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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!

PPC Town Hall 28: Optimizing Smart Bidding with Google

Over the past few years, marketers have seen Smart Bidding evolve with Google’s machine learning. In fact, it seems to be a way into the future of advertising by making the best use of AI and data to provide intelligent campaign adjustments. But while Smart Bidding does automate tedious tasks of PPC ad management and save time, it’s far from a ‘set it & forget it’ mentality. To make the most of it, advertisers need to monitor and optimize to get the best results for their campaigns.

So this week on Episode 28 of PPC Town Hall, we invited our friends from Google to discuss Smart Bidding campaigns and shed light on tactics for optimization.

Our panelists for the week:

You can receive the exclusive Smart Bidding guide from Optmyzr and Google by signing up here! You can also view previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.

Without further delay, here are the 6 insights to understanding and optimizing Smart Bidding campaigns.

Emi: What we see today is really the evolution of machine learning. I think machine learning is getting smarter with people getting more comfortable using and leveraging it to the next level for better results. We search so differently compared to what we did three years ago. In fact, 15% of queries on google.com are new every day. That means there are tonnes of queries that Google misses as well. So, we really have to depend on Machine learning to capture maximum potential with search.

As machine learning gets smarter, the data that marketers provide is really going to be the key to be competitive and achieve your goals. Not from the CPA perspective, but broader profitability and customer lifetime value.

2. Analyzing Smart Bidding signals

Peter: Google looks at billions of signals to set the bid for every auction. We’re monitoring a bunch of different things more than just the signals, like the intersection of these signals. A lot of the things that we used to optimize manually like devices, day of week, time, location, all the different keywords, etc are now being taken care of for Smart Bidding. But there are some tactics which you can use to inform Smart Bidding what are the right ways you can treat some of these things.

Emi: So this is a recent performance review using selected US accounts. When we looked at the data, Smart Bidding outperformed Manual Bidding across most of the spend buckets on Optmyzr accounts.

A lot of people should take advantage of Smart Bidding regardless of the budgets (look at the right-hand side of the chart – ‘under 500 budget’). And we see significant performance even in smaller budgets as well as larger ones (above 50k).

3. Optimizing Discovery campaigns

Peter: I have seen some very strong results with Discovery campaigns for certain advertisers. For example, I worked with a real-estate partner who was seeing better results in Discovery campaigns than in Search!

If you’re having issues with the returns and getting conversions, make sure that you’re setting the CPAs properly. Setting up unrealistic CPAs that do not represent your goals can hamper your account health. And then there’s also the flipside. If you look at our audiences to whom we are comfortable suggesting Discovery Ads, you’ll see that the daily budget recommended is about 20 times the target CPA. So, if you have a tighter budget, I’d recommend maybe doing 10 times the target CPA.

That being said, I have seen success at a lower CPA. But if you have a smaller budget, I wouldn’t be actively recommending Discovery Ads to you. Layering on audience lists like remarketing and customer matching might help you see more successful results.

Emi: We have seen a pretty good performance in the use cases with Discovery campaigns, even for a first-time mid-sized account. So I would encourage marketers to keep looking into why they aren’t giving you a good performance. In terms of how long, usually we test for a week and then we regroup with the customers, and keep doing this. So one week at a time.

4. Common mistakes advertisers make with Smart Bidding

Start making sure what goals your Smart Bidding campaign will be optimizing and those goals align with what you’re trying to achieve. I have seen people set a Max Conversions strategy on a campaign that was spending half of its budget. We didn’t see any positive results CPA-wise as Max Conversions doesn’t necessarily focus on optimizing your CPA. It looks towards getting you as many conversions as possible within your budget. And if you’re spending only half of your budget, we don’t necessarily know whether that incremental conversion will come at a CPA that aligns with your historical ones.

The other thing is the target that we set. I would advise looking into your optimization score recommendations in the front-end to see what we are recommending there. You’ll probably want to start by setting a target in line with what you’re historically performing at. If you’re historically performing at a CPA of $100 and if you switch that down to $50, you can massively end up throttling the number of conversions and sales you were getting.

Just because we don’t want to necessarily start with Smart Bidding on the exact Target CPA, doesn’t mean we can’t get there. Start with where you’re historically performing at and slowly adjust to get where you want to be.

5. Structuring a Smart Bidding campaign with segmentation

Peter: When we segment our campaigns, Smart Bidding can actually take data and learn from the performance that’s happening throughout the account. While you don’t need to segment everything, if you do end up breaking up your campaigns, Smart Bidding will be able to learn from the performance of the campaigns. The only thing that I’ll caution about is to break down to the point where there isn’t a lot of conversion volume in each individual campaign. On top of that, if you have a Target ROAS or Target CPA that your campaigns aren’t able to meet, that’s something to watch out for.

If you put more constraints on the targets and segment the campaigns, you could end up throttling your campaigns altogether.

6. Marketing as a holistic approach

Emi: We think that a marketer can play a bigger role in PPC marketing than just making strategies or directing CPC. We look at a marketer as a growth engine for the company. Strategic points like profitability and value of customers can help bring value to your work and your business. I would really encourage everyone to think more than just PPC, think of how you can bring that value to your company and leverage for more growth.

Conclusion

Fred: When you start with something, like Smart Bidding, it’s better not to shock the system and be extremely aspirational. Machine learning functions on how things have worked consistently in the past. Even if you set up higher targets, it might take a while for the system to get you there. But at the end of the day, to achieve the target you really want, it all comes down to you, the advertiser, to set up the prerequisites and feed in impressionable data. You can add a lot of value to your ongoing campaigns by not taking bidding as something that just happens by itself.

Seasoned PPC professionals make use of efficient bid management tools, like Optmyzr, to keep their accounts top-notch and optimize your bids. Try and experience our capabilities yourself by signing up for our 14-day free trial.

Digital Marketing in an Unpredictable VUCA World: PPC Town Hall 27

If you’ve been watching the news over the last couple of years, you could be forgiven for thinking we live in a weird timeline where dreary writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury reigned supreme.

Between climate change, terrorism, economic struggle, and the health crisis of 2020, this year has embodied the term VUCA — volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Yet this is the world we live in, and if digital marketers want to continue to have a place in it, we have to learn how to adapt our tactics and messaging to this reality.

So this week on Episode 27 of PPC Town Hall, I wanted to bring in the authors of the report “Digital Marketing in a VUCA World” to share some of their insights from the research they conducted and to discuss what the roadmap for the future could look like.

Our panelists for the week:

As always, you can view this week’s episode of PPC Town Hall embedded below, or click here to browse all our episodes. In the meantime, here are some of the insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall on how to do digital marketing in an unpredictable VUCA world.

1. What happens when agencies lose large amounts of revenue overnight

Anders: We asked 20 agencies that participated in the survey, “How bad were you hit?” About 15% said ‘no change’; a huge chunk — about 50% of respondents — said between 10-40% reduction in media spend; and a fairly large percentage saying 40-60% reduction.

When we’re looking at agencies having 40% of their media spend disappear, and as we know, a lot of the economic models are tied in some way to spend. Very few are on a retainer or consultancy basis. So this means they lose a lot of money and activity, and the rest of the activity had to be changed. Everybody’s panicking, so what do you do?

Lukas: It’s actually been the case in some instances that the agency-client relationship has ended because of volatility. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of agencies — particularly the bigger ones in the UK — have very diverse clients in their portfolios, so that’s why the impact was mostly in the 40-60% range.

But I definitely know of instances where clients have stopped their relationship with an agency because they were the most hit — tourism, hotels, and some retail as well. But other parts of retail, especially direct-to-consumer, actually thrived during this time.

2. If you put the wrong data in, the wrong prediction comes out

Anders: When we talk about volatility and VUCA, yes there’s health crises and lockdowns; but there’s also terrorism and the end of cookies. The direct impact is more easily measurable on this year’s health crisis because it’s such an abrupt change.

Over the past 2 years, we saw people adopt automated or machine-based bidding massively. We also observed that agencies used dedicated data analysts in fewer cases than they did before. This surprised us.

Lukas: It feels like the outcome was two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, there is less involvement from data analysts because there’s more reliance on AI. On the other hand, it’s not about the position of the analyst but the insight into performance is placed on marketers’ shoulders.

So where you’d previously have a data analyst to support you with looking at trends and performance, it’s almost a standard part of the marketer’s job instead of focusing on platform and creatives.

3. Data is the new oil

Anders: Can you extract more value from your data than if you give it to a platform? It’s a question of who controls it and whether you should give it away to a third party like Google or Amazon.

We think it’s very important to start controlling and protecting your own data. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it flow; flowing data across platforms is extremely important to get better insights. But you need to consider each time you do that: what are you using, what are you giving away, and is there anything you can keep instead of letting someone else monetize it?

4. The connection between automation and who’s deploying it

Lukas: For me, the whole idea of paid search until now is its transparency. You can track everything down to each penny you spend and be able to show results. This is now changing the fundamentals of what paid search is for me, because I can’t explain everything (with less data).

5. How people can use automated bidding more effectively

Lukas: I personally see a huge degree of complacency when it comes to automated bidding, especially, in a lot of agencies. You’ll find that 90% of the time, you can set the AI to do your bidding for you and it’ll deliver decent performance.

But it’s that 10% of the time where something goes wrong, or when you have a promotion that suddenly skews the data — and suddenly, you have an impulse that the tool cannot account for and everything falls apart.

I even feel with some of the ways platforms sell automated bidding, like recommending not to touch things for 2 weeks to let the machines learn, you should never be in a position where you can’t change settings.

6. Preparing for the end of cookies

Anders: Will remarketing be in trouble as we see fewer and fewer cookies? Yes. Hopefully, the bad practices will die off and there’ll be some intelligent use of user data.

So start building direct relationships with your users, like email or another channel where you own that user data. If you only have access to your customers and clients via platforms or audiences, you’re probably going to lose a lot of that access. So start building that proprietary database today.

Conclusion

As I mentioned this week on PPC Town Hall, the role of the PPC manager is changing from being in the middle of account performance to managing the periphery (read my full thoughts on the topic in my post for Search Engine Journal).

But as we look to evolve our roles, we also have to remain aware of what’s happening in the wider world. From the geopolitical to the ecological, events transpire daily that impact the health of the digital marketing space… paid search included.

That’s why spaces of learning (like PPC Town Hall) will only become more important in the coming months and years. So sign up for our mailing list (and tell your PPC peers) to get notified of all our events in advance and early access to some of our upcoming resources!

Is there something on your mind? Do you have a topic you’d like us to cover on PPC Town Hall? Write to support@optmyzr.com and tell us about it, and we’ll try our best to address your concerns.

PPC Town Hall 26: Foolproofing your Business with PPC Automation

Ever since Google introduced a whole bunch of changes, things have been changing very fast in PPC. Taking away search query data, making it harder to create expanded text ads, doing more and more automated bidding, etc., is only making us unsure of the future of search marketing. 

With the rising number of roadblocks that Google is putting in front of us, marketers need to be ready to overcome anything that the search giant throws at us. The question of the hour is: How much more can Google automate and change the way that we as PPC professionals go about business? 

So this week on Episode 26 of PPC Town Hall, I wanted to talk to two industry specialists who have worked with a lot of accounts and have faced the implications of the changes in search marketing and automation.

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are the top 6 insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall on navigating the future of PPC automation.

1. How to optimize Google’s tax?

Martin:** __**Some countries have started to raise the Digital Services Tax from Google. Now, Google intends to pass that on to advertisers. For example, for ads being shown in Austria and Turkey Google will add 5% to your invoice. This is tricky because it won’t show up in any of your regular KPI’s. Your costs and CPC’s in the interface will seem unaffected. This makes it easy to miss – which is probably the intention.

There’s a reason why you’ve decided on a certain bid or budget. In order to account for the new tax, you’ll have to lower your bids or budget by about 5%. Then you’ll end up paying the same as before. Of course, Google would rather have you pay the same amount to them and then the additional 5% in taxes, which is probably why they have little incentive to help us with this.

2. Taxes and Geo locations

Martin: Digital services taxes depend on where the advertising cost occurs. For example, if someone in the UK clicks an ad, a 2% tax charge will be added to the cost of that click. The problem here is that there’s a difference between the location of interest and user location. If you target the U.S. then that can include people elsewhere if Google somehow identifies the U.S. as their location of interest.

There used to be an easy way to evaluate physical user locations. That has been removed. Standard location reports no longer include physical location. In fact, Google got rid of any mention that there might be a difference between physical location and location of interest.

You can still get the data, though – it’s just less convenient. Google also removed the pre-defined report from its report editor, but you can still create your own from scratch. So while the data is no longer present front-and-center, you can still get it.

Brady: Let’s take the example of businesses dealing with ‘New York Pizza’. This is a specific style of pizza that practically anyone can search about. While the local pizza shops of New York have been capturing people around the world looking up for New York Pizza, the location settings in the user interface don’t show this happening. As a result, a lot of these small pizza places now could gain a UK tax or something without any idea why.

To find this specific information about locations, go to

Reports → Custom and build your own report.

If you search ‘user locations’ in your report, you’ll find all of the user location option that you can place within the rows of your report.

3. Managing accounts with less search data

Brady: We’re seeing a struggle for low volume accounts. So for accounts where you can spend every day digging into the search term reports, read them, and make decisions based on your finding, we are seeing a lot of frustration. 

When it comes to high volume accounts, I think it makes things like n-grams even more relevant. With access to less data, n-gram reports can help you find trends within the data set you have and make decisions accordingly.

4. Functioning with Google ‘roadblocks’

Brady: I’m not fully against these changes. In a handful of our campaigns, we do full broad keyword targeting paired with Target CPA, and it does fairly well. Looking at our search terms, we see that some of them are non-branded solution-based terms, while some are comparing our solution vs other competitors, and some are comparing between other competitors altogether. But, at the end of the day, the cost per conversion, and MQL, are pretty good.

When it comes to B2B software marketing, we’re really looking at an LTV/ CAC model. So modeling that out for both Google Ads and other channels, and helping the clients on that level is something we’re moving towards. With a higher level of automation, we would have time to focus on stuff like landing pages optimization, A/B testing, new offers, and analyzing the competition.

5. Shifting agencies and business goals while working with the same black box by Google

Martin: With Google doing everything with these black box campaigns like smart shopping, discovery, or local campaigns, it becomes more and more important to make sure that their systems have the right data to go on. This is also an important field for agencies and advertisers to set themselves apart from the crowd.

One way to do that is to further evolve conversion tracking. For the last ten or so years, everyone has focused on revenue. Before that, it was about conversions. The future is about margins and profit instead of revenue. Beyond that, there’s customer lifetime value. And just as important is incrementality – although that is something that you probably can’t expect much help from the platforms.

Brady: When everyone is competing armed with the same black boxes and no levers like before, you should: 

6. Future of Google

Brady: If we think of what to expect from Google in 2021, I think we’re going back ourselves into something like DSA campaigns. While we will see some new features, it seems like we’re getting back to something that’s already existed – Google having control over the search terms, the ads, and the pages.

I think that the future of Google already exists. While I don’t think the changes will be extreme, we’ll be moving towards something that existed previously.

Conclusion

It’s no doubt that the world of PPC is going through some changes. With Google introducing new features every now and then, we marketers must be flexible with our strategies. One thing is clear: it’s going to be extremely tough to stand out when every PPC professional relies on the same black box by Google. To be on par with the search giants evolving practices, we need to rely on automation to some level. 

Automation is a great way to handle daily mundane tasks, but PPC professionals shouldn’t confuse it with ‘autopilot’. Though machines might be able to perform a high number of actions quickly and efficiently, they will still rely on us for timely inputs and tweaks.

So whether it’s now, or 5 years into the future, marketers will always have something to do for there is no replacement for human intellect, ingenuity, improvisation, and intuition.

PPC Town Hall 25: OMG Commerce’s insights to dominate Holiday E-commerce

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an unusual year for all of us. Even though we’re just in the middle of October, people have already started shopping for the upcoming holidays.

Supply chains, delivery, and in-store experiences aren’t what they normally are, yet consumers are buying and spending more — which has forced marketers and agencies to run offers and deals a bit earlier than usual.

But even with so much uncertainty and change, e-commerce has been ahead of what we expected at the start of the year.

So this week on Episode 25 of PPC Town Hall, we wanted to gain a perspective on how we all could navigate the coming Holiday season and make the most of it. We talked to two amazing PPC experts from OMG Commerce, an Optmyzr user, who shared their insights on all things e-commerce and shopping. 

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are the top 5 insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall with OMG Commerce to help you make the most of Holiday e-commerce this year.

1. Changes in the last few years 

Brett: One of the things that we did early on was manual bidding. In fact, as an agency, we were really good at it. So, we had some non-automated options where we were doing things with spreadsheets. We used formulas to sort our products and create bidding recommendations. 

When Google launched Target ROAS, we were hesitant to try it out. But as it got better and better, we decided to test it out with a few of our campaigns. It took a little bit of convincing, but we slowly started to transition. I think that if there is some new tool that is better than our current approach, we need to embrace that! 

One thing that we have to look at is how shifting our segmentation, breaking out campaigns, or even changing our targets can impact the full product-line visibility and sales. While we have come a long way from spreadsheets, we still have to think strategically and dig into the data regularly.  

Greg: The smart bidding strategies have created opportunities to scale in terms of having multiple campaigns with multiple strategies. It has definitely changed how we look at campaign structures. In fact, I don’t think we have any accounts which don’t have three or more shopping campaigns. Earlier, with manual bidding, we ran a lot of campaigns with single product ad groups to focus our optimizations manually at the sku level. Now, it’s more about creating campaign structures that feed the smart-bidder the data and focus on what you want to optimize for.

2. Aligning PPC outcomes with business goals

Brett: As we do a lot of Youtube ads, we have all sorts of in-depth discussions with our clients. Usually, we have to ask them questions, about three or four times, in different ways with projected illustrations of results. We talk a lot about portfolios and how different campaigns work together. We also have to ask probing questions to really understand the client’s goals. In my opinion, we have to over-communicate. 

Our role, as an agency, is to think strategically, ask questions, and revisit all of our findings. Ask a lot of questions so you get as much clarity as possible and keep evaluating what you’re doing. Eventually, this will help you align with your client.

3. Understanding YouTube campaign structure and formats

Brett: We primarily focus on Trueview for Action campaign where we can bid on a Target CPA basis. We found that if you give Google the goal of conversions, the smart-bidder becomes pretty good at finding people who convert. If you use Cost Per View as your bid strategy, Google’s pretty good at finding people who watch YouTube videos. So with CPV, your views will go up but your conversions will go way down. If you transition to Trueview for Action, you’ll get more clicks and certainly more conversions. 

While we are looking for direct conversions through YouTube Trueview ads, we are also looking at the brand lift and Google trends to see the impact of our campaigns.

Greg: When we are retargeting viewed video audiences, who are still in the acquisition funnel, we turn to Trueview for action campaigns to re-engage people who saw the initial video. But we are also running YouTube for shopping campaigns, remarketing to people who did engage with the website but didn’t convert.

4. How to leverage audiences

Brett: Now’s the time to get your brand’s (or business’) message out there to drive not only conversions but build other kinds of audiences as well. We have a four-pronged marketing approach that can guide you better. 

I think that this year, customers will be more interested in on-time delivery and getting the product they want than deals alone. It’s safe to say that most people also want deals or discounts. Done right, you can offer a deal that doesn’t negatively impact your brand. You can also look at free gifts, which is kind of like discounting but while making use of some unsold inventory.

5. Free PLAs and Deep Feed Analysis

Brett: In order to fill the gaps in your Search and Shopping, all you’ve to do is enable a setting inside Google merchant center to get free listings on surfaces across Google. 

Most people search for a product on Google and then click on the Shopping ads on the main SERP. But some shoppers click through to the shopping or image tabs.  Your free listings can appear on these tabs.  If you’re paying for Google shopping ads, then surfaces across Google can deliver a 3-5% increase in conversions and clicks. 

We do a deep feed analysis when we start with a client. This is compared with our keyword research and evaluated. After this, our feed specialist would craft the updated titles, descriptions, product categories, and even product types.

Conclusion

The way ahead for the world might be uncertain but it’s also exciting, and that’s true for PPC and e-commerce as well. As we get used to these regular changes, we also need to keep a strategic eye on everything we’ve done in the past.

Make informed decisions and align your PPC goals with what your clients want to achieve for their businesses. Re-check data, run tests, and communicate with your client to start the right way and keep the relationships strong.

Focus on the right messages to the right audience at the right time — the essence of Google Ads and PPC in general — and stay in touch with trends and updates to how search engines work for advertisers and users alike.

PPC Town Hall 24: Burning PPC Budget, New Microsoft Ad Features & More

There’s no doubt that marketing is one of the most expensive aspects of running any business. And while advertisers might race ahead in the hopes of getting more clicks and profit, they can still end up making mistakes! 

A classic PPC horror story is when marketers mix up traffic with solid leads and forget about optimizing their accounts. Not supervising the system and failing to make effective improvements can turn into wasting tons on bad clicks and setting that yield no returns!

So this week on Episode 24 of PPC Town Hall, we talked to two brilliant PPC pros and discussed actionable tips on how to stop burning budgets. We even got to learn about PPC community initiatives like PSA and new Microsoft Ad capabilities that can benefit marketers. 

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are the top insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall to help you identify budget-burning areas, know Microsoft’s newest features, and understand the thought behind creating a successful PPC community.

1. What role does the Paid Search Association play in the industry?

David: Initially, I was attracted by the notion that there really wasn’t one consolidated source of credible and curated information/ resources for PPC managers. You basically had to pick and choose from among homogenous resources. There really wasn’t a one-stop-shop for people who wanted to train themselves and be updated with the developments. 

So our core mission is to serve as a curated source of learning and news resources. 

John: One of the things that we’ve talked about as a collective is about mentoring. It surely is a complex thing to figure out with variables like timings and schedules. But there are a lot of bright men and women on the board who have been eager to share what they’ve learned within the industry and their peers. 

2. Microsoft’s Audits network

John: Not just us, but practically everybody is working on something related to customer privacy and a ‘cookie-less world’. In this industry, where all the platforms rely on cookie data presently, what would the future look like? Envisioning for this future, Microsoft just launched a partnership for brand safety. It’s neither an ad-on nor does it cost anything extra. If you run ads on the Microsoft Advertising network, you’re automatically opted into this brand safety application. 

3. The 4 Google money grabs

David: These are the four key areas where marketers waste their spend:

  1. Location targeting settings: When you look at the User Locations report, you would find that your ads are being shown either nation-wide or worldwide, even when you’re geo-targeting a smaller area. I’ve seen accounts spending thousands of dollars per year on clicks that are outside the geo-targetted area.

  1. Targeting expansion: By default, Google turns on ‘Targetting expansion’ which generally would mean helping advertisers widen the reach of their display ad group. Extending the reach, in this case, means showcasing your ads on sites where people might convert.

    Now, when you’re doing audience targeting, you shouldn’t be placing ads on sites based on just any criteria, but following your audience dedicatedly to any site. To avoid this, just disable that option altogether. 

  2. Ads showing up on mobile apps by default: When you go to placements to see where your ads are appearing, you will definitely see that your apps are showing up on mobile apps. You might even find a considerable amount of clicks coming from them, likely clicking by mistake. There might be a lot of kid’s apps and games that might not be relevant to your business.

I’m gonna let you in on a technique that Kirk Williams (from Zato Marketing) wrote about, which you can only do with Google Ads Editor.

Go to Display Campaigns → Keywords and Targetting → Mobile app categories Negative → Add two negative categories for both Google and Apple apps. And that’s it. From then on you’ll not see mobile apps in your list of placements.

  1. Enhanced CPC vs Max CPC: I don’t like the fact that when you create a new campaign, by default the bidding model is Enhanced CPC. And my feeling is based out of a general distrust of the bidding algorithm to know anything about the conversion behavior of people as it relates to the offer.

    In order to use target CPA bidding, Google says that you need to have 15 or more conversions over the course of 30 days. Which I think makes sense as you’ve got some behavior to fuel the algorithm. Whereas when a campaign starts out with CPC bidding, there is no pre-recorded data or behavior. This might contribute to the higher CPC values at the beginning of the campaign, which might be due to Google’s automation thrashing to attenuate the signal.

4. New Microsoft Ad Features for the win

John: Some new features in Microsoft Advertising are:

  1. Use LinkedIn data to target ads: The LinkedIn Profile Targeting has been live for all for over a month. This is the first time when data sets from both Microsoft and LinkedIn are coming together. You can now layer in information from a LinkedIn profile like company name, job function, and industry to target highly relevant audiences in-text ads, DSAs, and Shopping Campaigns.
  2. Multi-image extensions: Microsoft recently added to their Image Extensions capabilities so that users can now add multi images, effectively a carousel with your search ads in SERP.
  3. Availability of Stock photos: Microsoft Advertising has partnered with Shutterstock to provide an access to 300 million commercially licensed images to advertisers.
  4. Microsoft Audience Network: It’s a native ad platform where you can showcase search campaigns. You also get an opportunity to bid on placements on MSN.com, the Edge browser, Outlook.com, and a host of other publishing partner sites. In order to save marketers from double work, our new functionality can help you replicate information from Google Display Ads (which are truly working) to Microsoft Advertising.

5. Be mindful of your bid adjustments

John: Everyone needs to be really mindful when you’re applying bid adjustments. If you have bid adjustments at every layer, that can get out of control in a hurry. So things like age, gender, location, in however many audience groups you’ve stacked in a particular group or campaign need to be strategically placed.

Conclusion

PPC campaigns can prove to be of immense importance in paving way for your organization or business. With the ever-changing dynamics of search marketing, marketers need to be on alert about how they handle their accounts. Giving up complete control to default settings might hurt your accounts more than you can comprehend. 

To make informed decisions, keep discussing strategies and tactics with the community and your peers. Look to industry leaders for actionable solutions that actually bring you results. 

Next week on PPC Town Hall, we are jumping back in discussing best practices for Holiday shopping with prominent e-commerce and shopping experts. Join us in the session to ask your questions!

PPC Town Hall 23: 5 Tips from Top PPC Experts on Bid Management

It’s true: the right bidding strategy can decide the fate of your PPC accounts.

With the ever-changing dynamics of search marketing, marketers need to be extra careful navigating the tough waters of bid management. Moreover, they also need to be conscious of Google’s take on limiting search query reports and pushing new limits on data access. 

In order to gain big on leads, we have to do more than just focusing on bidding strategies. Metrics like quality score, tCPA, ROAS, etc., can also play a big role in influencing bid management. 

So this week on episode 23 of PPC Town Hall, we discussed tips and tactics by specialists to improve your bid management for good lead generation and e-commerce.  

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are 5 tips that experts swear by to manage bids for leads and e-commerce.

1. The changing face of Search Terms Reports

Navah: Initially, when it was announced that the Search Terms Reports were being depreciated, I didn’t think much of it. Ultimately, you’re still gonna be able to see the click data,  the keyword data, and your ROASes. It’s not that you’re getting fewer clicks, you’re just not getting that transparency on the queries. 

