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Your Content Knows Best: the Case for Dynamic Search Ads

By November 30th, 2016

This is a guest post from Jacob Ehrnstein, Search Account Manager at 3Q Digital.

One of the search marketer’s best weapons is a Dynamic Search campaign. As you may or may not know, Dynamic Search campaigns rely not on keywords for targeting, but instead use your site’s content to create and target your ads based on a user’s search behavior.

There are many great things about Dynamic Search campaigns. First off, you can be precise about the scope of the pages that you target from your site. And, even more interesting and useful, there’s the Dynamic Search Ad (DSA).

A Powerful, Automated Tool for Ad Creation

With Dynamic Search campaigns, Google dynamically generates a portion of the ad. For DSAs, you don’t provide a static headline—rather, Google dynamically generates it for you. As Google states, “The headline is dynamically created from each matching phrase entered in Google Search, and from the title of the most relevant landing page used for the ad.”

dsa-example

Additionally, Google states that “Dynamic Search Ads can have longer headlines than other search ads, which improves their visibility.”

A Nitty-Gritty Test of Dynamic Headlines

That all sounds great. But, what does a search marketer need to know to make best use of DSAs? For instance, how long are dynamic headlines? And, how often does a user’s search match the headline, or the headline match a user’s search or the title tag?

To answer the question of DSA headline length, I looked at the results of DSA campaigns targeting nearly 20,000 unique pages, with unique content that generated nearly 400,000 queries.

I broke the results into three areas:

  • Headline length
  • CTR analysis based on headline length
  • Source of dynamic headline

Let’s dive in.

Headline Length of Dynamic Search Ads

When looking at the headline length, I broke out the analysis into three categories, and here’s what surfaced for each category:

  • Shorter than standard text ads: 8% of the headlines generated
  • Longer than standard text ads, but shorter than the combined length of expanded text ad headlines: 60% of the headlines
  • Longer then expanded text ads combined headlines: 32% of the headlines

The lengthiest headline I found was 90 characters long. This appears to be the longest that a dynamic search ad headline can be.

Number of Impressions Headline Length Percent of Impressions
12,448,010 Total Number of DSA Impressions 100%
1,009,327 Headline Length < 25 Characters 8%
7,504,566 Headline Length > 25 Characters and < 61 Characters 60%
3,934,117 Headline Length > 60 Characters 32%

 

CTR Analysis

Next, I looked at the click-through rate (CTR) by headline length to see if there was a correlation between the length of the dynamic headline and the CTR.

Headline Length CTR
Total Number of DSA Impressions 11.44%
Headline Length < 25 Characters 12.12%
Headline Length > 25 Characters and < 61 Characters 11.21%
Headline Length > 61 Characters 11.70%

 

While it doesn’t appear that having longer headlines necessarily yields you the highest CTR, one segment that outperformed the rest was when the character length exceeded 70 characters.

 

Headline Length Percent of Impressions CTR
Headline Length > 70 Characters 11% 18.81%

 

So, the true efficiencies appear to happen when you’ve far exceeded the normal ad headline length. Even Google’s Expanded Text Ads, with its new combined headlines, would max out at 60 characters.

The data here shows that as the headline moves into this longer territory, the CTR shoots up. This may be because when an ad gets this long, it blends in more with organic results (which have a character limit of around 77 characters).

Dynamic Headline Source

Last, I looked at the source of the headline for the Dynamic Search Ad. Google documentation states that the headline will either come from the headline of the page or the keyword, but I wanted to know what percentage of the time either situation happens. Here’s what I found:

Percent of Headlines that Match Title Tag 60%
Percent of Headlines that Are Variations of Keyword Searched 40%

 

Here, 60% of the time the dynamic headlines exactly matched the title tag. What this means—if you’re going to be a heavy user of Dynamic Search Ads, it’s best to pay close attention to the pages being targeted and ensure the title tags on those pages are high-quality. Keep in mind that other variables—such as description lines and the pages being targeted—play into the performance of the ads I’ve analyzed.

