Seven Smart Standards for Google Shopping

This is a guest post by Jacques van der Wilt, the founder of WordWatch and DataFeedWatch.

Google Shopping replaced the free Google Product Search in October 2012. If you look at a Product Listing Ad (PLA), you immediately see why this ad-type is much more powerful.

Results from various agencies shows that these picture-ads outperform text ads on conversion rate and cpc. American merchants are already spending up to 30% of their budget on Google Shopping.

If you are getting started with PLAs, go by the Seven Smart Standards below to get the most out of your Google Shopping campaign.

1.  The Basics: Get ’em right
Before you start bidding, make sure that you have covered the basics:

  • Export your product feed to your Google Merchant Center (GMC) and link your GMC to your AdWords account.
  • Make sure that your feed is updated on a daily basis, so your ads always reflect your current offerings.
  • The feed has to meet all Google’s requirements. If it doesn’t, Google just won’t show your ads. Check for errors in your Google Merchant Center and use a data feed optimization tool if you need to solve any. This includes assigning the proper Google Categories to your products. The more specific the sub-category, the better your conversion rate.
  • Remember to organize your sales funnel. No matter how grand your campaigns may be, you need to convert visitors to buyers on your website.
  • Have tracking code for AdWords & Analytics installed on your site.
  • Google doesn’t want you to shout and will not accept Titles in UPPER case or with exclamation marks!!!
  • Product Listing Ads on Google’s Search Engine Result Page (SERP) generate the major part of the traffic generated by Google Shopping. Only a small part originates from the Google Shopping site. So when you start optimizing your feed and your campaign, focus on the SERP!

2.  The Picture: Worth more than a 1,000 words
The pictures of the PLAs are powerful. Everyone’s eyes are drawn to it. The picture may be more important for an apparel merchant than for a shop selling widgets, but still: it is human nature to judge a book by the cover. So make every effort to get the best possible pics of your products. Also: if you have several pictures for each product, make sure that the best one is the one that is shown in your PLA.

3.  The Title: Make me beautiful
Titles may be less powerful, but remember that a PLA only has 3 components and this is the second one. So make ‘m work. Make them compelling. Include the brand if it adds value (What is ‘501’ without Levi’s). And put the most important message in the first part: Google will allow you up to 70 characters, but on the SERP, everything after approx. 30 characters is cut off.

4.  The Price: Less important than you might think
On Google Shopping, consumers will actively sort on price and if your product is not among the cheapest, it will not make the buyer’s shortlist. But on the SERP, price comparison plays a much smaller role. People see 8 products at the most and they can only sort on price visually. So don’t focus too much on competing on price: Bidding 10% more to make sure your PLA always makes it to the SERP, will probably cost you a lot less than sacrificing your gross margin. If you advertise the same products on other Comparison Shopping Engines, price is of course still important.

5.  The Bids: Follow the money
The key to setting bids is to create product targets that have a similar conversion rate. But you have to bear in mind where you make your money and apply several of the following strategies:

  • Brand & Product type: this makes sense when you get started. Products of a similar type or brand may have similar conversion rates. So set a bid for each brand or product type (or combination of the two) and then start optimizing based on the results.
  • The 80/20 rule: Most shops have a few products that generate a large part of the revenue. Each of those products should get their own product target (use the ID-attribute) so you can monitor and optimize your best selling products.
  • Gross margin: If 2 products have the same conversion rate, but a very different gross margin, you don’t want them to be in the same product target: You want to bid more on the product that makes you more money.
  • AdWords Labels: you may find that the blue shirts have a much higher conversion rate than the other colors. Or the large screens do better than the small ones. In that case, you want to increase your bid for the blue ones or the large ones. AdWords enables you to set a bid for any attribute, if you add that attribute to your data feed as an AdWords Label. So modify your feed to include your favorite attribute and use it to create a separate product target.

6.  The Losers: Take ’em out
You should not advertise all your products. Analyze your data and ask yourself: which products are really making me money? Take the losers out of your feed and stop wasting your money there. Examples:

  • Seasonal products: don’t sell winter stuff in April
  • Cheap products: the CPA often exceeds the gross margin. So you lose money every time you sell an item.
  • The Unsellables: some products just won’t sell. Maybe Google is not the right channel, maybe these products have a bad landing page, maybe you just can’t compete for these products or maybe they are sooooo 2009.