But now, I think it is an actual problem as I have noticed an under-spending issue. Not being able to see where the budget is being funneled is really a problem. My theory is that a lot of the spend is being directed to local service ads rather than paid search. Local service ads come at a dramatic discount, without any pre-requirement of running a paid search ad.

Apart from this, there is no transparency for different automation strategies that are either underperforming or overperforming. 

2. SKAGs vs STAGs

Navah: Lately, I’ve been pushing far more broad match ad groups and campaigns, especially with how much the match types have changed. The allocation of budget to broad match and exact match keywords seems much higher than phrase match keywords. Now, I’m finding one broad match skag, 3-4 exact match keywords, and then maybe one mod broad serves better than focusing on only exact/phrase. 

The choice to use a match type or a keyword is entirely dependent on what I’ll see coming back in search terms. Did they match by the rules of exact? Or did exact close variants matched by the rules of broad, etc.,? The fact that we no longer have that visibility truly, is a bit of a problem.

In terms of delivery in account performance, I still see that STAGs (grouping of keywords) seems to perform better than SKAGs. In terms of match type, I’m very much pulling away from phrase match as they tend to get caught quite more in the delivery problem.

Fred: Match types don’t mean what they used to be earlier. With the loosening of the match types, most people can not figure out what a phrase match can achieve that another match type wouldn’t. For people, who haven’t been doing PPC quite that long, a phrase match meant that the words between the quotes were supposed to stay together. But that doesn’t actually work anymore. 

Geetanjali: With the whole match types changing and close variants coming in, people who swear by SKAGs have still not completely let go. With the search terms changes, the whole alpha-beta structure of mining keywords using your broad match and then moving them to exact might not work that well. You probably don’t know all the search queries that are coming in with your broad match keywords, whether it’s SKAG or otherwise.

3. Let’s talk bidding

Navah: Bidding is one of those tactics that you should just delegate out. There isn’t a good reason to do truly manual bidding. Manual bidding can be helpful when you don’t trust native automation to bid enough for your important terms, however, there is no good reason to sit there adjusting bids all day. Use scripts/rules, or you can use an amazing tool like Optmyzr. 

Geetanjali: If you are using smart bidding, it’s really important to send the right data into the system. I also think that having the right level of attribution is needed as well. I have come across customers who are completely using Google’s automated bidding strategies and running on last-click attribution. So, the system is automatically cutting the queries that would rise on top of the funnel, conversions and these customers keep wondering why it’s not working. 

Also, if you’re delegating your bidding, you need to know which parts you’d be choosing. If you still have to set the right targets, you still have to have the attribution model, then that’s the part that you can’t delegate to Google. If you don’t give the system the right data, the systems, which are after all machines, can’t make the right decision.

4. The problem with AI and Maximize Conversions

Navah: Two things play here. One, in your Conversion settings, you can tell Google whether to count in your conversions or not. This means you can still track actions you’re interested in without having them derail your automated/smart bidding strategies. The other thing is don’t use smart bidding if you don’t trust your conversions. Just don’t. 

You actually need to have an infrastructure in place that can track the lead through. Have an open conversation with your client about their intake. Part of it comes down to helping your client and helping them build infrastructure to report and have an internal intake system. The other part is doing the legwork yourself, having call tracking metrics, checking lead quality, etc. 

5. Quality of leads 

Navah: We need to understand the quality of leads in accepted leads against rejected leads and why they get rejected. One thing that we found in new advertisers is that a penchant for leaving search partners on and getting conversions. But then those conversions turn out really terrible.

We make sure that every quarter that there is this buy-in and we ask some core questions. How many leads are you getting per month? Where could that number grow to? How much do you make per service vertical? Are there any upcoming changes in this quarter that we need to be aware of?

Conclusion

I’ve noticed that as newer PPC managers come in who have never done manual bid management, they lack the understanding of how to manage bids or how the auctions work.

For some reason, people tend to believe that putting in a bid or a target for tCPA or tROAS is enough to walk away. That’s certainly not okay. Google is automating the conversions between expected conversion when you’re trying to achieve in terms of CPA and putting the bids in the auction.

But remember this: it doesn’t look at anything to do with your business! It doesn’t necessarily know all the things about your business as you do. At the end of the day, your priority in the type of leads you want should be reflected in your targets.

Keep in mind that nothing is fixed as we know them to be. Keep testing and discussing ways to make the most of your accounts. 

Seasoned PPC professionals turn to efficient bid management tools, like Optmyzr, to keep their accounts top-notch and drive good leads. Try and experience our capabilities yourself by signing up for our 14-day free trial. Full access to all our features, credit card free!

PPC Town Hall 21: Rule Shopping and e-Commerce in Q4

As the holiday season approaches, search marketers are busy preparing for a rush of shopping and e-commerce activity in Q4. You need to be ready to navigate the next few months with expert planning and monitoring to deploy successful PPC campaigns.

This year more than ever, it’s important to arm yourself with tips and tricks to crush holiday sales. So for episode 21 of PPC Town Hall, we brought in a couple of experts in the space to talk about best practices in all things shopping and e-commerce:

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

Here are 6 insights that can help you top the e-commerce charts during Q4, Black Friday, and the holiday season.

1. Search is going to be a big place to be.

Purna: In 2020, we have been seeing three proverbial ‘elephants in the room’ – the economy, the COVID-19 crisis, and the upcoming elections in the US.

1. Recession: During the last financial crisis in 2008, consumers reported that they would pull back their holiday spending by 29%. However, these claims proved overly conservative as sales dipped by only 4.7% YoY. Even during the .com bubble, Retail sales continued to grow.

Search will be this big place where everyone will come to look for gifts. While retailers continue to cut back on budgets for other channels, Search seems to be least affected.

2. COVID-19:� With 75% of U.S. consumers avoiding in-store shopping malls and 53% avoiding shops in general because of COVID-19₂, in-store holiday traffic will likely decline this year.�

Online sales, however, are projected to astronomically increase this holiday season as COVID-19 continues to boost eCommerce activity. Anticipate holiday shopping to begin earlier as both retailers and customers offset the unprecedented shipping delays unearthed by COVID-19.

Even as the economy re-opens, and physical stores allow for customers to return, we expect BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store)  interest to remain exponentially higher than it would have without the health concerns related to physical distance.

3. Election: The election in 2016 did not impact search, yet we expect 2020 to perform very differently based on a multitude of factors

Moreover, with physical locations being restricted, more and more people have been coming online to find things. Due to this, we are expecting a double-digit growth to online sales for the Holiday season. 

2. Shifts in Search Advertising don’t give a solid outlook.

Anders: While analyzing Google’s quarterly reports, I saw that Google had negative growth in Q2 2020 compared with the year before, something which we have never seen before. Combining this information with the rumors of reducing search term reports or negative keywords, I believe that they might be panicking a bit. 

3. Seeing the pandemic as an opportunity.

Anders: I think people are very uncertain about the current situation. While certain brands closed up and waited for the changes to still, others took this up as an opportunity to talk and communicate with their audience. We have seen brands emerging, others pulling out of auctions, or bidding higher to get all the attention. So if you are a brand that hasn’t interacted at all, take this chance to tell the community that you are still around.

4. Impact on data analytics and audiences.

Anders: One of the things that we noticed while talking to some of the big names of the industry, is that bidding strategies were radically changed in about 25% of all projects they managed. But even with the data, you simply can’t predict in the same manner as you did before. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to reset the data, or even set a ‘before’ and ‘after’ lockdown, to learn user behaviors.  

I remember what Fred says in his book (Digital Marketing in an AI World), that we need to take a step back to look at the data. I think this is the time that we need to step back and look at things. Earlier on, we could trust the machines for the data they had and their ability to predict, but it might not be so reliable right now, as the data is changing. You need to be extra careful before fully trusting the algorithms. 

5. Rely on Machine learning and add your insights.

Purna: It’s true that the old models and strategies have somehow seen huge changes from predictable patterns. But I think there’s still a strong case for things like automated bidding. eCPC bidding can work well for Product Ads, and Microsoft recently launched Target ROAS bidding for shopping as well, and we have been seeing some really good performance there. 

So with so much unpredictability, leave some of the signals to the machine. But wherever you can put in your own inputs, give the system the best information possible such as through Custom Labels to manage campaign/product group optimization.

You can download Microsoft’s holiday shopping checklist as seen during Purna’s segment by clicking here.

6. Microsoft recommendations for feed management.

Purna: Remember to check the following things:

Conclusion

As we near the end of September, last-minute preparations for the coming quarter are in full swing. Search marketing has changed, and we need to be watchful of these changes as they affect data analytics and audience behaviors.

At Optmyzr, we’ve seen a massive shift across industries as businesses took recent months as an opportunity to go online. More and more marketers and agencies are starting to trust machine learning, automation, and data-driven optimizations.

One thing is clear: In order to thrive in Q4, PPC professionals need to look for powerful search systems and highly effective management tools. Being careful of the minutiae like descriptions or optional columns could prove to be game-changers.

PPC Town Hall 20: Mastering Video Ads with Joe Martinez and Cory Henke

Video ads are a powerful way to showcase and communicate your products or services to potential customers. They’re also a great way to drive leads and growth through PPC campaigns.

Experts are more in tune than ever with different platforms and the audience groups they attract, rather than focusing on just driving content. As the landscape changes, marketers need to find new ways to create the right kinds of video campaigns to resonate with their target segments.

So this week on episode 20 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to two experienced video ad gurus, who shared their rich experience and insights with our audience:

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

Here are 5 insights to help you deploy effective and powerful video ads.

1. Hook your audience in the first 5 seconds.

Joe: For me, the message in the first 5 seconds of a video can have more impact than anything else. What is the narrator or character trying to convey? For people like me, who listen to YouTube while working, the first five seconds of any ad will trigger me to pay attention to it. So that message is going to be extremely important.

Make sure that your logo is visible so that even if your audience is paying attention or skips the ad, they will see the brand name.�

2. Look at audience intent rather than channel.

Joe: If you have a limited budget and have a specific goal in mind with your campaign, it’s always important to optimize to whatever is working. Think about whether you would want your content shown on a particular channel.

We’ve seen people converting from a music channel because we focus on a very customer-intent audience rather than the type of channel. Now, if a customer is looking for� SaaS products, we’re targeting them and not the placement or the channel.

Be proactive. If you think your audience isn’t on certain channels, then block those. You can get help from several exclusion lists created to guide you better.

3. Target wisely for a TV-only campaign.

Joe: Looking specifically at a TV-only campaign, your ad’s performance depends on the various targeting options. Even if you don’t see a spike in the initial days, keep watching as the percentage of people watching your ads on TV increases gradually.

Go back to check your initial targeting options and whether you’ve been remarketing to the same audience. If your targeting is specific, try to expand it to check if that gives you the exposure you want on TV.

4. Drive your ads through IGTV.

Cory: On Instagram, the areas that are most promotable are the stories and the newsfeed. The areas that you can’t advertise are IGTV and live streams. And that is where, we believe, we get the most organic reach for our videos.

Now, the trouble with IGTV lies in promoting it. How do you get people to see it? That’s one of the most difficult things with long-form videos. To help increase your view count, run your long-form video ads on Facebook.

Another way would be to take the IGTV videos and embed them into a webpage. You can use the URLs to guide users onto your Instagram with a call to action like ‘Watch now’.

5. Don’t neglect lead forms.

Cory: We focus on CPC as that shows how the audience engages with the content rather than just visiting the website or channel. It shows how much impact the ads could have, especially when there isn’t much of a lead flow.

Don’t forget to test your bid types. We think that one of the biggest variables to look at is Target CPS vs Maximized Conversions. That’s great to potentially find some more lead volume that could help you decide what works for the audience better.

Keep an eye on the engagement with the lead form and experiment with your call-to-action.

Conclusion

The effectiveness of video ads is because they’re so easy to consume. With the way the world is right now, it’s no surprise people prefer video content over other types. The surging popularity of apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok (for now) is a testament to the balance of power shifting towards video ads.

While it’s definitely not easy to succeed with such a dynamic ad type, marketers need to be mindful of audience interests, broadcasting channels and mediums, and content type.

Go a step further to cater to your target audience by customizing your very own exclusion list. Start by checking out Joe and Clix’s list of over 1,400 children’s YouTube channels to exclude from your campaigns.

PPC Town Hall 18: Grow your business with PPC scripts

PPC marketers are always optimizing — some monitoring here, an adjustment there, and then you start to see (better) results. When you have that much to do, it’s impossible to do it manually and scale your output.

So there’s no reason to fear automation — like scripts. They not only speed up the process, but also allow you to be much more efficient in running your business. That’s right — scripts can drive business impact.

Best of all, anyone can use scripts, even if you haven’t written even a single line of code in your life!

So this week on episode 18 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to our panelists who live and breathe scripts:

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

Here are 5 insights to help you grow your business by automating your PPC accounts with scripts.

1. Update price extensions

Nils: Price extensions are very popular extensions that you can use in your Google Ads accounts to display actual prices. But prices tend to change quite often. If you have different products, and the product manager or account manager is changing the prices of the products because of inventory or competition, you need to update the price extensions with the actual prices.

Up until a year ago, it was impossible to update them through scripts. Fortunately, now we can access the price extensions via the scripts API to keep them in sync with your inventory.

To check the price extensions, you need to do the following: Google Ads scripts → References → AdsApp → Ad Extensions → Prices.

2. When to turn to scripts

Steve: ‘This is taking too much manual work’ is the point where we begin to think about building scripts to shorten the whole process. Most of the time, it’s brought up due to some amount of laziness on our part. For example, I’m currently working on Search Query reports and rely on scripts to deliver automated reports to me.

One of the best things about scripts is that you get to see this functionality and dozens of ways one can apply that across campaigns. The fun of scripts is finding something and imagining creative ways to apply them.

3. The business value of scripts

Nils: Scripts deliver great benefits all over the place. I’ve created a list of the Top 7 benefits of using scripts. Personally I try to automate as much as possible by using scripts. It has helped my remote PPC agency succeed and apply consistent processes to operations. With scripts, you can come up with new ideas to test your account, which wouldn’t have been possible manually. For example, we know that N-gram analysis is very tedious and time-taking. But with scripts, something that complex becomes quicker and can be done more frequently.    

The biggest benefit of scripts for my agency has been quality assurance. As the scripts are monitoring everything, any mistake done by my team comes under notice quickly. This way I can be alerted when anything goes haywire and sleep easy.  

Steve: We recently shifted to a new revenue model — cost per deliverable, where we charge our customers a fixed amount for our services. Scripts allow me to do that a lot more efficiently.

It’s not a discussion of hours anymore. Our clients are more focused on whether the product runs efficiently rather than how. This allows me to take my expertise and focus on deliverables rather than time.

4. Copy-pasting and modifying scripts

Steve: I think in blocks, which is basically the JavaScript way of thinking. Figuring out which functions do what, and letting them flow through until you get all the pieces for the script. In a lot of cases, you will get pre-built scripts to work on.

For example, Google’s Account Anomaly script is very easy to adjust to things that you are looking for in your anomalies. This can be a good base to get started with scripts.

5. Using scripts to monitor Google’s AI

Nils: We know that Google AI uses machine learning to predict performances on clicks. And machine learnings involves a ‘learning phase’. We are basically providing Google money and data to feed it to the machine learning algorithms. This is where I love to use scripts to track how AI is handling my accounts. If it goes haywire, and does a bad job for my clients my scripts would alert me immediately.

For example, for close variants, I have created a script to monitor the performance of the real keyword against the close variant. If there’s a significant difference in the performance, like in CPA or ROAS, I get alerted of that. You need to layer scripts and Google’s AI to make the most of it.

Conclusion

It’s important to look at Google Ads holistically. Everything — bids, budgets, ad text — influences this interconnected system. It’s not enough to set a script and forget it; you have to monitor it periodically as well.

Start out by using Google’s repository of pre-built scripts, or Nils’ collection of over 250 ready-to-use scripts.

As you gain experience, you can try modifying them to suit your specific needs. Experiment with existing rules to see how they affect the performance of your PPC accounts, and remember to preview your script before applying it.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So experiment away!

PPC Town Hall 17: How to look beyond ROAS to optimize PPC

Many marketers who live and breathe ad spend value ROAS as the holy grail of advertising. For many, it’s a way of calculating and formulating next steps to achieve high(er) revenue. While this metric does forecast quite well, one question that arises is how useful it is for long-term growth. 

With the use of retargeting as a way of fulfilling ROAS targets, PPC professionals might not consider incrementality as a way to get good results. Some sharp minds, however, have turned to customer lifetime value for better optimization with maximum profits.

So this week on episode 17 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to our panelists who are obsessed with driving better results for PPC campaigns:

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 how to look beyond ROAS to optimize PPC.

1. Understand the problem with ROAS.

Andreas: In large retail organizations, Finance is responsible for both budgeting and setting performance targets. While finance has profitability KPIs and new customer acquisition goals in mind, they translate them into ROAS targets. Often they don’t understand profitability or CLV isn’t a random byproduct of some advertising campaign, but rather something which you can explicitly optimize for.

Once ROAS targets are set, the easiest way to achieve them is to sell products with low margins and high return rates…usually to their existing customers. However, at the end of the budgeting cycle, they usually find that even though they have achieved their ROAS targets, profitability is down.

In the subsequent budgeting cycle, the ROAS target is tightened based upon the weak profitability. This vicious cycle can only be broken by setting other targets than RAS.

2. Consider profit on ad spend.

Frederik: You need to calculate the real gross profit on every single order, followed by doing the attribution and looking at customer LTV (lifetime value). You need to work on the profit on the first attribution.

We use POAS (profit on ad spend), which is richer in ad spend before sending out the data to the channels. We calculate all our orders, profits on them, cost price, shipping cost, and payment fees. Then we send these to the platform so that one can make transparent decisions.

3. Put the right information in the system.

Andreas: There’s a fundamental difference between how we once did things and what we’re doing now. The levers once used to excel in digital marketing have changed dramatically. In the early days we� optimized keywords, ad copies, and landing pages; things that weren’t fully automated.

But AI has made all of these activities redundant. To differentiate from the competition today you need to ensure you optimize for the right targets and that you can accurately measure the value of each single click…and feed your algorithm with first-party data. Putting the right information back into the system is key to optimizing beyond ROAS.

In order to activate your data you need to first assess the exact order margin, then you deduct the expected returns. As a second step you need to know whether an order was done by a new customer or an existing one. If it was a new customer who purchased, future purchases are to be expected, so you add a (residual customer lifetime value on top of the first-order-margin.

Ultimately, you need to slice this entire value if there were several clicks involved. The end goal should be to attain the value of each and every click. This is a prerequisite for bidding systems to work for your specific business.

4. To retarget or not?

Andreas: Whoever is curious to see the impact of data activation should do one experiment. First off? Let tROAS run. Then, in one instance,� you provide the first-click data. In the other, last-click data. Analyze the retargeting share of both settings and you’ll see only a small retargeting share through the first click; as all the credits get allocated to it.

What happens if you test for incrementality? You’ll see that the more likely a user is to buy, the better the results will look, albeit with lower incremental impact. Nobody today can answer this question: whether to bid up – or down –� on your retargeting activity.

I believe that attribution systems have completely failed. They assume that advertising must be responsible for the sale…and so it allocates credits based on different parameters. The only thing of value is to run isolated incremental audience-based models. It’s here where you can truly find out the scope of impact.

5. Go beyond attribution.

Frederik: We have a dashboard where we take away the attribution fully. We actually look at gross profits, usage on ad spend, and gross profit after ad spend by keeping their ratios the same. This way you can actually see whether your gross profit will increase or decrease if you don’t change the ratios. After this, you can try to allocate with some attribution. This way you can look at the financials rather than just the attribution.

Conclusion

While ROAS might have been the guiding light of the past, one can’t forget that what are essentially Google’s metrics might not accurately reflect your client’s or company’s goals.

The only way to sustain a ROAS-driven system is to layer different rules on product categories. Even geolocations seem to have an effect on ROAS targets; you might find, for example, that customer acquisition rate is higher in New York than in San Francisco.

It’s hard to automate some things fully as you might not have the same targets across different locations and products. The only way to fix that right now is to move towards a conversion tracking and attribution system that takes smaller things into account, like locations and incrementality.

PPC Town Hall 16: 5 Insights to Build Your Personal PPC Brand

While every marketer wants to leave their mark on the industry, very few become true experts. To be influential in the market today, you need to have credibility, and invest time and effort to hone your craft.

The reward: Not only do you get a chance to be a part of something bigger, but you get to shape others who’ll also make a difference to your industry.

Furthermore, having a strong personal brand helps win more business opportunities, both for yourself and your organization.

So this week on episode 16 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to the two most influential PPC experts of 2020, who brought their shared experience to the table:

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

Here are 5 insights to help you start building your personal PPC brand.

1. Learn how to build a good pitch.

Michelle: I’ve spent a lot of time writing pitches, submitting them, and getting rejected over and over again.

The thing that helped was to reach out to people who had spoken on similar panels to mine. I asked them how to make a good pitch. Their insights helped me understand what to write or which format to use. I also reached out to session moderators to get their take on the subject.

Purna: For anyone who wants to submit a pitch, I have two tips that have been helpful for me.

Ask yourself what the key takeaways are for your audience; make sure you’re sharing three or four actionable tips. And add more specificity to your content; discuss the angle you’re bringing to the topic.

2. Conquer your fear of speaking on stage.

Purna: Look through the material delivered by your favorite speakers to see what actually resonates with you, and practice to remove the barriers in your head that are making you nervous.

Make sure your content is adding value to your audience. Keep an eye on the discussions happening in your industry, and keep up with different topics and themes. Then get feedback; reach out to other experts to get their opinion. 

Enjoy yourself and have fun!

3. Keep your audience engaged.

Purna: Try to bring everyone onto the same page by asking your audience if they don’t understand something. I take 60 seconds to go over it and then take it from there. You want everyone to benefit from your content and not miss out due to a lack of background knowledge.

4. Start writing.

Michelle: If you can’t speak at shows, write. Start writing and put your smarts out there. This way, you’ll always have something to refer to and it will show others that you know your business. Don’t be afraid to start sharing your thoughts within relevant communities.

You’ll never get better unless you do it, so don’t be afraid that you’re not as good as you’d like to be. Don’t let perfection get in the way. Just start.

5. Quantify your passion project to your employer.

Michelle: I’m fortunate to have superiors that understand the value and importance of writing and speaking. Being visible helps you bring in clients who have seen you on different platforms and at events, but also helps convey the expertise you and your team have to companies who may not have seen you speak at those events.

Conclusion

Juggling your job, a personal life, and your passion project can definitely be a handful. But if you’re passionate about what you do and believe you can help your fellow marketers, start now.  

Be consistently active in discussions about your areas of interest. Look out for updates and news on new products or paradigms. Talk to established experts and get their feedback on your content. 

More importantly, be consistent — Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep making the effort and you’ll soon be growing your brand and business.

PPC Town Hall 15: Solving Agency Challenges During Times of Crisis

Running a PPC agency is challenging enough. Clients have to be kept happy, your teams have to stay on top of hundreds of fluctuations, and ad platforms are constantly changing and adding features to their mix.

Throw in something as unexpected as a pandemic and it can be easy to feel like you’re drowning.

So this week on episode 15 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to two PPC experts with a track record of success in helping their agencies weather numerous storms over the years:

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

Here are 6 tips to help you steer your team through these challenging times.

1. Be a partner, not a vendor.

Matt: It’s important to work out an ideal solution for an effective strategy. We have to be compassionate and understand everyone’s circumstances.

During the early months of COVID, we saw a few clients who wanted to pause their accounts or significantly cut down on their budget due to a lot of restrictions. We had to work with those clients, figuring out a way to remain working with them; something that works for both parties.

As places have started to open up, we can see that some of clients are coming back to get into business again.

2. Educate your clients.

Brittni: When we take over a new account from a previous agency, we ask for KPIs or benchmarks that the previous agency was asked to deliver. It can be a little difficult, especially when clients have unrealistic expectations.

ROAS can be one way, but if a client is looking for a 4x return on $100 a month ($400 in sales), that’s not going to be as beneficial as spending $2,000 a month and getting $4,000 in sales, and then incrementally increasing ROAS.

Trying to find a balance between what clients are looking for and attainable goals is really important.

3. Set expectations from the start.

Matt: It’s really important to understand what clients want to do with their business. What do they want from agencies? A lot of it goes back to how clients want to be. Do they want you to help them formulate a strategy and work together as partners, or do they want you to just pull levers?

If the client works with you as a partner, it’s important to go back to expectations and make your client understand your apprehensions and ideas. This way they can make informed decisions to best manage their accounts and goals.

4. Inspire confidence through your history.

Brittni: A lot of it comes down to partnership, time and patience. Once you start to show growth and success, a client is able to have trust and confidence in what you’re doing. With time, they’re going to give you those levels of referrals, and those partners are going to be able to trust you. And then you can guide them through their strategies.

If you’re capable of running a successful campaign on a very limited budget, especially dealing with unglamorous products like tires, it indicates a strong sense of strategy which helps build client confidence.

5. Understand a price-sensitive market.

Matt: In the context of COVID, a client that doesn’t have a major sticking point when it comes to price, that’s where things like curbside pickup and contactless delivery will help gain consumers.

While additional platforms for selling products definitely work for users, it’s beyond price. It’s more about offering something unique, especially in the time of COVID.

6. Know how to come back from a lull in business.

Brittni: There’s definitely been a change in the type of messaging and targeting for different clients. Earlier, a lot of our clients shifted from paid advertising to SEO or local ads.

But as things are opening, these same clients are coming back to paid advertising with a different approach. Many of the campaigns we see today promote COVID safety and precautions. These are the clients who want to maintain customer safety. We need to focus on building brand awareness through any type of display advertising.

Conclusion

Most contingencies can be planned, but sometimes life throws you a curveball that no one can predict. In times like these, trust in your track record of success.

When client business is suffering, they can often have multiple fires to fight: supply chain, hygiene, and delivery come to mind. So a great agency that can continue to create value on the advertising front is worth its weight in gold.

Join us next week for PPC Town Hall 16 where we’ll be speaking to two of the leading ladies of PPC: Michelle Morgan and Purna Virji.

PPC Town Hall 14: The 6-Step Starter Guide for PPC Beginners

Advertising your business online can be intimidating. There are so many options available that it can be tough to figure out your first move.

If you ever wished you had a step-by-step guide to figuring out your first steps in PPC, look no further. We picked one platform to start with — Google Ads, because it’s user-friendly and provides a high degree of assistance to newcomers.

This week on episode 14 of PPC Town Hall, two of the brightest minds in digital advertising shared lessons from their combined decades of PPC and marketing experience:

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

Complete with actionable insights, here’s our 6-step starter guide for PPC beginners.