Hopefully, this information helps you better understand your Dynamic Search Ads and how to improve their performance. Here’s to successful campaigns.

Advanced PPC with Transparent Automated Bidding

By November 17th, 2016

In PPC, there are two main approaches when it comes to bidding workflow—manual and automated. Over the years, there’s been debate among search marketers on the pros and cons of each approach. Search marketers have differing opinions on which yields the best outcomes.

The Great Manual Versus Automated Debate

One of the main arguments in favor of manual bidding focuses on the control that it affords the search marketer, in contrast to the hands-off nature of automated bidding inherent with publisher bidding—like AdWords “Smart” bidding and most (but not all) 3rd party proprietary bidding algorithms.

In nearly all automated bidding approaches, the search marketer sets a goal and the bidding algorithm reviews historical performance, and then calculates a bid with limited transparency from start to finish.

The apprehension some search marketers feel towards automated bidding derives from the opaque nature inherent in most approaches. This fear is realized when a campaign is underperforming, and the search marketer becomes at a loss for what’s amiss, or how to improve it.

Putting that fear aside, let’s reflect on the many benefits of automated bidding, which is the reason for its proliferation.

Here are just a few.

Efficiency

Automated bid management is a huge time saver. Think about it—how long would it take you to manually change a million keyword bids? How confident would you be that each bid is optimized to maximize your return?

If you’re being honest with yourself, the answers to those questions should naturally steer you towards automation as the optimal solution. Automation augments the search marketer by executing repetitive tasks, serving as an ‘enabler’ for the search marketer to focus on growth opportunities or account strategy while keeping tabs on daily performance.

Accuracy

Automated bid management platforms produce accurate bids through regression modeling that looks backwards to predict future outcomes. With millions of dollars at stake, these algorithms are typically built with risk aversion at their core to produce low error rates. By their very nature, they make changes at scale that’s quite literally impossible for any individual, or even team, to compete with.

The reality is, sophisticated marketers with material budget use an algorithm to bid on their media today. If you aren’t, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.

Flexibility

Automated bid management platforms allow advertisers to define the goals and milestones for the algorithm to work towards. The marketer remains the operator and the brains of the operation, with the bidding algorithm working as his proxy.

Machine Learning

Learning from massive datasets to create better future outcomes is at the heart of bidding algorithms. Today, this type of mathematical analysis is popularly called “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence.” Most ad tech companies have years of experience with these techniques, but largely fly under the radar in popular press, with newfangled applications like self-driving cars getting the headline coverage.

So, how do you get the best of both worlds? Simple—employ automated bidding with full transparency. That’s not an oxymoron. That’s a real thing offered by a few leading independent marketing partners (not to toot our own horn, but Marin Software is one such example).

What’s in a Fully Transparent Bidding Solution?

Fully transparent bidding solutions (i.e., the bidding system shows you the step-by-step logic of the bidding algorithm) allow users to see all the details behind their bid calculations for each keyword. This includes the bidding model(s) employed, the details of the dataset used, performance bumpers activated, and any other pertinent details behind the decision-making. If automated bidding is fully transparent, many of the arguments opposed to automated bidding lose their heft.

Information Available in a “Fully Transparent” Bidding Solution

The level of information available for each keyword in a “fully transparent” bidding solution varies. That said, at Marin Software, we show the logic of our algorithms “line by line,” which allows users to see a full breakdown of bidding decisions, including:

  • Date ranges and data sets used
  • Metrics used
  • Predicted metrics
  • Auction and volume models
  • Data blending
  • Bid headroom
  • Learning models
  • How the optimized bids are calculated
  • External rules applied
  • Excluded dates and thresholds
  • Existing bid
  • Final calculated bid
  • Constraints on the algorithm

Contrast this to the information displayed in a “black box” bidding solution:

  • Existing bid
  • Final calculated bid (sometimes this is obscured, too)
  • User-defined bid rules

Clarity and Confidence in Transparent Automated Bidding

Fully transparent bidding solutions allow PPC managers to review the logic used to reach a bidding conclusion. In addition, the search manager has the option to overlay bidding rules to ensure the algorithm behavior is consistent with their risk tolerance and strategy to hit certain goals and milestones.