You have 3 ways to deal with that:
a. Find out why they have a poor performance and fix it.
b. Put your losers in separate product targets and make sure you don’t end up losing money on them
c. Exclude them from your feed completely and focus on your winners.

7.  The Feed: Foundation of it all
Getting Google to accept your feed is just a start. But once you have figured out how to deal with the previous 6 items, it’s time to optimize your feed, so that it serves as a perfect foundation for your AdWords campaign, the product pages on Google Shopping and PLAs on Google’s result page. Applying the knowledge of the previous points to the feed, would lead to the following data feed optimizations:

  • Modify your feed to match Google’s format.
  • Assign the right Google Category to your products
  • Use your best picture as the primary image_link
  • Rewrite your Titles for maximum impact
  • Create AdWords Labels or AdWords Groups in your feed
  • Exclude your poor performers

Data feed management can be done in many different ways, but there is one guiding principle: you need to optimize your feed continuously to run a successful campaign on Google Shopping and other Shopping Channels.

About the Author
Jacques van der Wilt has worked in online media for more than 20 years. He has held leadership positions in both the US and Europe. In the past 10 years he has worked as an entrepreneur and founded several start-ups. He is also a mentor at accelerator Startupboothcamp. As founder of WordWatch (automated bid management) he became an expert in search engine marketing for medium sized advertisers and with its spin-off DataFeedWatch (a web-based tool for merchants to optimize their data feed for Google Shopping and other comparison shopping channels) he established a leadership position in managing data feeds and Product Listing Ads campaigns.

Product Listing Ads: The Power of Segmentation

This is a guest post by James Kelly, Senior SEM Analyst of National Positions.

Product Listing Ads have grown immensely in popularity over the last year and many articles have been written detailing the importance of getting them live. At this point the real question is how to maximize exposure and profitability for your ecommerce marketing campaign.

Feed and bid optimization is the first place that many people look. Both of these are of critical importance, but I find that advertisers spend so much time worrying about these issues that the actual campaign structure is often ignored. The decision on how to structure and segment your PLA campaigns will dictate your ability to analyze and optimize the campaigns over time.

Google provides us with the ability to segment PLA’s by product type, condition, brand, ID or custom fields within your feed (adwords_grouping & adwords_labels). The first pitfall that many advertisers encounter is choosing conflicting segments, so that any single product could have as many as five or six bids coming from different targets. While campaigns built in this way may appear incredibly detailed, they are unwieldy and are difficult to manage effectively.

Targeting

With this in mind, a good first step is choosing a primary targeting method. Each product will inevitably have multiple targets, but there should be one targeting method that you intend to use for the majority of your bid optimization that will have higher bids relative to your secondary targeting methods. The idea here is to try to remove as much of the conflicting bids as possible so that you can actually dial things up when they are converting, or down when they are not. If a single product has six bids and no rhyme or reason as to which one is highest, it will be very difficult to do something as simple as lower the bid on that product by 50% without also lowering the bid on all related products with similar targets.

My primary targeting method of choice is the adwords_labels field filled with a unique ID for each product. In this case, I have the ability to control my bid for individual products to avoid missed opportunities and wasteful spending. Targeting each product individually can allow greater levels of control, but it can be difficult to account for new products or changes in the feed, which is why additional targeting is required.

Secondary targeting methods can be thought of as catch-alls, whose main purpose is to pick up any products that have not been picked up by your primary targets. I generally use a product type or brand as the secondary targeting method depending on what makes more sense for the particular client. The secondary target must have artificially low bids so that they do not overlap any of your primary targeting. I have heard clients express concerns that the bids are too low, but with proper execution, the secondary targets should be more of a safety net than an active target. If you notice that a secondary target is receiving significant amounts of traffic, this should be a sign to take a look at your primary targets to see what is leaking through. To err on the safe side, I also use an all products target with a much lower bid (sometimes a penny bid) to ensure that I have basic coverage for new products that may not have other targets.

Campaign Structure

Once the various levels of targeting have been sorted out, the last remaining question is how to structure the targets into campaigns, ad groups and targets. With a smaller product count, I typically create a unique ad group for each product containing my primary targeting method in a single campaign. Secondary targets will also have unique ad groups so that all bids can be managed from the ad groups tab.