1. Get set up on Google My Business.

Julie: Google My Business (GMB) is very important, especially for local and service-area businesses; the map is important even if you don’t have a physical location where people come to you. And the way you get on Maps, organically or through ads, is GMB. Additionally, if you want to run location extensions on your ads, you have to connect your verified GMB listing to your Google Ads account.

2. Define your conversion actions.

Julie: Sometimes you can drown in data. Or you can have data that seems like it’s telling you things but it really isn’t. If you’re in e-commerce, it’s pretty obvious what your conversion action is: you want people to buy things.

But if you’re not e-commerce, one of the first things you have to do is define what a conversion is to you; it’s the lens through which you view everything else. It helps you set things up at different stages in a way that collects data in the best way possible for you to get conversions and build a remarketing plan.

3. Don’t be intimidated by product feeds.

Susan: Shopping is always difficult because it involves feeds, and I think that scares a lot of people because it can feel more like coding than advertising. So if you’re a small business, you can set up easily on a platform like Shopify that will automatically export a feed to Google Merchant Center for you.

It’s also worth going through the process of building a local inventory feed; you have to submit that to Google, and they’ll call to verify your identity and the accuracy of that feed. But that results in a bit more visibility when people search for what you’re selling, and they’ll know they can come pick it up from you.

4. Experiment with Dynamic Search Ads.

Julie: If you’re new to PPC and you’re not really sure what terms you want to advertise on, dynamic search ads (DSAs) can reveal information like what Google thinks of your business.

When you run regular search ads, you’re telling Google what keywords you want, what ads to run, and which landing pages they should lead to. With DSAs, you still decide the message behind your ad copy, but Google decides when to show your ad (and what keyword triggers it).

It’s a bit of a window into what they believe you’re relevant to. So running DSAs alongside some of your more obvious keywords can help you identify opportunities to build full campaigns.

5. Use supplemental feeds to prevent brand dilution.

Susan: I love supplemental feeds. A lot of time, retailers will do a great job of building a brand — it feels like it has personality, the products have quirky names, and it feels unique to them.

The challenge you run into there is those product titles and descriptions aren’t always SEO-friendly. Google Shopping is looking to see what you feed it and then showing you for searches it believes you’re relevant for.

If you’re missing that text, you can set up logic within Google Merchant Center that says ‘use my regular feed, but for product title, use this’. And you can direct it to a Google Sheet where you have your unique product name with the SEO keywords.

So it’s essentially a translator between your feed and Merchant Center to make sure your ads are as search term-rich as possible.

For more on the pitfalls of PPC, read Susan’s article on why Google Ads might not be working for you.

6. Know what to look for from your campaign results.

Susan: Part of the challenge with Smart campaigns on Google is the automatically generated conversions. If business owners and campaign managers don’t know how to see what those are, they might think they have a ton of real conversions, but they might not actually be very high-value. You can always find out more about those automatic conversions, but someone starting out in PPC might not know that you can go out and find that information.

Conclusion

Whether you’ve been struggling to see results or are just taking your business online, PPC can be challenging if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

But even in a normal business landscape, you can’t keep spending PPC dollars without any meaningful results.

That’s why agencies like Aimclear and Neptune Moon can be exactly what your business needs — a partner who doesn’t just know how to get results, but is fully invested in the success of your online campaigns and overall business.

PPC Town Hall 12: How YouTube & Video Drive Growth & Learning

We all know the power of good video.

People use the moving picture to sway opinion, win hearts, and tell stories. In a marketing setting, it brings consumers as close to a brand or product as the online experience will allow.

But video continues to be ignored by many businesses for a variety of reasons

“It’s expensive.”

“We don’t have the resources.”

“Our target audience isn’t on YouTube.”

All these misconceptions were dismantled this week during episode 12 of PPC Town Hall, where we discussed the intricacies of YouTube (and video in general) with:

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

Here are five tips from our panelists on how to use YouTube and video to drive growth and learning.

1. Exclude ads from content you don’t want to show for.

Joe: In terms of content exclusions, we’ve seen really good hand-curated lists from other marketers. I’ve created one that stops your ads from running on channels geared towards children; others have created exclusion lists for news, political and controversial channels.

So there are options if you don’t want to run your ads on specific types of content. Some of the ad formats, like TrueView discovery campaigns, give advertisers greater control. They let you limit yourself to targeting just YouTube search results; you don’t have to be a pre-roll or in-stream ad all the time.

2. Use the data to learn about your audience.

Cory: When you start to find different channels and videos that work well, that’s a key insight into your consumer — you see the videos they watch after your ad play. One advertiser we worked with had a baby product that was not really succeeding on YouTube.

What we found was that the minimal conversions that happened all came before hurricane-related news content. We saw that was driving conversions, and we learned that it was a fear-based action. Before people watch hurricane content, they’re in a heightened state of awareness or fear; serving something that could potentially help your future child played into that mood.

3. Try out the YouTube Video Builder.

Joe: For me there’s no longer an excuse for a brand to not be on YouTube. It no longer matters if you don’t have someone with video editing skills or high-value assets, because Google basically takes your visuals and does the work for you.

There are dozens of templates based on what you want to promote — product, service, mobile app. When you pick a template you like, it shows you what images you need, as well as the format and sizes for those images. I did a few demos of my own to show some clients. For a free tool, it’s very good.

Get Access: Opt in to the beta of YouTube Video Builder here.

Image courtesy of Google.com

4. Learn from skippable and non-skippable video ads.

Cory: Non-skippable ads usually drive very high CPCs with high completion rates; with a 15-second interstitial ad, you usually get a completion rate similar to a bumper ad. I think you’ll find people who are willing to watch your ad until the end, but not necessarily willing to click through and find out more.

So it’s kind of like a brand placement. I like it, but it’s harder to learn from.

With a skippable ad where you don’t pay for a user until 30 seconds, there’s a lot you can learn in that time — and greater scope to optimize these ads to make them more effective. With a skippable ad, there’s also unlimited time; your ad can be 10 seconds or 40 minutes. That variation lets you learn what your customers want to see from your future video content.

We could take this episode of PPC Town Hall and run it as a skippable ad, and compare it to another episode that we also promote similarly. You would know which users are willing to stay longer versus who ends the video early, and you might even see a link between that and who’s in the video.

We ran a test for a client’s 20-minute yoga ad where we used two versions with a black male and a white female to see what people would respond to. We also created a funny version and a more serious one. The white female version had better CTR and CPC, as did the serious version. What we learned from that is who to put on the next Instagram post or in-feed ad. The goal is to present that variation at the beginning of the video to maximize your learning.

5. Repurpose video beyond YouTube.

Joe: It’s absolutely worth doing video — especially if you’re budget-conscious — because it goes so much further than just YouTube.

You can use videos in responsive display ads, in your universal app campaigns and engagement display ads, in your Gmail ads. Or use video to really boost other campaigns and awareness; it’s still video views we can create audiences from to do remarketing with fresh video content.

You don’t have to make a video and use it once on YouTube when there are ways to enhance your other paid media campaigns within Google.

Must Read: Check out Joe’s advice on how to use YouTube to power your non-video Google campaigns.

Conclusion

YouTube advertising is all about two things: freedom and flexibility.

You have the freedom to present your product, service, app, or brand in a way that offers something different from search, display, and shopping campaigns.

At the same time, different ad formats and product innovations give you the flexibility to set up variant campaigns to test what works best for your business.

There’s never been a better time to invest in content (YouTube is cheaper than ever), experiment with ads (more people are online), and learn from the data (you might discover an audience you didn’t know you had).

PPC Town Hall 11: 5 Tips to Make More Money with e-Commerce

While many locations are exiting lockdown restrictions and business has been allowed to resume, the realities of the pandemic mean that many people are still unable or unwilling to shop in person. But that doesn’t necessarily mean demand is lower.

Enter e-commerce: the reigning champion of helping businesses make money through the internet.

This week on PPC Town Hall, Optmyzr CEO Frederick Vallaeys spoke to a couple of the world’s sharpest minds on the subject:

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

Here are 5 tips from this week’s panelists on how e-commerce done right can make more money for your clients and your business.

1. Build a robust product feed.

Every digital marketer knows that e-commerce success begins and ends with the product feed, so it’s paramount to get this in order before even trying to get creative with placements or extensions.

“We’ve seen big e-commerce stores come in and do really well with a feed where the titles are optimized for organic traffic. At the same time, we’ve seen time and time again that if you take the time to really build out the rest of the feed values so that your feed is as good as it can be, it can drastically improve Google Shopping results over time,” Andrew shared.

“The problem is this improvement doesn’t happen from one day to the next. With some of the stores we’ve worked with, where the product feed was very weak and where we optimized the feed (added keywords to the titles, etc.), it took months for it to actually show overall great results.

“My takeaway from this is that the feed really has a quality factor to it; we can’t see it, it’s not listed like Quality Score, but there is a component that determines how many searches you get shown for. It won’t necessarily boost your rank for a single keyword, but how far and wide Google can and will spread your product exposure.”

2. Give your products visibility.

On the other hand, building a good feed means nothing unless you utilize it the right way.

“The vast majority of our clients are on Shopify, but we also work with businesses that are on WooCommerce and Magento as well. One of our clients on WooCommerce who uses their app, and we used a supplemental feed to augment/change the product titles. It was easy to do because they only have 74 SKUs, so I was able to build out what I wanted in 5-6 hours. We push clients until they make the changes we want,” Duane shared.

“We’re not going to do subpar work, so if you’re not going to let us use Feedonomics, we don’t want you as a client. We don’t have time to waste building out feeds when we can think more strategically about how to use that feed to make our clients more money.”

3. Know when to use Smart and Standard campaigns.

If you’re listing your products via Google Shopping campaigns, you have a choice to make: control the parameters yourself via a Standard campaign, or let Google use its machine-driven Smart campaign to optimize things for you.

“My recommendation depends on who you are. If you’re an in-house marketing coordinator and need to run your Google campaigns because you’ve had a bad experience with several agencies, Smart Shopping usually outperforms anything average PPC managers can do by themselves,” Andrew said.

“If you’re on the agency side or have a lot of experience, then you can usually utilize more of the complex structures to generate better results than Smart Shopping can. That said, I think it’s one of the best things to come out of Google in a long time.”

Duane had a word of advice for anyone leaning toward a Smart campaign.

“You can only use Smart Shopping if you have enough data in your Standard campaigns, so you can’t just launch a Smart Shopping campaign on day one even if you wanted to. I would recommend hitting a consistent 75-100 conversions per month before moving to Smart Shopping.”

4. Look beyond Google.

While Google offers many effective ways to advertise, over-reliance on one platform can be limiting.

“I love Google, but sometimes people get so focused on Google and forget that there’s so much other opportunity in the world,” Duane said. “This article from Modern Retail talks about Levi’s doing a test with TikTok — an app that’s very big with influencers, celebrities and content creators. They have shopping ads now and around 200-250 million users in the US; so does Snapchat with its 229 million users.”

Duane knows other opportunities exist — and he’s already taking advantage of them.

“We’re making shopping work on Google; where else can we go? Does it make sense to go to Snap? It’s not just for people under 18; a good 15-20% of users are above the age of 25 and have disposable income. We’ve had clients sell products on there with an average order value of $100-150, so there’s money there. TikTok only launched shopping ads a few months ago, but it could work for brands that have a lot of video content.”

5. Track profit, not revenue.

While it’s almost standard practice to track return on advertising spend (ROAS) as the defining financial metric, simply keeping score of revenue might not account for the actual goal of advertising: to make more money.

“Tracking profit over ROAS enables you to be more dynamic in the way you work with bidding,” Andrew observed.

“PPC marketers and businesses try to figure out what the optimal ROAS should be, and it all comes from analyzing margins on products; some work on a category basis and identify the ones that have higher margins than others. But this misses the point completely, because some brands have high margins and others have low ones. And if you’re running a sale, your margin is severely limited.

“During COVID, we worked with a client who had trouble getting inventory for a specific category — one we’d had problems with for a long time. We increased prices by 25% and all of a sudden, we started turning a profit. The profit margin earlier was so low that we couldn’t compete; with the new and improved conversions, we could own Shopping for that category.

“We’ve had other instances where we tracked profit over ROAS and the profit had doubled, or increased by 50-80%. When we looked at the analytics and measured ROAS, nothing had changed. It all comes from changing which products we’re actually pushing, because we can see which ones are selling well and turn a better profit instead of having empty revenue going through the stream.”

Conclusion

Nothing hurts an e-commerce program like a strategy in disarray. That’s why it’s critical to treat every step of the process with care.

If you’re an in-house marketer or a business owner, you might not have the time or resources to get it right every time. Tools like Optmyzr can make it easier to streamline and automate large parts of your PPC efforts, just as they help agencies achieve efficiency at scale.

You might also be completely new to e-commerce, in which case it’s not a bad idea to speak with an expert.

You can reach Andrew at andrew@savvyrevenue.com and Duane at duane@takesomerisk.com if you’re interested in the e-commerce and other services their teams can provide.

PPC Town Hall #10: 5 Observations on Google’s Initiatives in Q2

If you joined us for PPC Town Hall this week, you probably noticed that we look different! Everyone is combating Zoom fatigue, so we streamlined the show to be more visually engaging and appealing.

Joining us for the first new-look PPC Town Hall were two of the most insightful experts in paid search:

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

Let’s dive into this week’s observations on Google’s initiatives during Q2 of 2020 — and we might even have an additional surprise for you at the end!

1. A shift in messaging is overdue.

With businesses reopening in the post-lockdown phase, COVID messaging is in need of a change in tone. Ann thinks now is a good time for brands to realign themselves.

“I do think some messages have been played out — how to do virtual conferences, how to spend your day on Zoom. People are getting fed up with that and it’s time for messaging to come out on the other side,” she noted.

“People are once again able to do things they weren’t able to do before; certain shops are reopening and we’re trying to get back to business. In the UK, our furlough grants have been very helpful in making sure a lot of people have salaries and are able to spend.”

2. E-commerce isn’t as simple as some people think.

With millions of consumers unable or unwilling to visit brick and mortar locations, small businesses and those dependent on tourism income are turning to e-commerce to plug revenue gaps.

But Gianpaolo has a word of caution for anyone who thinks setting up a Shopify store or listing on Amazon is the catch-all solution.

“In Italy, it’s been a couple of years now that almost everyone wants to get into e-commerce, even if they don’t need it,” he shared. “But starting an e-commerce operation is only the beginning; you cannot set up an online store and think you’re done.”

Gianpaolo recommends leveraging the power of search and other forms of paid advertising to get people to your online stores — a critical step that some businesses new to e-commerce may not account for.

3. Legitimate businesses welcome advertiser verification.

With Google already rolling out its mandatory advertiser verification program, businesses that use their paid advertising services will have 21 days from the moment they’re contacted to verify their identities.

Ann believes that legitimate businesses will universally welcome this move, and that it will help filter out some of the more unsavory players.

“I’m very much in favor of Google’s advertiser verification. I feel there are so many questionable agencies and other businesses that rip people off. I’ve been in this industry nearly 20 years now, and I’ve seen and heard so many stories about this,” she shared.

4. Google’s ad credits are here — and they’ll be useful.

It didn’t take too long after global lockdowns started to take effect for Google to announce that they would be disbursing millions of dollars in free ad credits to small businesses. While this move to prop up some of Google’s hardest-hit customers took some time, America and Europe are now seeing results.

“This week in Italy, we received the first COVID ad credits from Google, so they are coming to Europe as well. They are set in fixed amounts: €75, €210, €590 and probably €1000 (I haven’t seen this yet), depending on last year’s range of spend,” Gianpaolo told us.

“Anything helps to get out of this situation. Even if €1,000 can’t change your business landscape, it can still help. If you found something that was working, I suggest putting part of your credits back on that. Of course, you can also try something new.

“Personally, my approach to the situation has been not to stop campaigns, but to lower budgets and CPCs to the minimum possible. Spending a tenth of what you normally do is a good solution, especially in search.

“If someone is searching for something they are likely to convert — maybe not now, but at some point. Why lose those hyper-competitive slots if you can keep them while spending a fraction of what you spent before?”

5. Agencies want Google to rethink their partner program.

Google’s partner program has long been a source of contention with many agencies, especially those who focus on quality and results. With the program postponed to next year due to the pandemic, this offers Google a chance to bring requirements in line with agency realities.

“As an MCC owner, we’ve got so many accounts linked to us. We had to have 70 people take the exam in organizations that have nothing to do with us. I’m hoping Google will have second thoughts about the way they do these qualifications, because there’s no way we can oversee all the organizations we are linked to,” Ann said.

“The other thing I don’t like about the partner status is it’s based on volume and growth in spend. At a premium agency like ours, not every client is looking for massive growth. In some cases, the first thing we do with a new client is cut out a load of wasted spend. And then we get penalized for bringing the spend down while we’re trying to improve the quality and make more money for the client. Google’s program isn’t always aligned with client needs.”

Bonus: LinkedIn targeting is coming to Microsoft.

Towards the end of this week’s show, Gianpaolo had some interesting news and advice for users of Microsoft Advertising.

“Keep an eye on the Microsoft Audience Network. They’re integrating it with LinkedIn targeting options for B2B campaigns in their display network,” he told us.

“This is something I would try to test even more deeply when I have an occasion to do so. I think it’s probably the first time that Microsoft is a little bit ahead of Google in something. I’m happy they’re doing this, and I’d definitely do some testing on this.”

Conclusion

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Google has been active in rolling out initiatives to help businesses and the PPC industry ride the storm. And while some of those programs were hyped up to be a lot more than they turned out to be, there’s no doubt they’ve done more than most advertising platforms.

It will be interesting to see how they adapt and what new ideas they roll out as the landscape continues to morph based on restrictions and developments in different geographies.

Join us again next week for PPC Town Hall, where we’ll be discussing e-commerce and Google Shopping campaigns. Catch the details on our PPC Town Hall landing page or follow us on Twitter.

PPC Town Hall #9: 6 B2B Tips for PPC Marketers

After a break last week, PPC Town Hall returned on May 27 with a revamped format. With the ‘doom and gloom’ phase of the pandemic behind us, PPC marketers are increasingly focused on solutions.

Going forward, PPC Town Halls will be more topical and focus on key areas of concern, with actionable advice to help PPC marketers and their teams overcome ongoing challenges. You’ll also be able to ask questions of panelists before and during each episode, and watch and listen to previous PPC Town Halls anytime you like.

Find everything you need right here.

Joining us for episode 9 to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by PPC marketers in the B2B space were:

Here are 6 key insights from our panelists on how PPC professionals can help B2B brands position themselves for post-COVID success.

1. Start building your pipeline now.

B2B as a space is notorious for having lengthy sales cycles, ranging from the challenging (30-60 days) to the laborious (12-18 months). Depending on the size of a lead’s company, conversions may not happen for multiple quarters or fiscal years.

AJ believes that now is a good time to get ahead of that curve, and he thinks LinkedIn is the place to do it.

“Because of the uncertainty right now, people are afraid to sign big deals and contracts. So these leads who were in the pipeline are not closing,” he shared. “I get that B2B marketers are scared, but now is the time to be advertising — ad costs are the lowest they will ever be across all networks, it’s the cheapest way to get in with an audience, and people are spending more time on LinkedIn. More people, more attention, and lower costs — take advantage of that to build your pipeline and have conversations to build those relationships on the longer sales cycles.

2. Be ready for the coming rise in demand.

At the start of the pandemic, it was difficult to extrapolate any meaningful stories from relevant data. Now that we’re a few months in, there’s something to work with.

“Around mid-March when the pandemic was taking hold, there was a huge spike in e-commerce traffic, conversion rates and revenue,” he said.

“This good write-up on this COVID-19 e-commerce bubble by Mike Ryan, product management lead for Smarter Ecommerce in Austria, shows what they observed in Europe. The bubble was mostly likely a result of panic-buying of essentials like food, and business items like headsets and cameras for work-from-home remote meetings. After that spike, it settled into a pattern and we’re now in a trough.”

He also provided some advice for businesses whose products and services are in high demand, which might drastically shorten a once-drawn out sales cycle.

“If you’re a company that sells something directly related to reopening safely, your biggest issue is when things open back up, purchasing managers are going to want to buy your product and they’re going to want it fast. So in terms of messaging, be clear about what you can deliver quickly — and don’t discount.”

3. Keep your ads dynamic.

From messaging to responsiveness to inventory, nothing during this pandemic has been static or predictable. Businesses need to stay flexible in order to occupy a positive space in the minds of those who will buy their products and services.

Frank believes that one good way to do that is by structuring your ad content to follow a prospect’s progress through your funnel.

“At Digitopia, we have a concept called ‘follow the funnel’. That means as your prospect engages with your brand digitally and moves through that experience, the ads on all networks should recognize where they’re at and change to offer the next thing in the relationship,” he told our audience.

“So if they visit a cornerstone piece of content but didn’t take advantage of your lead magnet, then the ad should change to (drive them to) the lead magnet.”

For more insights, check out Frank’s book “Building Your Digital Utopia”.

4. LinkedIn is an expensive but high-quality filter.

One question that came up during this week’s conversation focused on filtering out unwanted clicks from tire-kickers and businesses that can’t afford your product or service.

AJ’s advice is to leverage LinkedIn’s built-in filtering capabilities — without breaking the bank.

“LinkedIn is very good at getting the best quality of prospects to your offers and sites. What it requires is that you have a great content offer, because their CPCs are too high to treat it as a true top-of-funnel channel; you’re paying bottom-of-funnel prices for a top-of-funnel visitor,” he said.

His advice?

“Get people to an offer that is gated — some kind of lead magnet — where it’s valuable enough that people will drop down past the top of the funnel into the middle.”

5. Evaluate. Communicate. Re-evaluate.

At the start of this crisis, many agencies shifted priorities from performance to strategy. While the needle is slowly moving back, Matt feels that it’s more vital than ever to truly understand what clients are going through.

“What’s really important now is staying on top of relationships with clients, and we’re talking to them about what they’re seeing — is the phone ringing, are RFQ numbers going up, is lead gen going up?”

He even provided an example of when communication can overcome a roadblock that might have otherwise been overlooked.

“In B2B, summertime tends to get a bit quieter. Things might be reopening but we still see a flat revenue line, and it may be due to that seasonal trend. So constant communication and re-evaluation is important.”

6. Consistency leads to revenue.

Few things are more harmful to B2B marketing than irregularity — except perhaps consistently making communication sound like a pitch. Combine the two, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Frank reminded our audience that messaging is everything, and how you structure that messaging can make or break your success in the current environment.

“When a company is trying to engage their audience but hasn’t been consistent with it, there’s a ramp up period of 12-24 months before you see it become a consistent process,” he cautioned.

“Now add in what’s going on, and we see a lot of companies immediately jump ship. They say ‘We’re not going to do anything because now’s a bad time to be marketing’. Well, if your approach to marketing was product pitch-focused to begin with, you were doing B2B marketing wrong all along.”

Conclusion

It became apparent to us a couple of weeks ago that the PPC community was done feeling sorry for ourselves. As always, our resilience and analytical minds meant that we now needed to focus on fixing what we have the power to fix.

Now that we’ve moved to a topical format with discussions revolving around solutions, we hope the time you spend engaging with us on PPC Town Hall yields even greater returns. So be sure to bookmark this page to stay on top of everything.

In the meantime, we’re still here to provide all the support we can with new content, product features and more!

PPC Town Hall #8: 7 Digital Marketing Lessons from Australia

One of the most rewarding things about PPC Town Hall is how support and demand for our webinar isn’t just restricted to a few markets. And recently, we found out that the PPC community in Australia was missing out on joining us live.

That’s all the reason we needed to move this week’s webinar to accommodate our friends down under. Joining us for this week’s episode were three of Australia’s most seasoned digital marketers:

As always, you can view and listen to previous PPC Town Hall episodes here.

So let’s take a look at our panelists’ 7 digital marketing lessons from their experiences managing local and global accounts from Australia.

1. How long can the ‘new normal’ last?

“I’ve been amazed with how quickly everyone has adapted. Two months ago, working from home full time was ‘impossible’ for many organizations,” Mike observed.

“The knock-on effects — less pollution, less time in the car, property prices — will be pretty interesting to see. I don’t know yet what cultural changes will stick, but I feel like we might roll back some things if we don’t consciously design differences into our lives. And it would be a shame to lose this opportunity to make our supply chains more local or improve food security. In terms of consumer buying behavior, Amazon is an example of a company that comes out of this stronger than before.”

With that said, Mike also urged marketers to remain empathetic by remembering that we’re not all equally fortunate.

“We have to remember this is a pandemic of two halves. We and our teams are very fortunate to be able to work from home. Meanwhile, a whole bunch of jobs and businesses are just gone.”

2. Small businesses need all the support they can get.

Hit hardest during this crisis are small businesses, irrespective of industry. Many operate on low margins and don’t have the cash reserves to continue meeting expenses without regular revenue.

“Google My Business has done a lot for companies during COVID. One example is the ability to list that you’re not open to walk-ins, but are offering delivery or pickups. So for cafés and restaurants, GMB has done some very positive things,” Monte noted.

“That said, knowing a lot of people in restaurants and catering, they’re trying to move a bit away from services like UberEats and Deliveroo because of the huge margins (up to 30%). Most restaurants don’t operate on a 20% or 30% gross margin in normal times. So now they have their wait staff doing deliveries, and they’re finding new services that charge them a flat fee to place the order and have their own employees fulfill it. This needs to pick up, because the bigger services aren’t sustainable for small businesses.”

If you can, we recommend you buy local to support small businesses and give your economy the best shot at bouncing back quickly.

3. Hybrid business models are in.

While the situation is improving in many countries, there’s no clear and definitive end to the pandemic. Ben believes that businesses will need to look at combining different strategies to maximize profitability for some time.

“There are only two ways out of COVID: a vaccine or herd immunity. Every time lockdowns open up, there’s a spike in cases. So we’re probably indoors for a period of time, and this will change people’s buying psychology — it takes 30 days to form a habit and 60 days to break one.”

“Google is still the first thing people use to search for and find things. In April, we saw categories like restaurants go through the roof — and they’re still there. Earlier, restaurants used to have people walk down the street and pop in, but they will have to adopt a hybrid business model for a while yet. This might look like deliveries and takeout supported by limited dine-in capacity.”

4. Size does matter.

Every few decades, history throws us a curveball that creates winners and losers. Pandemics are one of these events, and the current one is drawing out the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

“It might not be common knowledge, but large organizations that have dedicated logistics and transport facilities have been able to maintain their supply lines,” Monte said.

“But for a lot of small businesses that might be importing from China for distribution in Australia, that product is usually in the belly of a commercial airliner carrying passengers. That all came to a halt and as a result, these companies found their supply chains had collapsed for a while. We actually had some clients who put their e-commerce stores on hold because of a lack of inventory.”

5. Work around the logistics.

There’s no doubt that the world’s supply chains are under stress. Businesses have two choices: crib about it or work around it. Ben has been helping clients achieve the latter.

“In March, stock was an issue. We had big online retailers who couldn’t get product, going from huge revenues to thinking about maybe closing the doors. So we pivoted to make sure they could do pre-orders and give attention to what was in stock. It’s amazing what little things like that and a bit of common sense can do for a business,” he shared.

