of unprecedented opportunity for PPC pros who aspire to be PPC rockstars. We’ve been saying for a long time that machines and AI are amazing and can do things humans cannot do. But machines PLUS humans makes an even more powerful force. Fred’s book is essential for PPC pros at agencies and in-house alike.

At the core, AI and machine learning certainly eliminate tasks and automate the tasks that should be automated. Smart PPC pros are the ones who use that automation to redirect their energy and attention to chart bold new strategies and spend more time on the strategic, human elements of marketing.

Fred’s book is out on Amazon today at special introductory pricing. Order between now and Friday, May 31, 2019, and get the Kindle version for an introductory price of $0.99. The Kindle price returns to full retail of only $9.99 on June 1, and the paperback version is available for $15.99. �

If you are attending SMX in Seattle, Fred will host an advanced SEM clinic, which promises to be a don’t-miss session. He’ll have copies of the book with him available for purchase (and we think he’ll even sign those copies!).

PPC pros who want to up their game and turn uncertainty into opportunity as a PPC rockstar should invest in this book. It may very well have a transformational impact on your PPC career.

Google Average Position – Goodbye Old Friend :-/

Google is finally putting the venerable Average Position metric out to pasture. It’s one of the oldest metrics on the books for PPC pros and a mainstay on client reports for many years. After all these years, did the metric really help? Maybe not that much.

Many PPC pros have become a bit numb to changes from Google. Seems like we spend a great deal of our time just keeping up with the updates and new features they seem to constantly toss into the PPC world. And while it may seem Google is haphazard in making changes, I can tell that as a former Googler, they are very purposeful and methodical about altering our shared universe. It just isn’t always evident why they do so.

Average Position, however, has held a place in our common PPC vernacular longer than most metrics. Yet saying goodbye to this old friend later this year really won’t be that difficult.

AP just wasn’t all that helpful.

Sorry.

In this age of AI-energized PPC, Average Position has become little more than a vague barometer of conditions in a PPC program when PPC pros need actionable, granular data to make specific and smart decisions.

AP was of rapidly diminishing value when you consider the vast amount of highly specific performance data from which we can pull.

Google is replacing Average Position with the following more precise metrics to identify those opportunities to get more impressions at the top:

In addition, two metrics help give critical insight into what we actually should optimize to get there (which AP never told us):

Here’s what it will look like in your Google Ads Manager:

You’ll be able to easily select the more exacting metrics to meet your needs and start to get much more granular as you assess strategies and determine the best optimizations.

If you want to dig into very specific scenarios that show where the soon-to-be-retired Average Position metric could lead to confusion, check out my recent Search Engine Journal contributed post.

In that SEJ post, we examine real-world case studies that demonstrate how these new metrics also bring new importance to the trusty old Quality Score. It’s worth a read.

Okay…shouldn’t we just optimize impression share by adjusting bids?

Given the greater view into Impression Share vs. Average Position with the new metrics, it could be easy for some PPC pros to jump on the “fix it by changing the bid” approach.

Pause please.

For an ad to appear at the top of the page, it needs to meet certain relevance and Ad Rank thresholds that are set by Google. The levels of these thresholds are not published so it can be a game of trial-and-error. It’s worth remembering, however, that Google really wants ads to be relevant, so you may need to set an exorbitantly high CPC to get an ad with low QS to move to the top of the page.

A smarter optimization will address QS issues first, for example, by moving the low QS keyword to an ad group by itself (this is called a SKAG – single keyword ad group.) This is a good way to fix QS issues because it lets you write an ad and pick a landing page that are optimized for that unique keyword.

Once the quality of the keyword and the ad are fixed, you may be able to gain the desired top position with a much smaller bid increase than if you’d skipped the QS optimization.

How a PPC Pro Can Stay on Top of Things

First, it’s important to start tapping into the new metrics that will replace the aging Average Position. AP goes into retirement in September, but it’s not really doing us much good anyway. Send our old friend a “happy retirement” card and then make the shift today. Start to understand the improved insight and how it will help you make decisions.

Second, keep tuned in to Optmyzr. Our dev teams are always working with the never-ending changes that come from Google (and Bing – and other platforms) to automate optimizations and simplify the tasks and decisions you need to make. The more changes they create and the more they automate, the more confusing things can get for even the most advanced PPC rockstars.

We welcome the ongoing changes in the platforms, in particular the innovations by the big search engines thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. The challenge for the practitioner in the trenches, however, is keeping up with all of these changes and integrating them into new and existing strategies, something we hope to help you with!

What happens after Average Position is gone

Google Ads has announced it will no longer report on ‘average position’ later this year. To learn more about this change, check out my post on Search Engine Land. Optmyzr can help make the transition smoother as one of the most frequently used original AdWords metrics sails into the sunset later this year.

 

Average Position in Reports

When the ‘average position’ metric disappears from all reports, Optmyzr will automatically handle this in scheduled, automated reports. Specific details will be shared as we get closer to the sunset date but we plan to make this a seamless transition for our customers.

 

For example, any report templates that include the ‘average position’ metric will continue to work even if you don’t make any change. We will simply remove the metric that is no longer supported by Google so that your reports will continue to be delivered uninterrupted to your clients and stakeholders.

 

Average Position in Rule Engine Recipes

Some advertisers have used the Optmyzr Rule Engine to automate a bid-to-position strategy that relies on ‘average position.’ Rules that contain the deprecated metric will stop working when Google no longer reports average position because any comparisons will fail. In other words, if your rule says to change a bid if the average position > 2, that comparison against ‘greater than 2’ will fail so the rule will be broken.

 

To make the transition easier, advertisers who have active rules that are impacted� will receive a notification from us as we get closer to the date in September when average position will no longer be available.

 

Alternatives to Average Position in Automated Rules

The Optmyzr Rule Engine can still be used to change bids (among many other things it can automate) based on position goals. Instead of using the ‘average position’, you can use one of the newer metrics like ‘Impression (Absolute Top) %’.

 

For example, for a brand term where you’d like your ad to be in first position and appear above the organic results, you could check if the impressions at the absolute top are close to 100%. If they are not, this could be because your bid or quality score (QS) are too low. Remember Google has a top promotion threshold and if you’re below that level, even if your ad is ranked first, it won’t be eligible to show at the top of the page. So if you then find that QS is good (7 or higher), you could boost your bid to try and cross the threshold to get your ad at the top.

 

The beauty of the Rule Engine is that you have the ultimate flexibility in turning your optimization process into an easily repeatable automation that you can deploy quickly across all your accounts. The example above is just one way to do it but our hope is that you will leverage the full power of the tool to help you manage accounts the way you like.

 

What’s next

Optmyzr is committed to building tools to make PPC pros more efficient and that includes making this transition to a post-average position world easier, and offering alternative ways to achieve your position-based goals. Stay tuned for more details soon.

What is the new Cross-Network in AdWords?

AdWords recently introduced a new type of shopping campaign – Goal-based Shopping Campaigns. These are similar to Universal App campaigns and are completely automated. To start a goal-based shopping campaign, all you need to do is link your merchant center account, set a budget, upload products, and let Google know your country of sale. You don’t have any control over the bids or the campaign structure. Google will show shopping ads across networks based on your goal. With this new shopping campaign type, Google snuck in a new type of network which shows up as cross-network in reports.

Goal-based shopping campaigns show product shopping ads on Google as well as on display. The campaign also includes remarketing ads and ads to similar audiences. Ads from these campaigns are eligible to appear on Google Search, Display, Gmail, and YouTube.

Cross-Network in AdWords

When you segment data by networks in AdWords, you’ll see a new network type called cross-network. This will only have data if you’re running the new goal-based shopping campaigns. As of today, if you’re not running goal-based shopping campaigns, you won’t see data under this network. However, this may change if Google introduces additional campaign types that are fully automated. In all there are now six different network types available in AdWords. Based on the kind of campaign you’re running, you can get traffic from one or more networks.

Networks vs. Campaign Types

AdWords segments data in two ways – Advertising Channel/Campaign Type (Search, Shopping, Display, Video, App) and Networks (Google Search, Search Partners, Google Display Network, YouTube Search, YouTube Videos, Cross-network). There is some overlap between the two which sometimes causes confusion. The biggest difference between networks and channels is that networks are the mediums or properties on which ads are shown whereas, campaign types or channels refer to the type of ads that are shown.

One campaign type can show ads across different networks. For example, search is an advertising channel as well as a network. However, when you look at Google search as a network, it includes data from both regular search campaigns and shopping campaigns because ads from both campaign types can show on the search network. When you select search as a campaign type/channel (All campaigns) from the left menu in your AdWords account you’ll see data for multiple networks. This is because ads from search campaigns can show on Google Search, Search Partners, and YouTube search. They can also show on the Google Display Network if you’re running search display select campaigns.

In AdWords, when you select a campaign type on the left (Search, Shopping, Display…) it selects the advertising channel/campaign type and not the network. Understanding the difference between networks and channels becomes important when you’re running different types of campaigns.

 

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PPC Town Hall 31: Expectations for PPC in 2021

It’s 2021, and whether you’re a marketer or an agency, you would be preparing for yet another thrilling year of PPC. Right from the start, you need to be aware of the newest trends and features in paid marketing to leverage your PPC game. And that means you need to know of any curveballs that might come your way. In 2020, we saw experts deep-diving into topics like automation, privacy issues, and keywords, which we might be discussing more of the same this year as well.

To get a better perspective of what to expect in the coming months, we invited over some of the smartest minds of PPC and asked for their insights. Our panelists this week are some of your favorite experts from conferences like SMX, shedding light on what they expect from PPC in 2021.

As always, you can view this week’s episode as well as previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.

Here are 5 insights on what to expect from PPC in 2021.

1. RSAs vs ETAs

Brad: According to our data, we’ve seen more people trying out RSAs than Optmyzr users. We also see that a lot of people who still have them, have shrunk their usage. I’ve done a little bit of segmentation (since we did our session at SMX) on spending and account size versus declining RSA usage. And it’s definitely the smaller accounts that have declined their usage much less than the larger ones. We have seen that those who spend half a million to a million, plus have decreased usage more than those who spent 10-20 thousand dollars a month.

For a lot of these people, it’s more about results than getting that control. They don’t care if you’re a lead gen company. You may spend 10 million a month but in the end, you care about results.

Ginny: My question on it comes back to what are ‘results’? If we’re strictly looking at conversion rate or cost per conversion, then I can see where ETAs are often going to win. I’m wondering if advertisers might be looking at RSAs to open themselves up for more impression inventory. So is that a factor where people are considering more exposure than focusing on conversion rate?

Matt: In a lot of cases, you actually don’t have enough data for RSA to really even get their wheels spinning. It’s a multivariate type of testing and so often times we see that decisions are being made too quickly on winners and losers.

2. Identifying your business signals

Ginny: Having your own business signals mixed in with data you provide to the machine is becoming really critical now. This is where the real leverage can come, particularly the competitive leverage over your competitive sets. In order for people and businesses to identify their own business signals, they need to do some real analysis and investment, which takes a lot of digging. And then being able to present this in a way that can actually be used.

So the real question is, do advertisers keep pushing businesses to give more inputs even when some might want to keep that data to themselves rather than sharing it with Google? If yes, can we anonymize it and ensure that those inputs work within the algorithms.

3. Giving Google the right data and goals

Matt: Instead of fighting Google, let’s focus on giving them the right goals. One of our focuses will be feeding the data to the machine. And I think we’re actually going back to really seminal work in the whole web UX and web design area. If you look at Google Analytics, it’s moving away from discrete real things to events and connections that sort of represent proxies like scroll time or time on page. What I’d like to see is combinatorial data that would allow us to combine scroll depth and time on page, multimodally. How do we build up signals from the site we’ve got and trigger events that we can feed back to our bidding?

Our goal this year is to take a look at how we can understand what behaviors on the site represent good proxies to the next sort of actions. We also want to give those signals a little bit more attention, feed them, and try to develop audiences out of them.

4. Importance of setting up clean conversion

Brad: This is more important now than in the past because with all the privacy things happening, you doing your own data or attribution modeling is going to be essential. Even from a basic standpoint of modeling, you need to get it right because the privacy changes are going to mess up the data inside some of your platforms. Just to do some basic analysis, you actually need to have it yourself now and can’t rely on the platforms to give it to you because they’re not gonna have all the data they had previously.

5. 2021 Predictions

Brad: I will argue that as soon as Google removes keywords, their revenues decline significantly. Out of every advertising method out there, the intent of a search for someone saying ‘I want this’ is the strongest signal in advertising. It’s better than any programmatic, any audience or any other advertising methods. If people don’t get to use keywords for targeting, they might think of going programmatic.

Matt: I think that while Google may never take away keywords, they’ll definitely stop paying attention to what we’re actually telling them with our match-types. And I think that if you look at the loss of search query data may be Google feeding its AI and learning on all of our dimes! And they’re saying we don’t care what we [advertisers] know, they’re going to let their machines run wild, and decide for themselves what’s working or not!

Ginny: We still have some agency in all of this. I think we need to start using the machines in ways that they were meant to help us. And while they aren’t going to get it right all the time, we should be present to guide it. This is where your own data is going to be helpful. If you come in with a campaign that has been a disaster, all that data is not useful. For example, if you’ve set your campaign on broad match and end up reaching attorneys in Palm Beach when you actually run a hair salon, that data is useless. All of this can be avoided if you educate yourself and be an invested marketer. So much about this year is still going to be based on fundamentals.

Conclusion

Let’s face it - doing PPC in any year is tricky.

What with Google introducing changes, paid marketers need to leverage on every new trend that comes their way. Working along with the machine, feeding it good usable data, and relying on automation to boost your business goals might go a long way for PPC pros in 2021. To set yourselves apart from your competitors, consistently optimize your campaigns, utilize new tools, and look to expert strategies by industry leaders to pave your way to success.

PPC Town Hall 29: Revamping Outdated PPC Strategies

One thing that we’ve learned about search in the past year is that we all need solid PPC strategies that account for all sorts of change. With all the automation that’s coming from Google, whether it’s smart shopping, smart bidding, or seasonality bid adjustments, it’s important to automate, optimize, and intervene our way to success. And what better way to understand the way forward than to ask some of the smartest minds of PPC.

Our panelists this week are among PPC Hero’s most influential paid search experts of 2020. and they shared their tips and experiences on working around outdated PPC strategies.

As always, you can view this week’s episode as well as previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.