Accounts that have tens of thousands of products will more than likely need additional structure in place, if nothing else to avoid the 20k ad group per campaign limit. There are two approaches for breaking down these larger catalogs. The first is to create multiple campaigns (possibly broken down by product type or brand) so that you can keep your bids at the ad group level. The second option is to create ad groups for each product type/ brand with targets for each individual product within that ad group. Product level bid optimization would need to be done on the target level in this second option.

No matter how you decide to segment your PLA campaigns, it is important to have a primary targeting method in mind to avoid overlapping bids. Structure provides control over the bids, which will give you the ability to affect your positioning and profitability in the long run.

James Kelly, author of this blog post, is an Ecommerce Channel Manager and Senior SEM Analyst for National Positions, an industry leading internet marketing company with over 1,000 clients around the globe including Wal-Mart, Land Rover, Club Med and Samsung. The National Positions SEM department in particular has been experiencing rapid growth by providing significant revenue increases for many small and medium size businesses.

Are You Measuring the Right Metrics?

This is a guest post by Phil Frost, Co-Founder of Main Street ROI

Measure

I had a frustrating call the other day with a private client when we were reviewing his advertising campaign.  He was venting about the high cost per click for various keywords and suggesting we remove keywords solely because the cost was too high.  Similarly, he was suggesting we focus more of our budget on cheaper keywords where we would get “more bang for our buck.”

In one example, he showed me a keyword that was $11 per click versus another keyword that was only $2.98 per click.  The $11 per click keyword was generating only half as much traffic as the $2.98 per click keyword, so my client wanted to stop advertising on the more expensive keyword.

His thought process was pretty straight forward: Stop advertising on the $11 per click keyword and focus more of the budget to the $2.98 per click keyword.  That way we’ll generate more traffic and spend less money.  

But this type of thinking is completely WRONG! Costs alone do not tell you anything about ad performance or return on investment (ROI).

Looking at costs alone is like comparing two investment options and picking the one that requires less capital, despite the projected ROI.  That doesn’t make much sense in investing, yet that’s how many business owners try to manage their ad campaigns.  

Here’s an important tip: there’s usually a very good reason why certain keywords and websites cost less in advertising.  In most cases this is a telltale sign the traffic does not convert to sales.  If the traffic did convert prospects to sales, then more advertisers would bid on the keyword and drive the cost up.  It’s as simple as that.

So lesson #1 here is all traffic is not equal.  Therefore, the cost per visitor is not a good metric to use when optimizing your ad campaigns.  The cost is only half of the equation.  The other half is sales conversions.

This brings us to lesson #2 – you must track conversions to optimize your ad campaigns.  A conversion should be a sale if you can measure it accurately, but it can also be a warm prospect in the form of a phone call, in-person visit, or online webform submission.  

With conversion tracking in place, you can calculate your cost per conversion (also known as cost per action, or CPA), which is really the only way to judge your advertising campaigns.  

Let’s look at our previous example again to see how this works in practice.  I explained to my client the $11 per click keyword was converting 20% of the visitors to warm leads via an online application.  That means the cost per conversion was $55.  The $2.98 per click keyword was only converting 5% of the visitors to warm leads so the cost per lead was $57.  Therefore, both keywords were generating leads for about the same cost.  In fact, the higher cost per click keyword was generating leads for LESS money.  Yet, my client was about to turn off those keywords just because the cost per keyword was higher!

See how the cost per keyword data alone is misleading?  At the end of the day, your goal with advertising is to profitably generate leads and sales.  The only way to measure the effectiveness of your ads is to compare the cost per lead or sale versus the revenue per lead or sale.  Those are the two critical metrics.

My example here was for online advertising, but this is relevant for every type of advertising you run in your business.  All media must be compared and optimized by looking at cost per sale or cost per lead.  The cost per website visitor, cost per radio airtime, cost per TV placement, cost per letter mailed, or any other cost alone tells you very little about the campaign.  Make sure you have a system to track sales and/or leads directly from the ad campaign using tracking phone numbers, unique coupon codes, or any other method.  Then, calculate the cost per conversion to make smart, educated decisions to optimize your campaigns.

About the Author
Phil Frost is the co-founder of Main Street ROI and a Google AdWords certified professional. Want more online advertising tips? Get your copy of Phil’s FREE report: 10 Steps to Dominate Google AdWords

 

Forging Ahead With Multichannel Competitive Intelligence In The Age Of Big Data

This is a guest blog post by Jason Warnock, Vice President Market Intelligence and Measurement of Yesmail Interactive.