The best fully transparent bidding solutions also allow you to preview bidding calculations before they’re pushed to publishers, and manually override bids on specific keywords if needed. This gives PPC managers the full control of manual bidding with all the time saving, efficiency, and data processing power of automated algorithms.

If automated bidding isn’t currently part of your strategy, we hope this post helps break down the nuances of different approaches. Although it also explains the pros and cons, it advances the argument that if you aren’t using a transparent bidding algorithm in today’s environment, you’re hamstringing yourself, because it’s near-certain that your competitors are employing an automated method of bidding to try and out-compete you. If you’d like to learn more about Marin Software’s approach to bidding, click here.

Far Away, So Close: Current Insights into Travel Search Advertising

By October 18th, 2016

With school out and warm weather in, we traditionally think of the summer months as the best time to take a vacation. However, is it actually prime time for search advertisers to ramp up their ad campaigns?

To answer this question and others, we took a look at travel advertisers on Google and Bing. We examined 2014 and 2015 to locate any trends in advertiser spend and performance for the travel vertical across quarters, and to assess the state of consumer behavior. Google and Bing dominate the global search market, which made them ideal for our study—other search publishers have regional presence at best, so they were excluded.

We found a few interesting things:

  • Summer searches, but fall clicks. Although, on average, consumers searched for travel terms (flights, lodging, auto rentals, etc.) almost 20% more during summer than winter, clicks on travel-related searches didn’t peak in summer as expected. Instead, their highest point was in autumn, right after the summer months.
  • The great smartphone migration. Over the past two years, travel advertisers have steadily shifted spend away from desktop and tablet towards smartphone. While smartphone made up under 10% of search spend in early 2014, by end of 2015, that number grew to almost 30% of all search budgets.
  • Native is restless. The travel ad format that’s seen significant growth is native advertising via channels such as Yahoo! Gemini. Starting in late 2014, investment growth in native ads by travel companies grew almost 5x by mid to late 2015. While this format is one of the newer ones, it’s been growing consistently in both advertiser and consumer adoption over the past year.

For more great information on search advertising in the travel industry—including cross-device performance data and campaign recommendations—download The State of Travel Search Advertising: Trends, Formats, and Paths to Success.

Bidding Optimization with Marin and Google Analytics

By September 29th, 2016

This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
3Q Digital.

One of the reasons advertisers choose the Marin platform is for the flexibility it provides. It grants advertisers the ability to track conversions through the standard publishers (Google, Bing, Gemini), via Marin’s own platform tracking, or by importing conversion goals from Google Analytics. Each method of counting conversions has benefits and should be considered when you’re first setting up on the account.

If you have multiple conversion actions, one method I believe is very powerful and should be considered is integrating Google Analytics and Marin.

Who Should Consider This?

While this type of account setup could benefit most advertisers, those who judge performance based on the revenue or goal completions reported in Google Analytics—over publisher metrics—will find this setup most useful. The reason is that Google Analytics aligns publisher performance metrics (clicks, impressions, etc.) with the goals that impact your business the most.

I personally manage an ecommerce client that likes to monitor publisher conversions and reported revenue, but primarily cares about driving transactions and revenue as reported in Analytics. So, setting up my Marin account to import this data from Analytics allows me to look at total performance as it matters to my client and build a strategy based on the bottom-line numbers.

Bidding

As you may have guessed, the biggest benefit to importing this data is in bidding. Revenue and conversions can be tracked from Google Analytics back to the keyword level from each publisher platform. With this data now imported into Marin, any bidding folders you have in place are now able to execute bid adjustments based on the data that’s most valuable to your business. This makes their adjustments more accurate than if they were based on the reported revenue data from any publisher platform alone.

Setup

To make Marin integration with Google Analytics simple, a Setup Wizard guides you through the process. To set up the wizard, go to the Admin tab, and click the Revenue sub-tab.