“I think Display and remarketing are useful to make sure you’re getting in front of these changing business strategies, like curbside pickup. We believed we were seeing a lot of those trends here in Australia as well. We did some analysis of our MCCs and it looks like the data matches that.”

6. Pausing campaigns is unpreferred in both hemispheres.

During last week’s PPC Town Hall, Navah Hopkins made a passionate case for keeping campaigns on at minimal cost. This week, Mike echoed her sentiments.

“I’m reluctant to pause campaigns, having done that in the past with bad results. If we think a client will come back in a few weeks, we’ll wind stuff down to 1-cent budgets and leave it there. We’d rather spend a little bit than pause entirely,” he said.

“Interestingly enough, some European campaigns for one of our US clients have been on these 1-cent budgets. There was some trickle of clicks coming through. Every now and then you get a sale, so the ROAS was staggering at 500x. Of course, those outliers don’t make for very pleasant reporting!”

7. Truly great agencies are partnerships.

Led by people like Ben, PPC agencies and consultants are proving to be worth their weight in gold during this crisis.

“We have great clarity about our mission as a business — to serve and help SMBs succeed online. Many of our client managers see themselves as digital marketing business coaches, so they’re there not just to talk about Google Ads but what else we can do with client businesses,” he shared.

“When COVID hit, they needed our help more than ever. We immediately thought about all these industries that were going to be affected and how we can help them stop from shutting their doors. We developed some e-commerce packages, rolled them out at cost price, and built them out in two days. One thing we achieved was helping a coffee shop sell coffee beans online and survive that way.”

Conclusion

It’s always reassuring to learn that people doing the same work around the world share your mentality and vision. So it was refreshing to speak with not just one, but three champions of human and empathy-focused marketing (we heard plenty of support for local and small businesses).
Next week, we’re back to our usual time of 9 am PT / 12 pm ET / 18:00 CET and will be joined by two exciting panelists. Check out the details here!

PPC Town Hall #7: From Phantom Menace to New Hope

For the past six weeks, we’ve discussed how to adjust to this new normal and find hope in difficult situations. With signs of life starting to creep back into the digital advertising space, this week’s episode focused on solutions as we start to emerge from the sense of doom.

The panel for episode 6 included:

So without further delay, let’s dive into 9 insights that consultants, brands and agencies can use to guide the next phase of their PPC strategy.

And remember, you can watch or listen to past episodes of PPC Town Hall on our dedicated page.

1. People are starting to spend again.

“I saw something interesting with a furniture client who has both B2B and B2C e-retail,” David said. “Each one had a moment of total crisis where sales just stopped, and we were all trying to figure out why. In retrospect, consumer confidence had vanished — along with their money. But then it started to pick up around late March and early April.”

But that’s only half the story. While David’s client experienced slowdowns on both fronts at the same time, the recovery has been dramatically different.

“The interesting thing is the pickup for B2B has not yet brought them to parity with what they saw in January and February, while B2C is higher than they’ve ever experienced.”

2. Businesses are more flexible than ever.

During one of our first PPC Town Hall events, Julie Friedman Bacchini of Neptune Moon predicted that businesses can only succeed if they adapted to the prevailing situation.

Brandon has seen that play out firsthand.

“SMBs experienced a number of weeks with a lot of reluctance and trying to figure out what exactly was going on,” he said.

“I’ve been really impressed and surprised with our clients and the conversations we’ve had, and their attitude to getting back out there and maintaining their presence on digital. I’ve seen that more often than I expected.”

3. Courage is paying off.

According to Navah, “Clients who stayed the course throughout the flux are in an amazing position; the ones who pulled back their spend are experiencing a far more intense recovery. The former have been able to capitalize on cheaper CPCs and really own the ‘compassion conversation’ to stay top of mind.”

So what’s the final verdict: should you turn your campaigns off or keep them on?

“We can debate turning campaigns off versus keeping them on with a $5 budget, but leaving the campaign on can be worth the $400 or $500 you’d spend. It can help make sure you don’t face thousands of dollars in wasted time when you want to ramp things back up.”

4. There’s no formula for recovery.

Once again, another set of panelists confirmed that the absence of a playbook means they are handling each situation independently.

“I don’t have set times or dollar amounts [as benchmarks for the recovery phase], as the variables differ greatly from client to client,” David said. “When I sense that we’re going to have to adjust the budget significantly, I will often switch to manual bidding and try to steer the account in the right direction.”

5. Manual bidding might be necessary as advertising activity picks back up.

The lack of data to guide Google’s machine means that advertisers who paused campaigns will find it a challenge to jump right back into Automated Bidding.

“I’ve seen about a two-week period where campaigns coming back on benefit from manual bidding before re-transitioning to automated bidding,” Navah said. “What’s also been useful is target Impression Share with a bid cap just to protect the system. But for manual bidding, I don’t go more than two weeks provided we have conversion data.”

Read more of Navah’s thoughts on the subject in her latest blog post for Search Engine Journal.

6. Digital marketers can’t stay isolated.

With data scarce and attribution not so clear, the divide between digital and traditional media is narrower than ever.

“Bridging the gap between traditional and digital media has become a far more important conversation, and digital marketers need to be more comfortable interfacing with their traditional media counterparts,” Navah commented.

“Pre-COVID, we were comfortable living in our tower of data with perfect attribution, and this crisis has shaken the foundations of having a pure data approach.”

7. There is no ‘one channel to rule them all’.

Even hardcore specialist agencies that focused on one or two channels have been open to new things, like Brandon’s organization (un)Common Logic.

“One of the learnings of the last few months for me relates to diversification and having a few more channels at our disposal. We’re typically a direct response and PPC-heavy agency, and connected TV is one of the things I’ve been interested in,” he commented.

And speaking of exploring new things…

8. Now’s the time to experiment with creativity.

If you need an example of agency and brand teaming up to succeed by trying something unconventional, you’ll love this anecdote from David.

“We have a client who’s around the middle in terms of market share, and they noticed their competitors were drawing back in advertising. So we did a branding campaign of all Display Ads using no CTA,” he told us.

“We featured their name and logo, and something about the position they wanted to occupy in the minds of their consumers. We ran those ads on the sites of every major city’s media outlets and got many millions of impressions for almost nothing. It was surprising how much it affected sales — the numbers truly did shoot up.

“It’ll be another conversation whether that altered their position in the market, but a lot of those purchases were new.”

Talk about a curveball!

9. Years of pivoting have made agencies priceless.

Anyone who’s worked for an agency knows how agile and flexible they have to be. Turnaround times are short, deadlines are always looming, and agency pros have made a life out of pivoting at superhuman speed.

So who better to call when you need a partner who can change direction in a heartbeat?

“What we’re doing more of is double-checking and making sure things are working well. I think we’ve seen fairly consistent performance, but we’re spending a lot more time in the accounts making changes where necessary, and just providing that oversight where it’s needed,” Brandon shared.

“Our approach with clients has been highly consultative. The first thing we did was start having conversations not just about marketing needs, but what their businesses were going through. So we’re trying to adapt our strategy to that.

“We’re primarily a PPC shop, but we do have expertise in other areas, so we tailor our solutions to each client. Being able to pivot and stay flexible has been key for us.”

A glimmer of hope

It’s May, and while it feels like more than just a few months since the COVID crisis began, we’re starting to see some positive signs around consumer behavior and supply chains. With luck, we’ll start to see additional medical advances and a subsequent restart of the economy in earnest.

As we’ve said from the beginning, the only way out of this for the PPC community is by sharing all the information we have. One graph, one observation, one insight — any of these could spark an idea that leads to a solution we can all use.

Please continue to join us for our weekly PPC Town Hall sessions. You can add it on your calendar, subscribe to email notifications, access the podcast and videos from previous sessions, or catch the live Town Hall on ppctownhall.com. It’s one hour that might be the most valuable investment you make all week!

PPC Town Hall #6: Each Week in the COVID Era Brings New Insight

When brilliant marketers share insights, we can get a sense of clarity in troubling times. This week Optmyzr hosted the sixth episode of our weekly PPC Town Hall gatherings. To date, we’ve had nearly 1,000 attendees participating in these timely, essential discussions about search marketing in the COVID-19 era. 

The response to our Town Hall concept has been terrific. We deeply appreciate the involvement of amazing panelists and the hundreds of attendees who watch, submit questions, and follow up with us.

You can see all of our episodes to date on our PPC Town Hall page

Week-6 brought another stellar panel of search marketing all-stars, including 

This week’s event focused heavily on the tools, data, and creative thinking that is helping PPC pros navigate the strange times we’re in. 

Innovative Insight Tools

There are some great new tools to help us make sense of search behaviors and underlying dynamics that may be flummoxing marketers. 

Aaron showcased the really cool COVID dashboard from the data and analytics experts at Tinuiti. We’ve referenced this dashboard in a few venues ourselves. The dashboard provides visualizations of month-over-month and week-over-week spend trends as well as indexed spend trends covering a wide range of sectors. 

Explore the dashboard. It’s free. All you need to do is provide your email address. 

Christi also showed some powerful insight tools that Microsoft is generating to provide intelligence into weekly trends in automotive, financial services, health & wellness, retail, tech & telcos, and travel. The Microsoft resources analyze marketplace impacts and provide meaningful context into indicators of recovery by sector. 

I encourage you to watch the replay of the session for deeper analysis, but some key takeaways from our panel:

Seeing Clarity in the Data

Is it even possible to trust the data that is out there? The brilliant AI machines and smart automations are, in many cases, confused.  The machines know it’s a weird time, but they don’t know we’re in a crisis. The machines understand data from the past to predict the future. But the past doesn’t factor in massive global shifts in how people are living their lives. 

Christi, Aaron, Jim, and I talked specifically about the use of RSAs and applying data to decision making. Aaron talked about moving from being data-driven to being data-informed. Look at data and best practices as very relevant, but we all need to view this information through very different lenses than we did two months ago. 

Christi encouraged search marketers to take a much more manual mindset with RSAs. The days of set-and-forget are gone (for now). The challenge for marketers today will be to apply critical thinking, creativity, assessment of messaging, geo differences, and other factors to make decisions better than the machines can do right now.

Jim echoed the same RSA points, and said he is heavily annotating analytics right now, due to the wildy dynamic environment marketers are in. We simply cannot compare anything from 12 months ago to make decisions now. He noted that like-for-like may never exist again, or at least not for quite some time. 

Panelists also encouraged marketers to allow themselves to be wrong on occasion. In many cases, hindsight will be the only indicator of the decisions being made right now. 

Amazon, Ecommerce, and “Black Friday” Thinking

As panelists have discussed in earlier episodes, Amazon’s impact on the market is far different today than it was two months ago. Still the ecommerce behemoth, shifting priorities and temporary shipping extensions create opportunities for other providers to step in the ecomm gap. 

Aaron and Jim both credited Amazon’s quick move to communicate extended shipping timeframes as a means of protecting the Prime brand. People associate Prime with same-day and two-day shipping more than they may associate it with the other services like Prime Video. Noting it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver on shipping. Cart abandonment that happens when people see shipping dates weeks out can help other providers – assuming their supply chains, inventory, and distribution can fill the void.

Christi added that for those doing Amazon sponsored ads, it’s essential to be sure the ads, promotions, and messaging actually align with what people are purchasing now. Careful consideration of how sponsored ads are being applied now is essential to prevent needless spend or to capitalize on filling near-term needs for things people will actually purchase. 

The ecommerce discussion also covered “Black Friday” thinking by many retailers. Balancing the potential perception that a provider is desperate against the perception of being viewed as opportunistic, the panel advised retailers to avoid keeping Black Friday type discounts from going on too long. 

Aaron summed up the panel’s thoughts when he noted, “The people who market well are doing well. The people who market poorly are doing poorly. With the Black Friday concept, some can look a little desperate and it can seem like some are addicted to focusing on month-over-month or ROAS on last click. Longer term marketers are looking at the edge of the funnel – seeing the whole funnel as opposed to just the bottom.” 

Light at the End of the Tunnel? 

Nobody knows a timeline for returning to something resembling normal, but the week-6 panel expressed optimism with discussions beginning to shift to recovery versus managing through the crisis. 

The tools shared above and all other data points can help search marketers have a better understanding of immediate factors, but also are now setting the stage for longer term thinking and decision making. Clearly we have a long way to go, but with each subsequent Town Hall, discussions are morphing and adjusting. Week-1 was more about being together and commiserating and trying to gauge “what the heck is happening?” Five weeks later, discussions are dramatically different. 

Invest an hour of your time and watch the replay of episode 6 on our Town Hall web page or listen to it as a podcast. Then sign up for next week’s live session, which will feature Navah Hopkins and David Szetela, both on the list of top 25 most influential PPC experts in 2019, and Brandon Jones from un(Common) Logic, an Austin-based agency.

Register today and we will see you Wednesday for PPC Town Hall #7.�

PPC Town Hall #5: 10 Digital Marketing Truths to Remember

As PPC Town Hall turns a month old, we wanted to take a moment to thank all our guest speakers, attendees, and everyone who has embraced the idea. From the beginning, you’ve expressed your support and helped share news of the Town Hall with new parts of the global PPC community.

Thank you for being part of the journey so far!

We created a new page for PPC Town Hall to make it easy to sign up for the next one and find old episodes.

Joining Optmyzr CEO Fred Vallaeys this week for episode 5 in an all-new panel were:

Let’s take a look at some of the core takeaways from this week’s edition.

1. No business remains unaffected by the pandemic.

“It’s almost a ‘feast or famine’ situation across commerce and service, and there are challenges with both scenarios,” Ginny observed.

Whichever side your business or clients fall on, there’s plenty to do.

“You’re either trying to drum up interest where demand has sunk through the floor, or figuring out how to deal with a surge in demand when the supply chain isn’t ready or you don’t have the resources to manage that surge.”

Joe observed similar trends in the context of site traffic.

“In many instances, brands are changing spending habits and adapting messaging. But some are simply getting so much traffic that they either can’t keep up with inventory, or because people are looking for anything even slightly related to their product, a lot of that traffic is unqualified.”

2. People want brands to add value to their lives.

Our panelists also provided some advice on how PPC pros can provide added value to businesses and clients by shaping conversations that their brands are part of.

“Don’t sound like a used car salesman; be your customers’ partner in solving a problem,” Joe recommended. “People are nervous, bored, and anxious; reminding people of that doesn’t inspire them to fall in love with a brand. Shift that messaging to talk about how you’re going to help consumers come out of this.”

Andrew believes brands should continue to talk about more than just pandemic-related topics.

“No one wants to hear about you supplying hand sanitizer; we want to be reassured. We want someone to talk about the things that mattered to us before, because it matters even more now. We should still care about climate change, talk about sustainability, and promote and support local businesses.”

3. Google is looking out for its loyal advertisers.

It’s no surprise that small and medium businesses have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of them, online advertising budgets have either dropped sharply or stopped altogether.

Google took notice and announced $340 million in ad credits to help keep these SMBs active on the  Google Ads network.

“We’re going to start seeing these credits for SMBs in late May, which will be the first phase followed by a continuous rollout,” said Ginny. “These are designed to help SMBs and smaller accounts sustain ad spend in the future. The credit amount will vary based on your historical spend.”

“To be eligible, you need to have been advertising (had active campaigns) for 10 out of 12 months in 2019, and also have been advertising in January or February of this year.”

It’s worth noting that Google is not extending these ad credits to franchise businesses, even if they meet the SMB criteria.

4. Now’s the time to try new things.

The hallmark of COVID-19 for marketing professionals is the absence of a playbook or historical data that shows you how to solve current problems. Instead, two of this week’s guests recommend a more experimental, open-minded approach.

“With the exponential intelligence of what Google can do every quarter, we go back and often find out that what didn’t work so well six months ago is doing better now,” Andrew observed. “Go back and look at some of your Google Ads audiences; they may be capable of delivering things your Google Analytics audiences can’t, and vice versa.”

Joe, meanwhile, favors experimenting with channels you didn’t get to play around with earlier.

“Test those Instagram story ads, do some brand-building, build out new targeting options, stretch your budget with more affordable media like Facebook CPMs, and use YouTube to generate awareness. In time, when inventory stabilizes, you can double down on search and shopping ads to capitalize on that new intent.”

5. Google Shopping ads will soon be free (yes, free).

The announcement that advertisers can list Google Shopping ads at no cost is a game-changer, and Ginny explained how it will work in greater detail.

“Google is going to start showing free listings for shopping ads. It’s a really big change going from all-paid for the last eight years to primarily free, with paid ads at the top and bottom, just like a regular SERP.”

It’s a big shift for the Shopping tab of the search results pages, but it’s also part of a larger evolution over the past year.

“Google first opened up the Merchant Center to anyone to upload their feeds without needing to be an advertiser, and then opt in to services across Google,” Ginny elaborated. “The other thing Google announced is a new integration with PayPal so that you can connect that account to the Merchant Center to speed up data flow and merchant verification.”

6. There’s an opportunity to beat Amazon at its own game.

With non-essential deliveries shut off and two-day shipping a pipe dream at this stage, Amazon suddenly finds itself unable to deliver what it’s conditioned the marketplace to expect.

Businesses that can help consumers get what they need and want with minimal delay have an opportunity to capitalize on that, and possibly retain a significant chunk of business even after the crisis abates.

“If I still need a new pair of running shoes, and I can’t walk into a store and get them, I’m going to wherever I can get them soon,” Joe explained. “I’ve got more time to go for a run or a walk, and I’m not waiting for Amazon. So it’s about diversifying your marketing and finding where your users are, because they still want those products now.”

7. There’s more than one way to stretch a budget.

Despite knowing that investing in advertising is paramount, smaller businesses are having a tough time finding marketing dollars. But even with lower-than-ever Facebook CPMs, media on leading platforms isn’t within reach for every business.

Joe provided some advice for restaurants looking to make their budgets go further.

“If you’ve lost budget and you still want to run ads, look at different channels than the ones you’re used to. Waze local and Quora can help take your budget further than Facebook, for example. It’s a good time to test new things and see what works.”

8. COVID-19 is creating a new breed of agile businesses.

With supply chains unsteady and normal processes interrupted, businesses have to stay on their feet to survive. The result is a great deal more creativity not just in PPC, but across the marketing spectrum.

Ginny spoke about one Amazon seller she knows. “Her products are made in the US, but she was worried the manufacturing plant might shut down for health reasons. So she ordered thousands of dollars in new inventory, but then Amazon shut off non-essential shipments.”

“She was stuck, so she explored her network and found a new way to fulfil those orders. We’re seeing businesses adapt and pivot quickly.”

More specific to PPC strategy, Andrew noted that changes further back than COVID-19 have compounded the challenges paid search pros face in the current environment.

“The ad-tech industry has gone through a lot in the last 6-9 months due to ITP and how cookies work now. Marketers need to realize that betting the house on last-click, bottom-of-funnel tactics is not a sustainable approach.”

9. The worst consumer is a disappointed one.

With the supply chain disrupted, consumers no longer know where exactly to go to make certain purchases. They’re relying more than ever on search to guide them to a marketplace that has what they need.

So what happens if a consumer finds it on your site, only to later discover that the product is actually unavailable? Andrew believes it’s a real problem that needs immediate attention.

“The big danger is advertising products that are out of stock or have low stock, and disappointing users when they land on the page. As an industry we need to do better, because it’s a common complaint I keep seeing.”

“Low stock and a product feed’s ability to easily adjust to that remains a major area where things can fall down for SMBs. Either in-house teams lack the setup skills, or SMBs on low-cost PPC packages don’t get the attention they need to react to demand peaks,” he added.

The Optmyzr Rule Engine’s ability to integrate with business data, as well as the Optmyzr Campaign Automator can be used to address the issue of advertising only products that have adequate inventory or that have margins that support a profitable ad buy. Contact the Optmyzr team if you’d like to learn more.

10. Marketers miss connecting in person.

The ongoing crisis has made it difficult for people to see their loved ones and close friends, causing some of us to feel powerless and lonely.

A less impactful effect is that it’s also isolated professionals from their community networks.

While we still have the power of technology to stay connected and learn from one another, the PPC industry is still dealing with the absence of events. HeroConf Austin, for example, was canceled due to COVID-19, impacting the learning and development of hundreds of marketing teams.

Crushing his workout in the morning and building scripts in the evening! Get Fred’s COVID-19 script here!

“Events such as HeroConf provide genuine insight into what industry leaders are seeing and experiencing every day, and we all can learn from their insights,” Andrew noted. “So maintaining that is absolutely necessary from an education perspective. Virtual events can help, and I really hope they happen.”

Fortunately, the Paid Search Association is hosting their annual conference as a virtual event. You can learn more about PSAC 2020 and register for the conference here (seats are limited).

Conclusion

We love hearing from our attendees about the PPC Town Hall helping them see new ways of thinking, or reassuring them that they’re not the only ones experiencing challenges at this time. It’s why we do what we do!

We especially love this LinkedIn video recap from Moe McLeod of Digitopia, a PPC Town Hall regular and one of its most vocal supporters.

We hope you’ll join us again next week for another discussion on how we can overcome the present challenges together!

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.

3 Lessons From This Week’s Optmyzr PPC Town Hall

The next PPC Town Hall is April 15. [Register here][1].

After a couple of highly popular editions, the Optmyzr PPC Town Hall returned for a third week to give the PPC community a space to hear what their peers are doing, ask questions, and hopefully gain a few additional insights into how to conduct business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel for the April 8 PPC Town Hall included:

This week’s conversation touched on a number of themes, including how virtually every agency and advertiser is navigating these uncharted waters at the same time. As always, the goal was to put these learnings and insights out in the open to help the PPC community learn and adapt quickly.

<div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/videos/1360080550860711/" data-width="1165">
  <blockquote cite="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/videos/1360080550860711/" class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore">
    <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/videos/1360080550860711/">Last week our PPC Department manager, Moe McLeod, created a recap for a virtual Town Hall hosted by Optmyzr on how COVID-19 is impacting the PPC realm. Watch Moe's recap for highlights and key insights other PPC managers can use during COVID-19. A specia</a>
    
    <p>
      Last week our PPC Department manager, Moe McLeod, created a recap for a virtual Town Hall hosted by Optmyzr on how COVID-19 is impacting the PPC realm. Watch Moe's recap for highlights and key insights other PPC managers can use during COVID-19. A special thanks to Fred Vallaeys of Optmyzr and the other guest panelists for all the great information. We would highly recommend you pass along the town hall recording to anyone in the paid search realm. Recap &#8211; https://hubs.ly/H0pddJh0Town Hall Video &#8211; https://hubs.ly/H0pd7m10
    </p>Posted by 
    
    <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/">Digitopia</a> on Monday, April 6, 2020
  </blockquote>
</div>

_Moe McLeod, head of PPC at Digitopia, shares his takeaways from our first Town Hall_

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three takeaways from this week’s PPC Town Hall. You can watch the full session on the Optmyzr YouTube channel.

Keep an eye on the technical stuff.

In “Can we trust automation in a time of crisis” for Search Engine Land, Aaron Levy writes that marketers should avoid returning to “the stone age of SEM”. He goes on to outline eight elements of automation that call for a “watch and adjust” approach.

“Each situation is different, so you must evaluate your own business under your own lens,” he advises.

Optmyzr CEO Frederick Vallaeys also recommends merging manual control with automation-driven strategies.

“It feels like deferred conversions are happening, so you might be in a branding stage rather than getting sales over the line. If you’ve been running last-click attribution, you might not be valuing those early-stage interactions. Automated bid management systems don’t know what to do to get you more top-of-funnel activity if you’re not using the right attribution model.”

So instead of using last click attribution, consider a position based or time decay model.

_An empty cart in the current climate isn’t a challenge; it’s an opportunity_
(Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash)

Another great piece of advice from this week’s panelists is to check your automations, bid management, and extensions on a more regular basis. If ever there was a time to avoid a “set it and forget it” mentality, it’s now.

Kirk Williams shared the results of his tests comparing performance on some accounts from March 12 to April 5 against previous weeks. During his analysis, he found that automated bidding by Google seemed to do relatively well. Conversions were worse in the most recent weeks (as one would expect), but ROAS had actually improved.

Williams surmised that CPCs have become so low, they drove more traffic. Even with lower conversion, overall ROAS was better across some important accounts.

Look for fresh opportunities.

As with every major market shift, the COVID-19 crisis presents opportunities for businesses to explore new opportunities in meaningful ways — if you know where to look.

_To adapt, retailers must explore fulfillment channels beyond Amazon_
(Photo by� Jaehyun Kim� on� Unsplash)

“Here’s a major company that runs a large part of the planet’s ecommerce saying it can no longer deliver what it’s conditioned us to expect, and not everyone realizes how disruptive this is,” said Elizabeth Marsten on Amazon’s decision to reprioritize certain FBA products.

“For paid search advertisers who have the ability to self-fulfill or sell via another platform, this is a huge opportunity as FBA shipping times become longer.”

Kirk Williams also believes that there are opportunities for the more nimble organizations out there, though not without their own challenges.

“At some point, you can’t make marketing do what it can’t do,” he warns. “While it’s worth exploring a change in position or new audiences, this is a very difficult time for B2B. But these are interesting times that will segment out not only who has the cash to survive a lean period, but who has a loyal customer base and who can pivot in a business and strategic way.”

Performance marketing agency Tinuiti has also developed a COVID-19 hub, where you’ll find a number of valuable resources to inform your decision-making and strategic planning.

Know the new consumer.

Earlier this week, we wrote about Google’s tips for running ads during COVID-19 in our blog post “PPC During COVID-19: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Search Ads”. Many of these revolved around consumer sentiment and came up again during this week’s discussion.

While it was unanimous that ad copy and extensions need to be reviewed for sensitivity and to avoid sounding tone-deaf, Julie Friedman Bacchini also did a deep dive into what it means to rethink your audience at this time.

_Be mindful of not just what you’re promoting, but how_
(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

“What worked a month ago may not be the right message for today,” she observed. “Audiences are important as well. In travel, for example, you may want to avoid targeting people who work in industries that have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 when advertising for certain segments or verticals.”

The fact is COVID-19 has completely undone everything we consider “normal”. People who worked and lived in different locations are now largely in one location, so Google’s data is not the most informed right now when it comes to audience profiling.

Observations & Conclusion

In addition to these lessons, the Town Hall panel shared several anecdotes and observations that offer refreshing insights into the mechanics and logistics that power ecommerce. Some of these include:

It’s certainly a confusing time; what would have been considered absurd a few months ago is par for the course today. Brands are trying to figure out the right moves and messages, and it will take our entire community of nimble, creative marketers to help them overcome these challenges.

We plan to continue hosting weekly Town Halls to give our customers and the wider PPC community a place to learn, share, or simply vent.

Register now for the next PPC Town Hall on April 15, 2020

Regular Pages

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!