Marketing is like a newborn; it demands constant attention, it manages to surprise you just when you think you’ve figured it out, and the way it changes every day is absolutely fascinating. Just think of how different the marketing landscape is today than it was a few years ago.

 

No matter the size, and regardless of the industry, a company without a website is unheard of. In a similar way, a company without a Facebook and Twitter accounts is becoming as rare as a non-invasive airport security check while Youtube and Google+ are turning into a necessity.  Similarly, it is an absolute anomaly for a company not to have an email program: from basic ones like Welcome and Transactional, to more strategic ones like Nurturing and Life-cycle. Meanwhile Search and Display have already earned a permanent place in a savvy marketer’s arsenal since their inherent reliance on data accounts for warmer leads and easier conversions than are achieved by many of the traditional marketing avenues.

 

In just one short paragraph, we have enumerated seven different channels that have become essential for an adequate marketing strategy, not to mention an outstanding one.

 

Needless to say, in the era of “Big Data”, it is imperative that each individual channel strategy is dictated by data-driven insights. That’s not the news here. The news is that it is no longer sufficient to develop those insights in a vacuum, i.e. only using metrics marketers have for their own marketing efforts. Instead, it is far more valuable to include industry, and even more so, competitors’ campaign data to inform marketing plans. 

 

As marketers give more and more attention to monitoring and analyzing industry trends and competitors’ practices, few big data analytics solutions successfully integrate the seven essential digital channels and make it possible for marketers to easily monitor trends, track their KPIs, and put the collected data to work for them. 

 

Yesmail Market Intelligence is the first of its kind to successfully house data from social media networks, email providers, company websites and, now, display advertising made possible by a partnership with MixRank, the leading provider of digital display ad data. The integration between MixRank’s innovative crawler technology and Yesmail’s leading platform for competitive intelligence brings to market a seamlessly integrated multichannel tool that provides digital data across seven channels in one centralized and easy-to-use dashboard. This breakthrough allows marketers to spend fewer resources on researching and testing and, instead, invest in developing profitable and informed marketing campaigns. Yesmail is thrilled to partner with MixRank to deliver a solution that saves marketers both time and money as it allows them to develop profitable and informed marketing campaigns that can outperform the competition. 

 

It’s Big Data, at its finest.

 

About the Author

Jason_warnock

Jason Warnock is a seasoned veteran of email deliverability and digital marketing. After creating successful email applications for Canadian bank CIBC, Jason initiated and managed Deliverability Operations for Digital Connexxions (2006) implementing several key strategies for major publishing clients. After a successful acquisition of Digital Connexxions in 2006 by infoUSA, Jason proceeded to become Director of Deliverability for Yesmail (2007) followed by VP of Deliverability Services for Infogroup (2011). Jason has transformed Infogroup Deliverability into an industry leading solution through enhanced offerings of technology and client services. Jason has designed successful technical and business strategies for several large Fortune 500 companies including: HP, Coke, Kodak, Facebook, eBay, Ancestry.com, and United Airlines. Jason is also a recognized industry leader in digital marketing intelligence and competitive marketing intelligence through his work in co-creating Yesmail’s Market Intelligence platform with Andrew Ferraccioli and Jeff Hulshof.

 

The Largest Driver of Revenue that the Most Successful Advertisers Implement Over the Least Successful

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Yin, CEO & Co-Founder of LaunchBit.

 

I was curious to know what the difference was between the most successful and the least successful advertisers.  So, I analyzed the data in our ad network, LaunchBit.  LaunchBit serves up millions of ad impressions every week in hundreds of email newsletters for startups through Fortune1000 clients.  The most common trend we noticed was that most of our successful advertisers did not generate revenue from their campaigns right away.  Instead, they directed potential customers to sign up on a landing page to monetize and upsell those leads later.  Here are just a few examples of how our most successful advertisers created successful lead generation programs: 

 

Offer white papers & webinars 

If you run a B2B company, teaching your customer information or tips that can help them become better at their job is often an effective lead generation tactic.  Hubspot does this very well.  Their target demographic is online marketers.  And, they are a machine in cranking out new ebooks and webinars teaching their customers about new online marketing tactics.  

Hubspot-leadgen

 

Although you might think that asking for a lot of information in your sign up process would lead to a low conversion rate, Hubspot has publicly stated that they are able to get users to convert at a “good percentage” despite these extra fields.  If you need this extra information to vet your leads, then you should not be afraid to include these fields.  Their layout is clean.  The form is on the right; the copy is on the left.  They have a great title format that they use repeatedly: x # of tips to make you successful at some type of marketing.  They tell you exactly what you will learn in the ebook.  All of their landing pages have the same format.  