Here are 7 insights on revamping outdated PPC strategies.

1. Thoughts on Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Aaron: On our side, we saw that Black Friday was bigger than usual while Cyber Monday was slower than usual. It logically makes sense as on Balck Friday, everybody has a need to go bargain hunting, and that pent-up demand has shifted to online this year. Everyone thought Cyber Monday was kind of quiet because it’s the same as it has always been.

Kirk: We saw the same thing as Aaron [in a higher volume Black Friday than Cyber Monday this year, but we’ve heard others saying things a bit differently. It makes a lot of sense that the past weekend was a bit quiet as a lot of people were running sales earlier than normal. They had a Black Friday week-long or even month-long sale in November. Because of the earlier sale season, we saw consumers buying earlier than usual. So in some way what we saw in our numbers was that Black Friday was the main event, and Cyber Monday less so.

One of the reasons for this earlier shopping season is concern over shipping and delays. Because of this earlier-extended shopping season, we saw more out-of-stock products, more sales that went quicker this year.

Joe: While Black Friday was definitely much bigger than Cyber Monday and much earlier. For us in general, Black Friday was lower than expected but the entire month of November was higher than expected. Some stuff was reactionary to competitors starting early which was in the first-second week of November.

2. An unusual year for PPC

Aaron: At Tinuiti, we tend to work with larger data sets to focus on larger enterprise clients. So Smart Bidding in general tended to work pretty well for us. But one of the things that I always pick on Smart Bidding for is that it has too short of a memory. This Holiday season was one of those scenarios where that’s really valuable because it didn’t try to base itself off of what happened last year. We used seasonality adjustments pretty religiously for most of our clients. For example, if noon was a really popular time, we’d start tweaking our seasonality adjustments leading up to it and down after.

3. Using different shopping strategies

Kirk: We try to use a combination of both Standard and Smart. We constantly test them, see what’s working and what’s not. I’m always trying to figure out a better strategy to work for both Standard and Smart. With Standard, you get more of that control where you can give the system-specific search terms, which we’re focused on (even if they’re not always converting) as valuable information for brands.

Sometimes, we’d duplicate products or try something with the feed to get stuff in the upper funnel queries that might not be specific to one product. Smart shopping is not just on search but display, Youtube, and all that, so rather than be frustrated that we can’t control the search terms, we’re trying to figure out a way to group products around the ad content itself to emphasize specific call-outs in those Smart Shopping Ads for that specific group of products.

Joe: As I said earlier, our Black Friday started earlier than normal and our seasonality bidding was kind of thrown out of the window of what we expected to do. Since I work with smaller clients with very niche products (sometimes higher-ticket type item products). We understand that those really aren’t necessarily impulse-buys. So, we’re looking at the time of day, understanding that it’s gonna take multiple touchpoints for a user to buy this product. If we hit them enough with discovery, Google, and social initially, then we’re seeing that they later go back (late night hours) to purchase. We’re seeing a better performance as we’re adjusting the different schedules and updating how we want to boost our bidding and performance.

4. Converting digital newbies & feeding data to the system

Aaron: Something we’ve seen in the last six or so months, I’ve somewhat abandoned call to action. But giving turn-by-turn directions to these people who aren’t digitally native seems to work. You can tell them where to click, enter their details, make the purchase and know when it’s gonna get delivered or opt to come and pick-up yourself.

When you have data like shipping or pick-up preferences, you’ve to use it sensibly. It varies a lot depending on clients because it partially depends on cost and revenue centres as well. So maybe the digital team isn’t incentivized to drive people to the store and so we want to discourage it. But for those clients who are a bit more holistic, we’d look into the feeds and coach the bid tools to do what we want. For example, we see that for a certain demographic, this particular set of terms or ads tends to convert better as in-store pick-ups rather than a standard e-com shipping. Then we’d take that group, pivot it, and tell Smart Bidding that we want more store visits to set that group. The rest can be taken towards the more conventional way.

5. Get your messaging right in Responsive Search Ads

Joe: We utilize the pin option just to make sure that certain elements of the messaging show. It’s something that we definitely consider when we’re mapping it out. We will show it in front of clients too. We ask them if it really helps to add all these variations if four of them pretty much say the same thing. Google’s definitely gonna flag it, prompting you to add more keywords into your headlines.

Honestly, we’ve played around with what actually makes sense and that’s where we kind of focus on value prop. Maybe I’ll pin the first keyword which made more sense to the product type and then look at testing the other ones. Slowly, I’ve come to like RSAs. While they didn’t really work for me that well in the beginning, the more I see them working they are getting better. We’ve seen RSAs work pretty well with grants accounts by boosting impressions quickly.

6. Looking towards automation

Kirk: We’re looking more and more into automation to solve our problems. The whole idea of Google leaning hard into automation can be quite frustrating for PPC marketers like us who have been running things for a while. I may have practiced and learned something for over a decade, and then due to a specific change, I can find myself at the same level as an intern in my knowledge of the thing that changed. But the flip side of this frustration is – there’s an evolution that needs to happen in PPCers, too. We need to adapt to the system. And with automation at ZATO, we’re trying to think of reinventing the way we think about campaign structure and other things.

Specifically in thinking about broad match keywords, we’ve started testing things giving Google control over Target ROAS bidding, few very tightly controlled broad match keywords where everything else is excluded. We’re treating this less in terms of ‘what we want to get from this campaign in specific tracked ROAS’ and more of giving Google guidelines and then freedom for reaching the upper-funnel.

7. How do we structure our campaigns?

Aaron: When we think of structuring our campaigns in the present scenario, we’ve to look at conversion runways. If you think about Smart Bidding on its most practical level, it largely looks at the expected conversion rate. The way forward should start with the question – what do we expect from this group of people to do.

Talking about Skags and keywords, if the intent is fundamentally different then we’ll split it out. If not we’ll compress. We all know how Google is pushing towards consolidation and we’re establishing runways for the automation to make the right decisions. So we essentially split the groups out based on audience, demographic, keyword, or interaction. You don’t want to shrink data to the point where you’re making bad assumptions.

Conclusion

While automation has helped PPCers focus more on the strategic part of marketing, it has left us with little to control. With Google constantly introducing changes in 2020, it might be time to recondition the earlier approaches to get an edge over the competition. This is where all the expert advice and recommendations come into play by supporting marketers to operate in the periphery of the system and still manage it for better results.

Now more than ever, PPC marketers and strategists need to come together to figure out how to advance in the paid search industry. It might not be a bad idea to make use of efficient software systems, like Optmyzr, to track, manage, and optimize your campaigns. Try and experience our capabilities yourself by signing up for our 14-day free trial. You get full access to all our features – credit card free!

7 Things to Prepare for this Holiday Season

The holiday season is the busiest time for e-commerce and with just days until Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, everyone in the search marketing community is knee-deep in last-minute preparations for the sale of the year. Considering what 2020 has been like so far, what else should we expect to be different? We can’t predict the unexpected, but we can point out some new trends that you should be prepared for.

More even than in previous years, we have seen a bigger rise in the number of online shoppers. Owing to health restrictions and lockdowns, people have turned online to look for products and services. We need to look at audience behavior, pay close attention to logistics, and keep a close eye on our messaging. And because we are living in such an ‘unprecedented’ year, we are bound to see some ‘unexpected’ things in the upcoming weeks. 

Here’s my take on 7 such things that we need to be prepared for this Holiday season.

1. Holiday shopping will start sooner

Holiday shopping started early this year and that’s backed up by Microsoft research showing that over 40% of shoppers intend to start earlier this year. Due to the pandemic, a lot of retailers have been very aggressive with deals throughout this year and that may have reset some expectations with consumers. We may now see deals lasting longer and pop up more frequently than before. 

While Black Friday is usually the unofficial start to the Holiday shopping season, this year shoppers won’t be waiting that long. Counting the fact that there are around 50 days between Amazon’s Prime Day (Oct 13) and Cyber Week, shoppers will have begun planning and purchasing for the Holiday season from early October. Moreover, considering the current health regulations, social distancing, and movement restrictions, shoppers might be looking towards a safer way to continue their shopping. This will prompt them to be less spontaneous and instead better plan their in-store visits, and even space them out over a few months to lessen the stress related to the circumstances of this unusual year.

2. Most shopping will be done online

E-commerce is going to be huge in the upcoming months. Even in Q1 & Q2, we saw an unprecedented push towards digital shopping and e-commerce. So the same wave is expected to follow through till the end of the year. According to a report published by Statista Research Department (Aug 10, 2020), titled United States: retail e-commerce sales 2017-2024, US online retail sales are projected to reach 476.5 billion US dollars by 2024. 

E-commerce has accelerated ahead of where everyone expected it to be. For example, the Snacks Daily podcast reported that the Disney+ streaming service has reached its 5-year goal for subscriptions just 7 months after launch, more than 4 years ahead of schedule!

Another thing we are expecting to see is a constant rise in the number of online shoppers post-pandemic, relying on e-commerce stores for their purchases. Data from IBM’s US Retail Index supports this and shows that the pandemic has quickened the transfer from physical to digital stores by 5 years! 

BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store) is going to be a huge hit. People who never dreamed of buying online may now use this hybrid approach. But for retailers, this brings a shift in the competitive landscape. Earlier, brick-and-mortar stores were just competing against pure-play e-commerce shops where consumers liked their convenience and low prices. Now they also have to compete against hybrid players with a strong BOPIS model, like Target and Walmart instead of just Amazon. 

While it’s true that physical stores were already competing with brands like Target and Walmart, that was based more on local convenience and low prices. But with consumers relying on the added convenience of shopping in apps and opting for BOPIS, things may get even tougher for old-school brick-and-mortar stores with no digital capabilities.

4. Holiday 2020 will be celebrated differently

Microsoft’s research data indicates that people will be celebrating differently than before.

More people will celebrate at home (40% will change usual holiday plans according to Microsoft’s data), with smaller groups. Which means less travel but more first-time chefs cooking their first-holiday meal. This in turn is a big boon for food delivery services like DoorDash which, driven by the pandemic, turned a profit for the first time and will have its IPO soon. 

Moreover, with people deciding to stay home, they might be more inclined to invest in self-pampering products like fitness equipment, beauty products, or even streaming subscriptions. So those industries will continue to see an increase in sales as the holidays roll around.

5. Figuring out shipping & delivery

Free shipping, which has long been a staple of e-commerce deals, is likely to take on a new meaning. With higher e-commerce sales, shipping logistics are more strained than ever and that’s on top of pandemic-driven supply-chain issues that have created empty shelves and shortages of a variety of products over the past months. According to a Salesforce report — traditional delivery providers (like FedEx, UPS, DHL) might face issues with capacity (by 5%) between the week before Cyber Week and Boxing Day. Consumers may be surprised when they have to order much earlier than before to get their gifts on time for their celebrations. 

And in turn, retailers and service providers will have to keep a lookout for unanticipated delivery delays of inbound and outbound goods, shipping surcharges imposed by carriers, and potentially higher than usual returns from consumers who are panic buying. 

6. Sale events will be game-changers

Contrary to previous years, Black Friday 2020 might not be able to get much in-store action, courtesy of the pandemic. And while Black Friday has been associated with big-item sales which require a lot of planning and intent, Cyber Monday has always been about online-shopping. 

In-person Black Friday shopping used to appeal to consumers for 3 primary reasons:

But things are different this year and despite the usual appeal of Black Friday, according to Microsoft, Cyber Monday is the sales event to be on the lookout for this year. If your Black Friday follows the trend and is lower than expected, it’s not too late to shift that budget to Cyber Monday over the weekend.

And for international marketers, the following data might be much insightful. In the US, these sale events might bring in consumers, UK & AU report lower numbers of shoppers attending them.

7. Rise of the gift cards

Microsoft says gift cards are growing faster than other categories this year. They are an ingenious solution to a big Holiday problem for consumers – choosing a gift and delivering it on time, even for procrastinators who waited too long! They can even help small businesses market their products and gain stability in the Holiday season by bringing in steady revenue with minimal investment. Consumers have been buying gift cards to support their local businesses in the pandemic.

As gift cards are traditionally excluded from sales events like Black Friday, that may explain why some people don’t intend to participate in the event this year (as explained in the point above).

The other items that are on shoppers’ lists are apparel, toys, electronics, and self-care products.

Conclusion

2020 has been a year with many ups and downs. Unlike earlier years, this year consumers won’t be crowding aisles for Black Friday sales, but rely on purchasing from the comforts of their homes. Since we only have a week to Black Friday, most marketers would have already put their plans and strategies in place. 

While you might not be up for making major changes directly to your ads right now, you can still create last-minute monitors and alerts so that you get some help staying on top of things during your busiest time of the year. If you don’t have these set up, do so now! Also, check out the tips we shared from speaking to 14 PPC experts about their advice on navigating Holiday 2020 and winning e-commerce sales

Go Beyond Bid Management: 4 Common Problems & How to Solve Them

When we think about bid management of our keywords and product groups, there are key areas that every marketer concentrates on. For example, targeting the right ROAS/CPA, ensuring that impression share is not lost, not losing the top spots to your competitors, giving lower bids to expensive or non-converting keywords, and so on.

While it’s right to focus on optimizations for setting the bids correctly, marketers should not forget other areas that need their attention as well. 

Here are some areas where marketers shouldn’t be limiting themselves to bid management to tackle common problems: 

It’s important to know the right thing to do for each of the above use-cases. Let’s wrap these pain points with the right solutions. 

1. Spread out your budget throughout the day.

Keep your bids as it is and implement hourly bid adjustments. Analyze historical data and find the times in the day which spend more and which perform better as well. So, you need to apply bid adjustments for different times of the day based on your goal. 

One way to get started would be to look at the times of the day when your conversion rate is high and check the impression share during those specific times. If you have a low impression share, it means that you aren’t able to drive as much traffic as you could for high-performing hours.

To fix this, increase the bid adjustments to grab more traffic. At the same time, for the time slots which don’t convert – apply negative bid adjustments or disable those time slots to not serve ads at all. This is like load-shedding – wipe out budgets during some time slots of the day and keeping it for the times of the day when you expect better performance.  

2. Don’t overspend your daily budget.

Use a budget tracker – to have a way to not exceed a given budget amount each day even if Google allows spending 200% of your daily budget. You can use solutions like Flexible Budget script at Optmyzr. The script runs automatically every hour to check the cost you’ve spent until the hour of the day and pause the account/campaign when the target budget is spent. Learn more.