PPC Town Hall 28: Optimizing Smart Bidding with Google

Over the past few years, marketers have seen Smart Bidding evolve with Google’s machine learning. In fact, it seems to be a way into the future of advertising by making the best use of AI and data to provide intelligent campaign adjustments. But while Smart Bidding does automate tedious tasks of PPC ad management and save time, it’s far from a ‘set it & forget it’ mentality. To make the most of it, advertisers need to monitor and optimize to get the best results for their campaigns.

So this week on Episode 28 of PPC Town Hall, we invited our friends from Google to discuss Smart Bidding campaigns and shed light on tactics for optimization.

Our panelists for the week:

You can receive the exclusive Smart Bidding guide from Optmyzr and Google by signing up here! You can also view previous editions of PPC Town Hall right here.

Without further delay, here are the 6 insights to understanding and optimizing Smart Bidding campaigns.

Emi: What we see today is really the evolution of machine learning. I think machine learning is getting smarter with people getting more comfortable using and leveraging it to the next level for better results. We search so differently compared to what we did three years ago. In fact, 15% of queries on google.com are new every day. That means there are tonnes of queries that Google misses as well. So, we really have to depend on Machine learning to capture maximum potential with search.

As machine learning gets smarter, the data that marketers provide is really going to be the key to be competitive and achieve your goals. Not from the CPA perspective, but broader profitability and customer lifetime value.

2. Analyzing Smart Bidding signals

Peter: Google looks at billions of signals to set the bid for every auction. We’re monitoring a bunch of different things more than just the signals, like the intersection of these signals. A lot of the things that we used to optimize manually like devices, day of week, time, location, all the different keywords, etc are now being taken care of for Smart Bidding. But there are some tactics which you can use to inform Smart Bidding what are the right ways you can treat some of these things.

Emi: So this is a recent performance review using selected US accounts. When we looked at the data, Smart Bidding outperformed Manual Bidding across most of the spend buckets on Optmyzr accounts.

A lot of people should take advantage of Smart Bidding regardless of the budgets (look at the right-hand side of the chart – ‘under 500 budget’). And we see significant performance even in smaller budgets as well as larger ones (above 50k).

3. Optimizing Discovery campaigns

Peter: I have seen some very strong results with Discovery campaigns for certain advertisers. For example, I worked with a real-estate partner who was seeing better results in Discovery campaigns than in Search!

If you’re having issues with the returns and getting conversions, make sure that you’re setting the CPAs properly. Setting up unrealistic CPAs that do not represent your goals can hamper your account health. And then there’s also the flipside. If you look at our audiences to whom we are comfortable suggesting Discovery Ads, you’ll see that the daily budget recommended is about 20 times the target CPA. So, if you have a tighter budget, I’d recommend maybe doing 10 times the target CPA.

That being said, I have seen success at a lower CPA. But if you have a smaller budget, I wouldn’t be actively recommending Discovery Ads to you. Layering on audience lists like remarketing and customer matching might help you see more successful results.

Emi: We have seen a pretty good performance in the use cases with Discovery campaigns, even for a first-time mid-sized account. So I would encourage marketers to keep looking into why they aren’t giving you a good performance. In terms of how long, usually we test for a week and then we regroup with the customers, and keep doing this. So one week at a time.

4. Common mistakes advertisers make with Smart Bidding

Start making sure what goals your Smart Bidding campaign will be optimizing and those goals align with what you’re trying to achieve. I have seen people set a Max Conversions strategy on a campaign that was spending half of its budget. We didn’t see any positive results CPA-wise as Max Conversions doesn’t necessarily focus on optimizing your CPA. It looks towards getting you as many conversions as possible within your budget. And if you’re spending only half of your budget, we don’t necessarily know whether that incremental conversion will come at a CPA that aligns with your historical ones.

The other thing is the target that we set. I would advise looking into your optimization score recommendations in the front-end to see what we are recommending there. You’ll probably want to start by setting a target in line with what you’re historically performing at. If you’re historically performing at a CPA of $100 and if you switch that down to $50, you can massively end up throttling the number of conversions and sales you were getting.

Just because we don’t want to necessarily start with Smart Bidding on the exact Target CPA, doesn’t mean we can’t get there. Start with where you’re historically performing at and slowly adjust to get where you want to be.

5. Structuring a Smart Bidding campaign with segmentation

Peter: When we segment our campaigns, Smart Bidding can actually take data and learn from the performance that’s happening throughout the account. While you don’t need to segment everything, if you do end up breaking up your campaigns, Smart Bidding will be able to learn from the performance of the campaigns. The only thing that I’ll caution about is to break down to the point where there isn’t a lot of conversion volume in each individual campaign. On top of that, if you have a Target ROAS or Target CPA that your campaigns aren’t able to meet, that’s something to watch out for.

If you put more constraints on the targets and segment the campaigns, you could end up throttling your campaigns altogether.

6. Marketing as a holistic approach

Emi: We think that a marketer can play a bigger role in PPC marketing than just making strategies or directing CPC. We look at a marketer as a growth engine for the company. Strategic points like profitability and value of customers can help bring value to your work and your business. I would really encourage everyone to think more than just PPC, think of how you can bring that value to your company and leverage for more growth.

Conclusion

Fred: When you start with something, like Smart Bidding, it’s better not to shock the system and be extremely aspirational. Machine learning functions on how things have worked consistently in the past. Even if you set up higher targets, it might take a while for the system to get you there. But at the end of the day, to achieve the target you really want, it all comes down to you, the advertiser, to set up the prerequisites and feed in impressionable data. You can add a lot of value to your ongoing campaigns by not taking bidding as something that just happens by itself.

Seasoned PPC professionals make use of efficient bid management tools, like Optmyzr, to keep their accounts top-notch and optimize your bids. Try and experience our capabilities yourself by signing up for our 14-day free trial.

Digital Marketing in an Unpredictable VUCA World: PPC Town Hall 27

If you’ve been watching the news over the last couple of years, you could be forgiven for thinking we live in a weird timeline where dreary writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury reigned supreme.

Between climate change, terrorism, economic struggle, and the health crisis of 2020, this year has embodied the term VUCA — volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Yet this is the world we live in, and if digital marketers want to continue to have a place in it, we have to learn how to adapt our tactics and messaging to this reality.

So this week on Episode 27 of PPC Town Hall, I wanted to bring in the authors of the report “Digital Marketing in a VUCA World” to share some of their insights from the research they conducted and to discuss what the roadmap for the future could look like.

Our panelists for the week:

As always, you can view this week’s episode of PPC Town Hall embedded below, or click here to browse all our episodes. In the meantime, here are some of the insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall on how to do digital marketing in an unpredictable VUCA world.

1. What happens when agencies lose large amounts of revenue overnight

Anders: We asked 20 agencies that participated in the survey, “How bad were you hit?” About 15% said ‘no change’; a huge chunk — about 50% of respondents — said between 10-40% reduction in media spend; and a fairly large percentage saying 40-60% reduction.

When we’re looking at agencies having 40% of their media spend disappear, and as we know, a lot of the economic models are tied in some way to spend. Very few are on a retainer or consultancy basis. So this means they lose a lot of money and activity, and the rest of the activity had to be changed. Everybody’s panicking, so what do you do?

Lukas: It’s actually been the case in some instances that the agency-client relationship has ended because of volatility. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of agencies — particularly the bigger ones in the UK — have very diverse clients in their portfolios, so that’s why the impact was mostly in the 40-60% range.

But I definitely know of instances where clients have stopped their relationship with an agency because they were the most hit — tourism, hotels, and some retail as well. But other parts of retail, especially direct-to-consumer, actually thrived during this time.

2. If you put the wrong data in, the wrong prediction comes out

Anders: When we talk about volatility and VUCA, yes there’s health crises and lockdowns; but there’s also terrorism and the end of cookies. The direct impact is more easily measurable on this year’s health crisis because it’s such an abrupt change.

Over the past 2 years, we saw people adopt automated or machine-based bidding massively. We also observed that agencies used dedicated data analysts in fewer cases than they did before. This surprised us.

Lukas: It feels like the outcome was two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, there is less involvement from data analysts because there’s more reliance on AI. On the other hand, it’s not about the position of the analyst but the insight into performance is placed on marketers’ shoulders.

So where you’d previously have a data analyst to support you with looking at trends and performance, it’s almost a standard part of the marketer’s job instead of focusing on platform and creatives.

3. Data is the new oil

Anders: Can you extract more value from your data than if you give it to a platform? It’s a question of who controls it and whether you should give it away to a third party like Google or Amazon.

We think it’s very important to start controlling and protecting your own data. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it flow; flowing data across platforms is extremely important to get better insights. But you need to consider each time you do that: what are you using, what are you giving away, and is there anything you can keep instead of letting someone else monetize it?

4. The connection between automation and who’s deploying it

Lukas: For me, the whole idea of paid search until now is its transparency. You can track everything down to each penny you spend and be able to show results. This is now changing the fundamentals of what paid search is for me, because I can’t explain everything (with less data).

5. How people can use automated bidding more effectively

Lukas: I personally see a huge degree of complacency when it comes to automated bidding, especially, in a lot of agencies. You’ll find that 90% of the time, you can set the AI to do your bidding for you and it’ll deliver decent performance.

But it’s that 10% of the time where something goes wrong, or when you have a promotion that suddenly skews the data — and suddenly, you have an impulse that the tool cannot account for and everything falls apart.

I even feel with some of the ways platforms sell automated bidding, like recommending not to touch things for 2 weeks to let the machines learn, you should never be in a position where you can’t change settings.

6. Preparing for the end of cookies

Anders: Will remarketing be in trouble as we see fewer and fewer cookies? Yes. Hopefully, the bad practices will die off and there’ll be some intelligent use of user data.

So start building direct relationships with your users, like email or another channel where you own that user data. If you only have access to your customers and clients via platforms or audiences, you’re probably going to lose a lot of that access. So start building that proprietary database today.

Conclusion

As I mentioned this week on PPC Town Hall, the role of the PPC manager is changing from being in the middle of account performance to managing the periphery (read my full thoughts on the topic in my post for Search Engine Journal).

But as we look to evolve our roles, we also have to remain aware of what’s happening in the wider world. From the geopolitical to the ecological, events transpire daily that impact the health of the digital marketing space… paid search included.

That’s why spaces of learning (like PPC Town Hall) will only become more important in the coming months and years. So sign up for our mailing list (and tell your PPC peers) to get notified of all our events in advance and early access to some of our upcoming resources!

Is there something on your mind? Do you have a topic you’d like us to cover on PPC Town Hall? Write to support@optmyzr.com and tell us about it, and we’ll try our best to address your concerns.

PPC Town Hall 26: Foolproofing your Business with PPC Automation

Ever since Google introduced a whole bunch of changes, things have been changing very fast in PPC. Taking away search query data, making it harder to create expanded text ads, doing more and more automated bidding, etc., is only making us unsure of the future of search marketing. 

With the rising number of roadblocks that Google is putting in front of us, marketers need to be ready to overcome anything that the search giant throws at us. The question of the hour is: How much more can Google automate and change the way that we as PPC professionals go about business? 

So this week on Episode 26 of PPC Town Hall, I wanted to talk to two industry specialists who have worked with a lot of accounts and have faced the implications of the changes in search marketing and automation.

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are the top 6 insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall on navigating the future of PPC automation.

1. How to optimize Google’s tax?

Martin:** __**Some countries have started to raise the Digital Services Tax from Google. Now, Google intends to pass that on to advertisers. For example, for ads being shown in Austria and Turkey Google will add 5% to your invoice. This is tricky because it won’t show up in any of your regular KPI’s. Your costs and CPC’s in the interface will seem unaffected. This makes it easy to miss – which is probably the intention.

There’s a reason why you’ve decided on a certain bid or budget. In order to account for the new tax, you’ll have to lower your bids or budget by about 5%. Then you’ll end up paying the same as before. Of course, Google would rather have you pay the same amount to them and then the additional 5% in taxes, which is probably why they have little incentive to help us with this.

2. Taxes and Geo locations

Martin: Digital services taxes depend on where the advertising cost occurs. For example, if someone in the UK clicks an ad, a 2% tax charge will be added to the cost of that click. The problem here is that there’s a difference between the location of interest and user location. If you target the U.S. then that can include people elsewhere if Google somehow identifies the U.S. as their location of interest.

There used to be an easy way to evaluate physical user locations. That has been removed. Standard location reports no longer include physical location. In fact, Google got rid of any mention that there might be a difference between physical location and location of interest.

You can still get the data, though – it’s just less convenient. Google also removed the pre-defined report from its report editor, but you can still create your own from scratch. So while the data is no longer present front-and-center, you can still get it.

Brady: Let’s take the example of businesses dealing with ‘New York Pizza’. This is a specific style of pizza that practically anyone can search about. While the local pizza shops of New York have been capturing people around the world looking up for New York Pizza, the location settings in the user interface don’t show this happening. As a result, a lot of these small pizza places now could gain a UK tax or something without any idea why.

To find this specific information about locations, go to

Reports → Custom and build your own report.

If you search ‘user locations’ in your report, you’ll find all of the user location option that you can place within the rows of your report.

3. Managing accounts with less search data

Brady: We’re seeing a struggle for low volume accounts. So for accounts where you can spend every day digging into the search term reports, read them, and make decisions based on your finding, we are seeing a lot of frustration. 

When it comes to high volume accounts, I think it makes things like n-grams even more relevant. With access to less data, n-gram reports can help you find trends within the data set you have and make decisions accordingly.

4. Functioning with Google ‘roadblocks’

Brady: I’m not fully against these changes. In a handful of our campaigns, we do full broad keyword targeting paired with Target CPA, and it does fairly well. Looking at our search terms, we see that some of them are non-branded solution-based terms, while some are comparing our solution vs other competitors, and some are comparing between other competitors altogether. But, at the end of the day, the cost per conversion, and MQL, are pretty good.

When it comes to B2B software marketing, we’re really looking at an LTV/ CAC model. So modeling that out for both Google Ads and other channels, and helping the clients on that level is something we’re moving towards. With a higher level of automation, we would have time to focus on stuff like landing pages optimization, A/B testing, new offers, and analyzing the competition.

5. Shifting agencies and business goals while working with the same black box by Google

Martin: With Google doing everything with these black box campaigns like smart shopping, discovery, or local campaigns, it becomes more and more important to make sure that their systems have the right data to go on. This is also an important field for agencies and advertisers to set themselves apart from the crowd.

One way to do that is to further evolve conversion tracking. For the last ten or so years, everyone has focused on revenue. Before that, it was about conversions. The future is about margins and profit instead of revenue. Beyond that, there’s customer lifetime value. And just as important is incrementality – although that is something that you probably can’t expect much help from the platforms.

Brady: When everyone is competing armed with the same black boxes and no levers like before, you should: 

6. Future of Google

Brady: If we think of what to expect from Google in 2021, I think we’re going back ourselves into something like DSA campaigns. While we will see some new features, it seems like we’re getting back to something that’s already existed – Google having control over the search terms, the ads, and the pages.

I think that the future of Google already exists. While I don’t think the changes will be extreme, we’ll be moving towards something that existed previously.

Conclusion

It’s no doubt that the world of PPC is going through some changes. With Google introducing new features every now and then, we marketers must be flexible with our strategies. One thing is clear: it’s going to be extremely tough to stand out when every PPC professional relies on the same black box by Google. To be on par with the search giants evolving practices, we need to rely on automation to some level. 

Automation is a great way to handle daily mundane tasks, but PPC professionals shouldn’t confuse it with ‘autopilot’. Though machines might be able to perform a high number of actions quickly and efficiently, they will still rely on us for timely inputs and tweaks.

So whether it’s now, or 5 years into the future, marketers will always have something to do for there is no replacement for human intellect, ingenuity, improvisation, and intuition.

PPC Town Hall 25: OMG Commerce’s insights to dominate Holiday E-commerce

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an unusual year for all of us. Even though we’re just in the middle of October, people have already started shopping for the upcoming holidays.

Supply chains, delivery, and in-store experiences aren’t what they normally are, yet consumers are buying and spending more — which has forced marketers and agencies to run offers and deals a bit earlier than usual.

But even with so much uncertainty and change, e-commerce has been ahead of what we expected at the start of the year.

So this week on Episode 25 of PPC Town Hall, we wanted to gain a perspective on how we all could navigate the coming Holiday season and make the most of it. We talked to two amazing PPC experts from OMG Commerce, an Optmyzr user, who shared their insights on all things e-commerce and shopping. 

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are the top 5 insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall with OMG Commerce to help you make the most of Holiday e-commerce this year.

1. Changes in the last few years 

Brett: One of the things that we did early on was manual bidding. In fact, as an agency, we were really good at it. So, we had some non-automated options where we were doing things with spreadsheets. We used formulas to sort our products and create bidding recommendations. 

When Google launched Target ROAS, we were hesitant to try it out. But as it got better and better, we decided to test it out with a few of our campaigns. It took a little bit of convincing, but we slowly started to transition. I think that if there is some new tool that is better than our current approach, we need to embrace that! 

One thing that we have to look at is how shifting our segmentation, breaking out campaigns, or even changing our targets can impact the full product-line visibility and sales. While we have come a long way from spreadsheets, we still have to think strategically and dig into the data regularly.  

Greg: The smart bidding strategies have created opportunities to scale in terms of having multiple campaigns with multiple strategies. It has definitely changed how we look at campaign structures. In fact, I don’t think we have any accounts which don’t have three or more shopping campaigns. Earlier, with manual bidding, we ran a lot of campaigns with single product ad groups to focus our optimizations manually at the sku level. Now, it’s more about creating campaign structures that feed the smart-bidder the data and focus on what you want to optimize for.

2. Aligning PPC outcomes with business goals

Brett: As we do a lot of Youtube ads, we have all sorts of in-depth discussions with our clients. Usually, we have to ask them questions, about three or four times, in different ways with projected illustrations of results. We talk a lot about portfolios and how different campaigns work together. We also have to ask probing questions to really understand the client’s goals. In my opinion, we have to over-communicate. 

Our role, as an agency, is to think strategically, ask questions, and revisit all of our findings. Ask a lot of questions so you get as much clarity as possible and keep evaluating what you’re doing. Eventually, this will help you align with your client.

3. Understanding YouTube campaign structure and formats

Brett: We primarily focus on Trueview for Action campaign where we can bid on a Target CPA basis. We found that if you give Google the goal of conversions, the smart-bidder becomes pretty good at finding people who convert. If you use Cost Per View as your bid strategy, Google’s pretty good at finding people who watch YouTube videos. So with CPV, your views will go up but your conversions will go way down. If you transition to Trueview for Action, you’ll get more clicks and certainly more conversions. 

While we are looking for direct conversions through YouTube Trueview ads, we are also looking at the brand lift and Google trends to see the impact of our campaigns.

Greg: When we are retargeting viewed video audiences, who are still in the acquisition funnel, we turn to Trueview for action campaigns to re-engage people who saw the initial video. But we are also running YouTube for shopping campaigns, remarketing to people who did engage with the website but didn’t convert.

4. How to leverage audiences

Brett: Now’s the time to get your brand’s (or business’) message out there to drive not only conversions but build other kinds of audiences as well. We have a four-pronged marketing approach that can guide you better. 

I think that this year, customers will be more interested in on-time delivery and getting the product they want than deals alone. It’s safe to say that most people also want deals or discounts. Done right, you can offer a deal that doesn’t negatively impact your brand. You can also look at free gifts, which is kind of like discounting but while making use of some unsold inventory.

5. Free PLAs and Deep Feed Analysis

Brett: In order to fill the gaps in your Search and Shopping, all you’ve to do is enable a setting inside Google merchant center to get free listings on surfaces across Google. 

Most people search for a product on Google and then click on the Shopping ads on the main SERP. But some shoppers click through to the shopping or image tabs.  Your free listings can appear on these tabs.  If you’re paying for Google shopping ads, then surfaces across Google can deliver a 3-5% increase in conversions and clicks. 

We do a deep feed analysis when we start with a client. This is compared with our keyword research and evaluated. After this, our feed specialist would craft the updated titles, descriptions, product categories, and even product types.

Conclusion

The way ahead for the world might be uncertain but it’s also exciting, and that’s true for PPC and e-commerce as well. As we get used to these regular changes, we also need to keep a strategic eye on everything we’ve done in the past.

Make informed decisions and align your PPC goals with what your clients want to achieve for their businesses. Re-check data, run tests, and communicate with your client to start the right way and keep the relationships strong.

Focus on the right messages to the right audience at the right time — the essence of Google Ads and PPC in general — and stay in touch with trends and updates to how search engines work for advertisers and users alike.

PPC Town Hall 24: Burning PPC Budget, New Microsoft Ad Features & More

There’s no doubt that marketing is one of the most expensive aspects of running any business. And while advertisers might race ahead in the hopes of getting more clicks and profit, they can still end up making mistakes! 

A classic PPC horror story is when marketers mix up traffic with solid leads and forget about optimizing their accounts. Not supervising the system and failing to make effective improvements can turn into wasting tons on bad clicks and setting that yield no returns!

So this week on Episode 24 of PPC Town Hall, we talked to two brilliant PPC pros and discussed actionable tips on how to stop burning budgets. We even got to learn about PPC community initiatives like PSA and new Microsoft Ad capabilities that can benefit marketers. 

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are the top insights from this week’s PPC Town Hall to help you identify budget-burning areas, know Microsoft’s newest features, and understand the thought behind creating a successful PPC community.

1. What role does the Paid Search Association play in the industry?

David: Initially, I was attracted by the notion that there really wasn’t one consolidated source of credible and curated information/ resources for PPC managers. You basically had to pick and choose from among homogenous resources. There really wasn’t a one-stop-shop for people who wanted to train themselves and be updated with the developments. 

So our core mission is to serve as a curated source of learning and news resources. 

John: One of the things that we’ve talked about as a collective is about mentoring. It surely is a complex thing to figure out with variables like timings and schedules. But there are a lot of bright men and women on the board who have been eager to share what they’ve learned within the industry and their peers. 

2. Microsoft’s Audits network

John: Not just us, but practically everybody is working on something related to customer privacy and a ‘cookie-less world’. In this industry, where all the platforms rely on cookie data presently, what would the future look like? Envisioning for this future, Microsoft just launched a partnership for brand safety. It’s neither an ad-on nor does it cost anything extra. If you run ads on the Microsoft Advertising network, you’re automatically opted into this brand safety application. 

3. The 4 Google money grabs

David: These are the four key areas where marketers waste their spend:

  1. Location targeting settings: When you look at the User Locations report, you would find that your ads are being shown either nation-wide or worldwide, even when you’re geo-targeting a smaller area. I’ve seen accounts spending thousands of dollars per year on clicks that are outside the geo-targetted area.

  1. Targeting expansion: By default, Google turns on ‘Targetting expansion’ which generally would mean helping advertisers widen the reach of their display ad group. Extending the reach, in this case, means showcasing your ads on sites where people might convert.

    Now, when you’re doing audience targeting, you shouldn’t be placing ads on sites based on just any criteria, but following your audience dedicatedly to any site. To avoid this, just disable that option altogether. 

  2. Ads showing up on mobile apps by default: When you go to placements to see where your ads are appearing, you will definitely see that your apps are showing up on mobile apps. You might even find a considerable amount of clicks coming from them, likely clicking by mistake. There might be a lot of kid’s apps and games that might not be relevant to your business.

I’m gonna let you in on a technique that Kirk Williams (from Zato Marketing) wrote about, which you can only do with Google Ads Editor.

Go to Display Campaigns → Keywords and Targetting → Mobile app categories Negative → Add two negative categories for both Google and Apple apps. And that’s it. From then on you’ll not see mobile apps in your list of placements.

  1. Enhanced CPC vs Max CPC: I don’t like the fact that when you create a new campaign, by default the bidding model is Enhanced CPC. And my feeling is based out of a general distrust of the bidding algorithm to know anything about the conversion behavior of people as it relates to the offer.

    In order to use target CPA bidding, Google says that you need to have 15 or more conversions over the course of 30 days. Which I think makes sense as you’ve got some behavior to fuel the algorithm. Whereas when a campaign starts out with CPC bidding, there is no pre-recorded data or behavior. This might contribute to the higher CPC values at the beginning of the campaign, which might be due to Google’s automation thrashing to attenuate the signal.

4. New Microsoft Ad Features for the win

John: Some new features in Microsoft Advertising are:

  1. Use LinkedIn data to target ads: The LinkedIn Profile Targeting has been live for all for over a month. This is the first time when data sets from both Microsoft and LinkedIn are coming together. You can now layer in information from a LinkedIn profile like company name, job function, and industry to target highly relevant audiences in-text ads, DSAs, and Shopping Campaigns.
  2. Multi-image extensions: Microsoft recently added to their Image Extensions capabilities so that users can now add multi images, effectively a carousel with your search ads in SERP.
  3. Availability of Stock photos: Microsoft Advertising has partnered with Shutterstock to provide an access to 300 million commercially licensed images to advertisers.
  4. Microsoft Audience Network: It’s a native ad platform where you can showcase search campaigns. You also get an opportunity to bid on placements on MSN.com, the Edge browser, Outlook.com, and a host of other publishing partner sites. In order to save marketers from double work, our new functionality can help you replicate information from Google Display Ads (which are truly working) to Microsoft Advertising.

5. Be mindful of your bid adjustments

John: Everyone needs to be really mindful when you’re applying bid adjustments. If you have bid adjustments at every layer, that can get out of control in a hurry. So things like age, gender, location, in however many audience groups you’ve stacked in a particular group or campaign need to be strategically placed.

Conclusion

PPC campaigns can prove to be of immense importance in paving way for your organization or business. With the ever-changing dynamics of search marketing, marketers need to be on alert about how they handle their accounts. Giving up complete control to default settings might hurt your accounts more than you can comprehend. 

To make informed decisions, keep discussing strategies and tactics with the community and your peers. Look to industry leaders for actionable solutions that actually bring you results. 

Next week on PPC Town Hall, we are jumping back in discussing best practices for Holiday shopping with prominent e-commerce and shopping experts. Join us in the session to ask your questions!

PPC Town Hall 23: 5 Tips from Top PPC Experts on Bid Management

It’s true: the right bidding strategy can decide the fate of your PPC accounts.

With the ever-changing dynamics of search marketing, marketers need to be extra careful navigating the tough waters of bid management. Moreover, they also need to be conscious of Google’s take on limiting search query reports and pushing new limits on data access. 

In order to gain big on leads, we have to do more than just focusing on bidding strategies. Metrics like quality score, tCPA, ROAS, etc., can also play a big role in influencing bid management. 

So this week on episode 23 of PPC Town Hall, we discussed tips and tactics by specialists to improve your bid management for good lead generation and e-commerce.  

Our panelists for the week:

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

Here are 5 tips that experts swear by to manage bids for leads and e-commerce.

1. The changing face of Search Terms Reports

Navah: Initially, when it was announced that the Search Terms Reports were being depreciated, I didn’t think much of it. Ultimately, you’re still gonna be able to see the click data,  the keyword data, and your ROASes. It’s not that you’re getting fewer clicks, you’re just not getting that transparency on the queries. 