 

Discount Notifications and Daily deals

Ecomom focuses on capturing contact information by prompting new site visitors to sign up for their discount notifications before they start browsing the site.  So, even if someone doesn’t buy right away, Ecomom is able to reach potential customers and earn their trust until they are ready to buy.  

Ecomom-leadgen

They run different newsletters to disseminate different information to their two lists: the daily deals list for bargain hunters and a traditional newsletter with tips and occasional offers.  

 

Giveaways and contests 

A number of advertisers in our network like to do freebies, giveaways, and run contests.  This can definitely increase the conversion rate on a landing page.  AppSumo, for example, has held a series of contests to get more subscribers to their daily deals list.  

Appsumo-leadgen

We’ve had a number of advertisers host contests, and conversions for them generally range between 25-70%.  However, we’ve learned from our advertisers that you should be careful when selecting your contest giveaways.  If a giveaway is too far removed from your product/service, people who convert do not necessarily turn into relevant paying customers later.  

 

Most advertisers in our network have not built sophisticated lead generation programs and expect customers to buy right away.  But, unless you have a product that is conducive to quick transactions, conversions typically trend below 3%.  It may take some effort, but good lead generation that educates and offers freebies and discounts is a good opportunity to nurture leads into paying customers.   

 

About the Author

Elizabeth Yin is a the CEO and a co-founder of LaunchBit, an ad network for email.  With LaunchBit, advertisers can reach their target demographics through relevant email newsletters.  Prior to LaunchBit, Elizabeth was a product marketing manager at Google.  

 

Getting The Most Out of Display Advertising

This is a guest post by Caroline Watts, Marketing Manager at ReTargeter.


Display advertising is an established digital marketing tactic, but lately it’s gotten a bit of a bad rap. But display doesn’t have to be ineffective. Like with most marketing channels, display campaigns are only as effective as they are well-run. Ignore best practices and you aren’t likely to be successful, but run a well-managed campaign and you can see impressive results.

 

Though there are many factors that go into a making display work, the following aspects of your campaigns are likely to have the most significant effect on your success: who you’re reaching, what your ads look like, and how well display is integrated with your other marketing channels.

 

Reaching the Right People


With display, as with most forms of advertising, it’s all about audience. If your ads aren’t getting in front of the right people, nothing else matters. Fortunately, this part is easy to get right. One of the primary benefits of display advertising is the robust and precise targeting available to advertisers. Here are a few different types of targeting you can employ to make sure your campaigns don’t miss their marks:

 

  • Site Retargeting: Retargeting, the practice of serving ads to people who have previously visited your website, is one of the most effective forms of display advertising because it focuses on the people who are most likely to be interested in your product or service right now. Retargeting can work well for virtually any business, as there isn’t a marketer out there for whom conversion rates are 100%.
  • Advanced Retargeting: There are many more complex forms of retargeting, which allow you to target ads based on other activities like opening an email or searching for relevant keywords. Depending on your business, it probably makes sense to start with site retargeting and incorporate more advanced targeting techniques as you become more experienced.
  • Demographic and Geographic Targeting: If you have a good idea of what your ideal customer looks like, demographic information like age, gender, income, or occupation can help focus a campaign on the people most likely to be interested in your messages. Targeting your ads by geography is also a particularly effective way to keep costs low and relevancy high.

 

Creative Matters


One of the biggest mistakes digital marketers make with display is under-investing in creative. Banner ads are not all ineffective—but bad banner ads are. Make sure your in-house designer or contracted design service has experience with banners and is well-versed in the best practices of banner design. Regardless of campaign type, banner ads should always be memorable, aesthetically pleasing, representative of your brand, and should stand out from the page. 

 

It’s definitely possible to run effective display campaigns with well-designed static ads, but it’s also a good idea to test rich media like Flash and video to see if you can get even more out of your campaigns.

 

If you’re designing banners in-house, make sure you have a good sense of how others in your space are using display. Using MixRank, you can actually check out all your competitors’ display ads and use their design choices to inform how your campaigns.

