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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!

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.

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

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

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

1. Pick a campaign structure to help you win

Frederick Vallaeys, CEO, Optmyzr

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

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

2. Optimize your data feed

Ed Goss, Managing Director, Ten Thousand Foot View 

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

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

3. Don’t break or lose trust

Navah Hopkins, Director of Paid Media, Hennessey Digital

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

Customers expect trust symbols:

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

4. Optimize for profitability

Frederik Boysen, CEO, Profitmetrics.io

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

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

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

5. Be ambitious, open, and realistic

Matthew Soakell, Senior PPC Trainer, Mabo

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

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

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

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

6. Keep an eye on creative

Phoebe Holford, PPC Team Manager, Mabo

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

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

7. Look for stability

Kirk Williams, Owner, Zato Marketing

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

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

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

8. Expect more of the unexpected

Julie Friedman Bacchini, Founder and President, Neptune Moon

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

9. Deseasonalize demand

Gianpaolo Lorusso, Founder, ADWorld Experience

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

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

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

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

10. Look beyond just ads

Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director of Marketplace Strategic Services, Tinuiti

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

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

11. Go beyond on the customer experience

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

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

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

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

12. Get the fundamentals right

Richard Kliskey, PPC Manager, The McGarry Agency

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

13. Be ready for greater competition

Andrew Lolk, Founder, SavvyRevenue

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

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

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

14. Be realistic, transparent, and patient

Aaron Levy, Group Director of SEM, Tinuiti

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Google Limits Search Query Reporting: Impact and Reactions

If you’re not familiar with cricket, there’s a term called the “googly” that refers to a deceptive delivery from the bowler to the batsman. And earlier this week, Google pulled a googly of uniquely Google proportions.

If you haven’t heard yet, only queries with a “significant” amount of traffic behind them will appear in your search terms report. There’s no clarity on what that means or where the threshold lies, and the reactions from search marketers range from confused to disappointed to outright furious.

Rachel Smith’s original tweet that kicked off a storm on Twitter

What does it mean for advertisers?

The short version: Advertisers are going to have less visibility into the search behavior that drives traffic to their ads.

A search terms report currently includes all the queries or phrases that resulted in any number of clicks for your ads — from 1 to 1 million. Search marketers use these reports to exclude terms that don’t create value by adding them as negative keywords. That might be a single click from a search term completely unrelated to your campaign, or it might be several hundred clicks from a search term that doesn’t yield enough conversions.

Without information on the search terms that fall below Google’s new threshold, there’s no way to exclude the ones that cost a business money without creating some kind of returns. Irrespective of the cost of each individual click, it can quickly add up.

An advertiser that spends tens of millions of dollars a year might not feel the impact so heavily for multiple reasons, including financial insulation and an understanding that their ad muscle comes at the cost of some wastage.

But the wasted spend of the biggest advertisers can exceed the annual budgets of some small businesses who count on Google and its plethora of data to survive, let alone thrive. With no way to prune their traffic and optimize their campaigns for real returns, small businesses will be disproportionately affected.

What’s the word on the street?

The PPC community hasn’t exactly reacted with placid acceptance or resignation, as tends to happen when Google updates their ad engine in their usual inexplicable way. This time, the reaction is much more vocal and dissenting — it’s almost unanimous how much search marketers dislike this update.

Third Door Media’s Ginny Marvin calls the update predictably “disappointing”
Julie F. Bacchini of Neptune Moon isn’t buying the privacy excuse
Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds knows exactly what’s about to happen
Collin Slattery did the math… and it’s not looking too good.
Kirk Williams presents a balanced take, as always.
Duane Brown takes some risk by telling it like it is.

How does Optmyzr feel about this update?

Search query management is an important part of keeping search campaigns profitable. Not being able to see all the terms that accrued cost will be a disadvantage to PPC marketers. The actual impact this change has will really depend on how many queries Google recognizes on average as low-volume and doesn’t include in the search terms report.

For more expensive verticals like legal, the cost of each query adds up. It will make marketers more reserved about running broad-match keywords to mine for profitable search queries. We may see a transition to more specific match types, like exact and phrase.

This change probably fits with Google’s strategy of getting more advertisers on automated bidding, and gives them more room to experiment with which queries they show your ads for.