But now, I think it is an actual problem as I have noticed an under-spending issue. Not being able to see where the budget is being funneled is really a problem. My theory is that a lot of the spend is being directed to local service ads rather than paid search. Local service ads come at a dramatic discount, without any pre-requirement of running a paid search ad.

Apart from this, there is no transparency for different automation strategies that are either underperforming or overperforming. 

2. SKAGs vs STAGs

Navah: Lately, I’ve been pushing far more broad match ad groups and campaigns, especially with how much the match types have changed. The allocation of budget to broad match and exact match keywords seems much higher than phrase match keywords. Now, I’m finding one broad match skag, 3-4 exact match keywords, and then maybe one mod broad serves better than focusing on only exact/phrase. 

The choice to use a match type or a keyword is entirely dependent on what I’ll see coming back in search terms. Did they match by the rules of exact? Or did exact close variants matched by the rules of broad, etc.,? The fact that we no longer have that visibility truly, is a bit of a problem.

In terms of delivery in account performance, I still see that STAGs (grouping of keywords) seems to perform better than SKAGs. In terms of match type, I’m very much pulling away from phrase match as they tend to get caught quite more in the delivery problem.

Fred: Match types don’t mean what they used to be earlier. With the loosening of the match types, most people can not figure out what a phrase match can achieve that another match type wouldn’t. For people, who haven’t been doing PPC quite that long, a phrase match meant that the words between the quotes were supposed to stay together. But that doesn’t actually work anymore. 

Geetanjali: With the whole match types changing and close variants coming in, people who swear by SKAGs have still not completely let go. With the search terms changes, the whole alpha-beta structure of mining keywords using your broad match and then moving them to exact might not work that well. You probably don’t know all the search queries that are coming in with your broad match keywords, whether it’s SKAG or otherwise.

3. Let’s talk bidding

Navah: Bidding is one of those tactics that you should just delegate out. There isn’t a good reason to do truly manual bidding. Manual bidding can be helpful when you don’t trust native automation to bid enough for your important terms, however, there is no good reason to sit there adjusting bids all day. Use scripts/rules, or you can use an amazing tool like Optmyzr. 

Geetanjali: If you are using smart bidding, it’s really important to send the right data into the system. I also think that having the right level of attribution is needed as well. I have come across customers who are completely using Google’s automated bidding strategies and running on last-click attribution. So, the system is automatically cutting the queries that would rise on top of the funnel, conversions and these customers keep wondering why it’s not working. 

Also, if you’re delegating your bidding, you need to know which parts you’d be choosing. If you still have to set the right targets, you still have to have the attribution model, then that’s the part that you can’t delegate to Google. If you don’t give the system the right data, the systems, which are after all machines, can’t make the right decision.

4. The problem with AI and Maximize Conversions

Navah: Two things play here. One, in your Conversion settings, you can tell Google whether to count in your conversions or not. This means you can still track actions you’re interested in without having them derail your automated/smart bidding strategies. The other thing is don’t use smart bidding if you don’t trust your conversions. Just don’t. 

You actually need to have an infrastructure in place that can track the lead through. Have an open conversation with your client about their intake. Part of it comes down to helping your client and helping them build infrastructure to report and have an internal intake system. The other part is doing the legwork yourself, having call tracking metrics, checking lead quality, etc. 

5. Quality of leads 

Navah: We need to understand the quality of leads in accepted leads against rejected leads and why they get rejected. One thing that we found in new advertisers is that a penchant for leaving search partners on and getting conversions. But then those conversions turn out really terrible.

We make sure that every quarter that there is this buy-in and we ask some core questions. How many leads are you getting per month? Where could that number grow to? How much do you make per service vertical? Are there any upcoming changes in this quarter that we need to be aware of?

Conclusion

I’ve noticed that as newer PPC managers come in who have never done manual bid management, they lack the understanding of how to manage bids or how the auctions work.

For some reason, people tend to believe that putting in a bid or a target for tCPA or tROAS is enough to walk away. That’s certainly not okay. Google is automating the conversions between expected conversion when you’re trying to achieve in terms of CPA and putting the bids in the auction.

But remember this: it doesn’t look at anything to do with your business! It doesn’t necessarily know all the things about your business as you do. At the end of the day, your priority in the type of leads you want should be reflected in your targets.

Keep in mind that nothing is fixed as we know them to be. Keep testing and discussing ways to make the most of your accounts. 

Seasoned PPC professionals turn to efficient bid management tools, like Optmyzr, to keep their accounts top-notch and drive good leads. Try and experience our capabilities yourself by signing up for our 14-day free trial. Full access to all our features, credit card free!

PPC Town Hall 21: Rule Shopping and e-Commerce in Q4

As the holiday season approaches, search marketers are busy preparing for a rush of shopping and e-commerce activity in Q4. You need to be ready to navigate the next few months with expert planning and monitoring to deploy successful PPC campaigns.

This year more than ever, it’s important to arm yourself with tips and tricks to crush holiday sales. So for episode 21 of PPC Town Hall, we brought in a couple of experts in the space to talk about best practices in all things shopping and e-commerce:

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

Here are 6 insights that can help you top the e-commerce charts during Q4, Black Friday, and the holiday season.

1. Search is going to be a big place to be.

Purna: In 2020, we have been seeing three proverbial ‘elephants in the room’ – the economy, the COVID-19 crisis, and the upcoming elections in the US.

1. Recession: During the last financial crisis in 2008, consumers reported that they would pull back their holiday spending by 29%. However, these claims proved overly conservative as sales dipped by only 4.7% YoY. Even during the .com bubble, Retail sales continued to grow.

Search will be this big place where everyone will come to look for gifts. While retailers continue to cut back on budgets for other channels, Search seems to be least affected.

2. COVID-19:� With 75% of U.S. consumers avoiding in-store shopping malls and 53% avoiding shops in general because of COVID-19₂, in-store holiday traffic will likely decline this year.�

Online sales, however, are projected to astronomically increase this holiday season as COVID-19 continues to boost eCommerce activity. Anticipate holiday shopping to begin earlier as both retailers and customers offset the unprecedented shipping delays unearthed by COVID-19.

Even as the economy re-opens, and physical stores allow for customers to return, we expect BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store)  interest to remain exponentially higher than it would have without the health concerns related to physical distance.

3. Election: The election in 2016 did not impact search, yet we expect 2020 to perform very differently based on a multitude of factors

Moreover, with physical locations being restricted, more and more people have been coming online to find things. Due to this, we are expecting a double-digit growth to online sales for the Holiday season. 

2. Shifts in Search Advertising don’t give a solid outlook.

Anders: While analyzing Google’s quarterly reports, I saw that Google had negative growth in Q2 2020 compared with the year before, something which we have never seen before. Combining this information with the rumors of reducing search term reports or negative keywords, I believe that they might be panicking a bit. 

3. Seeing the pandemic as an opportunity.

Anders: I think people are very uncertain about the current situation. While certain brands closed up and waited for the changes to still, others took this up as an opportunity to talk and communicate with their audience. We have seen brands emerging, others pulling out of auctions, or bidding higher to get all the attention. So if you are a brand that hasn’t interacted at all, take this chance to tell the community that you are still around.

4. Impact on data analytics and audiences.

Anders: One of the things that we noticed while talking to some of the big names of the industry, is that bidding strategies were radically changed in about 25% of all projects they managed. But even with the data, you simply can’t predict in the same manner as you did before. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to reset the data, or even set a ‘before’ and ‘after’ lockdown, to learn user behaviors.  

I remember what Fred says in his book (Digital Marketing in an AI World), that we need to take a step back to look at the data. I think this is the time that we need to step back and look at things. Earlier on, we could trust the machines for the data they had and their ability to predict, but it might not be so reliable right now, as the data is changing. You need to be extra careful before fully trusting the algorithms. 

5. Rely on Machine learning and add your insights.

Purna: It’s true that the old models and strategies have somehow seen huge changes from predictable patterns. But I think there’s still a strong case for things like automated bidding. eCPC bidding can work well for Product Ads, and Microsoft recently launched Target ROAS bidding for shopping as well, and we have been seeing some really good performance there. 

So with so much unpredictability, leave some of the signals to the machine. But wherever you can put in your own inputs, give the system the best information possible such as through Custom Labels to manage campaign/product group optimization.

You can download Microsoft’s holiday shopping checklist as seen during Purna’s segment by clicking here.

6. Microsoft recommendations for feed management.

Purna: Remember to check the following things:

Conclusion

As we near the end of September, last-minute preparations for the coming quarter are in full swing. Search marketing has changed, and we need to be watchful of these changes as they affect data analytics and audience behaviors.

At Optmyzr, we’ve seen a massive shift across industries as businesses took recent months as an opportunity to go online. More and more marketers and agencies are starting to trust machine learning, automation, and data-driven optimizations.

One thing is clear: In order to thrive in Q4, PPC professionals need to look for powerful search systems and highly effective management tools. Being careful of the minutiae like descriptions or optional columns could prove to be game-changers.

PPC Town Hall 20: Mastering Video Ads with Joe Martinez and Cory Henke

Video ads are a powerful way to showcase and communicate your products or services to potential customers. They’re also a great way to drive leads and growth through PPC campaigns.

Experts are more in tune than ever with different platforms and the audience groups they attract, rather than focusing on just driving content. As the landscape changes, marketers need to find new ways to create the right kinds of video campaigns to resonate with their target segments.

So this week on episode 20 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to two experienced video ad gurus, who shared their rich experience and insights with our audience:

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

Here are 5 insights to help you deploy effective and powerful video ads.

1. Hook your audience in the first 5 seconds.

Joe: For me, the message in the first 5 seconds of a video can have more impact than anything else. What is the narrator or character trying to convey? For people like me, who listen to YouTube while working, the first five seconds of any ad will trigger me to pay attention to it. So that message is going to be extremely important.

Make sure that your logo is visible so that even if your audience is paying attention or skips the ad, they will see the brand name.�

2. Look at audience intent rather than channel.

Joe: If you have a limited budget and have a specific goal in mind with your campaign, it’s always important to optimize to whatever is working. Think about whether you would want your content shown on a particular channel.

We’ve seen people converting from a music channel because we focus on a very customer-intent audience rather than the type of channel. Now, if a customer is looking for� SaaS products, we’re targeting them and not the placement or the channel.

Be proactive. If you think your audience isn’t on certain channels, then block those. You can get help from several exclusion lists created to guide you better.

3. Target wisely for a TV-only campaign.

Joe: Looking specifically at a TV-only campaign, your ad’s performance depends on the various targeting options. Even if you don’t see a spike in the initial days, keep watching as the percentage of people watching your ads on TV increases gradually.

Go back to check your initial targeting options and whether you’ve been remarketing to the same audience. If your targeting is specific, try to expand it to check if that gives you the exposure you want on TV.

4. Drive your ads through IGTV.

Cory: On Instagram, the areas that are most promotable are the stories and the newsfeed. The areas that you can’t advertise are IGTV and live streams. And that is where, we believe, we get the most organic reach for our videos.

Now, the trouble with IGTV lies in promoting it. How do you get people to see it? That’s one of the most difficult things with long-form videos. To help increase your view count, run your long-form video ads on Facebook.

Another way would be to take the IGTV videos and embed them into a webpage. You can use the URLs to guide users onto your Instagram with a call to action like ‘Watch now’.

5. Don’t neglect lead forms.

Cory: We focus on CPC as that shows how the audience engages with the content rather than just visiting the website or channel. It shows how much impact the ads could have, especially when there isn’t much of a lead flow.

Don’t forget to test your bid types. We think that one of the biggest variables to look at is Target CPS vs Maximized Conversions. That’s great to potentially find some more lead volume that could help you decide what works for the audience better.

Keep an eye on the engagement with the lead form and experiment with your call-to-action.

Conclusion

The effectiveness of video ads is because they’re so easy to consume. With the way the world is right now, it’s no surprise people prefer video content over other types. The surging popularity of apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok (for now) is a testament to the balance of power shifting towards video ads.

While it’s definitely not easy to succeed with such a dynamic ad type, marketers need to be mindful of audience interests, broadcasting channels and mediums, and content type.

Go a step further to cater to your target audience by customizing your very own exclusion list. Start by checking out Joe and Clix’s list of over 1,400 children’s YouTube channels to exclude from your campaigns.

PPC Town Hall 18: Grow your business with PPC scripts

PPC marketers are always optimizing — some monitoring here, an adjustment there, and then you start to see (better) results. When you have that much to do, it’s impossible to do it manually and scale your output.

So there’s no reason to fear automation — like scripts. They not only speed up the process, but also allow you to be much more efficient in running your business. That’s right — scripts can drive business impact.

Best of all, anyone can use scripts, even if you haven’t written even a single line of code in your life!

So this week on episode 18 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to our panelists who live and breathe scripts:

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

Here are 5 insights to help you grow your business by automating your PPC accounts with scripts.

1. Update price extensions

Nils: Price extensions are very popular extensions that you can use in your Google Ads accounts to display actual prices. But prices tend to change quite often. If you have different products, and the product manager or account manager is changing the prices of the products because of inventory or competition, you need to update the price extensions with the actual prices.

Up until a year ago, it was impossible to update them through scripts. Fortunately, now we can access the price extensions via the scripts API to keep them in sync with your inventory.

To check the price extensions, you need to do the following: Google Ads scripts → References → AdsApp → Ad Extensions → Prices.

2. When to turn to scripts

Steve: ‘This is taking too much manual work’ is the point where we begin to think about building scripts to shorten the whole process. Most of the time, it’s brought up due to some amount of laziness on our part. For example, I’m currently working on Search Query reports and rely on scripts to deliver automated reports to me.

One of the best things about scripts is that you get to see this functionality and dozens of ways one can apply that across campaigns. The fun of scripts is finding something and imagining creative ways to apply them.

3. The business value of scripts

Nils: Scripts deliver great benefits all over the place. I’ve created a list of the Top 7 benefits of using scripts. Personally I try to automate as much as possible by using scripts. It has helped my remote PPC agency succeed and apply consistent processes to operations. With scripts, you can come up with new ideas to test your account, which wouldn’t have been possible manually. For example, we know that N-gram analysis is very tedious and time-taking. But with scripts, something that complex becomes quicker and can be done more frequently.    

The biggest benefit of scripts for my agency has been quality assurance. As the scripts are monitoring everything, any mistake done by my team comes under notice quickly. This way I can be alerted when anything goes haywire and sleep easy.  

Steve: We recently shifted to a new revenue model — cost per deliverable, where we charge our customers a fixed amount for our services. Scripts allow me to do that a lot more efficiently.

It’s not a discussion of hours anymore. Our clients are more focused on whether the product runs efficiently rather than how. This allows me to take my expertise and focus on deliverables rather than time.

4. Copy-pasting and modifying scripts

Steve: I think in blocks, which is basically the JavaScript way of thinking. Figuring out which functions do what, and letting them flow through until you get all the pieces for the script. In a lot of cases, you will get pre-built scripts to work on.

For example, Google’s Account Anomaly script is very easy to adjust to things that you are looking for in your anomalies. This can be a good base to get started with scripts.

5. Using scripts to monitor Google’s AI

Nils: We know that Google AI uses machine learning to predict performances on clicks. And machine learnings involves a ‘learning phase’. We are basically providing Google money and data to feed it to the machine learning algorithms. This is where I love to use scripts to track how AI is handling my accounts. If it goes haywire, and does a bad job for my clients my scripts would alert me immediately.

For example, for close variants, I have created a script to monitor the performance of the real keyword against the close variant. If there’s a significant difference in the performance, like in CPA or ROAS, I get alerted of that. You need to layer scripts and Google’s AI to make the most of it.

Conclusion

It’s important to look at Google Ads holistically. Everything — bids, budgets, ad text — influences this interconnected system. It’s not enough to set a script and forget it; you have to monitor it periodically as well.

Start out by using Google’s repository of pre-built scripts, or Nils’ collection of over 250 ready-to-use scripts.

As you gain experience, you can try modifying them to suit your specific needs. Experiment with existing rules to see how they affect the performance of your PPC accounts, and remember to preview your script before applying it.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So experiment away!

PPC Town Hall 17: How to look beyond ROAS to optimize PPC

Many marketers who live and breathe ad spend value ROAS as the holy grail of advertising. For many, it’s a way of calculating and formulating next steps to achieve high(er) revenue. While this metric does forecast quite well, one question that arises is how useful it is for long-term growth. 

With the use of retargeting as a way of fulfilling ROAS targets, PPC professionals might not consider incrementality as a way to get good results. Some sharp minds, however, have turned to customer lifetime value for better optimization with maximum profits.

So this week on episode 17 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to our panelists who are obsessed with driving better results for PPC campaigns:

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 how to look beyond ROAS to optimize PPC.

1. Understand the problem with ROAS.

Andreas: In large retail organizations, Finance is responsible for both budgeting and setting performance targets. While finance has profitability KPIs and new customer acquisition goals in mind, they translate them into ROAS targets. Often they don’t understand profitability or CLV isn’t a random byproduct of some advertising campaign, but rather something which you can explicitly optimize for.

Once ROAS targets are set, the easiest way to achieve them is to sell products with low margins and high return rates…usually to their existing customers. However, at the end of the budgeting cycle, they usually find that even though they have achieved their ROAS targets, profitability is down.

In the subsequent budgeting cycle, the ROAS target is tightened based upon the weak profitability. This vicious cycle can only be broken by setting other targets than RAS.

2. Consider profit on ad spend.

Frederik: You need to calculate the real gross profit on every single order, followed by doing the attribution and looking at customer LTV (lifetime value). You need to work on the profit on the first attribution.

We use POAS (profit on ad spend), which is richer in ad spend before sending out the data to the channels. We calculate all our orders, profits on them, cost price, shipping cost, and payment fees. Then we send these to the platform so that one can make transparent decisions.

3. Put the right information in the system.

Andreas: There’s a fundamental difference between how we once did things and what we’re doing now. The levers once used to excel in digital marketing have changed dramatically. In the early days we� optimized keywords, ad copies, and landing pages; things that weren’t fully automated.

But AI has made all of these activities redundant. To differentiate from the competition today you need to ensure you optimize for the right targets and that you can accurately measure the value of each single click…and feed your algorithm with first-party data. Putting the right information back into the system is key to optimizing beyond ROAS.

In order to activate your data you need to first assess the exact order margin, then you deduct the expected returns. As a second step you need to know whether an order was done by a new customer or an existing one. If it was a new customer who purchased, future purchases are to be expected, so you add a (residual customer lifetime value on top of the first-order-margin.

Ultimately, you need to slice this entire value if there were several clicks involved. The end goal should be to attain the value of each and every click. This is a prerequisite for bidding systems to work for your specific business.

4. To retarget or not?

Andreas: Whoever is curious to see the impact of data activation should do one experiment. First off? Let tROAS run. Then, in one instance,� you provide the first-click data. In the other, last-click data. Analyze the retargeting share of both settings and you’ll see only a small retargeting share through the first click; as all the credits get allocated to it.

What happens if you test for incrementality? You’ll see that the more likely a user is to buy, the better the results will look, albeit with lower incremental impact. Nobody today can answer this question: whether to bid up – or down –� on your retargeting activity.

I believe that attribution systems have completely failed. They assume that advertising must be responsible for the sale…and so it allocates credits based on different parameters. The only thing of value is to run isolated incremental audience-based models. It’s here where you can truly find out the scope of impact.

5. Go beyond attribution.

Frederik: We have a dashboard where we take away the attribution fully. We actually look at gross profits, usage on ad spend, and gross profit after ad spend by keeping their ratios the same. This way you can actually see whether your gross profit will increase or decrease if you don’t change the ratios. After this, you can try to allocate with some attribution. This way you can look at the financials rather than just the attribution.

Conclusion

While ROAS might have been the guiding light of the past, one can’t forget that what are essentially Google’s metrics might not accurately reflect your client’s or company’s goals.

The only way to sustain a ROAS-driven system is to layer different rules on product categories. Even geolocations seem to have an effect on ROAS targets; you might find, for example, that customer acquisition rate is higher in New York than in San Francisco.

It’s hard to automate some things fully as you might not have the same targets across different locations and products. The only way to fix that right now is to move towards a conversion tracking and attribution system that takes smaller things into account, like locations and incrementality.

PPC Town Hall 16: 5 Insights to Build Your Personal PPC Brand

While every marketer wants to leave their mark on the industry, very few become true experts. To be influential in the market today, you need to have credibility, and invest time and effort to hone your craft.

The reward: Not only do you get a chance to be a part of something bigger, but you get to shape others who’ll also make a difference to your industry.

Furthermore, having a strong personal brand helps win more business opportunities, both for yourself and your organization.

So this week on episode 16 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to the two most influential PPC experts of 2020, who brought their shared experience to the table:

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

Here are 5 insights to help you start building your personal PPC brand.

1. Learn how to build a good pitch.

Michelle: I’ve spent a lot of time writing pitches, submitting them, and getting rejected over and over again.

The thing that helped was to reach out to people who had spoken on similar panels to mine. I asked them how to make a good pitch. Their insights helped me understand what to write or which format to use. I also reached out to session moderators to get their take on the subject.

Purna: For anyone who wants to submit a pitch, I have two tips that have been helpful for me.

Ask yourself what the key takeaways are for your audience; make sure you’re sharing three or four actionable tips. And add more specificity to your content; discuss the angle you’re bringing to the topic.

2. Conquer your fear of speaking on stage.

Purna: Look through the material delivered by your favorite speakers to see what actually resonates with you, and practice to remove the barriers in your head that are making you nervous.

Make sure your content is adding value to your audience. Keep an eye on the discussions happening in your industry, and keep up with different topics and themes. Then get feedback; reach out to other experts to get their opinion. 

Enjoy yourself and have fun!

3. Keep your audience engaged.

Purna: Try to bring everyone onto the same page by asking your audience if they don’t understand something. I take 60 seconds to go over it and then take it from there. You want everyone to benefit from your content and not miss out due to a lack of background knowledge.

4. Start writing.

Michelle: If you can’t speak at shows, write. Start writing and put your smarts out there. This way, you’ll always have something to refer to and it will show others that you know your business. Don’t be afraid to start sharing your thoughts within relevant communities.

You’ll never get better unless you do it, so don’t be afraid that you’re not as good as you’d like to be. Don’t let perfection get in the way. Just start.

5. Quantify your passion project to your employer.

Michelle: I’m fortunate to have superiors that understand the value and importance of writing and speaking. Being visible helps you bring in clients who have seen you on different platforms and at events, but also helps convey the expertise you and your team have to companies who may not have seen you speak at those events.

Conclusion

Juggling your job, a personal life, and your passion project can definitely be a handful. But if you’re passionate about what you do and believe you can help your fellow marketers, start now.  

Be consistently active in discussions about your areas of interest. Look out for updates and news on new products or paradigms. Talk to established experts and get their feedback on your content. 

More importantly, be consistent — Rome wasn’t built in a day. Keep making the effort and you’ll soon be growing your brand and business.

PPC Town Hall 15: Solving Agency Challenges During Times of Crisis

Running a PPC agency is challenging enough. Clients have to be kept happy, your teams have to stay on top of hundreds of fluctuations, and ad platforms are constantly changing and adding features to their mix.

Throw in something as unexpected as a pandemic and it can be easy to feel like you’re drowning.

So this week on episode 15 of PPC Town Hall, we spoke to two PPC experts with a track record of success in helping their agencies weather numerous storms over the years:

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

Here are 6 tips to help you steer your team through these challenging times.

1. Be a partner, not a vendor.

Matt: It’s important to work out an ideal solution for an effective strategy. We have to be compassionate and understand everyone’s circumstances.

During the early months of COVID, we saw a few clients who wanted to pause their accounts or significantly cut down on their budget due to a lot of restrictions. We had to work with those clients, figuring out a way to remain working with them; something that works for both parties.

As places have started to open up, we can see that some of clients are coming back to get into business again.

2. Educate your clients.

Brittni: When we take over a new account from a previous agency, we ask for KPIs or benchmarks that the previous agency was asked to deliver. It can be a little difficult, especially when clients have unrealistic expectations.

ROAS can be one way, but if a client is looking for a 4x return on $100 a month ($400 in sales), that’s not going to be as beneficial as spending $2,000 a month and getting $4,000 in sales, and then incrementally increasing ROAS.

Trying to find a balance between what clients are looking for and attainable goals is really important.

3. Set expectations from the start.

Matt: It’s really important to understand what clients want to do with their business. What do they want from agencies? A lot of it goes back to how clients want to be. Do they want you to help them formulate a strategy and work together as partners, or do they want you to just pull levers?

If the client works with you as a partner, it’s important to go back to expectations and make your client understand your apprehensions and ideas. This way they can make informed decisions to best manage their accounts and goals.

4. Inspire confidence through your history.

Brittni: A lot of it comes down to partnership, time and patience. Once you start to show growth and success, a client is able to have trust and confidence in what you’re doing. With time, they’re going to give you those levels of referrals, and those partners are going to be able to trust you. And then you can guide them through their strategies.

If you’re capable of running a successful campaign on a very limited budget, especially dealing with unglamorous products like tires, it indicates a strong sense of strategy which helps build client confidence.

5. Understand a price-sensitive market.

Matt: In the context of COVID, a client that doesn’t have a major sticking point when it comes to price, that’s where things like curbside pickup and contactless delivery will help gain consumers.

While additional platforms for selling products definitely work for users, it’s beyond price. It’s more about offering something unique, especially in the time of COVID.

6. Know how to come back from a lull in business.

Brittni: There’s definitely been a change in the type of messaging and targeting for different clients. Earlier, a lot of our clients shifted from paid advertising to SEO or local ads.

But as things are opening, these same clients are coming back to paid advertising with a different approach. Many of the campaigns we see today promote COVID safety and precautions. These are the clients who want to maintain customer safety. We need to focus on building brand awareness through any type of display advertising.

Conclusion

Most contingencies can be planned, but sometimes life throws you a curveball that no one can predict. In times like these, trust in your track record of success.

When client business is suffering, they can often have multiple fires to fight: supply chain, hygiene, and delivery come to mind. So a great agency that can continue to create value on the advertising front is worth its weight in gold.

Join us next week for PPC Town Hall 16 where we’ll be speaking to two of the leading ladies of PPC: Michelle Morgan and Purna Virji.

PPC Town Hall 14: The 6-Step Starter Guide for PPC Beginners

Advertising your business online can be intimidating. There are so many options available that it can be tough to figure out your first move.

If you ever wished you had a step-by-step guide to figuring out your first steps in PPC, look no further. We picked one platform to start with — Google Ads, because it’s user-friendly and provides a high degree of assistance to newcomers.

This week on episode 14 of PPC Town Hall, two of the brightest minds in digital advertising shared lessons from their combined decades of PPC and marketing experience:

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

Complete with actionable insights, here’s our 6-step starter guide for PPC beginners.