 

No Campaign Exists in a Vacuum


Display is an incredibly powerful marketing channel, but it’s most effective when it’s one campaign of many. Display can complement paid search, social media, and email marketing (just to name a few), but it’s important that all your campaigns are well-integrated. Make sure that your various campaigns are truly supporting each other. Though each campaign should be tailored to its respective medium, the messaging you use to reach the same audiences across different forms of media should always be consistent.

 

About the Author

Caroline Watts is a Marketing Manager at ReTargeter, a full-service display provider specializing in retargeting and audience targeting. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

 

Easy Wins

The following is a guest post by Rishi Shah, CEO of Digioh and 500 Startups Mentor. Join his newsletter and get his eBook “10 Paying Customers in 10 Days” for free.

 

Easy Wins

Gma_charlie-sheen-winning

I like to win. 

I like to win so badly that I usually set the bar really low so that I can always win.

I don’t like playing the lottery because I lose every time. The odds are just not in my favor (sometimes a million to one!). Instead I play local high school raffles where I can buy 50% of the tickets and pretty much guarantee a win. It also makes my nephew feel good. 

I try to apply the same rules in my business because I like to win. Here are just a few ways that I win:

Gma_shoulders

1. Partner with the Big Guys

Pick a product or service that already has a lot of customers and figure out how to partner with them. Build a valuable service for their customers so they can promote you and look good at the same time.

For example recently I partnered with a big email marketing company called MailChimp and gave their customers an easy way to collect more email leads. They promoted my niche business inside one of their support docs. This led to some serious distribution for our small business.

You will see a lot of companies doing this. For example PayPal grew because it became an easy way to pay people on eBay.

Easy Win: Getting more customers by partnering with other businesses.

The Hard Way: Building your own stand-alone product and trying to have customers find you through advertising or word-of-mouth.

Gma_free-parking

2. Give away something for FREE

Sometimes you just don’t know if people will use your product. Especially when you are starting out. That is why whenever I launch something I give away something for free just to see if someone out there is interested. Usually it is a very limited free account or “Free for 60 Days” where I can monitor their usage to see what features they actually use.

Once I saw that a few people were actually using my product, I gain some confidence and started charging!

Easy Win: Getting people to sign up for free to prove the product

The Hard Way: Charging up front and not learning on what people find useful (because you have no one using it)

 

Gma_be_my_guest

3. Guest Blog Posts (like this one)

In the early days my blog had absolutely no readers (unless you count my mom). So, I reached out to bigger blogs and asked them if I could write a really good guest blog post that their readers will love. Usually they would say yes (bloggers never turn down really good free content).

Easy Win: Getting my blog post in front of 1,000’s of readers by posting on bigger blogs.

The Hard Way: Posting on my blog for years and hoping Google Index’s me for the right keywords

 

Don’t make things hard. 

Try to get as many wins as you can. This will not only help your business grow but also keep you motivated to keep moving along.

 

If you liked this blog post, you will love my blog and my ebook called “10 Paying Customers in 10 Days“. It is a FREE eBook when you sign up for my newsletter here

 

Cure Your SEM Blues with this 4-Step Account Audit

This guest post is by Richard Conn, Account Director of DataPop. DataPop’s mission is to make marketers lives easier and give them the technology they need to build ads that people love to click on. DataPop uses complex natural language text generation systems that extract a consumer’s underlying intent and matches it to optimized offers at massive scale.  On average, their clients see a 40% increase in online conversions at a 15% lower CPA. Follow the company on Twitter: @DataPop

 

Things go wrong. You wake up sick, the car won’t start, your boss is on your back, and your SEM campaigns are drifting south. We all feel under the weather at some point, but there are steps you can take to perk up your campaign performance.

 

1) Getting STARTed

When arriving on the scene of a disaster, folks in the medical field follow the principle of START: Simple Triage And Rapid Treatment. The goal is to quickly evaluate the situation and focus your attention on the areas where it will have the maximum impact. Your SEM campaigns may not be a disaster, but the same principles can be applied gain some quick wins. The first step is to categorize your campaigns into three buckets:

•Healthy campaigns. These are your high performing campaigns, such as brand campaigns, that don’t need any immediate attention. For these, maintain the status quo and revisit once you’ve stabilized your sick campaigns.

•Zombie campaigns. These are the campaigns that have never performed well, such as generic, broadly targeted campaigns. These can drag down performance fast, so consider pausing these campaigns, bidding them lower, or severely restricting their daily budgets to contain the damage.