Our team at Optmyzr is keeping a close eye on these changes, so that we can let our customers know if and how our platform will be impacted once we know more.

3 Questions to Ask Every PPC Software Provider

Almost every brand and business relies on PPC to help them reach and sell to the right audiences. The key to doing so at scale is choosing dynamic, multi-faceted software that can help you achieve your goals.

If you’re a PPC marketer, you’ve probably already come across several of these tools — and possibly even use one of them. But how do you know which one is right for your business?

Optmyzr CEO Fred Vallaeys recently caught up with Aaron Levy, Tinuiti’s Group Director of SEM to discuss these topics — and more!

Here are some highlights from Aaron’s responses, including the three most important questions you should ask every PPC software provider you meet.

1. How does this tool make things better for me?

Marketers need to constantly evaluate what a particular tool can do for their clients and their own organizations. Does the tool allow you to provide better results so that you can spend more — and, in turn, charge more? How can you deploy it for your clients’ businesses?

Hear Aaron’s take on identifying tools that make you better

Some software costs quite a bit to set up, and if you end up not using it, then there’s that cost to absorb as well. Even when you sign up for a trial, setting up new tracking codes and restructuring your client’s campaign a certain way around the tool — getting out of that can be extremely difficult.

For example, some tool providers will give you a three- to four-month onboarding period where irrespective of you liking the tool or not, you have to stick with it.

2. What does it do that other tools can’t?

We know that Google, Microsoft, and even Facebook have pretty robust tool suites. So having a ‘proprietary bid algorithm’ is not much of a differentiating factor. Prospective providers should be able to tell you what their tool can do that your existing one can’t.

Ask your software providers how they’re different. If they can’t answer it, why should you switch?

Watch Aaron speak about identifying the unique value of a product

Check where you are in the PPC spectrum.

Are you a true expert, or are you doing the basics? An engine tends to do a good job for the average advertiser. But if you work for an experienced PPC agency and have time-consuming strategies, that’s when you want to start looking for the right tool.

More often than not, advertising engines fail to comprehend what you really want to do.

Aaron’s Take: We have a lot of clients who use a lot of offline data sources, and we’ll pass information back and forth. In these cases, we look to whichever tool is most powerful as clients don’t want Google to have access to that data. Or sometimes, even Google can’t really do what we (and clients) want to.

3. What’s my return on investment?

While search advertisers are very familiar with metrics like CPC or ROAS, buyers need to know what return on investment to expect. Returns can be driven by overheads, like when an agency buys software that lets them do more with a smaller workforce.

It can be in the form of time, like software that potentially saves your team hours each week to help you focus on other targets. And while this might not be a direct output, value more often than not justifies the use of new software.

Listen to Aaron discuss how to determine return on investment

Bonus Questions

How flexible is your tool provider? What kind of support will you get?

Aaron’s Take: A lot of times, especially when a software developer is trying to get their foot off the ground, they forget about customer service. It translates to: Sales guys done, have fun!

A very sales-driven organization won’t extend support in helping customers realize their tool’s features and services. There needs to be better communication between agencies and software providers to answer questions related to the software’s capabilities.

Watch Aaron discuss the pitfalls of disconnected customer support

What’s the road map?

As end-users, you need to check whether each tool is heading in the right direction. Find out what software providers are working towards. Irrespective of how much you plan to use the tool, it’s important to be aligned with their vision.

Are you looking for a piece of software? Or a back-end process?

Fred’s Take: When I was launching Optmyzr, I made sure to develop the product in a way that it didn’t rely heavily on back-end processes. It was really important for me to launch Optmyzr as software. It is a self-serving system where you can watch explainer videos and get started.

Relying heavily on back-end processes has many disadvantages, one of them being the changing employees who essentially perform all the basic search tasks. While it may look like a smooth-running system at the front, there’s always a person pushing all the buttons.

Conclusion

While the list of questions you could ask a PPC software provider is endless, these are some of the more critical ones to consider.

Focus on the needs and goals of your clients and your organization; keep your personal goals as a marketer in mind; and assess and analyze at length to make an informed purchase.

Most of all, be ready to ask some hard questions of software developers — and be ready to walk away from something that doesn’t fit your needs. Software is not just about cost, but the value it provides and whether the two of you are a good fit together.