1. Get set up on Google My Business.

Julie: Google My Business (GMB) is very important, especially for local and service-area businesses; the map is important even if you don’t have a physical location where people come to you. And the way you get on Maps, organically or through ads, is GMB. Additionally, if you want to run location extensions on your ads, you have to connect your verified GMB listing to your Google Ads account.

2. Define your conversion actions.

Julie: Sometimes you can drown in data. Or you can have data that seems like it’s telling you things but it really isn’t. If you’re in e-commerce, it’s pretty obvious what your conversion action is: you want people to buy things.

But if you’re not e-commerce, one of the first things you have to do is define what a conversion is to you; it’s the lens through which you view everything else. It helps you set things up at different stages in a way that collects data in the best way possible for you to get conversions and build a remarketing plan.

3. Don’t be intimidated by product feeds.

Susan: Shopping is always difficult because it involves feeds, and I think that scares a lot of people because it can feel more like coding than advertising. So if you’re a small business, you can set up easily on a platform like Shopify that will automatically export a feed to Google Merchant Center for you.

It’s also worth going through the process of building a local inventory feed; you have to submit that to Google, and they’ll call to verify your identity and the accuracy of that feed. But that results in a bit more visibility when people search for what you’re selling, and they’ll know they can come pick it up from you.

4. Experiment with Dynamic Search Ads.

Julie: If you’re new to PPC and you’re not really sure what terms you want to advertise on, dynamic search ads (DSAs) can reveal information like what Google thinks of your business.

When you run regular search ads, you’re telling Google what keywords you want, what ads to run, and which landing pages they should lead to. With DSAs, you still decide the message behind your ad copy, but Google decides when to show your ad (and what keyword triggers it).

It’s a bit of a window into what they believe you’re relevant to. So running DSAs alongside some of your more obvious keywords can help you identify opportunities to build full campaigns.

5. Use supplemental feeds to prevent brand dilution.

Susan: I love supplemental feeds. A lot of time, retailers will do a great job of building a brand — it feels like it has personality, the products have quirky names, and it feels unique to them.

The challenge you run into there is those product titles and descriptions aren’t always SEO-friendly. Google Shopping is looking to see what you feed it and then showing you for searches it believes you’re relevant for.

If you’re missing that text, you can set up logic within Google Merchant Center that says ‘use my regular feed, but for product title, use this’. And you can direct it to a Google Sheet where you have your unique product name with the SEO keywords.

So it’s essentially a translator between your feed and Merchant Center to make sure your ads are as search term-rich as possible.

For more on the pitfalls of PPC, read Susan’s article on why Google Ads might not be working for you.

6. Know what to look for from your campaign results.

Susan: Part of the challenge with Smart campaigns on Google is the automatically generated conversions. If business owners and campaign managers don’t know how to see what those are, they might think they have a ton of real conversions, but they might not actually be very high-value. You can always find out more about those automatic conversions, but someone starting out in PPC might not know that you can go out and find that information.

Conclusion

Whether you’ve been struggling to see results or are just taking your business online, PPC can be challenging if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.

But even in a normal business landscape, you can’t keep spending PPC dollars without any meaningful results.

That’s why agencies like Aimclear and Neptune Moon can be exactly what your business needs — a partner who doesn’t just know how to get results, but is fully invested in the success of your online campaigns and overall business.

PPC Town Hall 12: How YouTube & Video Drive Growth & Learning

We all know the power of good video.

People use the moving picture to sway opinion, win hearts, and tell stories. In a marketing setting, it brings consumers as close to a brand or product as the online experience will allow.

But video continues to be ignored by many businesses for a variety of reasons

“It’s expensive.”

“We don’t have the resources.”

“Our target audience isn’t on YouTube.”

All these misconceptions were dismantled this week during episode 12 of PPC Town Hall, where we discussed the intricacies of YouTube (and video in general) with:

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

Here are five tips from our panelists on how to use YouTube and video to drive growth and learning.

1. Exclude ads from content you don’t want to show for.

Joe: In terms of content exclusions, we’ve seen really good hand-curated lists from other marketers. I’ve created one that stops your ads from running on channels geared towards children; others have created exclusion lists for news, political and controversial channels.

So there are options if you don’t want to run your ads on specific types of content. Some of the ad formats, like TrueView discovery campaigns, give advertisers greater control. They let you limit yourself to targeting just YouTube search results; you don’t have to be a pre-roll or in-stream ad all the time.

2. Use the data to learn about your audience.

Cory: When you start to find different channels and videos that work well, that’s a key insight into your consumer — you see the videos they watch after your ad play. One advertiser we worked with had a baby product that was not really succeeding on YouTube.

What we found was that the minimal conversions that happened all came before hurricane-related news content. We saw that was driving conversions, and we learned that it was a fear-based action. Before people watch hurricane content, they’re in a heightened state of awareness or fear; serving something that could potentially help your future child played into that mood.

3. Try out the YouTube Video Builder.

Joe: For me there’s no longer an excuse for a brand to not be on YouTube. It no longer matters if you don’t have someone with video editing skills or high-value assets, because Google basically takes your visuals and does the work for you.

There are dozens of templates based on what you want to promote — product, service, mobile app. When you pick a template you like, it shows you what images you need, as well as the format and sizes for those images. I did a few demos of my own to show some clients. For a free tool, it’s very good.

Get Access: Opt in to the beta of YouTube Video Builder here.

Image courtesy of Google.com

4. Learn from skippable and non-skippable video ads.

Cory: Non-skippable ads usually drive very high CPCs with high completion rates; with a 15-second interstitial ad, you usually get a completion rate similar to a bumper ad. I think you’ll find people who are willing to watch your ad until the end, but not necessarily willing to click through and find out more.

So it’s kind of like a brand placement. I like it, but it’s harder to learn from.

With a skippable ad where you don’t pay for a user until 30 seconds, there’s a lot you can learn in that time — and greater scope to optimize these ads to make them more effective. With a skippable ad, there’s also unlimited time; your ad can be 10 seconds or 40 minutes. That variation lets you learn what your customers want to see from your future video content.

We could take this episode of PPC Town Hall and run it as a skippable ad, and compare it to another episode that we also promote similarly. You would know which users are willing to stay longer versus who ends the video early, and you might even see a link between that and who’s in the video.

We ran a test for a client’s 20-minute yoga ad where we used two versions with a black male and a white female to see what people would respond to. We also created a funny version and a more serious one. The white female version had better CTR and CPC, as did the serious version. What we learned from that is who to put on the next Instagram post or in-feed ad. The goal is to present that variation at the beginning of the video to maximize your learning.

5. Repurpose video beyond YouTube.

Joe: It’s absolutely worth doing video — especially if you’re budget-conscious — because it goes so much further than just YouTube.

You can use videos in responsive display ads, in your universal app campaigns and engagement display ads, in your Gmail ads. Or use video to really boost other campaigns and awareness; it’s still video views we can create audiences from to do remarketing with fresh video content.

You don’t have to make a video and use it once on YouTube when there are ways to enhance your other paid media campaigns within Google.

Must Read: Check out Joe’s advice on how to use YouTube to power your non-video Google campaigns.

Conclusion

YouTube advertising is all about two things: freedom and flexibility.

You have the freedom to present your product, service, app, or brand in a way that offers something different from search, display, and shopping campaigns.

At the same time, different ad formats and product innovations give you the flexibility to set up variant campaigns to test what works best for your business.

There’s never been a better time to invest in content (YouTube is cheaper than ever), experiment with ads (more people are online), and learn from the data (you might discover an audience you didn’t know you had).

PPC Town Hall 11: 5 Tips to Make More Money with e-Commerce

While many locations are exiting lockdown restrictions and business has been allowed to resume, the realities of the pandemic mean that many people are still unable or unwilling to shop in person. But that doesn’t necessarily mean demand is lower.

Enter e-commerce: the reigning champion of helping businesses make money through the internet.

This week on PPC Town Hall, Optmyzr CEO Frederick Vallaeys spoke to a couple of the world’s sharpest minds on the subject:

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

Here are 5 tips from this week’s panelists on how e-commerce done right can make more money for your clients and your business.

1. Build a robust product feed.

Every digital marketer knows that e-commerce success begins and ends with the product feed, so it’s paramount to get this in order before even trying to get creative with placements or extensions.

“We’ve seen big e-commerce stores come in and do really well with a feed where the titles are optimized for organic traffic. At the same time, we’ve seen time and time again that if you take the time to really build out the rest of the feed values so that your feed is as good as it can be, it can drastically improve Google Shopping results over time,” Andrew shared.

“The problem is this improvement doesn’t happen from one day to the next. With some of the stores we’ve worked with, where the product feed was very weak and where we optimized the feed (added keywords to the titles, etc.), it took months for it to actually show overall great results.

“My takeaway from this is that the feed really has a quality factor to it; we can’t see it, it’s not listed like Quality Score, but there is a component that determines how many searches you get shown for. It won’t necessarily boost your rank for a single keyword, but how far and wide Google can and will spread your product exposure.”

2. Give your products visibility.

On the other hand, building a good feed means nothing unless you utilize it the right way.

“The vast majority of our clients are on Shopify, but we also work with businesses that are on WooCommerce and Magento as well. One of our clients on WooCommerce who uses their app, and we used a supplemental feed to augment/change the product titles. It was easy to do because they only have 74 SKUs, so I was able to build out what I wanted in 5-6 hours. We push clients until they make the changes we want,” Duane shared.

“We’re not going to do subpar work, so if you’re not going to let us use Feedonomics, we don’t want you as a client. We don’t have time to waste building out feeds when we can think more strategically about how to use that feed to make our clients more money.”

3. Know when to use Smart and Standard campaigns.

If you’re listing your products via Google Shopping campaigns, you have a choice to make: control the parameters yourself via a Standard campaign, or let Google use its machine-driven Smart campaign to optimize things for you.

“My recommendation depends on who you are. If you’re an in-house marketing coordinator and need to run your Google campaigns because you’ve had a bad experience with several agencies, Smart Shopping usually outperforms anything average PPC managers can do by themselves,” Andrew said.

“If you’re on the agency side or have a lot of experience, then you can usually utilize more of the complex structures to generate better results than Smart Shopping can. That said, I think it’s one of the best things to come out of Google in a long time.”

Duane had a word of advice for anyone leaning toward a Smart campaign.

“You can only use Smart Shopping if you have enough data in your Standard campaigns, so you can’t just launch a Smart Shopping campaign on day one even if you wanted to. I would recommend hitting a consistent 75-100 conversions per month before moving to Smart Shopping.”

4. Look beyond Google.

While Google offers many effective ways to advertise, over-reliance on one platform can be limiting.

“I love Google, but sometimes people get so focused on Google and forget that there’s so much other opportunity in the world,” Duane said. “This article from Modern Retail talks about Levi’s doing a test with TikTok — an app that’s very big with influencers, celebrities and content creators. They have shopping ads now and around 200-250 million users in the US; so does Snapchat with its 229 million users.”

Duane knows other opportunities exist — and he’s already taking advantage of them.

“We’re making shopping work on Google; where else can we go? Does it make sense to go to Snap? It’s not just for people under 18; a good 15-20% of users are above the age of 25 and have disposable income. We’ve had clients sell products on there with an average order value of $100-150, so there’s money there. TikTok only launched shopping ads a few months ago, but it could work for brands that have a lot of video content.”

5. Track profit, not revenue.

While it’s almost standard practice to track return on advertising spend (ROAS) as the defining financial metric, simply keeping score of revenue might not account for the actual goal of advertising: to make more money.

“Tracking profit over ROAS enables you to be more dynamic in the way you work with bidding,” Andrew observed.

“PPC marketers and businesses try to figure out what the optimal ROAS should be, and it all comes from analyzing margins on products; some work on a category basis and identify the ones that have higher margins than others. But this misses the point completely, because some brands have high margins and others have low ones. And if you’re running a sale, your margin is severely limited.

“During COVID, we worked with a client who had trouble getting inventory for a specific category — one we’d had problems with for a long time. We increased prices by 25% and all of a sudden, we started turning a profit. The profit margin earlier was so low that we couldn’t compete; with the new and improved conversions, we could own Shopping for that category.

“We’ve had other instances where we tracked profit over ROAS and the profit had doubled, or increased by 50-80%. When we looked at the analytics and measured ROAS, nothing had changed. It all comes from changing which products we’re actually pushing, because we can see which ones are selling well and turn a better profit instead of having empty revenue going through the stream.”

Conclusion

Nothing hurts an e-commerce program like a strategy in disarray. That’s why it’s critical to treat every step of the process with care.

If you’re an in-house marketer or a business owner, you might not have the time or resources to get it right every time. Tools like Optmyzr can make it easier to streamline and automate large parts of your PPC efforts, just as they help agencies achieve efficiency at scale.

You might also be completely new to e-commerce, in which case it’s not a bad idea to speak with an expert.

You can reach Andrew at andrew@savvyrevenue.com and Duane at duane@takesomerisk.com if you’re interested in the e-commerce and other services their teams can provide.

PPC Town Hall #10: 5 Observations on Google’s Initiatives in Q2

If you joined us for PPC Town Hall this week, you probably noticed that we look different! Everyone is combating Zoom fatigue, so we streamlined the show to be more visually engaging and appealing.

Joining us for the first new-look PPC Town Hall were two of the most insightful experts in paid search:

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

Let’s dive into this week’s observations on Google’s initiatives during Q2 of 2020 — and we might even have an additional surprise for you at the end!

1. A shift in messaging is overdue.

With businesses reopening in the post-lockdown phase, COVID messaging is in need of a change in tone. Ann thinks now is a good time for brands to realign themselves.

“I do think some messages have been played out — how to do virtual conferences, how to spend your day on Zoom. People are getting fed up with that and it’s time for messaging to come out on the other side,” she noted.

“People are once again able to do things they weren’t able to do before; certain shops are reopening and we’re trying to get back to business. In the UK, our furlough grants have been very helpful in making sure a lot of people have salaries and are able to spend.”

2. E-commerce isn’t as simple as some people think.

With millions of consumers unable or unwilling to visit brick and mortar locations, small businesses and those dependent on tourism income are turning to e-commerce to plug revenue gaps.

But Gianpaolo has a word of caution for anyone who thinks setting up a Shopify store or listing on Amazon is the catch-all solution.

“In Italy, it’s been a couple of years now that almost everyone wants to get into e-commerce, even if they don’t need it,” he shared. “But starting an e-commerce operation is only the beginning; you cannot set up an online store and think you’re done.”

Gianpaolo recommends leveraging the power of search and other forms of paid advertising to get people to your online stores — a critical step that some businesses new to e-commerce may not account for.

3. Legitimate businesses welcome advertiser verification.

With Google already rolling out its mandatory advertiser verification program, businesses that use their paid advertising services will have 21 days from the moment they’re contacted to verify their identities.

Ann believes that legitimate businesses will universally welcome this move, and that it will help filter out some of the more unsavory players.

“I’m very much in favor of Google’s advertiser verification. I feel there are so many questionable agencies and other businesses that rip people off. I’ve been in this industry nearly 20 years now, and I’ve seen and heard so many stories about this,” she shared.

4. Google’s ad credits are here — and they’ll be useful.

It didn’t take too long after global lockdowns started to take effect for Google to announce that they would be disbursing millions of dollars in free ad credits to small businesses. While this move to prop up some of Google’s hardest-hit customers took some time, America and Europe are now seeing results.

“This week in Italy, we received the first COVID ad credits from Google, so they are coming to Europe as well. They are set in fixed amounts: €75, €210, €590 and probably €1000 (I haven’t seen this yet), depending on last year’s range of spend,” Gianpaolo told us.

“Anything helps to get out of this situation. Even if €1,000 can’t change your business landscape, it can still help. If you found something that was working, I suggest putting part of your credits back on that. Of course, you can also try something new.

“Personally, my approach to the situation has been not to stop campaigns, but to lower budgets and CPCs to the minimum possible. Spending a tenth of what you normally do is a good solution, especially in search.

“If someone is searching for something they are likely to convert — maybe not now, but at some point. Why lose those hyper-competitive slots if you can keep them while spending a fraction of what you spent before?”

5. Agencies want Google to rethink their partner program.

Google’s partner program has long been a source of contention with many agencies, especially those who focus on quality and results. With the program postponed to next year due to the pandemic, this offers Google a chance to bring requirements in line with agency realities.

“As an MCC owner, we’ve got so many accounts linked to us. We had to have 70 people take the exam in organizations that have nothing to do with us. I’m hoping Google will have second thoughts about the way they do these qualifications, because there’s no way we can oversee all the organizations we are linked to,” Ann said.

“The other thing I don’t like about the partner status is it’s based on volume and growth in spend. At a premium agency like ours, not every client is looking for massive growth. In some cases, the first thing we do with a new client is cut out a load of wasted spend. And then we get penalized for bringing the spend down while we’re trying to improve the quality and make more money for the client. Google’s program isn’t always aligned with client needs.”

Bonus: LinkedIn targeting is coming to Microsoft.

Towards the end of this week’s show, Gianpaolo had some interesting news and advice for users of Microsoft Advertising.

“Keep an eye on the Microsoft Audience Network. They’re integrating it with LinkedIn targeting options for B2B campaigns in their display network,” he told us.

“This is something I would try to test even more deeply when I have an occasion to do so. I think it’s probably the first time that Microsoft is a little bit ahead of Google in something. I’m happy they’re doing this, and I’d definitely do some testing on this.”

Conclusion

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Google has been active in rolling out initiatives to help businesses and the PPC industry ride the storm. And while some of those programs were hyped up to be a lot more than they turned out to be, there’s no doubt they’ve done more than most advertising platforms.

It will be interesting to see how they adapt and what new ideas they roll out as the landscape continues to morph based on restrictions and developments in different geographies.

Join us again next week for PPC Town Hall, where we’ll be discussing e-commerce and Google Shopping campaigns. Catch the details on our PPC Town Hall landing page or follow us on Twitter.

PPC Town Hall #9: 6 B2B Tips for PPC Marketers

After a break last week, PPC Town Hall returned on May 27 with a revamped format. With the ‘doom and gloom’ phase of the pandemic behind us, PPC marketers are increasingly focused on solutions.

Going forward, PPC Town Halls will be more topical and focus on key areas of concern, with actionable advice to help PPC marketers and their teams overcome ongoing challenges. You’ll also be able to ask questions of panelists before and during each episode, and watch and listen to previous PPC Town Halls anytime you like.

Find everything you need right here.

Joining us for episode 9 to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by PPC marketers in the B2B space were:

Here are 6 key insights from our panelists on how PPC professionals can help B2B brands position themselves for post-COVID success.

1. Start building your pipeline now.

B2B as a space is notorious for having lengthy sales cycles, ranging from the challenging (30-60 days) to the laborious (12-18 months). Depending on the size of a lead’s company, conversions may not happen for multiple quarters or fiscal years.

AJ believes that now is a good time to get ahead of that curve, and he thinks LinkedIn is the place to do it.

“Because of the uncertainty right now, people are afraid to sign big deals and contracts. So these leads who were in the pipeline are not closing,” he shared. “I get that B2B marketers are scared, but now is the time to be advertising — ad costs are the lowest they will ever be across all networks, it’s the cheapest way to get in with an audience, and people are spending more time on LinkedIn. More people, more attention, and lower costs — take advantage of that to build your pipeline and have conversations to build those relationships on the longer sales cycles.

2. Be ready for the coming rise in demand.

At the start of the pandemic, it was difficult to extrapolate any meaningful stories from relevant data. Now that we’re a few months in, there’s something to work with.

“Around mid-March when the pandemic was taking hold, there was a huge spike in e-commerce traffic, conversion rates and revenue,” he said.

“This good write-up on this COVID-19 e-commerce bubble by Mike Ryan, product management lead for Smarter Ecommerce in Austria, shows what they observed in Europe. The bubble was mostly likely a result of panic-buying of essentials like food, and business items like headsets and cameras for work-from-home remote meetings. After that spike, it settled into a pattern and we’re now in a trough.”

He also provided some advice for businesses whose products and services are in high demand, which might drastically shorten a once-drawn out sales cycle.

“If you’re a company that sells something directly related to reopening safely, your biggest issue is when things open back up, purchasing managers are going to want to buy your product and they’re going to want it fast. So in terms of messaging, be clear about what you can deliver quickly — and don’t discount.”

3. Keep your ads dynamic.

From messaging to responsiveness to inventory, nothing during this pandemic has been static or predictable. Businesses need to stay flexible in order to occupy a positive space in the minds of those who will buy their products and services.

Frank believes that one good way to do that is by structuring your ad content to follow a prospect’s progress through your funnel.

“At Digitopia, we have a concept called ‘follow the funnel’. That means as your prospect engages with your brand digitally and moves through that experience, the ads on all networks should recognize where they’re at and change to offer the next thing in the relationship,” he told our audience.

“So if they visit a cornerstone piece of content but didn’t take advantage of your lead magnet, then the ad should change to (drive them to) the lead magnet.”

For more insights, check out Frank’s book “Building Your Digital Utopia”.

4. LinkedIn is an expensive but high-quality filter.

One question that came up during this week’s conversation focused on filtering out unwanted clicks from tire-kickers and businesses that can’t afford your product or service.

AJ’s advice is to leverage LinkedIn’s built-in filtering capabilities — without breaking the bank.

“LinkedIn is very good at getting the best quality of prospects to your offers and sites. What it requires is that you have a great content offer, because their CPCs are too high to treat it as a true top-of-funnel channel; you’re paying bottom-of-funnel prices for a top-of-funnel visitor,” he said.

His advice?

“Get people to an offer that is gated — some kind of lead magnet — where it’s valuable enough that people will drop down past the top of the funnel into the middle.”

5. Evaluate. Communicate. Re-evaluate.

At the start of this crisis, many agencies shifted priorities from performance to strategy. While the needle is slowly moving back, Matt feels that it’s more vital than ever to truly understand what clients are going through.

“What’s really important now is staying on top of relationships with clients, and we’re talking to them about what they’re seeing — is the phone ringing, are RFQ numbers going up, is lead gen going up?”

He even provided an example of when communication can overcome a roadblock that might have otherwise been overlooked.

“In B2B, summertime tends to get a bit quieter. Things might be reopening but we still see a flat revenue line, and it may be due to that seasonal trend. So constant communication and re-evaluation is important.”

6. Consistency leads to revenue.

Few things are more harmful to B2B marketing than irregularity — except perhaps consistently making communication sound like a pitch. Combine the two, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Frank reminded our audience that messaging is everything, and how you structure that messaging can make or break your success in the current environment.

“When a company is trying to engage their audience but hasn’t been consistent with it, there’s a ramp up period of 12-24 months before you see it become a consistent process,” he cautioned.

“Now add in what’s going on, and we see a lot of companies immediately jump ship. They say ‘We’re not going to do anything because now’s a bad time to be marketing’. Well, if your approach to marketing was product pitch-focused to begin with, you were doing B2B marketing wrong all along.”

Conclusion

It became apparent to us a couple of weeks ago that the PPC community was done feeling sorry for ourselves. As always, our resilience and analytical minds meant that we now needed to focus on fixing what we have the power to fix.

Now that we’ve moved to a topical format with discussions revolving around solutions, we hope the time you spend engaging with us on PPC Town Hall yields even greater returns. So be sure to bookmark this page to stay on top of everything.

In the meantime, we’re still here to provide all the support we can with new content, product features and more!

PPC Town Hall #8: 7 Digital Marketing Lessons from Australia

One of the most rewarding things about PPC Town Hall is how support and demand for our webinar isn’t just restricted to a few markets. And recently, we found out that the PPC community in Australia was missing out on joining us live.

That’s all the reason we needed to move this week’s webinar to accommodate our friends down under. Joining us for this week’s episode were three of Australia’s most seasoned digital marketers:

As always, you can view and listen to previous PPC Town Hall episodes here.

So let’s take a look at our panelists’ 7 digital marketing lessons from their experiences managing local and global accounts from Australia.

1. How long can the ‘new normal’ last?

“I’ve been amazed with how quickly everyone has adapted. Two months ago, working from home full time was ‘impossible’ for many organizations,” Mike observed.

“The knock-on effects — less pollution, less time in the car, property prices — will be pretty interesting to see. I don’t know yet what cultural changes will stick, but I feel like we might roll back some things if we don’t consciously design differences into our lives. And it would be a shame to lose this opportunity to make our supply chains more local or improve food security. In terms of consumer buying behavior, Amazon is an example of a company that comes out of this stronger than before.”

With that said, Mike also urged marketers to remain empathetic by remembering that we’re not all equally fortunate.

“We have to remember this is a pandemic of two halves. We and our teams are very fortunate to be able to work from home. Meanwhile, a whole bunch of jobs and businesses are just gone.”

2. Small businesses need all the support they can get.

Hit hardest during this crisis are small businesses, irrespective of industry. Many operate on low margins and don’t have the cash reserves to continue meeting expenses without regular revenue.

“Google My Business has done a lot for companies during COVID. One example is the ability to list that you’re not open to walk-ins, but are offering delivery or pickups. So for cafés and restaurants, GMB has done some very positive things,” Monte noted.

“That said, knowing a lot of people in restaurants and catering, they’re trying to move a bit away from services like UberEats and Deliveroo because of the huge margins (up to 30%). Most restaurants don’t operate on a 20% or 30% gross margin in normal times. So now they have their wait staff doing deliveries, and they’re finding new services that charge them a flat fee to place the order and have their own employees fulfill it. This needs to pick up, because the bigger services aren’t sustainable for small businesses.”

If you can, we recommend you buy local to support small businesses and give your economy the best shot at bouncing back quickly.

3. Hybrid business models are in.

While the situation is improving in many countries, there’s no clear and definitive end to the pandemic. Ben believes that businesses will need to look at combining different strategies to maximize profitability for some time.

“There are only two ways out of COVID: a vaccine or herd immunity. Every time lockdowns open up, there’s a spike in cases. So we’re probably indoors for a period of time, and this will change people’s buying psychology — it takes 30 days to form a habit and 60 days to break one.”

“Google is still the first thing people use to search for and find things. In April, we saw categories like restaurants go through the roof — and they’re still there. Earlier, restaurants used to have people walk down the street and pop in, but they will have to adopt a hybrid business model for a while yet. This might look like deliveries and takeout supported by limited dine-in capacity.”

4. Size does matter.

Every few decades, history throws us a curveball that creates winners and losers. Pandemics are one of these events, and the current one is drawing out the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

“It might not be common knowledge, but large organizations that have dedicated logistics and transport facilities have been able to maintain their supply lines,” Monte said.

“But for a lot of small businesses that might be importing from China for distribution in Australia, that product is usually in the belly of a commercial airliner carrying passengers. That all came to a halt and as a result, these companies found their supply chains had collapsed for a while. We actually had some clients who put their e-commerce stores on hold because of a lack of inventory.”

5. Work around the logistics.

There’s no doubt that the world’s supply chains are under stress. Businesses have two choices: crib about it or work around it. Ben has been helping clients achieve the latter.