3. Analyze the lost impression share. 

Before dropping the ball, it is very important to identify if it was the budget or ad rank (bid) that limited the performance of your account/campaign. Sometime back, a Digital Marketer shared with me that they’ve been increasing bids for high performing keywords to improve their impression share to 85% from current ~60% Impression share – but with no success. 

On analyzing their account’s performance with PPC Investigator, we found that increasing the bids didn’t help because they were losing impressions due to budget constraints and not the bid. Learning from this? While you increase the bids – don’t forget to check if you’re losing impression share because of insufficient budget allotment. 

4. Go granular – manage bids for each keyword.

Don’t limit yourself to set bids only at the ad group or campaign level. While you find high-performing keywords that perform better, it’s equally important to find keywords that are bleeding money. 

If you can identify the underperforming keywords and reduce bids on them, it will allow you to provide more budget towards better-performing keywords which will last for a longer period of the day and get you better results at the same time. 

Conclusion

What advertisers forget is that each time that a new bid is set, Google takes time to test it and bring you results based on the changes. So, if you change the bids too frequently, you might very well be hampering the learning cycle and eventually the results. 

The solution? You need to give your bids room to breathe and check out the other factors which you need to be concerned about apart from just setting your bids again and again.

14 PPC Experts Tell Us How to Win 2020 Holiday Shopping & e-Commerce

The holiday season is no longer upon us — it’s here. With Amazon kicking off Prime Day last week, the US market has entered the busiest time of Q4. And if you’re a search marketer, you’re probably still looking for ways to adapt to the new game that is e-commerce in 2020.

We spoke to 14 PPC experts to find out what advice they have for fellow search marketers to crush holiday sales and win big at e-commerce in Q4 2020. Here are their tips (in no particular order)!

1. Pick a campaign structure to help you win

Frederick Vallaeys, CEO, Optmyzr

Focus on profits rather than Google metrics like target ROAS. Remember that a higher ROAS does not automatically mean a higher profit so it’s important to find the sweet spot for your accounts.

Better yet, split up your shopping campaigns so that products are grouped by profit margin and then set a different tROAS for every campaign so that it achieves profitability. This works with standard and Smart Shopping campaigns, and it’s a great way to take back some control while still using Google’s amazing capabilities in automated bidding.

2. Optimize your data feed

Ed Goss, Managing Director, Ten Thousand Foot View 

We’ll all be running Smart Shopping campaigns sooner or later. Focus on data feed optimization as this evergreen strategy will become your primary differentiator. With Google ramping up product disapproval thresholds, a high-quality feed can also save you from constant troubleshooting.

At my agency, we’ve found many advertisers haven’t spent any time optimizing Merchant Center. Activating features like feed rules, promotions, product ratings, and even automatic improvements can substantially boost click share and ROAS performance.

3. Don’t break or lose trust

Navah Hopkins, Director of Paid Media, Hennessey Digital

If online retailers do just one thing to bolster their performance, it’s to ensure they’re not losing the sale because of lack of trust. 

Customers expect trust symbols:

The unspoken expectation is an online store will have more than one product unless the brand is clearly direct-to-consumer (DTC). If there aren’t a lot of products on offer (or if there isn’t a cohesive theme behind products being offered), it can deter prospects from going ahead with the purchase.

4. Optimize for profitability

Frederik Boysen, CEO, Profitmetrics.io

Q4 is the quarter of the year for most e-commerce. It’s Black Friday, the Christmas season, and sales. You have high expectations. Your product promotions are ready. Discount codes and campaigns are ready. Marketing budget is increased. But so is your competition as well.

Q4 is an e-commerce dogfight and the complexity of handling promotions, discount codes, free shipping, increased CPA, etc leaves you open to decreased profits even if turnover goes up. My advice is to track your profitability every day, on every order and every online ad, and get going with profit-bidding. No more guessing about profitability.

If you want to learn the difference between ROAS and POAS, click here

5. Be ambitious, open, and realistic

Matthew Soakell, Senior PPC Trainer, Mabo

My tips come in the form of three simple yet highly effective areas:

If you’re not using proactive Smart Bidding (rather than reactive manual bidding), you’re missing out on thousands of signals that Google can be responsive to in a split second.

Secondly, utilize promotions in the Merchant Center. If you or your client are running a Black Friday or Christmas sale, the world needs to know!

Finally, make sure that you’re not missing out on traffic (and therefore sales) because of something as simple as being limited by budget.

6. Keep an eye on creative

Phoebe Holford, PPC Team Manager, Mabo

Check your creatives and keep your messaging seasonal! In the new automated landscape of PPC it’s sometimes easy to forget the basics. In Q4 refresh your smart shopping ad images, remarketing, and even your product descriptions to make sure you are shouting about your USPs and standing out from the crowd with seasonal content. In the Northern Hemisphere, think roaring fires and festive scenes, no ice creams or sunbathers. No group shots either resonate by reflecting current COVID guidelines. 

Top Tip: If you are looking for volume and reach try adding generic phrases to product descriptions “a perfect stocking filler”.

7. Look for stability

Kirk Williams, Owner, Zato Marketing

We are about to enter a period of time in e-commerce that digital marketers have never before faced. I believe the most practical thing we can do as marketers is to seek “stability” in our efforts. In Google Ads, I believe this stability can take 2 routes: algorithm stability and bandwidth stability.

By seeking algorithm stability, we need to give the machines the best shot at helping us in this time of potential upset. This means, we should minimize the amount of unnecessary changes we are doing too close to BFCM. My recommendation is to have your feed data locked down by October 31 so you are making no changes (other than normal pricing or stock changes, of course) in November as you approach the core season.

By seeking bandwidth stability, you are addressing the human side of PPC in ensuring you and your team have the ability to account for the unknown. If you are continuing to do normal sets of optimizations through the BFCM period, then not only are you potentially throwing off machine learning, but you are putting the pressure of normal changes on your team in a time that is sure to have additional pressures added at the last minute.

8. Expect more of the unexpected

Julie Friedman Bacchini, Founder and President, Neptune Moon

Since 2020 has already been an off-the-charts year in craziness, it is best to go into Q4 expecting at least more of the same! Get your strategies and ads in order as early as possible – both to ensure delivery delays don’t derail everything and in case ads start taking a lot longer to get through approvals. Talk with clients about expectations too and make sure they understand that things could get disrupted from any direction this year so there should be contingency plans in place for as many aspects as possible.

9. Deseasonalize demand

Gianpaolo Lorusso, Founder, ADWorld Experience

In my opinion, the key for success in Q4 campaigns for shopping & e-commerce in this strange year is in the general marketing strategy we all should set up to ride the long wave of incremental online purchases created by 2020.

We all know very well how important it is to set new ads (and extensions) and to push budgets on the right promotions when people are more willing to buy online, but the real challenge here is to turn a cash-flash into a structural and steady sales growth.

The key to all this is to deseasonalize the demand. And you can do it only partially by acting on campaigns; you have to change the structure of your promotions. From Black Friday to a week or even a month, let people know that they have not to wait till November 27th to have their discounted El Dorado and that they will find good bargains long after it.

Learn more about PPC in Europe by reading this blog post.

10. Look beyond just ads

Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director of Marketplace Strategic Services, Tinuiti

The array of options for e-commerce right now are pretty dizzying and even more so at a time when traffic is high and add in a marathon of shopping dates into Q4. So to get to it — if you are in-store and haven’t checked out Instacart, you definitely should. 

Shoppers are going beyond groceries and the self-serve platform makes it easy. If you are in retailers like Walmart or Target, there are sponsored product options that may be a fit with low or no minimum budgets to give it a go. If you’re DTC, definitely check out some of the lesser crowded options like eBay or Etsy to promote items often at a lower cost than you would on more popular channels. And of course, Google Shopping, Shopping Actions, Buy with Google. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a no commission platform right now.

11. Go beyond on the customer experience

Duane Brown, Founder & Head of Strategy, Take Some Risk

If you are in e-commerce, DTC, or even in B2B and sell a physical product, making sure you can deliver that product and make the last mile work for your brand is something all marketers should care about. If we can not get our brands to deliver a product in people’s hands, we won’t have anything to sell. We won’t have a reason to run PPC ads.

The battleground for Q4 2020 will be in the streets and in the warehouses across this country and around the world. This may not be the job we signed up for but if there is a roadblock stopping customers from having the best experience possible after clicking on our ads, we need to help brands remove that roadblock.

2020 has been a whirlwind experience. It can be hard to think about let alone predict the future. However, I truly believe that making sure we can get our products into the hands of customers is going to be a challenge this year and all brands need to plan for it. We can not run ads, spend tons of money, and then not deliver on our brand promise to get that item someone bought.

12. Get the fundamentals right

Richard Kliskey, PPC Manager, The McGarry Agency

To ensure Q4 success, we review performance trends and predict where the best opportunities will be relative to auction competition. This includes factoring in prediction forecast ranges where shoppers start earlier than last year. We build out promotional calendars and prepare in good time. Simple, basic tasks that might seem obvious still need to be triple checked to avoid missing out. This includes ensuring customer match lists are up to date, and that product feeds are in good health.

13. Be ready for greater competition

Andrew Lolk, Founder, SavvyRevenue

The competition will be fierce this year. Many omnichannel e-commerce companies will be chasing revenue online. Q4 accounts for 20-50% of most e-commerce revenue and with Covid-19 not being over by a long shot many will have to shoot for the stars.

Here it’s important to distinguish between DTC and “retail e-commerce” companies. DTC will experience more competition, but overall do great. They have seen a much bigger appetite for e-commerce and are living high off this. Retail e-commerce is trying to play catch-up, which is close to impossible. 

I’m therefore predicting a mad dash for revenue in Q4 across the US and Europe. Be ready to change course, lower ROAS targets, and come up with better strategies during Q4. Only the best survive.

14. Be realistic, transparent, and patient

Aaron Levy, Group Director of SEM, Tinuiti

I feel like a bit of a broken record, but Q4 2020 is going to be different than any Q4 we’ve had before. The keys to winning this year are expectation setting, transparency, and patience.

The fast rise in e-commerce and reticence to visit stores in person means shipping delays and curbside pickup. Companies will win with an omnichannel strategy (leveraging in-store pickup options in Merchant Center) and transparent shipping timelines to ensure consumers will get their gifts on time.

The other challenge to be cognizant of is slowed approval timelines within Google or Microsoft. Both have had resource issues (along with the rest of the world), meaning your ads for a 1-day sale may not get approved as fast as they would before. Get your sales planned well ahead of time, and leverage extensions to ensure ads show rather than fully swapping ads for every promotion.

Conclusion

In the coming months, we’ll all need to put more thought into everything that’s important to meet business goals. Whether it’s logistics, automation or bidding strategy, keep your audience as your focus. Share the right messages to the right people. Regularly monitor and update your accounts. And above all, be prepared yet flexible.

More importantly, make note of what experts and your peers have to say about the upcoming season. Gain multiple perspectives and apply those which help you fulfill both yours as well as your clients’ goals.

4 Proven Tips to Control Automated Bidding

During my 5 years as a PPC strategist, I’ve learned that the most common dilemma marketers face is choosing between automated and manual bidding.

While many other factors also come into the picture — budgets and targets, for example — choosing an efficient bidding strategy is the undisputed winner.

So let’s dive right into how we find the solution. Here are 4 proven tips I’ve seen PPC managers use to control automated bidding.

How much can you really rely on Smart Bidding?

On a past episode of PPC Town Hall, Google’s Partner Development Analyst Peter Oliveira said, “Smart bidding uses both aggregated and recent trends, [but] favors what’s been happening recently.”

While Smart Bidding looks more agile, it may not be as robust as you’d like it to be. This is because the automated system may not wait long enough to adjust bids. Those bids might be set based on new patterns, leading to potential anomalies.

So do you rely on Google’s Smart Bidding to get the best results? Or should you roll up your sleeves and take responsibility for manually driving the best results?

In my experience, the answer is a combination of the two.

Experts say that your choice of bidding strategy should depend on how much time you can devote to PPC management and your goals.

But according to a more recent train of thought from our CEO Fred Vallaeys, marketers should train automated bidding strategies to get better results — something likely to resonate with the world’s most renowned PPC practitioners.

As you rely on automated bidding strategies to stay agile (especially in the current scenario), add your own expertise and understanding of the market to strengthen Google’s automation.

The solution: Pick the right automated bidding strategy and train it to get your desired results efficiently. That means feeding it the right settings, like Target CPA and Target ROAS, at a very granular level.

1. Don’t be afraid to switch strategies to get more control.

Here’s my golden tip: Don’t set it and forget it.

Automation is only as good as what you feed it. You may start a campaign to achieve one thing, but don’t leave it there. Monitor its performance regularly, and when you don’t see the desired output, you can easily switch to the next strategy.

For example, when you want to generate conversions rather than get clicks, you’d choose the “Maximize Conversions” bidding strategy. After running that for 30 days or exhausting your budget, you can gauge the performance of your campaigns.

When you have a tool like Optmyzr, the next step is to check out performance using the Rule Engine strategy shown below. And if you’ve had enough conversions — say 50 in 30 days — you can switch to a more specific strategy like “Target CPA” or “Target ROAS”.

This is because the campaign is already able to spend more than its daily budget. In that scenario, taking control of the target values for CPA or ROAS can improve performance even further.

2. Get granular.

Align campaigns based on the goals and strategies you intend to use for optimization, right from the beginning. Think of it as a more futuristic approach to preparing your campaigns for a bidding strategy like “Target CPA” or “Target ROAS” from the beginning.

If you have different margins for the brand, categories of products, product types, or location targets you’re advertising for, then group them separately.

3. Update your targets.

Google allows you to set the target values for “Target CPA” and “Target ROAS” bidding strategies. Make use of this flexibility.

If you set one bidding target for all of your ad groups, it’s akin to expecting all the fingers on your hand to do the same thing.

One target for all your ad groups is likely to limit their performance, and you may also prevent Google’s machine from optimizing the best results for your different ad groups. Instead, optimize your target values based on each ad group’s current performance.

Check out one such strategy ready for you to try in Optmyzr: Optimize Target CPA & Target ROAS.

4. Don’t rule out manual bidding.

While automated bidding strategies may work for most of your campaigns, it might not be the solution in every scenario. Keep your options open.

Using Optmyzr, you can set up automation to find campaigns where automated bidding didn’t fare well. Switch them to a control group of campaigns where you can run manual bidding strategies.