•Sick campaigns. These are the campaigns that show some promise and might perform well if given immediate care. Focus most of your efforts here to improve overall account health.

 

2) Stop the Bleeding

The next step is to identify what is dragging down your sick campaigns. Pull a keyword performance report, a placement performance report, and a search query report for the last 90 days. For each report, look for keywords, placements, or queries that meet the following criteria:

  • Accumulated costs that are 3x your CPA target, but no conversions
  • Have a CPA that is 3x above target
  • Have an unusually low CTR and no conversions

– Below 0.10% for keywords and queries
– Below 0.01% for placements

  • Have a high number of impressions and zero clicks

– Above 1,000 impressions for keywords and queries
– Above 10,000 impressions for placements

Pause the keywords that meet these criteria. Add the placements and queries that meet these criteria as negatives to your campaigns. This simple fix should give you an immediate bump in performance.

 

3) Diagnose the Disease

Now that you have some quick wins under your belt, it’s time to dive deep to identify underlying issues that have held back performance.

Disease: Monochromatic Ad Copy

  • Symptoms: Majority of traffic is concentrated on a small set of headlines or description lines. Ads repeated across multiple ad groups.
  • Treatment: If you are heavily reliant on running the same ads across all of your campaigns, try to generate a few new variations to introduce to your highest volume ad groups. This can boost performance by better matching your ad to the keywords.

Disease: Acute Ad Deficiency

  • Symptoms: Ad groups with only one active ad. This hurts performance as not every keyword within an ad group will perform well with the same ad.
  • Treatment: Add additional ads to ad groups that only have one active ad. Ideally, each ad group should have 2 to 4 active ads.

Disease: Ad Overdose

  • Symptoms: Ad groups with five or more active ads. This hurts performance by making it difficult to accumulate enough data to identify winning ads.
  • Treatment: In each ad group, pause the poorest performing ads so that only 2 to 4 ads remain active.

Disease: Keyword Chaos

  • Symptoms: Ad groups with 25+ keywords hurt performance by combining multiple intents. For example: ‘black dress’ and ‘red dress’ should be split into two ad groups so you can write ads specific to each color.
  • Treatment: Break out large ad groups into smaller ad groups Ideally, each ad group should have less than 25 keywords.

Disease: Match Type Mayhem

  • Symptoms: Traffic volume concentrated on Broad match keywords. This hurts performance by pulling in irrelevant queries.
  • Treatment: Identify high performing keywords from search query reports and add them into your campaigns as Exact match keywords. Consider breaking out your campaigns by match type and adding the Exact match keywords as negatives to your Broad match campaign to prevent cross-mapping and internal competition.

Disease: Under-Extension

  • Symptoms: Missing campaign extensions
  • Treatment: Be sure to add Sitelink Extensions, Call Extensions, Product Extensions, and Location Extensions to your campaigns. These can give a big boost to CTR and conversion rates.

Disease: Campaign Setting Sickness (the silent killer)

  • Symptoms: Are all campaigns set to accelerated delivery?
  • Treatment: The best practice is to set all campaigns to accelerated delivery and to then manage spend via bidding. If you are running out of budget early in the day, then you should be able to bid lower and gain additional clicks for the same cost.
  • Symptoms: Are any campaigns showing ‘limited by budget’?
  • Treatment: If so, consider either bidding lower or increasing the daily budget.
  • Symptoms: Are search and content segmented into separate campaigns?
  • Treatment: Always, always, always separate search and content into their own campaigns. They perform very differently and co-mingling your data will make it extremely difficult to optimize.
  • Symptoms: Are mobile devices segmented into separate campaigns?
  • Treatment: Computers and tablets arguably have similar performance profiles. However, mobile devices are often much more difficult to complete transaction on, tend to have shorter queries and lower CPCs, and tend to work best for providing local information or for driving calls.
  • Symptoms: Are languages segmented into separate campaigns?
  • Treatment: This will allow you to tailor your ads to the preferred language of your users.
  • Symptoms: Are countries segmented into separate campaigns?
  • Treatment: Likewise, this will allow for greater customization of your campaigns.
  • Symptoms: Are ads set to rotate evenly, optimize for clicks, or optimize for conversions?
  • Treatment: Rotating ads evenly is useful for testing creative messaging. Optimizing for clicks may boost your overall CTR and lower your CPC, but clicks ≠ conversions, so use with caution. Optimizing for conversions may work on campaigns with a high number of conversions, but won’t work for campaigns with few conversions.