“In March, stock was an issue. We had big online retailers who couldn’t get product, going from huge revenues to thinking about maybe closing the doors. So we pivoted to make sure they could do pre-orders and give attention to what was in stock. It’s amazing what little things like that and a bit of common sense can do for a business,” he shared.

“I think Display and remarketing are useful to make sure you’re getting in front of these changing business strategies, like curbside pickup. We believed we were seeing a lot of those trends here in Australia as well. We did some analysis of our MCCs and it looks like the data matches that.”

6. Pausing campaigns is unpreferred in both hemispheres.

During last week’s PPC Town Hall, Navah Hopkins made a passionate case for keeping campaigns on at minimal cost. This week, Mike echoed her sentiments.

“I’m reluctant to pause campaigns, having done that in the past with bad results. If we think a client will come back in a few weeks, we’ll wind stuff down to 1-cent budgets and leave it there. We’d rather spend a little bit than pause entirely,” he said.

“Interestingly enough, some European campaigns for one of our US clients have been on these 1-cent budgets. There was some trickle of clicks coming through. Every now and then you get a sale, so the ROAS was staggering at 500x. Of course, those outliers don’t make for very pleasant reporting!”

7. Truly great agencies are partnerships.

Led by people like Ben, PPC agencies and consultants are proving to be worth their weight in gold during this crisis.

“We have great clarity about our mission as a business — to serve and help SMBs succeed online. Many of our client managers see themselves as digital marketing business coaches, so they’re there not just to talk about Google Ads but what else we can do with client businesses,” he shared.

“When COVID hit, they needed our help more than ever. We immediately thought about all these industries that were going to be affected and how we can help them stop from shutting their doors. We developed some e-commerce packages, rolled them out at cost price, and built them out in two days. One thing we achieved was helping a coffee shop sell coffee beans online and survive that way.”

Conclusion

It’s always reassuring to learn that people doing the same work around the world share your mentality and vision. So it was refreshing to speak with not just one, but three champions of human and empathy-focused marketing (we heard plenty of support for local and small businesses).
Next week, we’re back to our usual time of 9 am PT / 12 pm ET / 18:00 CET and will be joined by two exciting panelists. Check out the details here!

PPC Town Hall #7: From Phantom Menace to New Hope

For the past six weeks, we’ve discussed how to adjust to this new normal and find hope in difficult situations. With signs of life starting to creep back into the digital advertising space, this week’s episode focused on solutions as we start to emerge from the sense of doom.

The panel for episode 6 included:

So without further delay, let’s dive into 9 insights that consultants, brands and agencies can use to guide the next phase of their PPC strategy.

And remember, you can watch or listen to past episodes of PPC Town Hall on our dedicated page.

1. People are starting to spend again.

“I saw something interesting with a furniture client who has both B2B and B2C e-retail,” David said. “Each one had a moment of total crisis where sales just stopped, and we were all trying to figure out why. In retrospect, consumer confidence had vanished — along with their money. But then it started to pick up around late March and early April.”

But that’s only half the story. While David’s client experienced slowdowns on both fronts at the same time, the recovery has been dramatically different.

“The interesting thing is the pickup for B2B has not yet brought them to parity with what they saw in January and February, while B2C is higher than they’ve ever experienced.”

2. Businesses are more flexible than ever.

During one of our first PPC Town Hall events, Julie Friedman Bacchini of Neptune Moon predicted that businesses can only succeed if they adapted to the prevailing situation.

Brandon has seen that play out firsthand.

“SMBs experienced a number of weeks with a lot of reluctance and trying to figure out what exactly was going on,” he said.

“I’ve been really impressed and surprised with our clients and the conversations we’ve had, and their attitude to getting back out there and maintaining their presence on digital. I’ve seen that more often than I expected.”

3. Courage is paying off.

According to Navah, “Clients who stayed the course throughout the flux are in an amazing position; the ones who pulled back their spend are experiencing a far more intense recovery. The former have been able to capitalize on cheaper CPCs and really own the ‘compassion conversation’ to stay top of mind.”

So what’s the final verdict: should you turn your campaigns off or keep them on?

“We can debate turning campaigns off versus keeping them on with a $5 budget, but leaving the campaign on can be worth the $400 or $500 you’d spend. It can help make sure you don’t face thousands of dollars in wasted time when you want to ramp things back up.”

4. There’s no formula for recovery.

Once again, another set of panelists confirmed that the absence of a playbook means they are handling each situation independently.

“I don’t have set times or dollar amounts [as benchmarks for the recovery phase], as the variables differ greatly from client to client,” David said. “When I sense that we’re going to have to adjust the budget significantly, I will often switch to manual bidding and try to steer the account in the right direction.”

5. Manual bidding might be necessary as advertising activity picks back up.

The lack of data to guide Google’s machine means that advertisers who paused campaigns will find it a challenge to jump right back into Automated Bidding.

“I’ve seen about a two-week period where campaigns coming back on benefit from manual bidding before re-transitioning to automated bidding,” Navah said. “What’s also been useful is target Impression Share with a bid cap just to protect the system. But for manual bidding, I don’t go more than two weeks provided we have conversion data.”

Read more of Navah’s thoughts on the subject in her latest blog post for Search Engine Journal.

6. Digital marketers can’t stay isolated.

With data scarce and attribution not so clear, the divide between digital and traditional media is narrower than ever.

“Bridging the gap between traditional and digital media has become a far more important conversation, and digital marketers need to be more comfortable interfacing with their traditional media counterparts,” Navah commented.

“Pre-COVID, we were comfortable living in our tower of data with perfect attribution, and this crisis has shaken the foundations of having a pure data approach.”

7. There is no ‘one channel to rule them all’.

Even hardcore specialist agencies that focused on one or two channels have been open to new things, like Brandon’s organization (un)Common Logic.

“One of the learnings of the last few months for me relates to diversification and having a few more channels at our disposal. We’re typically a direct response and PPC-heavy agency, and connected TV is one of the things I’ve been interested in,” he commented.

And speaking of exploring new things…

8. Now’s the time to experiment with creativity.

If you need an example of agency and brand teaming up to succeed by trying something unconventional, you’ll love this anecdote from David.

“We have a client who’s around the middle in terms of market share, and they noticed their competitors were drawing back in advertising. So we did a branding campaign of all Display Ads using no CTA,” he told us.

“We featured their name and logo, and something about the position they wanted to occupy in the minds of their consumers. We ran those ads on the sites of every major city’s media outlets and got many millions of impressions for almost nothing. It was surprising how much it affected sales — the numbers truly did shoot up.

“It’ll be another conversation whether that altered their position in the market, but a lot of those purchases were new.”

Talk about a curveball!

9. Years of pivoting have made agencies priceless.

Anyone who’s worked for an agency knows how agile and flexible they have to be. Turnaround times are short, deadlines are always looming, and agency pros have made a life out of pivoting at superhuman speed.

So who better to call when you need a partner who can change direction in a heartbeat?

“What we’re doing more of is double-checking and making sure things are working well. I think we’ve seen fairly consistent performance, but we’re spending a lot more time in the accounts making changes where necessary, and just providing that oversight where it’s needed,” Brandon shared.

“Our approach with clients has been highly consultative. The first thing we did was start having conversations not just about marketing needs, but what their businesses were going through. So we’re trying to adapt our strategy to that.

“We’re primarily a PPC shop, but we do have expertise in other areas, so we tailor our solutions to each client. Being able to pivot and stay flexible has been key for us.”

A glimmer of hope

It’s May, and while it feels like more than just a few months since the COVID crisis began, we’re starting to see some positive signs around consumer behavior and supply chains. With luck, we’ll start to see additional medical advances and a subsequent restart of the economy in earnest.

As we’ve said from the beginning, the only way out of this for the PPC community is by sharing all the information we have. One graph, one observation, one insight — any of these could spark an idea that leads to a solution we can all use.

Please continue to join us for our weekly PPC Town Hall sessions. You can add it on your calendar, subscribe to email notifications, access the podcast and videos from previous sessions, or catch the live Town Hall on ppctownhall.com. It’s one hour that might be the most valuable investment you make all week!

PPC Town Hall #6: Each Week in the COVID Era Brings New Insight

When brilliant marketers share insights, we can get a sense of clarity in troubling times. This week Optmyzr hosted the sixth episode of our weekly PPC Town Hall gatherings. To date, we’ve had nearly 1,000 attendees participating in these timely, essential discussions about search marketing in the COVID-19 era. 

The response to our Town Hall concept has been terrific. We deeply appreciate the involvement of amazing panelists and the hundreds of attendees who watch, submit questions, and follow up with us.

You can see all of our episodes to date on our PPC Town Hall page

Week-6 brought another stellar panel of search marketing all-stars, including 

This week’s event focused heavily on the tools, data, and creative thinking that is helping PPC pros navigate the strange times we’re in. 

Innovative Insight Tools

There are some great new tools to help us make sense of search behaviors and underlying dynamics that may be flummoxing marketers. 

Aaron showcased the really cool COVID dashboard from the data and analytics experts at Tinuiti. We’ve referenced this dashboard in a few venues ourselves. The dashboard provides visualizations of month-over-month and week-over-week spend trends as well as indexed spend trends covering a wide range of sectors. 

Explore the dashboard. It’s free. All you need to do is provide your email address. 

Christi also showed some powerful insight tools that Microsoft is generating to provide intelligence into weekly trends in automotive, financial services, health & wellness, retail, tech & telcos, and travel. The Microsoft resources analyze marketplace impacts and provide meaningful context into indicators of recovery by sector. 

I encourage you to watch the replay of the session for deeper analysis, but some key takeaways from our panel:

Seeing Clarity in the Data

Is it even possible to trust the data that is out there? The brilliant AI machines and smart automations are, in many cases, confused.  The machines know it’s a weird time, but they don’t know we’re in a crisis. The machines understand data from the past to predict the future. But the past doesn’t factor in massive global shifts in how people are living their lives. 

Christi, Aaron, Jim, and I talked specifically about the use of RSAs and applying data to decision making. Aaron talked about moving from being data-driven to being data-informed. Look at data and best practices as very relevant, but we all need to view this information through very different lenses than we did two months ago. 

Christi encouraged search marketers to take a much more manual mindset with RSAs. The days of set-and-forget are gone (for now). The challenge for marketers today will be to apply critical thinking, creativity, assessment of messaging, geo differences, and other factors to make decisions better than the machines can do right now.

Jim echoed the same RSA points, and said he is heavily annotating analytics right now, due to the wildy dynamic environment marketers are in. We simply cannot compare anything from 12 months ago to make decisions now. He noted that like-for-like may never exist again, or at least not for quite some time. 

Panelists also encouraged marketers to allow themselves to be wrong on occasion. In many cases, hindsight will be the only indicator of the decisions being made right now. 

Amazon, Ecommerce, and “Black Friday” Thinking

As panelists have discussed in earlier episodes, Amazon’s impact on the market is far different today than it was two months ago. Still the ecommerce behemoth, shifting priorities and temporary shipping extensions create opportunities for other providers to step in the ecomm gap. 

Aaron and Jim both credited Amazon’s quick move to communicate extended shipping timeframes as a means of protecting the Prime brand. People associate Prime with same-day and two-day shipping more than they may associate it with the other services like Prime Video. Noting it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver on shipping. Cart abandonment that happens when people see shipping dates weeks out can help other providers – assuming their supply chains, inventory, and distribution can fill the void.

Christi added that for those doing Amazon sponsored ads, it’s essential to be sure the ads, promotions, and messaging actually align with what people are purchasing now. Careful consideration of how sponsored ads are being applied now is essential to prevent needless spend or to capitalize on filling near-term needs for things people will actually purchase. 

The ecommerce discussion also covered “Black Friday” thinking by many retailers. Balancing the potential perception that a provider is desperate against the perception of being viewed as opportunistic, the panel advised retailers to avoid keeping Black Friday type discounts from going on too long. 

Aaron summed up the panel’s thoughts when he noted, “The people who market well are doing well. The people who market poorly are doing poorly. With the Black Friday concept, some can look a little desperate and it can seem like some are addicted to focusing on month-over-month or ROAS on last click. Longer term marketers are looking at the edge of the funnel – seeing the whole funnel as opposed to just the bottom.” 

Light at the End of the Tunnel? 

Nobody knows a timeline for returning to something resembling normal, but the week-6 panel expressed optimism with discussions beginning to shift to recovery versus managing through the crisis. 

The tools shared above and all other data points can help search marketers have a better understanding of immediate factors, but also are now setting the stage for longer term thinking and decision making. Clearly we have a long way to go, but with each subsequent Town Hall, discussions are morphing and adjusting. Week-1 was more about being together and commiserating and trying to gauge “what the heck is happening?” Five weeks later, discussions are dramatically different. 

Invest an hour of your time and watch the replay of episode 6 on our Town Hall web page or listen to it as a podcast. Then sign up for next week’s live session, which will feature Navah Hopkins and David Szetela, both on the list of top 25 most influential PPC experts in 2019, and Brandon Jones from un(Common) Logic, an Austin-based agency.

Register today and we will see you Wednesday for PPC Town Hall #7.�

PPC Town Hall #5: 10 Digital Marketing Truths to Remember

As PPC Town Hall turns a month old, we wanted to take a moment to thank all our guest speakers, attendees, and everyone who has embraced the idea. From the beginning, you’ve expressed your support and helped share news of the Town Hall with new parts of the global PPC community.

Thank you for being part of the journey so far!

We created a new page for PPC Town Hall to make it easy to sign up for the next one and find old episodes.

Joining Optmyzr CEO Fred Vallaeys this week for episode 5 in an all-new panel were:

Let’s take a look at some of the core takeaways from this week’s edition.

1. No business remains unaffected by the pandemic.

“It’s almost a ‘feast or famine’ situation across commerce and service, and there are challenges with both scenarios,” Ginny observed.

Whichever side your business or clients fall on, there’s plenty to do.

“You’re either trying to drum up interest where demand has sunk through the floor, or figuring out how to deal with a surge in demand when the supply chain isn’t ready or you don’t have the resources to manage that surge.”

Joe observed similar trends in the context of site traffic.

“In many instances, brands are changing spending habits and adapting messaging. But some are simply getting so much traffic that they either can’t keep up with inventory, or because people are looking for anything even slightly related to their product, a lot of that traffic is unqualified.”

2. People want brands to add value to their lives.

Our panelists also provided some advice on how PPC pros can provide added value to businesses and clients by shaping conversations that their brands are part of.

“Don’t sound like a used car salesman; be your customers’ partner in solving a problem,” Joe recommended. “People are nervous, bored, and anxious; reminding people of that doesn’t inspire them to fall in love with a brand. Shift that messaging to talk about how you’re going to help consumers come out of this.”

Andrew believes brands should continue to talk about more than just pandemic-related topics.

“No one wants to hear about you supplying hand sanitizer; we want to be reassured. We want someone to talk about the things that mattered to us before, because it matters even more now. We should still care about climate change, talk about sustainability, and promote and support local businesses.”

3. Google is looking out for its loyal advertisers.

It’s no surprise that small and medium businesses have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of them, online advertising budgets have either dropped sharply or stopped altogether.

Google took notice and announced $340 million in ad credits to help keep these SMBs active on the  Google Ads network.

“We’re going to start seeing these credits for SMBs in late May, which will be the first phase followed by a continuous rollout,” said Ginny. “These are designed to help SMBs and smaller accounts sustain ad spend in the future. The credit amount will vary based on your historical spend.”

“To be eligible, you need to have been advertising (had active campaigns) for 10 out of 12 months in 2019, and also have been advertising in January or February of this year.”

It’s worth noting that Google is not extending these ad credits to franchise businesses, even if they meet the SMB criteria.

4. Now’s the time to try new things.

The hallmark of COVID-19 for marketing professionals is the absence of a playbook or historical data that shows you how to solve current problems. Instead, two of this week’s guests recommend a more experimental, open-minded approach.

“With the exponential intelligence of what Google can do every quarter, we go back and often find out that what didn’t work so well six months ago is doing better now,” Andrew observed. “Go back and look at some of your Google Ads audiences; they may be capable of delivering things your Google Analytics audiences can’t, and vice versa.”

Joe, meanwhile, favors experimenting with channels you didn’t get to play around with earlier.

“Test those Instagram story ads, do some brand-building, build out new targeting options, stretch your budget with more affordable media like Facebook CPMs, and use YouTube to generate awareness. In time, when inventory stabilizes, you can double down on search and shopping ads to capitalize on that new intent.”

5. Google Shopping ads will soon be free (yes, free).

The announcement that advertisers can list Google Shopping ads at no cost is a game-changer, and Ginny explained how it will work in greater detail.

“Google is going to start showing free listings for shopping ads. It’s a really big change going from all-paid for the last eight years to primarily free, with paid ads at the top and bottom, just like a regular SERP.”

It’s a big shift for the Shopping tab of the search results pages, but it’s also part of a larger evolution over the past year.

“Google first opened up the Merchant Center to anyone to upload their feeds without needing to be an advertiser, and then opt in to services across Google,” Ginny elaborated. “The other thing Google announced is a new integration with PayPal so that you can connect that account to the Merchant Center to speed up data flow and merchant verification.”

6. There’s an opportunity to beat Amazon at its own game.

With non-essential deliveries shut off and two-day shipping a pipe dream at this stage, Amazon suddenly finds itself unable to deliver what it’s conditioned the marketplace to expect.

Businesses that can help consumers get what they need and want with minimal delay have an opportunity to capitalize on that, and possibly retain a significant chunk of business even after the crisis abates.

“If I still need a new pair of running shoes, and I can’t walk into a store and get them, I’m going to wherever I can get them soon,” Joe explained. “I’ve got more time to go for a run or a walk, and I’m not waiting for Amazon. So it’s about diversifying your marketing and finding where your users are, because they still want those products now.”

7. There’s more than one way to stretch a budget.

Despite knowing that investing in advertising is paramount, smaller businesses are having a tough time finding marketing dollars. But even with lower-than-ever Facebook CPMs, media on leading platforms isn’t within reach for every business.

Joe provided some advice for restaurants looking to make their budgets go further.

“If you’ve lost budget and you still want to run ads, look at different channels than the ones you’re used to. Waze local and Quora can help take your budget further than Facebook, for example. It’s a good time to test new things and see what works.”

8. COVID-19 is creating a new breed of agile businesses.

With supply chains unsteady and normal processes interrupted, businesses have to stay on their feet to survive. The result is a great deal more creativity not just in PPC, but across the marketing spectrum.

Ginny spoke about one Amazon seller she knows. “Her products are made in the US, but she was worried the manufacturing plant might shut down for health reasons. So she ordered thousands of dollars in new inventory, but then Amazon shut off non-essential shipments.”

“She was stuck, so she explored her network and found a new way to fulfil those orders. We’re seeing businesses adapt and pivot quickly.”

More specific to PPC strategy, Andrew noted that changes further back than COVID-19 have compounded the challenges paid search pros face in the current environment.

“The ad-tech industry has gone through a lot in the last 6-9 months due to ITP and how cookies work now. Marketers need to realize that betting the house on last-click, bottom-of-funnel tactics is not a sustainable approach.”

9. The worst consumer is a disappointed one.

With the supply chain disrupted, consumers no longer know where exactly to go to make certain purchases. They’re relying more than ever on search to guide them to a marketplace that has what they need.

So what happens if a consumer finds it on your site, only to later discover that the product is actually unavailable? Andrew believes it’s a real problem that needs immediate attention.

“The big danger is advertising products that are out of stock or have low stock, and disappointing users when they land on the page. As an industry we need to do better, because it’s a common complaint I keep seeing.”

“Low stock and a product feed’s ability to easily adjust to that remains a major area where things can fall down for SMBs. Either in-house teams lack the setup skills, or SMBs on low-cost PPC packages don’t get the attention they need to react to demand peaks,” he added.

The Optmyzr Rule Engine’s ability to integrate with business data, as well as the Optmyzr Campaign Automator can be used to address the issue of advertising only products that have adequate inventory or that have margins that support a profitable ad buy. Contact the Optmyzr team if you’d like to learn more.

10. Marketers miss connecting in person.

The ongoing crisis has made it difficult for people to see their loved ones and close friends, causing some of us to feel powerless and lonely.

A less impactful effect is that it’s also isolated professionals from their community networks.

While we still have the power of technology to stay connected and learn from one another, the PPC industry is still dealing with the absence of events. HeroConf Austin, for example, was canceled due to COVID-19, impacting the learning and development of hundreds of marketing teams.

Crushing his workout in the morning and building scripts in the evening! Get Fred’s COVID-19 script here!

“Events such as HeroConf provide genuine insight into what industry leaders are seeing and experiencing every day, and we all can learn from their insights,” Andrew noted. “So maintaining that is absolutely necessary from an education perspective. Virtual events can help, and I really hope they happen.”

Fortunately, the Paid Search Association is hosting their annual conference as a virtual event. You can learn more about PSAC 2020 and register for the conference here (seats are limited).

Conclusion

We love hearing from our attendees about the PPC Town Hall helping them see new ways of thinking, or reassuring them that they’re not the only ones experiencing challenges at this time. It’s why we do what we do!

We especially love this LinkedIn video recap from Moe McLeod of Digitopia, a PPC Town Hall regular and one of its most vocal supporters.

We hope you’ll join us again next week for another discussion on how we can overcome the present challenges together!

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.

3 Lessons From This Week’s Optmyzr PPC Town Hall

The next PPC Town Hall is April 15. [Register here][1].

After a couple of highly popular editions, the Optmyzr PPC Town Hall returned for a third week to give the PPC community a space to hear what their peers are doing, ask questions, and hopefully gain a few additional insights into how to conduct business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel for the April 8 PPC Town Hall included:

This week’s conversation touched on a number of themes, including how virtually every agency and advertiser is navigating these uncharted waters at the same time. As always, the goal was to put these learnings and insights out in the open to help the PPC community learn and adapt quickly.

<div class="fb-video" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/videos/1360080550860711/" data-width="1165">
  <blockquote cite="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/videos/1360080550860711/" class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore">
    <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/videos/1360080550860711/">Last week our PPC Department manager, Moe McLeod, created a recap for a virtual Town Hall hosted by Optmyzr on how COVID-19 is impacting the PPC realm. Watch Moe's recap for highlights and key insights other PPC managers can use during COVID-19. A specia</a>
    
    <p>
      Last week our PPC Department manager, Moe McLeod, created a recap for a virtual Town Hall hosted by Optmyzr on how COVID-19 is impacting the PPC realm. Watch Moe's recap for highlights and key insights other PPC managers can use during COVID-19. A special thanks to Fred Vallaeys of Optmyzr and the other guest panelists for all the great information. We would highly recommend you pass along the town hall recording to anyone in the paid search realm. Recap &#8211; https://hubs.ly/H0pddJh0Town Hall Video &#8211; https://hubs.ly/H0pd7m10
    </p>Posted by 
    
    <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DigitopiaAgency/">Digitopia</a> on Monday, April 6, 2020
  </blockquote>
</div>

_Moe McLeod, head of PPC at Digitopia, shares his takeaways from our first Town Hall_

With that in mind, let’s take a look at three takeaways from this week’s PPC Town Hall. You can watch the full session on the Optmyzr YouTube channel.

Keep an eye on the technical stuff.

In “Can we trust automation in a time of crisis” for Search Engine Land, Aaron Levy writes that marketers should avoid returning to “the stone age of SEM”. He goes on to outline eight elements of automation that call for a “watch and adjust” approach.

“Each situation is different, so you must evaluate your own business under your own lens,” he advises.

Optmyzr CEO Frederick Vallaeys also recommends merging manual control with automation-driven strategies.

“It feels like deferred conversions are happening, so you might be in a branding stage rather than getting sales over the line. If you’ve been running last-click attribution, you might not be valuing those early-stage interactions. Automated bid management systems don’t know what to do to get you more top-of-funnel activity if you’re not using the right attribution model.”

So instead of using last click attribution, consider a position based or time decay model.

_An empty cart in the current climate isn’t a challenge; it’s an opportunity_
(Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash)

Another great piece of advice from this week’s panelists is to check your automations, bid management, and extensions on a more regular basis. If ever there was a time to avoid a “set it and forget it” mentality, it’s now.

Kirk Williams shared the results of his tests comparing performance on some accounts from March 12 to April 5 against previous weeks. During his analysis, he found that automated bidding by Google seemed to do relatively well. Conversions were worse in the most recent weeks (as one would expect), but ROAS had actually improved.

Williams surmised that CPCs have become so low, they drove more traffic. Even with lower conversion, overall ROAS was better across some important accounts.

Look for fresh opportunities.

As with every major market shift, the COVID-19 crisis presents opportunities for businesses to explore new opportunities in meaningful ways — if you know where to look.

_To adapt, retailers must explore fulfillment channels beyond Amazon_
(Photo by� Jaehyun Kim� on� Unsplash)

“Here’s a major company that runs a large part of the planet’s ecommerce saying it can no longer deliver what it’s conditioned us to expect, and not everyone realizes how disruptive this is,” said Elizabeth Marsten on Amazon’s decision to reprioritize certain FBA products.

“For paid search advertisers who have the ability to self-fulfill or sell via another platform, this is a huge opportunity as FBA shipping times become longer.”

Kirk Williams also believes that there are opportunities for the more nimble organizations out there, though not without their own challenges.

“At some point, you can’t make marketing do what it can’t do,” he warns. “While it’s worth exploring a change in position or new audiences, this is a very difficult time for B2B. But these are interesting times that will segment out not only who has the cash to survive a lean period, but who has a loyal customer base and who can pivot in a business and strategic way.”

Performance marketing agency Tinuiti has also developed a COVID-19 hub, where you’ll find a number of valuable resources to inform your decision-making and strategic planning.

Know the new consumer.

Earlier this week, we wrote about Google’s tips for running ads during COVID-19 in our blog post “PPC During COVID-19: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Search Ads”. Many of these revolved around consumer sentiment and came up again during this week’s discussion.

While it was unanimous that ad copy and extensions need to be reviewed for sensitivity and to avoid sounding tone-deaf, Julie Friedman Bacchini also did a deep dive into what it means to rethink your audience at this time.

_Be mindful of not just what you’re promoting, but how_
(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)

“What worked a month ago may not be the right message for today,” she observed. “Audiences are important as well. In travel, for example, you may want to avoid targeting people who work in industries that have been hit especially hard by COVID-19 when advertising for certain segments or verticals.”

The fact is COVID-19 has completely undone everything we consider “normal”. People who worked and lived in different locations are now largely in one location, so Google’s data is not the most informed right now when it comes to audience profiling.

Observations & Conclusion

In addition to these lessons, the Town Hall panel shared several anecdotes and observations that offer refreshing insights into the mechanics and logistics that power ecommerce. Some of these include:

It’s certainly a confusing time; what would have been considered absurd a few months ago is par for the course today. Brands are trying to figure out the right moves and messages, and it will take our entire community of nimble, creative marketers to help them overcome these challenges.

We plan to continue hosting weekly Town Halls to give our customers and the wider PPC community a place to learn, share, or simply vent.

Register now for the next PPC Town Hall on April 15, 2020