Check out the image below showing how to find those campaigns using our Rule Engine:

Conclusion

Automated bidding strategies are a good foundation, but it’s the PPC strategist’s role to make them smarter. Analyze, introspect, and always be prepared to shift bidding strategies if you aren’t moving the needle on your goals.

And as you switch to other bidding strategies, keep in mind that the accumulation of data points over a period of time can guide Google’s engine to drive the best results for you.

Optimizing your strategies on automated bidding isn’t always simple, but Optmyzr can help you shave hours off execution. Our tools layer automation over what the ad engines provide, helping you leverage automated bidding while staying in control.

To try out the Rule Engine strategies in this article and many others, try Optmyzr absolutely free for 14 days.

10 Ways Customers Use Optmyzr to Retain Control with Smart Bidding

Marketers fear automation, but Smart Bidding is a great example of how it actually helps.

Teeming with data and interactions, Smart Bidding uses machine learning to create optimal bid strategies. And because it saves both time and money, it’s quickly become an important part of PPC.

But there’s a (literally) dark side to it as well.

Smart Bidding means surrendering control to the black box of Google’s AI, with strategies that simply don’t allow you to tweak aspects of them to your specifications. Simply put, you input your goals and Google uses your account’s past behavior to produce results.

What do you do when you want the convenience of Smart Bidding but don’t want to give up control? You turn to a tool like Optmyzr.

Here are 10 ways Optmyzr customers use our platform to retain control when they use Smart Bidding.

Understanding how automated bidding works

The keystone of AI or machine learning is the data the system uses to make decisions and predictions. In the same vein, the success of automated bidding strategies depends on the quality of the performance data that system is able to collect. This in turn depends on how your account is set up.

The performance of badly structured campaigns cannot be improved by putting them on an automated bidding strategy.

A good account structure and the right attribution model are vital to the success of any automated bidding strategy. If you’re using last click attribution, either change to another attribution model or run manual bidding.

Campaigns that run on automated bidding strategies need to be optimized in order to have the right data to work with. In theory, the only thing Google takes care of is setting bids — only one aspect of managing an account.

The rest is still on you.

Automated bidding is not a ‘set it and forget it’ deal. However, with bidding out of the picture, you’ll have more time for other tasks — the kind of search queries you want to show for, or the messaging you want to use in your ads.

1. Search Query Management

Search queries are still the primary source of traffic for search campaigns, so it’s important to monitor the ones your ads show for so you can remove irrelevant ones (add them as negative keywords). It’s also a good idea to add high-performing search queries as keywords because you can write more specific ads for them.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Keyword Lasso, Search Terms n-Grams, Negative Keyword Finder

2. Quality Score Optimization

Optimizing to increase Quality Score is one way to reduce your CPA and increase ROAS. Even though Google is automatically setting your bids in the auction, a high Quality Score requires a lower bid.

In other words, you pay less for each click.

Find keywords in your account with low Quality Score and move them to their own SKAGs with the more specific ads. Or, pause them if they have an irredeemable quality score of 1.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Quality Score Tracker, Rule Engine

3. Creating Ad Schedules

This isn’t about setting bid adjustments for different times of the week; your automated bidding strategy already does that. We’re talking about allocating campaign budgets to the more lucrative times of day by turning your ads off when they’re not profitable, making it something of a budget optimization.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Hour of Week Analysis, Hour of Week Bid Adjustments

4. Non-Converting Keywords

Pause keywords that have not converted in a long time but have accrued significant cost. This optimization should only be done if you aren’t running on last click attribution. Otherwise, you’ll pause top-of-funnel keywords and eventually reduce conversions.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Non-Converting Keywords, Rule Engine

5. Budget Optimization

You did budget optimizations before automated bidding, and you should continue to do them now. Reallocating budgets across campaigns based on performance helps improve overall account ROAS.

Check if high-performing campaigns are losing impression share due to budget, and increase their budget by giving them money from underperforming campaigns.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Spend Projection, Optimize Budgets

6. Tweaking Targets

If you’re running on the standard automated bidding strategy (target CPA and target ROAS), you can tweak targets at the ad group level. There are two instances where I’d recommend doing this:

Optmyzr Tools Used: Optimize Target CPA & ROAS, Rule Engine

  1. Increase target CPA for ad groups that are converting but losing impression share due to ad rank. For campaigns running on target ROAS, reduce ROAS. This is the same as increasing bids for high-converting keywords when campaigns are on manual bidding. It enables Google to bid more to drive more conversions.

  2. Reduce target CPA or increase ROAS for ad groups whose actual CPA and ROAS are significantly better than the target and whose impression share is already more than 70%. This reduces the chances of Google buying very expensive traffic when the automated bidding system thinks there’s room to increase CPA and win more traffic.

7. A/B Testing Ads & Updating Messaging

Ad text automation is probably one of the last things that will happen in PPC — writing ads always involves subjectivity and creativity. Responsive Search Ads are a step in that direction, but they only combine headlines and description lines; you still have to write them.

This is why it’s important to continually A/B test ads — so you can remove underperforming ones and keep messaging fresh.

Optmyzr Tools Used: A/B Testing, Ad Text Optimization

8. Performance Monitoring & Alerts

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is set up alerts to notify you of sudden changes in traffic, conversions, CPA, ROAS, or any other KPI that’s important to you.

This helps you stay on top of your campaigns, especially when something doesn’t go as expected. For example, if the CPA for a campaign suddenly shoots up, you’ll want to see why it happened and take appropriate action.

Optmyzr Tools Used: Alerts on the MCC dashboard, Rule Engine

9. Performance Audits of Automated Bid Strategies

Knowing when to pivot is critical to success, be it in PPC or any other business. It’s a good idea to regularly check on the performance of your campaigns’ bidding strategies to see if you need to pivot.

For example, if a campaign is running to maximize conversions, it might be time to move it to target CPA and ROAS. You can also see if certain campaigns on automated bidding strategies aren’t driving enough conversions and move them to manual bidding for a while.

Optmyzr Tools Used: PPC Audits, Rule Engine

10. Structural Account Audits

Regular account audits are so important for good structure. Check for things like too many keywords in an ad group, too few ads, campaigns with not enough negative keywords, or campaigns missing site links.

This ensures that campaigns in your account have a solid foundation on which automated bidding strategies can do what they’re capable of.

Optmyzr Tools Used: PPC Audits

Conclusion

We live in a world where competition is fierce and standards are demanding. PPC marketers rely on automated bidding more than ever to do more in less time. What automated bidding lacks intuition and human understanding, you can provide by optimizing your campaigns.

Help it help you.

There’s no one way to win with automated bidding, but Optmyzr offers several tools that allow you to layer your own automation over what the ad engines provide. If you don’t have Optmyzr, try our platform free for 14 days with access to all features.

Search Ad Masterclass Pt. 3: Optimize campaigns in 5 steps

Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at two core facets of any search campaign: writing ad text that’s designed to convert, and diversifying ad types to attract a wider audience.

This week, I want to discuss the third part of the process: optimizing your campaigns to improve their performance.

As every PPC marketer knows, taking a campaign live is when the testing and learning really begin. Using the insights that follow is how you develop a strong foundation into a memorable, profitable campaign.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways you can optimize existing campaigns to drive additional traffic and better conversions.

1. Understand the point of testing.

Imagine you’re in a mall shopping for clothes. What makes you decide to enter a store? Is it the window display? That big sale with 50% discounts? Points or cashback on your credit card?

The store won’t know until they ask; testing and identifying what really helps. Your PPC campaigns work in a similar way.

You could have drafted the best ad copy ever — proposing value, mentioning promotions. But until you test it in a way designed to provide answers, you won’t know if the ad text works or which parts are most enticing to users.

2. Pause ads that aren’t converting.

Performance metrics like click-through rate, conversion rate, and conversions to impressions served can help you identify if your ads resonate with users. After your ads have served for enough time or won enough impressions, you can begin testing them.

Traffic for each ad group will vary, which is why testing ads is a continuous process. This ensures that as soon as some of your ad groups have served the right amount of traffic, you can:

PPC expert and long-time Optmyzr customer Isaac Rudansky shared his best practices in this blog, explaining how Optmyzr can help you test your ads more effectively.

3. Turn winners into champions.

The next step is to test your ad components to find messaging that works the best across your campaigns. Some cool ways to manage ad content better include:

4. Keep seasonality in mind.

As important as it is to keep updating your ad text and content, it’s equally vital to keep updating any seasonal offers.

For example, running Christmas ads weeks after the season ends is a fundamental advertising blunder. Avoid mistakes like this by running audits of ad text and replacing these out-of-date ads with new content.

As an aside, you can also use the Rule Engine in Optmyzr to automatically pause campaigns based on seasonality or holiday timing. Find out more about that here.

5. Enhance existing campaigns.

There’s always a way to add a new edge to your ads, whether it’s through components you haven’t used or a change in strategy. Here are some ways to take your campaigns to the next level:

Conclusion

When it comes to optimization, testing is the most important component. Until your ads have served long enough to get some strong data behind them, it can be difficult to gauge just what is and isn’t working.

The further you get along this journey, the quicker and more scalable your optimization needs to be. If you’d like to see how Optmyzr can make this experience more seamless, you can try our platform completely free for 14 days — no credit card required!

If you have any other questions, write to us at support@optmyzr.com and we’ll be happy to start a conversation!

Search Ad Masterclass Pt. 2: Experiment with ad types for better results

In last week’s post, we talked about why it’s important to take the time to write ads that resonate with your target audience — and to update them periodically.

So you’ve written some ads and they’re performing well. How do you take it to the next level and move the performance needle?

This week, I’ll show you how your client or business can benefit from experimenting with different ad types on the Search network.

What ad types can drive the results you want?

The amount of diversity within Google’s selection of Search ads is considerable, and different ad types are better suited to different business goals. Today, I want to talk about three of the more popular choices if you’re just getting into writing PPC ads.

1. Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) according to Google:

Dynamic Search Ads are the easiest way to find customers searching on Google for precisely what you offer. Ideal for advertisers with a well-developed website or a large inventory, Dynamic Search Ads use your website content to target your ads and can help fill in the gaps of your keyword based campaigns.

When you run a DSA, Google uses structured website data to automatically create headlines and descriptions, and links landing pages that match user queries to your ad.

While a DSA might not offer the control and flexibility to customize or edit ad text, it’s the ideal way to get started with new PPC accounts — provided you have the web content and landing pages to support it.

Once Google starts generating DSAs, keep a close eye on their performance. You can use the best-performing headlines and descriptions in targeted Search ads or other types of specialty ads.

2. Expanded Text Ads

Expanded Text Ads (DSA) according to Google:

Expanded text ads are similar to the text ads that you’re used to, but with a few key differences:

  1. Expanded text ads have three headline fields… the third is optional.
  2. Expanded text ads also have two 90-character description fields.
  3. The domain of your display URL is based on your final URL domain.
  4. The display URL can include two optional “Path” fields.
  5. _Expanded text ads are mobile-optimized._

Running an ETA is entrusting Google’s machine learning to figure out what works best for your business. All you do is enter a combination of different text elements — make sure these aren’t just variants of the same message, but distinctly different value propositions and calls to action.

My recommendation is to create three or four ETAs using combinations of distinct headlines and descriptions within one ad group. Once these ads start performing, you can run additional tests to identify which ad copy yields better CTRs or conversion rates

And while you test your ads, you can also create variations of them to drive better performance. Some of the advantages of ETAs include being able to:

3. Responsive Search Ads

Responsive Search Ads (DSA) according to Google:

Responsive search ads let you create an ad that adapts to show more text — and more relevant messages — to your customers. Enter multiple headlines and descriptions when creating a responsive search ad, and over time, Google Ads will automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best.

RSAs allow you to expand your reach to show on inventories you might be missing with ETAs (quality score and bids).

Choose this ad type if you’d like to rely on Google’s disruptive methodology to find the right combinations of headlines and descriptions from the options provided to show ads created to respond to specific user queries.

When running an RSA, make sure that:

Remember that you can only have up to three RSAs in one ad group, and Google recommends running at least one in each.

The million-dollar question: All for one, or one for all?

Once your account is up and running, a combination of RSAs and ETAs can help you strike a balance between controlling your ad text and exploring new opportunities to show your ads.

While you set up these ad types, remember to create variations of ETAs — as well as the headlines and descriptions of RSAs — while keeping in mind the traffic you expect your ad group to serve:

This approach to ad creation should allow for earlier identification of winners — for Google to find better-performing headlines and descriptions, and to identify the better-performing ads based on A/B testing.

Conclusion

As always, keep a close eye on your campaigns — especially in the early stages of using a new ad type. You might discover something that affects ad performance that can be sorted out quickly.

A tool like Optmyzr can be of use. The Ad Text Optimization tool lets you import existing campaign data to find your best performing headlines and descriptions (with tracking templates), and we also have a feature that can help you build RSAs within our platform.

In the next blog post, I’ll show you how to optimize your ads and ad text to drive even better results. In the meantime, you might want to look at Google’s resource directory for ads and campaigns to better understand these (and other) ad types.

Search Ad Masterclass Pt. 1: How to write ads that get quality clicks

Write ads. Get clicks. Make money.

Simple, yes. Easy, not at all.

Across this three-part search ad masterclass, I’ll share insights I’ve picked up from working with some of the world’s most successful PPC strategists.

Insights that will help you:

Let’s kick things off with how you can write ads designed to win high-quality clicks that are actually relevant to your business.

Why relevant ad text drives clicks

Think of your PPC campaign’s ads as the window displays in a store, which are often a shopper’s first point of engagement. All your hard work winning an ad auction could be nothing more than an empty time-sink if your ads aren’t written to get clicks from people who want your product or service.

And despite all the automation implemented by Google, writing ads that get clicks still relies on the creativity of account managers.

Just as store displays are changed frequently to continue attracting traffic, so too is it important to keep updating PPC ads with fresh promotions — always while highlighting your value proposition.

A regular refresh to ad text that keeps up with industry trends frequently improves the chances of getting relevant clicks on your ads.

How to write ad text like a winner 

The image below shows ad results for the search term “buy women shoes”. The ad in first position is a great example of how to utilize the space provided by Google to promote value proposition via ad extensions and promotions.

Even if this ad had only won second position, I would still be very likely to click on it:

A quick glance at the two ads placed lower reveal flaws that might have intrigued a click if they:

Taking ad text to the next level

Along with ad text that’s relevant to a user’s search, another aspect of your ads that can make a difference to performance is which ad type you select.