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!

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.

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

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

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

1. Pick a campaign structure to help you win

Frederick Vallaeys, CEO, Optmyzr

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

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

2. Optimize your data feed

Ed Goss, Managing Director, Ten Thousand Foot View 

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

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

3. Don’t break or lose trust

Navah Hopkins, Director of Paid Media, Hennessey Digital

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

Customers expect trust symbols:

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

4. Optimize for profitability

Frederik Boysen, CEO, Profitmetrics.io

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

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

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

5. Be ambitious, open, and realistic

Matthew Soakell, Senior PPC Trainer, Mabo

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

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

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

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

6. Keep an eye on creative

Phoebe Holford, PPC Team Manager, Mabo

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

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

7. Look for stability

Kirk Williams, Owner, Zato Marketing

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

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

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

8. Expect more of the unexpected

Julie Friedman Bacchini, Founder and President, Neptune Moon

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

9. Deseasonalize demand

Gianpaolo Lorusso, Founder, ADWorld Experience

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

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

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

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

10. Look beyond just ads

Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director of Marketplace Strategic Services, Tinuiti

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

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

11. Go beyond on the customer experience

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

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

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

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

12. Get the fundamentals right

Richard Kliskey, PPC Manager, The McGarry Agency

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

13. Be ready for greater competition

Andrew Lolk, Founder, SavvyRevenue

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

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

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

14. Be realistic, transparent, and patient

Aaron Levy, Group Director of SEM, Tinuiti

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Google Limits Search Query Reporting: Impact and Reactions

If you’re not familiar with cricket, there’s a term called the “googly” that refers to a deceptive delivery from the bowler to the batsman. And earlier this week, Google pulled a googly of uniquely Google proportions.

If you haven’t heard yet, only queries with a “significant” amount of traffic behind them will appear in your search terms report. There’s no clarity on what that means or where the threshold lies, and the reactions from search marketers range from confused to disappointed to outright furious.

Rachel Smith’s original tweet that kicked off a storm on Twitter

What does it mean for advertisers?

The short version: Advertisers are going to have less visibility into the search behavior that drives traffic to their ads.

A search terms report currently includes all the queries or phrases that resulted in any number of clicks for your ads — from 1 to 1 million. Search marketers use these reports to exclude terms that don’t create value by adding them as negative keywords. That might be a single click from a search term completely unrelated to your campaign, or it might be several hundred clicks from a search term that doesn’t yield enough conversions.

Without information on the search terms that fall below Google’s new threshold, there’s no way to exclude the ones that cost a business money without creating some kind of returns. Irrespective of the cost of each individual click, it can quickly add up.

An advertiser that spends tens of millions of dollars a year might not feel the impact so heavily for multiple reasons, including financial insulation and an understanding that their ad muscle comes at the cost of some wastage.

But the wasted spend of the biggest advertisers can exceed the annual budgets of some small businesses who count on Google and its plethora of data to survive, let alone thrive. With no way to prune their traffic and optimize their campaigns for real returns, small businesses will be disproportionately affected.

What’s the word on the street?

The PPC community hasn’t exactly reacted with placid acceptance or resignation, as tends to happen when Google updates their ad engine in their usual inexplicable way. This time, the reaction is much more vocal and dissenting — it’s almost unanimous how much search marketers dislike this update.

Third Door Media’s Ginny Marvin calls the update predictably “disappointing”
Julie F. Bacchini of Neptune Moon isn’t buying the privacy excuse
Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds knows exactly what’s about to happen
Collin Slattery did the math… and it’s not looking too good.
Kirk Williams presents a balanced take, as always.
Duane Brown takes some risk by telling it like it is.

How does Optmyzr feel about this update?

Search query management is an important part of keeping search campaigns profitable. Not being able to see all the terms that accrued cost will be a disadvantage to PPC marketers. The actual impact this change has will really depend on how many queries Google recognizes on average as low-volume and doesn’t include in the search terms report.

For more expensive verticals like legal, the cost of each query adds up. It will make marketers more reserved about running broad-match keywords to mine for profitable search queries. We may see a transition to more specific match types, like exact and phrase.

This change probably fits with Google’s strategy of getting more advertisers on automated bidding, and gives them more room to experiment with which queries they show your ads for.