01-admin

From the Revenue Tracking setting, select Google Analytics.

02-revenuesettings

If you’d like to use the imported goal to be added to the platform, select the Bidding Eligible box. Before moving forward with this option, be sure the Google Analytics goals are reporting correctly.

03-googleanalytics

Granularity and accuracy are key for all advertisers and particularly critical in high season. If you’re an ecommerce advertiser heading into Q4, put this strategy into play ASAP, test, and refine as needed. Good luck!

4 Stress-Free Tips for Manual Keyword Bidding

By July 26th, 2016

This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
3Q Digital.

Digital marketers love automation. No secret there. With as many different target markets and key metrics as we have to monitor, any rules or reports that we can automate to save a few minutes here and there add up over time and help us breath easier.

Bidding is one area that’s seen great improvements in automated technology. There are tons of new strategies and technologies to implement automated bidding (with Marin’s bidding folders being a fantastic option).

That said, there are times when you still need to roll up your sleeves, get a little dirty, and crank out some manual adjustments. To make that process less stressful, here are four tips for getting the most out of your manual bid adjustments.

1. Use Consistent Date Ranges

Generally speaking, I make adjustments once a week using a seven-day lookback period. This allows me to view keyword performance since the last time I made adjustments and see if the adjustment had the desired effect. If I happen to make large-scale adjustments in between those two seven-day periods, I pull my data from the date of the last adjustment.

DateRanges

The purpose of using consistent date ranges and pulling from the date of the last adjustment is to keep your data “clean.” If you’re making multiple adjustments and using inconsistent date ranges, it makes it much more difficult, if not impossible, to understand how certain adjustments affect keyword performance.

This is because you’re viewing data from both before and after the last keyword adjustments. Ultimately, you could end up pushing your bids too far up or down and not achieve the CPA you want. So, for simplicity, keep your date ranges consistent and make sure there’s little overlap.

2. Don’t Increase Bids for Top Position Keywords

This is very simple: don’t boost bids for keywords in the top position. When bidding, it’s better to boost keywords in lower positions than keywords at the top, because only the former will lead to increased impression volume. Raising the bids for top positions will only increase costs, not improve performance.

3. Keep High Quality Score Keywords Competitive

Once, I worked with an ecommerce client who had struggled for some time to get non-brand search CPA and conversion volume. Their account wasn’t helped by the multiple budget-capped, non-brand campaigns this client had active.

After some thought, I decided to increase all non-brand keywords with quality scores (QS) of 9 or 10 while pausing low-QS keywords. I especially pushed those keywords that had been struggling with below-first-page bids. As a result of the adjustments, non-brand conversion volume took off.

QualScore

Why? Well, Google wants to serve keywords with high QS. Therefore, when I pushed up the bids for my top QS keywords, impressions greatly increased even though I paused a ton of poor keywords that were eating up spend. Not every top QS keyword will be a home run, but make sure the bids for these terms are always competitive and that low QS terms don’t make up the bulk of your spend.

4. Check for Bleeders

Bleeders are keywords that have little spend on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, but add up to large costs over time. Because of this limited spend, the bids for these keywords are often left unchanged during normal bid adjustments. If left unchecked, these can cause CPC/CPA to stagnate. Every so often, use an extended lookback period to identify and bid down or pause bleeders.

With just a few adjustments, you can be on your way to improved performance and more clicks. Happy manual bidding!

Top 6 Items to Check Off Your Back To School List

By July 18th, 2016

What’s the saying? There is no rest for the weary? Just when it feels like summer’s just begun, it’s already time to switch up your marketing campaigns for back-to-school shoppers.

According to Google Trends, interest in “Back to school” is on the rise since early June. But summer isn’t over yet, which makes this the perfect time to take advantage of this level of interest before we hit peak season.

Here are the top 6 things to make sure you check off your list to ensure you’re prepared for this year’s back-to-school season:

Understand your competition.