Google offers multiple ad types to help you advertise in a way that’ll help you achieve your PPC goals. If we’re sticking with Search ads, there are two highly popular ad types you can run in addition to regular search ads.

  1. Expanded Text Ads are popular with PPC strategists working across industries. Expanded Text Ads let you create an ad with three static headlines and two descriptions. It offers ample space to convey your company’s value proposition, and those of the products and services being advertised.
  2. Responsive Search Ads are a type of ad that automates the process of A/B testing. Google allows you to define up to 15 headlines and four descriptions, and A/B testing is automated. Google’s machines experiment to find the combination of headlines and description that are predicted to work best for specific user queries.

Conclusion

If you’re advertising on Google’s Search network, your ad text and choice of ad type play crucial roles in the performance of your campaigns — for both Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads.

Creating search campaigns that get quality clicks is as simple as this four-step process:

  1. Select ad types intelligently.
  2. Write relevant ad text that highlights value.
  3. Create well-structured ad group themes.
  4. Refresh your ads periodically.

Once you start seeing results from your campaigns and need support managing them at scale, a tool like Optmyzr can help you make bulk ad text changes across all your campaigns in just a few clicks.
Next week in part 2 of this series, we’ll further explore these ad types — plus one more that might get you additional results. In the meantime, check out this support article from Google for more amazing tips to help you write successful ads.

How to Start Selling the Easy Way On Google Shopping

Earlier this year, Google made an announcement that changed the way advertisers perceived Shopping campaigns. By making Google Shopping listings free, the world’s largest advertising network forced everyone selling tangible products to rethink their PPC strategies.

Suddenly, this component of the Google advertising network became much more attractive.

At first, brands and PPC marketers were captivated by the prospect of free ad space. Once the initial hype faded, it became clear that only a portion of Google Shopping listings would be made free and that certain conditions had to be met.

To take advantage of these free listings, advertisers need to have active Google Merchant Center accounts and enable their products to show on all surfaces including Google Images, the Google Shopping tab, Google Lens, and Google Search.

As of late May, our conversations with experts like Kirk Williams of Zato Marketing revealed that an average of 5-6% of Google Shopping listings were made complementary.

But that’s not the only reason it makes sense to give your products Google Shopping visibility.

If like many other brands, your business or client are just starting to get involved in building Google Shopping campaigns, this article will help you figure out how to sell on Google Shopping.

In this article, we’ll explore:

How to take advantage of Google Shopping listings

Google Shopping allows advertisers to promote physical, shippable products with a greater amount of visual appeal. Consumers searching for ‘blue shoes’ or ‘leather couch’ can view and explore a range of product listings that match closely with what they’re looking for.

Google Shopping campaigns come in two varieties: Standard and Smart.

Image sourced from versafeed.com

Standard campaigns are built manually to deliver on highly strategic goals. These require some understanding of product groups, campaign structures, and other campaign components in order to achieve a specific goal, such as a target ROAS.

Smart campaigns on Google Shopping reduce the entry barrier by using machine learning and automation to speed up the process. This makes them ideal for small businesses with limited budgets, or advertisers who don’t have the time to build out Standard campaigns.

While Standard campaigns afford greater control over location targeting, negative keywords, custom scheduling, and network placement; Smart campaigns require historical data but will determine placement and other parameters for you based on past performance of other campaigns.

Google Shopping: A proven channel for product visibility

Google Shopping campaigns have always been considered a core part of the PPC marketer’s toolbox. They carry a visual component, which has proven to be more attractive than plain text when products are involved.

Here are four more reasons why Google Shopping is a proven way to give your products the visibility they need, especially with the current economic landscape in mind.

How to sell on Google Shopping the easy way

Google Shopping campaigns can be highly valuable if your business calls for them. But it can be confusing and tricky to build them out if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Moreover, creating splits (e.g. by brand or category) takes a significant amount of time when done manually — and leaves you prone to human error.

Optmyzr’s tools for Google Shopping cover the full life cycle, allowing you to create campaigns and set structures from scratch. Use us to do the heavy lifting and help you create the campaign structures you want, quickly and without error.

With Optmytzr guiding you step by step, you can create both Standard and Smart Google Shopping campaigns and ad groups in just a few clicks.

Campaign Builder 2.0

Campaign Builder 2.0 is Optmyzr’s tool to build Standard and Smart Google Shopping campaigns from scratch. Anyone can link a spreadsheet or Google Merchant Center feed to get started in minutes.

Product Group Refresher 2.0

Product Group Refresher 2.0 optimizes existing Google Shopping campaigns by adding new products and product groups based on existing campaign structures. It looks at your current campaign structures and syncs with the feed to accurately reflect your inventory.

Machine learning provides suggestions, and you can even automate the entire process. For example, when new products are added to the inventory feed, Optmyzr can automatically create new product groups for them.

Manage Shopping Bids

This optimization identifies high-performing product groups, allowing you to raise bids for product groups that are driving results. It also shows which product groups are underperforming or failing, letting you lower bids for them.

By nature, this tool only supports Standard Google Shopping campaigns.

Shopping Analysis

One of our most popular Insight tools, Shopping Analysis helps Optmyzr users understand how their products are performing irrespective of structure. Use it to aggregate data and determine performance based on a number of different attributes.

Aggregate data by price to see the performance and ROAS that products at different price points drive. Or if you’re selling shoes, easily see which sizes are more popular and sell more, or which ones aren’t in demand so you can fine-tune procurement.

Shopping Analysis works with both Standard and Smart Google Shopping campaigns. With the former, you can use this aggregate data to change bids using the Attribute Bidder. For Smart Shopping, you can see which products are selling better — an insight that’s not easy to obtain in Google Ads.

Conclusion

While it’s admirable that Google is thinking of advertisers and supporting them with some complementary Shopping listings, there’s greater value to be experienced than just a couple of freebies.

Unlike services, products have shape and form — and people love to see what they’re buying before they make a purchase. Google Shopping campaigns enable you to do this while expanding your reach, allowing small businesses to flourish and hobbyists to turn passion into profession.

To learn more about how we can help you build and optimize Google Shopping campaigns with minimal time sink, write to us at support@optymzr.com or sign up to try Optmyzr free of cost.

Google Told Us Their 6 Tips to Impact Smart Bidding

The last time we sat down with Google to talk shop, the discussion found its way to managing PPC campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With supply chains disrupted and business models being tested, companies around the world are facing a variety of new conditions. And though the results aren’t uniform, what’s consistent is how every business has been affected in some way.

Many are struggling to find customers. Some are facing uncertain futures. A few fortunate ones are doing better than ever — will they struggle when things return to normal?

We put together some advice for PPC marketers that took the shape of this blog post. But in the weeks since, we’ve seen and heard the debate over automated bidding become one of the prevailing industry conversations.

Thankfully, our friends at Google had plenty more to say.

Here are their recommendations for 6 secret tips that can help you impact Smart Bidding and more reliably navigate a marketplace in flux.

6 Secret Tips to Impact Smart Bidding

As you monitor shifting trends and course-correct your business plan, you’ll also need to bring your strategic approach in line with what the current situation demands. To help you provide clients and customers with a fruitful experience without eating too much of your time, Google recommends Smart Bidding.

Let’s recap the tactics we recommended last time, as well as explore how they impact Smart Bidding.

1. Keywords

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Keyword optimization helps deliver more at the same CPA/ROAS goal, and ensures that brand strategies align with business goals. Broad match keywords allow the Smart Bidding machine to discover new opportunities for conversions.

Optmyzr Tip: You’ll still want to keep other match types and regularly review new search terms with tools like Optmyzr. The Rule Engine’s latest addition takes high-performing keywords with one match type and lets you add new match types at the ad group level.

2. Creatives

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Getting your creatives right prevents your message and customer experience are on the same page, which ensures that each bid brings relevant engagement.

Optmyzr Tip: Regulations and restrictions can change frequently. With the Ad Text Optimization tool, you can quickly and consistently change ad copy to reflect the real-world operating conditions of your business. The Add Responsive Search Ad tool is also useful to build RSAs for each of your ad groups.

The Responsive Search Ads tool lets you maximize your chances of getting meaningful clicks

3. Bids and Budgets

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Putting your marketing dollars where they’re likely to yield the best returns is PPC 101. You capture more leads at the same CPA/ROAS goal, and forecasting often captures the most recent demand trends.

Optmyzr Tip: Campaigns that worked a few months ago might not be winners today, for no fault of their own or yours. Put your dollars where they need to be with the Optimize Budgets tool. It can help you quickly re-allocate budgets based on how different campaigns are doing against your goals.

Optimize Budgets lets you see how to adjust spend to achieve specific goals

4. Target Constraints/Goals

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Using CPA/ROAS goal adjustments can help you control spend and volume. But to achieve the same thing for Max strategies, Google recommends using budget adjustments.

Optmyzr Tip: Use the Optimize Target CPA & ROAS on campaigns with automated bidding to increase conversions and Impression Share. You can also see converting ad groups that use other automated bidding strategies.

5. Account-Wide Best Practices

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

Smart Bidding uses account-wide signals (cross-account under MCC, if applicable). If you’re struggling to see results from Smart Bidding, it might be because you’re still using Last Click Attribution in an era of erratic search behavior.

Optmyzr Tip: The Rule Engine allows you to create data-based strategies, like removing non-converting keywords related to COVID-19. Or for a fun way to keep your account in shape, try the Workouts that combine multiple optimizations to achieve a specific objective.

6. Audiences

How does this impact Smart Bidding?

First-party audience lists improve Smart Bidding algorithms, but Google lists have a neutral impact on Smart Bidding. For best results, provide your own customer information.

Optmyzr Tip: You always want Smart Bidding to have the latest and greatest information about your customers. Use the Customer Match List Updates tool (under Optimizations > Utilities) to keep your audiences in sync between your business data and Google’s audience repository.

6 Ways to Fully Control & Adjust Smart Bidding

While Smart Bidding might make PPC a bit less time-consuming, it’s far from a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality. There are many things you can do to affect the degree of control and influence you have over your bids.

Check out these 6 ways to fully control and adjust Smart Bidding.

1. Goals

Goals are the end objectives of your campaign; think of them as a destination. Tweaking goal values can change the way Smart Bidding tries to get there.

2. Conversions

Current market realities have impacted conversions across the board. Use the information in this space to inform your strategy and reshape the Smart Bidding process.

3. Constraints

Setting hard limits on your financials can enable Smart Bidding to look at creating value over volume. As always, keep an eye on things as you implement this approach.

4. Targeting

Audience is one of the most influential factors in PPC, and there’s no doubt that who and how you choose to target can make a difference to Smart Bidding results.

5. Budgets

At the end of the day, it’s all about the dollars. Experimenting with budgetary values can provide some of the most significant influence on Smart Bidding.

6. Misc. Adjustments

There are other adjustments you can make to shape Smart Bidding, including seasonal adjustments. We suggest exercising oversight when using some of these in today’s market.

Conclusion

It’s been said before but bears repeating: There’s only one way PPC professionals can do right by their businesses and clients — by having as much information as possible. That’s why we’ve partnered with Google to bring you these posts on how to gain maximum value from the tools at your disposal.

These recommendations from Google are intended to supplement a brand’s unique business strategy. Both Google and Optmyzr suggest you balance any automated bidding strategy by keeping a close eye on your accounts. After all, only humans can provide context to the data.

And be on the lookout for the third part of our collaboration with Google, when we discuss what advertisers in hard-hit industries can do to prepare for the end of lockdown.

Google Shifts Approach On Ads Editor, Partners Program, Trends & More

In the last couple of weeks, Google has both altered existing plans and announced new measures to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 on PPC and paid search. Some of these aim to make campaign management a bit easier; others are in response to what agencies and advertisers are experiencing.

Here’s our take on some of the recent changes in Google Ads.

It’s always interesting for us to see Google make changes to Ads Editor. Optmyzr CEO Fred Vallaeys, one of Google’s first 500 employees, helped build the initial version of the tool when it was called the AdWords Editor. It’s great to see that the product is still in use and receiving steady support many years later.

Here’s a quick roundup of what’s included with Google Ads Editor 1.3:

New Features

Updated Features

Optimization Score in Google Ads Editor. Image courtesy of Google.com.

Optimization score, which is now more present in the new Ads Editor, is Google’s way of guiding advertisers to make common best-practice optimizations. But it’s important to remember that Google’s advice is just a suggestion and may not be relevant for your account. 

As a simple example, Google may suggest increasing budget when there is impression share lost in a campaign with conversions. This may ignore that your account has a strict monthly budget cap and raising the campaign budget would bump the total account spend over the limits. Of course Optmyzr’s tools and scripts to help manage and optimize monthly account budgets would still work, regardless of whether an advertiser accepts Google’s budget suggestions.

Also, PPC marketers have the freedom to make changes in the tool they’re most comfortable with. It’s not necessary to make all changes from the Google Ads interface.

“Contrary to what many PPC pros think, Google doesn’t care where you make your edits,” Fred revealed.

“Many marketers believe you have to log into Google Ads and press that final button to get the improvement to your Optimization Score, but that’s not the case. You can continue to use a tool like the Ads Editor, or Optmyzr to audit and optimize your campaigns.”

Fred Vallaeys, Optmyzr

Google Partner Program

COVID-19 is affecting us all, and the world’s largest search engine is no exception.

In February, Google announced sweeping changes to its Partners Program that would start to be enforced from June. Some of these included a minimum 90-day ad spend of $20,000 and requiring accounts to follow Google’s recommendations for Optimization Score.

As Susan Wenograd writes in Search Engine Journal, recent events have forced Google to postpone these new rules to 2021, allowing existing Partners to retain their status and specialization badges and non-Partners to apply using current criteria.

Fred believes this is the right move.

“It’s good that Google has pushed this to give agencies more time and space to deal with the challenges their clients are facing. But at the same time, it’s important that existing and prospective Partners take the time to push ahead and prepare for these changes to take hold in 2021.”

-Fred Vallaeys, Optmyzr

Optmyzr Tip: While existing Google Partner agencies should prioritize client success, don’t wait until it’s too late to get moving on the new goals. If you’re just now applying to become one, let the 2021 criteria serve as your north star.