Our team at Optmyzr is keeping a close eye on these changes, so that we can let our customers know if and how our platform will be impacted once we know more.

3 Questions to Ask Every PPC Software Provider

Almost every brand and business relies on PPC to help them reach and sell to the right audiences. The key to doing so at scale is choosing dynamic, multi-faceted software that can help you achieve your goals.

If you’re a PPC marketer, you’ve probably already come across several of these tools — and possibly even use one of them. But how do you know which one is right for your business?

Optmyzr CEO Fred Vallaeys recently caught up with Aaron Levy, Tinuiti’s Group Director of SEM to discuss these topics — and more!

Here are some highlights from Aaron’s responses, including the three most important questions you should ask every PPC software provider you meet.

1. How does this tool make things better for me?

Marketers need to constantly evaluate what a particular tool can do for their clients and their own organizations. Does the tool allow you to provide better results so that you can spend more — and, in turn, charge more? How can you deploy it for your clients’ businesses?

Hear Aaron’s take on identifying tools that make you better

Some software costs quite a bit to set up, and if you end up not using it, then there’s that cost to absorb as well. Even when you sign up for a trial, setting up new tracking codes and restructuring your client’s campaign a certain way around the tool — getting out of that can be extremely difficult.

For example, some tool providers will give you a three- to four-month onboarding period where irrespective of you liking the tool or not, you have to stick with it.

2. What does it do that other tools can’t?

We know that Google, Microsoft, and even Facebook have pretty robust tool suites. So having a ‘proprietary bid algorithm’ is not much of a differentiating factor. Prospective providers should be able to tell you what their tool can do that your existing one can’t.

Ask your software providers how they’re different. If they can’t answer it, why should you switch?

Watch Aaron speak about identifying the unique value of a product

Check where you are in the PPC spectrum.

Are you a true expert, or are you doing the basics? An engine tends to do a good job for the average advertiser. But if you work for an experienced PPC agency and have time-consuming strategies, that’s when you want to start looking for the right tool.

More often than not, advertising engines fail to comprehend what you really want to do.

Aaron’s Take: We have a lot of clients who use a lot of offline data sources, and we’ll pass information back and forth. In these cases, we look to whichever tool is most powerful as clients don’t want Google to have access to that data. Or sometimes, even Google can’t really do what we (and clients) want to.

3. What’s my return on investment?

While search advertisers are very familiar with metrics like CPC or ROAS, buyers need to know what return on investment to expect. Returns can be driven by overheads, like when an agency buys software that lets them do more with a smaller workforce.

It can be in the form of time, like software that potentially saves your team hours each week to help you focus on other targets. And while this might not be a direct output, value more often than not justifies the use of new software.

Listen to Aaron discuss how to determine return on investment

Bonus Questions

How flexible is your tool provider? What kind of support will you get?

Aaron’s Take: A lot of times, especially when a software developer is trying to get their foot off the ground, they forget about customer service. It translates to: Sales guys done, have fun!

A very sales-driven organization won’t extend support in helping customers realize their tool’s features and services. There needs to be better communication between agencies and software providers to answer questions related to the software’s capabilities.

Watch Aaron discuss the pitfalls of disconnected customer support

What’s the road map?

As end-users, you need to check whether each tool is heading in the right direction. Find out what software providers are working towards. Irrespective of how much you plan to use the tool, it’s important to be aligned with their vision.

Are you looking for a piece of software? Or a back-end process?

Fred’s Take: When I was launching Optmyzr, I made sure to develop the product in a way that it didn’t rely heavily on back-end processes. It was really important for me to launch Optmyzr as software. It is a self-serving system where you can watch explainer videos and get started.

Relying heavily on back-end processes has many disadvantages, one of them being the changing employees who essentially perform all the basic search tasks. While it may look like a smooth-running system at the front, there’s always a person pushing all the buttons.

Conclusion

While the list of questions you could ask a PPC software provider is endless, these are some of the more critical ones to consider.

Focus on the needs and goals of your clients and your organization; keep your personal goals as a marketer in mind; and assess and analyze at length to make an informed purchase.

Most of all, be ready to ask some hard questions of software developers — and be ready to walk away from something that doesn’t fit your needs. Software is not just about cost, but the value it provides and whether the two of you are a good fit together.