 

4) Keep Calm and Car
ry On

Once you’ve rehabilitated your sick campaigns, you can maintain their good health through routine checkups.

Daily Tasks

  • Monitor performance
  • Bid management

Weekly Tasks

  • Check keyword performance report, search query report, and placement performance report for new negatives

Monthly Tasks

  • Pause out poor performing ads
  • Add new ads to high volume ad groups

Quarterly Tasks

  • Check campaign settings

 

By following this simple prescription, you can have your SEM campaign in tip-top shape in no time!

 

 

How to keep display ad A/B testing from blowing up in your face

This guest post is by Myles Younger, co-founder of Canned Banners. Canned Banners provides a platform and tools for automating and streamlining display ad design. Follow the company on Twitter at @cannedbanners.

Online advertisers, especially search marketers, understand the power of A/B testing. In search, the most successful advertisers will constantly A/B test hundreds of different ads. With the recent growth in display advertising, it’s logical for online marketers to try and apply their A/B testing expertise to the world of display.

However, data-driven marketers should be careful before diving into display advertising. This post is going to explain some key differences between search ads and display ads, and offer some tips on how to keep your display ad design budget (and your sanity) under control when you’re doing large-scale A/B tests.

Notes: I’m not including Facebook ads when I say “display ads.” That could be a whole other blog post, and I’m not really qualified to write it. Nor am I considering landing page optimization, which is a critical factor in ad testing, but I needed to keep my focus limited.

Search ads are simple. Display ads are complex.

Before we go further, it’s important to appreciate just how much more complex a display ad is versus a search ad. Here’s some rough math to give you an idea of the difference in complexity:

Why is complexity important? With search ads, your creative palette is constrained to one element: text. With display ads, you could potentially test an infinite variety of elements: text, color, imagery, fonts, animation, button style, etc. So while it’s almost impossible to create an “ugly” search ad, it’s very, very easy to make poor choices and create an ugly display ad.

Tip #1 — Start with good designs

Even though you might need to test potentially hundreds of different ad variations, don’t cut corners and launch with garbage ad creative. Finding out that Crappy Display Ad A beat Crappy Display Ad B is like learning that horse manure smells slightly better than dog poop. Don’t waste your money & time.

If you think you can randomly test crappy designs and eventually iterate your way to a perfect, beautiful display ad, read the previous graphic again (and maybe study up on how exponents work); the universe won’t be around long enough to perform all the necessary design iterations to hit paydirt. Launch with thoughtful, professional ad designs that you feel good about.

This doesn’t mean you need to spend weeks & weeks designing your first round of ads, but don’t just throw some clipart and tacky text effects into a box and call it a display ad. In general, ugly ads won’t perform very well and they’ll make you and/or your client look bad.

Once you’ve got some solid starting designs, you can go nuts with rapid iteration and experimentation.

And if you don’t know why the ad below on the left is godawful, read the next tip.

Tip #2 — Hire a professional

Most people are horrible designers. If you’re not confident in your design skills, hire someone to design a few templates that you can use. To get some good design ideas, browse around online and find well-designed display ads with layouts that could work well as templates.

And if you want a self-serve solution, that’s what my company does (I’ll leave it up to you to find our competitors and figure out why we’re better).

Tip #3 — Use stock photography

At Canned Banners, we see hundreds of display ads designed by amateurs. What’s the number one thing that ruins otherwise good ads? Bad frikkin’ photography. Do not cut corners and make ads using blurry snapshots from your smartphone. Go to inexpensive stock photo websites like istockphoto.com, thinkstock.com or shutterstock.com and buy high-quality photos taken by professional photographers.

Extra Tip-within-a-Tip: Most stock photo websites sell subscriptions. They can be pricey, but if you’re doing high-volume A/B testing, a subscription or package deal is going to be much cheaper than buying images one at a time.

Stock photo websites are also a quick source of design variations that you can test. Running a campaign for a real estate company? Use one ad template and buy 50 good real estate images (the nice house, the “for sale” sign, the happy homeowner couple, the happy agent, etc), throw them in your ads, and see which photos perform best.

That’s enough tips…for now

I could keep going for several more pages, but if you’ve read this far, thanks! I hope these tips give you some food for thought. If you have any questions about display ad design, email me here or follow @cannedbanners on Twitter.

Cheers!
Myles