Ad Credits for Google SMBs

Another widely-lauded move from Google is the announcement of $340 million in ad credits to help “alleviate some of the cost from small and medium-sized businesses to stay in touch with their customers during this challenging time”.

Much like we advised agencies to do all they can to ensure their clients don’t envision a future without them in this earlier post, it seems Google is also wary of losing steady income from a segment that makes up a significant portion of its ad revenue.

Image courtesy of Google.com.

In the midst of a $1.7 billion European Commission fine, the last thing Google needed was a sharp drop in ad revenue — but that’s just what COVID brought to the table. Alphabet’s first quarter earnings were well below expectations, and there’s little evidence to suggest that Q2 will be any different.

Perhaps Google is playing the long game, looking at 2021 revenues and hoping that keeping SMBs on their ad network yields a better payoff than waiting for them to bounce back on their own.

Google recognizes how volatile the current market is and how rapidly it’s shifting — it’s why they recommend that advertisers plan weekly rather than monthly for the near future.

Google Trends reflects this sentiment in search behavior. A tool that’s normally used to reliably find and compare popular search terms, discover related topics and queries, and observe geographic trends is painting incredibly different pictures from one week to the next.

So what’s the value of Google Trends in a dynamic environment?

“The business value is that it can help you figure out what you want to put in your ads. Your value propositions might change based on what people are experiencing and searching for,” Fred says.

“For example, while travel might have once been about the cheapest tickets or the most luxurious hotels, when it opens back up the popular searches might revolve around cleanliness or low-density properties.

“If you dive even deeper, you can unravel more insights. If people want to travel but are still wary of taking flights, they might decide to drive. So in this scenario, hotels might notice a surge in search volume for something like ‘free overnight parking’.”

Fred Vallaeys, Optmyzr

Google Trends. Image courtesy of Google.com.

Businesses might have to explore qualities that they never looked at before. And while they may have an inkling of what’s to come, they have no idea of the degree to which it may occur. In this case, Google Trends serves as a good barometer of demand and search behavior.

Optmyzr Tip: The Rule Engine allows you to build custom strategies to optimize your Google Ads accounts based on fluctuations you observe in Google Trends, such as identifying keywords that exceeded the CPA target for the last 7 days but met the CPA target for the previous 30 days.

Conclusion

As the world’s leading search engine, Google’s actions set the pace for the majority of the PPC community. During both peaks and troughs, many agencies take their cue from Google or use their behavior to influence strategy.

It’ll be interesting to see what more they do to revitalize hard-hit industries and keep paid search on the radar for businesses, especially once the market has experienced a full quarter of COVID-related challenges.

PPC Town Hall: 9 Insights on Bid Management, Paid Social & More

Following last week’s successful PPC Town Hall, we returned with a 4th edition featuring some of the most knowledgeable minds in the PPC and paid search space.

If you happened to miss this week’s chat or any previous editions, check them all out on our YouTube channel or listen to them as podcasts over here.

This week, we focused on bid management in dynamic environments (such as the one created by COVID-19). Optmyzr CEO, Frederick Vallaeys, moderated a panel that included:

Let’s take a look at 9 key insights from this week’s conversation that every agency, advertiser, and consultant can act on.

We’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be achieving any degree of ‘normal’ in the immediate future. With so much volatility across markets, it might be a good time to explore Google’s Performance Planner if you haven’t already.

To quote Google, “Performance Planner is a tool that lets you create plans for your advertising spend, and see how changes to campaigns might affect key metrics and overall performance.”

Google Ads Performance Planner. Image courtesy of Google.com.

Performance Planner works with the latest data at any given time, but the current climate means that said data is rarely predictable and stable from one week to the next.

Peter recommended checking in on Performance Planner every week to explore the impact of shifting CPA, ROAS goals, and manual bids.

“The market is changing so frequently that a target ROAS that gave you a great volume last week might not do the same this week.”

2. Not all businesses have been affected equally.

Just like in every crisis, certain businesses are doing well even as others struggle to stay afloat.

You might have a client whose product or service is experiencing incredibly low demand, or one that’s waiting on overseas shipments and can’t run more ads until they’re able to fulfill additional orders.

Martin has seen that spectrum play out for some of Bloofusion’s client base.

“With our e-commerce clients, we’ve seen a number of differing challenges in the current crisis. Some were overwhelmed by demand. In a few cases, supply is an issue. Others have problems to keep up with packing and shipping. They’ve scaled back or turned off their campaigns to gain a little breathing room.”

3. Products that make isolation less boring are in demand.

With most states in the US (and many geographies around the world) under ‘shelter in place’ orders, it’s no surprise that Google has observed a significant uptick in volume for search terms related to products that make the experience more tolerable.

“We’re seeing that as people are spending more time online, usage is increasing across multiple devices,” Emi said.

“Consumers are searching for many things including technology that helps them work from home (+750%) as well as connected televisions (+37%), streaming devices (+38%), and gaming consoles (+48%).”

4. Consumers want to stay healthy and informed.

But not everything is about work and recreation. Consumers are also looking to maintain their health — and that of their finances.

“In healthcare, consumers are looking to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy while at home. For example, searches related to ‘online workouts’ increased 12x in the past 90 days,” Emi revealed.

Alongside that, people are also preoccupied with what’s happening in their bank accounts. With unemployment hitting record levels and even those in secure jobs suddenly looking cash flow issues in the eye, there’s been a surge in search volume for many related topics.

She added, “Consumers are also looking for financial help, professional advice, and mobile apps to plan for the future with a 9x increase in ‘financial help’ queries e.g. rent/mortgage relief, loan relief, deferred payments.”

5. Hard-hit industries are starting to figure a way out.

It’s worth noting that Tinuiti has an insightful tracker that monitors Facebook spend performance segmented by vertical (signup required).

A quick glance shows that travel is down 79.5% month-on-month but has risen 13.5% week-on-week. Fred speculated that this could be a sign that some of the industries COVID forced to pump the brakes are starting to put new strategies in place.

“People still want to travel; we just can’t,” he said. “These companies could realistically be building desire and demand, identifying an audience searching for these things during this restrictive phase, so they can convert them when travel opens up again.”

Google Trends. Image courtesy of Google.com.

In the case of the automotive industry, which is also showing signs of resurgent spending, Susan speculated that it could be an effort to supplement TV commercials advertising never-before-seen offers like extended windows for no payments and 0% financing.

Either way, it’s evident that businesses that can’t convert at their usual pace are starting to acquire new users to fill the top of their funnel. Which means…

6. It’s a great time to use social media to build TOF.

You don’t have to be as hard-hit as travel or hospitality to consider taking advantage of low-priced social media.

Given that your clients have the budget to do so, now’s as strategic a time as ever to front-load your pipeline with consumers who are high on intent but limited in their capacity to act.

In other words, you can build desire and demand to a fever pitch — and do so with a fraction of the budget you’d normally need.

“We’re seeing some of the cheapest Facebook media with CPMs as low as $2-3. If you have the flexibility and the budget to focus on some top-of-funnel activity, it’s not a bad time to acquire users even if they’re not all going to convert right away,” Susan observed.

If you want to dive deeper into paid media performance during COVID-19, check out her article on Search Engine Journal.

7. Smart bidding offers more control than you realize.

While some advertisers and agencies might be hesitant to allow machines more than a modicum of control over their paid search strategies in the current environment, Smart Bidding might actually empower you more than you thought.

By using tens of millions of data signals, Smart Bidding pairs your inputs with similar auctions in the industry, so it works even if you’re short on first-party data.

“Smart bidding has the ability to pick up signals and compare it to other things going on in the market to make those adjustments. While it uses both aggregated and recent trends, it favors what’s been happening recently,” Peter noted.

Google Smart Bidding considers a multitude of signals to set the right bid for every query. Image courtesy of Google.com.

The key is to remember that as human operators, we’re capable of watching the news and observing the world around us, and then using those observations to provide context to your paid search programs.

You really can influence Smart Bidding to work for you as long as you don’t ‘set it and forget it’!

8. Hyper-segmentation might actually be a good idea.

Under normal circumstances, it’s not absurd to look at the US as a single market: largely the same regulations, similar opening hours, and common methods of fulfillment.

Today, that’s simply not the case. States are enforcing their own COVID-19 restrictions, and even individual counties and cities can impose their own limitations.

So while it’s not the best idea to hyper-segment under normal circumstances, it might be useful to at least try it out right now — and Smart Bidding could be of help.

“Smart Bidding lets you bid at the intersection of each bid adjustment you can manually set,” Fred shared. “One example is adjustments for a location like New York which has been hit hard, one for time of day, and then another for the audience. It can look at the actual scenario of that one auction and how that combination actually matters.”

Peter agreed that if you see significant discrepancies in a geography or other parameter, separating campaigns can afford you a greater degree of control by putting individual levers on your campaigns.

9. Experts are making it easy for PPC pros to stay informed.

As the PPC community continues to face a number of hardships with finding reliable data, some of the industry’s leading experts have developed scripts that enable marketers to make quick observations about the shift in behavior.

One example is this COVID-19 visualization script developed by Fred, which overlays government actions related to the pandemic on Google Ads performance metrics.

“The idea is to help you see if certain events, like store closures, the start of shelter in place, the closing of schools, or the introduction of social distancing correlates in any way with drop-offs or spikes in performance.”

Martin has also developed a script that compares pre- and post-COVID behavior.

Google Ads script by Bloofusion and Martin Röttgerding generates charts showing account performance before and during COVID-19. Image courtesy of Bloofusion.

“Overall trends may be a traffic shift from mobile devices to desktop computers, people searching later at night, and weekdays blurring,” he said.

“However, we’ve found that this is not true for every account. In many cases, these things have remained more or less stable. The script can give you some handy charts about the situation in your own accounts.”

Conclusion

We started the first PPC Town Hall with two objectives in mind: to provide a safe space for paid search pros to vent and share their thoughts on everything that’s been happening, and to steer clear of using it as an opportunity to promote any kind of software or services.

Since then, the PPC community has embraced these weekly conversations, and they’ve evolved into a source of insights on how to approach these new problems that none of us really have all the answers to.

We’re in this together, and we’ll get out of it together.

Please join our next PPC Town Hall on Wednesday, April 22.

How to Pick a Profitable ACOS or ROAS Target

Online advertising can get expensive but thankfully the ad engines like Google, Bing and Amazon all have controls that help advertisers keep costs at the right level for their business goals.

In this post I’ll share how to use your profit margin in conjunction with either target ROAS (tROAS) or target ACOS (tACOS) to achieve break-even on your ad spend. Once you know how to pick the right target so you don’t lose money on PPC, you can dial it up or down to find the right balance between profits and revenue.

The Difference Between Google ROAS and Amazon ACOS

First let’s take a look at what ROAS and ACOS mean and how they are calculated.

Google uses ROAS

When it comes to reporting columns, Google uses terms like ‘Conv. value / cost’ or ‘All conv. Value / cost’. ROAS (return on ad spend) isn’t a metric you can pick: 

But the good news is that ROAS is simply one of the ratios expressed as a percentage so it’s just multiplied by 100 and a ‘%’ sign is slapped on the back:

Google does use the term ROAS in one of its automated bid strategies: Target ROAS (tROAS).

Amazon uses ACOS

Amazon shows the ACOS (advertising cost of sales) metric in its interface more prominently so advertisers are immediately exposed to it when they start advertising on Amazon.

ACOS is based on two of the other metrics Amazon shows by default in its interface:

ACOS and ROAS both serve the same purpose of giving guidance on how to make online ads profitable but at first glance the two metrics seem very different:

While the formulas look quite different, that’s mostly due to the difference in nomenclature between the two ad platforms. Where Google calls it ‘cost’, Amazon calls it ‘Ad Spend’. 

Google cost = Amazon ad spend

Where Google calls it ‘Conversion Value’, ‘Conv. Value’, or ‘Value’, Amazon calls it ‘Sales’.

Google Conversion Value = Amazon Sales

So once we standardize the terminology and swap out all the synonyms, we see that ROAS is the inverse of ACOS:

We need to know product profit margin before ACOS and ROAS become useful.

So how are ACOS and ROAS helpful in bid management? How might we decide what a good target ROAS or target ACOS might be? To do that, we need to understand margins.

Product profit margin or gross profit margin is the ratio of profit over revenue for a single product. The simplest way to think of profit is as the value of the sale minus the cost of producing the thing that was sold:

Let’s look at an example where we sell 3 products for the same price but they all cost different amounts to make. Or for an Amazon reseller, they all cost a different amount to buy from the manufacturer:

Combine margin with ROAS or ACOS to find your break-even point

Now we have all the pieces needed to find how much we can spend on advertising to break even on each sale or conversion*. 

To make sure we don’t lose money by buying ads, our ad spend to get a sale should be no more than the profit we get from that sale.

We make a profit when:

profit on the item sold >advertising cost to get the sale

That’s simple logic to understand, but to communicate this goal to the ad engines, we need to translate it into the jargon they use. That means we need to bring it back to ROAS and ACOS.

What is a Break-Even ACOS

ACOS it’s very simple to equate to break-even if you know your margin. The numbers have to be the same.

What is a break-even ROAS?

Because ROAS and ACOS are the inverse of each other, our break-even point on Google is when is (product profit margin)-1 . That’s the product margin divided by 1.

Let’s see that in a different more visual way:

The bottom line

So there you have it, the perfect ACOS or ROAS to break-even on your ad spend on Google or Amazon. On Amazon, it’s the profit margin of the product you sell. On Google it’s the inverse of that same number.

*You don’t really break even by spending no more on ads to get a sale than what you gain from that sale as that doesn’t consider other costs to run the business of selling things. This is why knowing the break-even point is just the start and you should add a target profitability so you make money.

Thinking Outside The Box #2 – Bid by Weather

You know that old saying “when it rains… apply bid changes”. Well, that’s not really how it goes, but it’s most definitely one thing you can do with our Rule Engine!

On our last “Thinking Outside The Box” post, we showed you how to create a date-driven automation to change your campaign status. And that’s just one example of the many different (and powerful) use cases we have for Rule Engine.

Now we’ll show you how Optmyzr can help you automatically bid by weather.  A similar case was also covered in the “Advanced Rule Engine Examples” video by our co-founder Frederick Vallaeys.

Step 1: Create the Recipe

For this example, we’ll create a recipe to modify bids at the ad group level using values such as “Current Temperature” or “Current Weather Condition”.

Keep in mind that this is just one of many use cases for the Rule Engine weather bid management. Among the possibilities you’ll find you can:

Step 2: Set up the spreadsheet

To set up the spreadsheet, you’ll need to make a copy of this Google Spreadsheet, and share it with rule-engine@optmyzr-automation.iam.gserviceaccount.com

You’ll need to generate your own API key here https://openweathermap.org/appid#get and follow the rest of the steps listed on the sheet “Instructions and Keys”.

Note: For the last step on the spreadsheet, you can download your list of campaigns from the “Connect External Data” section in the Rule Engine by clicking on “Get Sample Data For Your Account” and paste it exactly as it is on the “Paste CSV from RE here” sheet.

Step 3: Add the Zip Code

Now let’s add the corresponding City or ZIP Code to the campaigns. The spreadsheet has a couple of sheets to get weather data. Depending on which one you want to use, you’ll have to manually add the City or ZIP code to your list of campaigns.

For cities, please follow this format {city},{country code} (you can get a list of country codes here).

Note that if the country code is not specified, the OpenWeatherMap API might return data for the wrong city.

To link the spreadsheet to your recipe, you’ll need to paste the spreadsheet’s URL in the “Connect External Data” section. Make sure you specify the sheet from where the Rule Engine pulls weather data, and the correct column types (Current Temperature: Number|Current Weather Condition: Text).

Read further on “Connecting External Data in Rule Engine”

Step 5: Build the recipe

Let’s get down to business! Having completed these previous steps, you can now use any of the weather data from the spreadsheet to build your own custom optimization. Remember the spreadsheet has campaign data, so that’s the scope you should use when adding the conditions:

Let’s suppose that we have a couple of campaigns for “Sunglasses” in Madrid and “Shorts” in Toulouse. If temperatures start to rise, we might want to increase the bids for the ad groups in those campaigns accordingly.  The first rule does precisely this. If the temperature rises above 27ºC, and the weather condition is “clear sky” it applies two actions:

  1. We increase the bids for the ad groups in the campaign by 10%
  2. We label the ad groups (for the example we’ll use: Bid by High Temperature) – **This step is critical, as it helps to revert the changes with Rule-2.**

But what happens if the temperatures drop? The second rule reverses the changes applied by the first rule. To do this, we check all ad groups with the label “Bid by High Temperature” and apply two actions:

  1. Set the bids back to their previous value. We achieve this by using an expression where we divide the Current Bid by 1+(0.1) where 0.1 = 10% increase.
  2. We remove the labels “Bid by High Temperature”.

Note: In the same ****spreadsheet you can change the temperature units used (Instructions and Keys sheet – Step 4) and see a list of all weather conditions the Open Weather Map API can return (Descriptions sheet)

Step 6: Test, preview & automate 

All set! You can now preview the suggestions and if everything looks ok, you can go ahead and automate it to run on a daily basis.

Try it out! If you have any questions, or if you’d like us to have a look at your recipe before you start running it just email us: support@optmyzr.com – we’ll be glad to help you.

Understanding Google’s new Extension of Phrase Match and Broad Match Modifiers

Watching this year’s Google Marketing Live event, one of the things that really intrigued me was Ben Gomes, Google’s SVP of Search, explaining the process of how query matching has evolved from the first Google searches up to this day. 

He used the following example:

“The pictures of modern TVs are phenomenal, except sometimes they look strange. And the question is “How do you ask a question about ‘my TV looking strange’?”.

See, the question is no longer a simple query, as it would be to search for “my TV is not connecting” or “How do I fix the resolution on my screen”, but rather a much more complex concept. He then proceeded to explain how by using ML and Neural Networks, they were able to take that query and transform it into a neural embedding. This query’s neural embedding then matched the neural embeddings contained in their documents and that allowed them to match to the best result.

This process is known as Neuromatching, and although it’s no new information, seeing it graphed onto a neurolinguistic “word cloud”, and hearing the explanation of why this was so, gave me a fresh perspective into where we’re heading today. 

The Prelude

Last year we were introduced to an expansion of exact match close variants that included same meaning variations. Using Google’s own example, the exact match keyword [yosemite camping] would now also match to queries such as “yosemite campground” and “campsites in yosemite.” It was no longer just about the keyword the user typed into the query, but also the implied meaning of what they typed.

This was a pretty big change, which meant among other things paying much closer attention to search term reports for their exact match keywords. Some embraced this change energetically, while others were at first more hesitant as to why these changes were being made. These are just a couple of examples:

This year we’ve been struck yet again with another change: Google is now extending same-meaning close variants to phrase match, broad match modifiers.

The Change

But what does all of this mean? In a nutshell, it means that broad match modifier and phrase match keywords will now also begin matching words within the search query that share the same meaning as the keyword.

Google is broadening the results to not just the query, but rather the intent as well. With its vast work regarding ML and AI, it now stands a better ground to understand what the intent behind a query really was. 

Using Google’s example, with broad match modifier, the keywords +lawn +mowing +service may now match to queries such as “grass cutting and gardening services” or “rates for services that cut your grass”. 

With phrase match, the keyword “lawn mowing service” will also include queries for “grass cutting service near me” or “local lawn cutting services.” 

The Future

But coming back to Ben Gomes. If we look at these two changes made to keyword matching as standalone changes, they might not be as exciting as if we look at where they are coming from – and where they are headed. The purpose of Google search from day one has been to find the best way to match what the user needs, to what type of results they can offer. This new change seeks to cover all these extensions and variations.

You can read further on how to prepare with Frederick Vallaeys’ post on 3 Things to do Before Google Changes How Keyword Match Types Work.

Why Smart Bidding and Last-Click Attribution are a Dangerous Combination

Machine Learning (ML), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation are three trending topics in the industry today. It’s an accepted fact that automation is here to stay so it’s our job to learn how to make the most of it for our PPC accounts. In my book “Digital Marketing in an AI World”, I explain that one of the roles humans will have to play when their old job has been automated is that of the “PPC Doctor”: someone who knows the right medicine for their patient and who also understands potentially dangerous interactions. This post covers one such interaction that can lead to disastrous results in PPC.

We’re talking here about Google Ads’ smart bidding strategies. Even though they’re designed to help advertisers reach a determined goal, they lack the human intuition for understanding how to deal with gray areas, and are prone to bad decisions when they’re fed bad data. Specifically, they can do major damage to accounts that are using last-click attribution (LCA) models.

Understanding Last-Click Attribution Model

Last-Click is one of the 6 different attribution models offered by Google Ads. It gives all the credit to the ad and keyword which was last clicked before a conversion.

For example, let’s say you are advertising athletic shoes. There’s a sequence of queries done by a user that goes something like this: “Sneakers” > “Running Shoes” > “Adidas Running Shoes” and finally they search for “Ultraboost 19”. This is just a simple example to illustrate that users tend to start with broad queries and get more specific as they get to understand what it is they might want to buy.

If your campaign is using the Last-Click attribution (LCA) model, then all the credit for the conversion will be given to the ad shown for the final query: “Ultraboost 19”, and no credit will be given to any of the queries that preceded it.

Conversion Funnels and LCA

So why is this so bad? When you give all the credit to the last-clicked ad/keyword, it’s like saying you don’t think there was any value to all the queries along the way that helped the user become aware and familiar with your offering. You’re assuming the user would have discovered to search for “Ultraboost 19” without having been exposed to any of your other ads. This is generally a false assumption, especially for consumers who are not very familiar with your brand and its latest offerings.

Consumers today have more interactions than ever before with brands while researching what to buy. Brands that are not present at the earlier stages of a user’s discovery process may not be in contention to win their business later down the line.

So using last-click attribution would mean that “Sneakers”, “Running Shoes” or “Adidas Running Shoes” are assigned no value.

Attribution Models Inform Optimizations

Why is it so important to assign the correct value? Doesn’t the attribution model just change the numbers in reports? The answer is ‘no,’ the attribution model populates the conversion and conversion value metrics and most account managers rely on these to decide where to allocate their budgets, where to change bids, what queries to add as keywords, and what negative keywords to add.

This could all be okay if a human was managing all this manually. For example, while the lack of conversions for a keyword like ‘sneakers’ might normally be grounds for a bid reduction, an account manager would likely realize that they’d still want to bid for this keyword. Human judgment would win out over purely following some logical rules and the account might do fine.

But like I said before, automation is increasingly doing more of the day-to-day account management and it lacks the human judgment that averted disaster in this scenario of an advertiser using last-click attribution.

Smart Bidding + Last-Click Attribution

When last-click attribution is being used, the keywords “Sneakers”, “Running Shoes” or “Adidas Running Shoes” from the example above, will be reported as non-converting, although they are still valuable keywords because they help consumers unfamiliar with your brand discover your brand’s offerings as they do their research.

Now here’s where results can get really bad… by combining bid automation with last-click attribution. The job of automated bidding, like target CPA (tCPA) or target ROAS (tROAS) bidding from Google, is to calculate the appropriate CPC that is needed for the ad to enter the auction.

The ‘right’ CPC is determined one of two ways:

  1. For tCPA, Google uses the predicted conversion rate to calculate CPC
  2. For tROAS, Google uses the predicted conversion value for a click to set the CPC

But if the attribution model hasn’t been assigning conversions to upper-funnel searches, it will predict that conversion rate will be low and that the value per click will be low. So now the automated bidding system will start to reduce bids for these upper funnel keywords. And eventually bids will get so low that the ads may stop showing altogether.

This is bad because it means you’re reducing the volume of prospects who will be exposed to your brand at earlier stages. Eventually your funnel just dries up and the only sales you’re left with are those from people who already knew your brand and products very well — the people who knew to search for “Ultraboost 19”.

Final Thoughts

Considering the significant risk of making bad decisions for the reasons explained above, we advise all our customers to switch away from using Last-Click attribution. If anything, simply switch to a time-decay model which is most similar to last-click while still giving some value to all stages of the funnel.

When it comes to automations like smart bidding strategies, or automated bids using another platform, knowing how they interact with your measurement systems is an absolute must if you want to avert an account blowup.

Key Takeaways from SMX Advanced: Automation, Measurement and The Role of PPC Pros Moving Forward

As the Spring conference season winds down, in-the-know search marketers have a lot of fresh insight following a packed SMX Advanced in Seattle. Start-to-finish, organizers and everyone at Third Door Media hosted another powerful elite search marketing event.

The impact of machines, artificial intelligence, data, and ongoing innovations from Google and Bing were evident across sessions this week. But it’s also clear we, as search marketers and PPC pros, still have a lot to learn and contribute in the increasingly AI-fueled universe in which we work.

Automation & Your Role in PPC

For one of my two presentations at SMX, I participated in a panel, “Next Generation Automation.” Core to the session, we focused on two levels of automation to consider if you want to grow your business – whether as an agency or the in-house PPC expert:

  1. Automations provided by the engines (e.g. Smart Bidding)
  2. Automations you create to streamline your in-house processes

Not surprisingly, many PPC pros spend much more time thinking about the first level than the second. However, PPC rockstars flip that mindset and focus more time and energy on the automations they can do in concert with the built-in automations that keep expanding within Google and Bing. How your own automations interact with the big engines’ automations can set your game apart from competitors.

Think specifically about automations that can streamline workflows. For example, you can set up workflows that automatically assign tasks to the right account managers and present the account managers with a filtered list of things to do. So the machine makes some suggestions for the person to review.

You can also layer your automations. Think about creating a tool that monitors an automation like ‘close variant keywords’ from Google and automatically flags low performance variants, and possibly even automatically breaks these out as new keywords with lower bids or as negative keywords. This is quite easy to do in Optmyzr with the Rule Engine. No scripts required.

The examples above just scratch the surface of what PPC pros can do with automations you can do on your own – in tandem with the expanding automations within the big engines. We explored automation through scripts earlier this year, which is always a good topic to revisit.

SEM Keynote: Machines & Automation

Machine learning, AI and automation were common threads through many SMX sessions, including the Tuesday keynote session that featured four top thinkers in our industry.

Ginny Marvin was part of that keynote group. As SEL Editor-in-chief and one of the people on the 25 Most Influential PPC Experts list, Ginny has authority when she says we can’t reverse the trend of automation so we need to figure out how to coexist with it. She also gave a nice shout-out that my book “Digital Marketing in an AI World” is very topical.

When Ginny talks about machine learning (ML), she likens it to going on an airplane flight with a toddler. When parents attempt this feat the first time, it’s typically horrible because the toddler doesn’t know how to behave and parents have unreasonable expectations – plus they didn’t buy the now-seemingly-giant toddler their own seat. The next trip, that parent takes his or her learnings and decides that buying the child his own seat will help a lot and they teach him how to behave on a plane. Before they know it, the increasingly travel-savvy parent has a teenager who’s a pleasure to fly with and who even helps carry the family bags.

ML is much like flying with kids. You need reasonable expectations and must work hard to teach the machine what you expect of it.

Ginny’s topic snowballed perfectly with the keynote portion by Nic Darveau-Garneau, Google’s  Chief Search Evangelist. Nic spoke extensively about how ML can only work well if you give it good goals. When possible, don’t give it proxy goals but give it the real goal you care about so it can optimize for that.

Advertisers have grown so accustomed to measuring and optimizing everything, so they unrealistically expect EVERY click to be profitable. But the new camp of advertisers knows the focus should be on in-channel profitability, which allows the ML to figure out where to best allocate budget and set bids for the overall best performance.

“How your own automations interact with the big engines’ automations can set your game apart from competitors.”

Part of transitioning from the old to the new camp is to shift the expectations of your boss or client. Don’t give a keyword-by-keyword breakdown of ROAS. Instead, show them how their budget can drive profitability over the next three years. Nic laid out a beautiful vision, but I believe the PPC pro still needs to know where to optimize so those more detailed reports are useful to inform new strategies. For example, if you ignore the details of RSA performance, you won’t know that perhaps the ML is stuck because you gave it bad headline variations to choose from. As a smart PPC pro (and possibly one using the new RSA Builder from Optmyzr), you can act on these insights and help get the absolute best performance out of each channel.

Discussing PPC Automation with Ginny Marvin

During a rare moment of “downtime” at SMX, I appreciated the opportunity to catch up 1:1 with Ginny for an upcoming podcast. She graciously did a recorded interview with me about my book, specifically talking about how the changing role of the PPC professional as machines take over more and more of our daily tasks.

Clearly there are opportunities for PPC pros to elevate their game and be much more strategic. The machines may seem like a threat to our roles in marketing, but as Ginny and I discussed, they actually provide great opportunity for us to get out of the weeds and the tasks and put our critical thinking, strategic minds, and our creativity to use much more effectively.

Here’s what is really exciting: We are only scratching the surface of what machines and AI will do for our industry in the coming years. Position yourself well to ride the wave of AI-infused PPC. Don’t fear the machines. Work WITH them. After all, People + machines = always better.

We updated this post on June 14th with a link to the podcast.

SMX Advanced 2019: Automation & Machine Learning Take Center Stage

Search marketing is at an interesting place in its evolution. The industry is maturing, but at the same time evolving at speeds more like a Silicon Valley startup. We find ourselves in the midst of yet another era of hyper-fast innovation and change, leaving marketers with a whole new set of challenges to figure out.

That’s why it’s great that we get industry leaders together at many conferences throughout the year, including SMX Advanced in Seattle next week. These conferences help keep us all on top of everything new. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are creating opportunities to automate many of the core functions of search marketing.

All of this can be exciting – and overwhelming – for search marketers and PPC rockstars who have to adapt to changes on the fly. Many are left wondering if they will even have a role in PPC or if they’ll be automated out of a job.

Machines + People: More Essential Than Ever

The Optmyzr team devotes a significant portion of our time staying on top of the innovations, changes and opportunities happening at breakneck speed.

I’ll be presenting during a couple of deep-dive sessions at SMX in Seattle June 4 & 5. Tuesday afternoon, Brad Geddes, Duane Brown and I will chair a discussion entitled “Automation: The Next Generation.” It’s always a pleasure to be on stages and webcasts with these two top professionals. We’ll preview what’s ahead for more automation as machines help the search engines and third-party providers like Optmyzr streamline the tasks associated with PPC.

Wednesday I’ll be on stage with Susan Wenograd, one of the new senior leaders at Aimclear. Susan and I will conduct the Advanced SEM Clinic to close out the morning sessions. Among key topics, we’ll explore the role of automation, AI, and machine learning to help PPC pros understand their opportunities in SEM moving forward.

The Impact of Automation on PPC

A few key things come to mind as we prepare for yet another important industry conference. Mentioned earlier, search marketers understandably look at the future with excitement, mixed with some angst. After all, robots and automation have rendered a lot of manufacturing jobs obsolete. Is the same outcome inevitable in our space?

Not likely. Here are a few things to consider:  

First, let’s look at smart bidding. This process was ripe for automation and, thanks to innovations at Google and Bing (and Optmyzr), much of it is automated. Exploring a bit deeper, though, the need for a different, more strategic human role is evident. Smart bidding is far from “set-it-and-forget-it.” In fact, Google now offers MORE levers for advertisers to better inform bid automation that matters to specific business types.

Take, for example, the deeper abilities to manage seasonal bid adjustments, conversion value rules, creating separate conversion goals by campaign. Machines can only do so much for each of these. The smart PPC pro can apply his or her time and knowledge on much more strategic aspects of bid management. Rather than schlepping through tasks, the PPC pro can actually apply more energy to higher level strategy.

Second, it’s clear that in-platform management of campaigns is becoming much easier and automated. In many instances, more junior level PPC pros can run the majority of campaigns without any real challenge.

Managing across platforms, however, is becoming quite challenging. Google, Bing, Amazon – they are all creating walled gardens to keep people in their system. Tools like Optmyzr help bridge those gaps and make it easier to optimize across the platforms and see the connections and comparisons to help them make more informed decisions to boost performance in total. Insights gleaned from performance in one platform will be tapped for actions in another. No more walls.

Third, as more point solution automation options become available, PPC pros must figure out the interaction of seemingly disparate automations. Think about the challenge of figuring out how good responsive search ads are. On the surface, it seems RSAs offer lower conversion rates. But they also automate against entirely new queries, so the gains are strictly incremental. It takes a PPC rockstar to think beyond the singular metric when multiple automations may be at play – and find value others may miss.

Here’s another example: What happens with smart bidding if you also have an automation that turns campaigns off before the end of day? Is there a risk that the smart bidding system may have been holding back spend for later in the day, but the automated shut-off interfered with that action? The human expert is required to assess the deep-in-the-weeds strategy and understand the interplay of automations and potential consequences.

Futureproof YOUR Agency & Career

Automation is exciting, intimidating, challenging, even troublesome – but in total it’s a great thing for our industry and the humans who can connect the dots. Smart PPC pros are the ones who will embrace the innovations that are fueled by AI and machine learning. They’ll understand their value in the equation Machines + People = Better.

If you are attending SMX in Seattle, I hope to see you in one of my sessions or in a hallway or networking session. Invest your time at the event to map out your future in our industry.

And shameless plug time! A reminder that my new book (which has already become a best seller in the Online Advertising category on Amazon), “Digital Marketing in an AI World: Futureproofing Your PPC Agency” is now available on Amazon. I plan to have a few copies with me at SMX. The book digs deeper into the AI revolution in our industry and provides a tangible guide for PPC pros to claim their space in the next frontier of PPC. I hope you check it out.

See you in Seattle!

Fred’s Book for PPC Rockstars is Out! Digital Marketing in an AI World

The Optmyzr team is excited to see our cofounding CEO, Fred Vallaeys, publish a new book: “Digital Marketing in an AI World”. It’s now out and available on Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.

Book cover of Digital Marketing in an AI World by Frederick Vallaeys and Optmyzr

The book explores the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning – specifically how it is changing the world for PPC professionals. We see this book as a survive-and-THRIVE guide for PPC pros navigating a universe where some fear being automated right into obsolescence.

As Fred shares in his book, the new AI era is actually a time of unprecedented opportunity for PPC pros who aspire to be PPC rockstars. We’ve been saying for a long time that machines and AI are amazing and can do things humans cannot do. But machines PLUS humans makes an even more powerful force. Fred’s book is essential for PPC pros at agencies and in-house alike.

At the core, AI and machine learning certainly eliminate tasks and automate the tasks that should be automated. Smart PPC pros are the ones who use that automation to redirect their energy and attention to chart bold new strategies and spend more time on the strategic, human elements of marketing.

Fred’s book is out on Amazon today at special introductory pricing. Order between now and Friday, May 31, 2019, and get the Kindle version for an introductory price of $0.99. The Kindle price returns to full retail of only $9.99 on June 1, and the paperback version is available for $15.99. �

If you are attending SMX in Seattle, Fred will host an advanced SEM clinic, which promises to be a don’t-miss session. He’ll have copies of the book with him available for purchase (and we think he’ll even sign those copies!).

PPC pros who want to up their game and turn uncertainty into opportunity as a PPC rockstar should invest in this book. It may very well have a transformational impact on your PPC career.

Google Average Position – Goodbye Old Friend :-/

Google is finally putting the venerable Average Position metric out to pasture. It’s one of the oldest metrics on the books for PPC pros and a mainstay on client reports for many years. After all these years, did the metric really help? Maybe not that much.

Many PPC pros have become a bit numb to changes from Google. Seems like we spend a great deal of our time just keeping up with the updates and new features they seem to constantly toss into the PPC world. And while it may seem Google is haphazard in making changes, I can tell that as a former Googler, they are very purposeful and methodical about altering our shared universe. It just isn’t always evident why they do so.

Average Position, however, has held a place in our common PPC vernacular longer than most metrics. Yet saying goodbye to this old friend later this year really won’t be that difficult.

AP just wasn’t all that helpful.

Sorry.

In this age of AI-energized PPC, Average Position has become little more than a vague barometer of conditions in a PPC program when PPC pros need actionable, granular data to make specific and smart decisions.

AP was of rapidly diminishing value when you consider the vast amount of highly specific performance data from which we can pull.

Google is replacing Average Position with the following more precise metrics to identify those opportunities to get more impressions at the top:

In addition, two metrics help give critical insight into what we actually should optimize to get there (which AP never told us):

Here’s what it will look like in your Google Ads Manager:

You’ll be able to easily select the more exacting metrics to meet your needs and start to get much more granular as you assess strategies and determine the best optimizations.

If you want to dig into very specific scenarios that show where the soon-to-be-retired Average Position metric could lead to confusion, check out my recent Search Engine Journal contributed post.

In that SEJ post, we examine real-world case studies that demonstrate how these new metrics also bring new importance to the trusty old Quality Score. It’s worth a read.

Okay…shouldn’t we just optimize impression share by adjusting bids?

Given the greater view into Impression Share vs. Average Position with the new metrics, it could be easy for some PPC pros to jump on the “fix it by changing the bid” approach.

Pause please.

For an ad to appear at the top of the page, it needs to meet certain relevance and Ad Rank thresholds that are set by Google. The levels of these thresholds are not published so it can be a game of trial-and-error. It’s worth remembering, however, that Google really wants ads to be relevant, so you may need to set an exorbitantly high CPC to get an ad with low QS to move to the top of the page.

A smarter optimization will address QS issues first, for example, by moving the low QS keyword to an ad group by itself (this is called a SKAG – single keyword ad group.) This is a good way to fix QS issues because it lets you write an ad and pick a landing page that are optimized for that unique keyword.

Once the quality of the keyword and the ad are fixed, you may be able to gain the desired top position with a much smaller bid increase than if you’d skipped the QS optimization.

How a PPC Pro Can Stay on Top of Things

First, it’s important to start tapping into the new metrics that will replace the aging Average Position. AP goes into retirement in September, but it’s not really doing us much good anyway. Send our old friend a “happy retirement” card and then make the shift today. Start to understand the improved insight and how it will help you make decisions.

Second, keep tuned in to Optmyzr. Our dev teams are always working with the never-ending changes that come from Google (and Bing – and other platforms) to automate optimizations and simplify the tasks and decisions you need to make. The more changes they create and the more they automate, the more confusing things can get for even the most advanced PPC rockstars.

We welcome the ongoing changes in the platforms, in particular the innovations by the big search engines thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. The challenge for the practitioner in the trenches, however, is keeping up with all of these changes and integrating them into new and existing strategies, something we hope to help you with!

What happens after Average Position is gone

Google Ads has announced it will no longer report on ‘average position’ later this year. To learn more about this change, check out my post on Search Engine Land. Optmyzr can help make the transition smoother as one of the most frequently used original AdWords metrics sails into the sunset later this year.

 

Average Position in Reports

When the ‘average position’ metric disappears from all reports, Optmyzr will automatically handle this in scheduled, automated reports. Specific details will be shared as we get closer to the sunset date but we plan to make this a seamless transition for our customers.

 

For example, any report templates that include the ‘average position’ metric will continue to work even if you don’t make any change. We will simply remove the metric that is no longer supported by Google so that your reports will continue to be delivered uninterrupted to your clients and stakeholders.

 

Average Position in Rule Engine Recipes

Some advertisers have used the Optmyzr Rule Engine to automate a bid-to-position strategy that relies on ‘average position.’ Rules that contain the deprecated metric will stop working when Google no longer reports average position because any comparisons will fail. In other words, if your rule says to change a bid if the average position > 2, that comparison against ‘greater than 2’ will fail so the rule will be broken.

 

To make the transition easier, advertisers who have active rules that are impacted� will receive a notification from us as we get closer to the date in September when average position will no longer be available.

 

Alternatives to Average Position in Automated Rules

The Optmyzr Rule Engine can still be used to change bids (among many other things it can automate) based on position goals. Instead of using the ‘average position’, you can use one of the newer metrics like ‘Impression (Absolute Top) %’.

 

For example, for a brand term where you’d like your ad to be in first position and appear above the organic results, you could check if the impressions at the absolute top are close to 100%. If they are not, this could be because your bid or quality score (QS) are too low. Remember Google has a top promotion threshold and if you’re below that level, even if your ad is ranked first, it won’t be eligible to show at the top of the page. So if you then find that QS is good (7 or higher), you could boost your bid to try and cross the threshold to get your ad at the top.

 

The beauty of the Rule Engine is that you have the ultimate flexibility in turning your optimization process into an easily repeatable automation that you can deploy quickly across all your accounts. The example above is just one way to do it but our hope is that you will leverage the full power of the tool to help you manage accounts the way you like.

 

What’s next

Optmyzr is committed to building tools to make PPC pros more efficient and that includes making this transition to a post-average position world easier, and offering alternative ways to achieve your position-based goals. Stay tuned for more details soon.

What is the new Cross-Network in AdWords?

AdWords recently introduced a new type of shopping campaign – Goal-based Shopping Campaigns. These are similar to Universal App campaigns and are completely automated. To start a goal-based shopping campaign, all you need to do is link your merchant center account, set a budget, upload products, and let Google know your country of sale. You don’t have any control over the bids or the campaign structure. Google will show shopping ads across networks based on your goal. With this new shopping campaign type, Google snuck in a new type of network which shows up as cross-network in reports.

Goal-based shopping campaigns show product shopping ads on Google as well as on display. The campaign also includes remarketing ads and ads to similar audiences. Ads from these campaigns are eligible to appear on Google Search, Display, Gmail, and YouTube.

Cross-Network in AdWords

When you segment data by networks in AdWords, you’ll see a new network type called cross-network. This will only have data if you’re running the new goal-based shopping campaigns. As of today, if you’re not running goal-based shopping campaigns, you won’t see data under this network. However, this may change if Google introduces additional campaign types that are fully automated. In all there are now six different network types available in AdWords. Based on the kind of campaign you’re running, you can get traffic from one or more networks.

Networks vs. Campaign Types

AdWords segments data in two ways – Advertising Channel/Campaign Type (Search, Shopping, Display, Video, App) and Networks (Google Search, Search Partners, Google Display Network, YouTube Search, YouTube Videos, Cross-network). There is some overlap between the two which sometimes causes confusion. The biggest difference between networks and channels is that networks are the mediums or properties on which ads are shown whereas, campaign types or channels refer to the type of ads that are shown.

One campaign type can show ads across different networks. For example, search is an advertising channel as well as a network. However, when you look at Google search as a network, it includes data from both regular search campaigns and shopping campaigns because ads from both campaign types can show on the search network. When you select search as a campaign type/channel (All campaigns) from the left menu in your AdWords account you’ll see data for multiple networks. This is because ads from search campaigns can show on Google Search, Search Partners, and YouTube search. They can also show on the Google Display Network if you’re running search display select campaigns.

In AdWords, when you select a campaign type on the left (Search, Shopping, Display…) it selects the advertising channel/campaign type and not the network. Understanding the difference between networks and channels becomes important when you’re running different types of campaigns.