Don’t be so quick to start changing bids. A little research on your competitors goes a long way. Identify the gaps and move quickly on those opportunities. Look for top and direct competitor ads, and don’t forget online tools that can assist in finding out what competitors are doing with keyword bids. We recommend arming yourself with competitive information now so that your account is prepared for the next big retail shopping season.

Target back-to-school focused search queries.

Most back-to-school shoppers include parents and college students—as they prepare for back to school, they’re also searching online for deals. Marketers can benefit from this by creating campaigns that are focused specifically on back-to-school keywords and deal searches. Some examples of this are:

  • back to school supplies
  • back to school sales
  • cheap school supplies

Be sure to give these campaigns a healthy budget, plus either an end date or a scheduled pause to ensure they don’t continue to run post-season.

Create relevant, compelling ad copy and landing pages.

Parents and college students are often price conscious, but also want the products they purchase to last. Also, shoppers are often looking for sales to save money. Marketers should focus their ad copy around these consumer needs to incentivize shoppers to click their ads.

If a consumer doesn’t see a phrase that indicates there may be a good deal on the landing page that comes after their click, they may select a competitor instead. Helpful phrases include the obvious “back to school,” but also things like:

  • sale
  • clearance
  • an additional X% off
  • durable
  • lasting
  • all school year long

And more. We suggest using discount-focused terms for smaller ticket items like colored pencils, and durability-focused terms for larger ticket items like backpacks and athletic shoes.

Put together a bidding strategy

Make sure your strategy is informed by previous years’ data and this year’s goals. This also goes in line with understanding your competition, as we mentioned earlier. Take note of when the cost-per-click in your campaigns rose last year, and by how much, and adjust bids accordingly to ensure you’re pacing well with market demands throughout the season.

Don’t forget to include your shopping campaigns in your bidding strategy planning as well, especially for larger ticket items. Many consumers do a lot of research on items such as backpacks prior to making a decision, and may choose to purchase these items online in order to get exactly what they want.

Stay top of mind using retargeting.

Retargeting is another area where you may be able to better keep the attention of consumers who do a lot of price comparison shopping before making a purchase. Create a separate retargeting campaign specific to, again, higher-dollar items such as backpacks and athletic shoes, targeting users for several days after viewing your product.

When creating these retargeting ads, we recommend showing the products viewed previously in the ad, and potentially offering a coupon code to incentivize the consumer to purchase this product from your business specifically.

Remember mobile!

Parent and student purchase decisions are heavily influenced by mobile. According to Google, in 2014 over 40% of back-to-school searches were done via mobile devices. These searches are typically performed on the go by busy parents and students trying to get back-to-school shopping done in between all the other things they need to do.

What are these roving shoppers doing? They’re performing price comparisons, checking product availability, and searching for the closest store to their current location to sneak in a quick trip and check items off their list. You can capitalize on this by using location extensions and prominently displaying inventory availability for products at nearby stores on their easy-to-navigate mobile site.

If you’re strapped for time and can’t roll out a new back-to-school strategy, keep this checklist on hand, since these best practices are also applicable during the holiday shopping season. Want to learn more? Join the Center of Excellence for our back-to-school webinar on Thursday, July 21st!

Get Your Creative Ready for Google’s Expanded Text Ads

By May 31st, 2016

This is a guest post from Sarah Burns, Content Manager
at Boost Media.

By now, you’ve heard about Google’s Expanded Text Ads. This is big news for search engine marketers. Initial Google reports cite click-through rate increases of up to 20% for some advertisers. With more than nine billion ads impacted by Google’s change, a massive amount of copywriting is required to adapt.

All advertisers will have to react quickly, and spend more marketing dollars to adjust and profit—or else miss out on a huge opportunity. What can you do now?

Start planning early

Advertisers who move fast and adapt to the new format stand to benefit in two ways:

  • Leveraging the additional creative real estate allows you to weave in new messages as you communicate to your customers, resulting in more clicks and purchases.
  • Ads in the new format will look more aesthetically appealing, compared to the older ads that advertisers who don’t switch over will have to settle for.

Don’t rely on the traditional methods

The new format allows for an extra headline with more characters, a longer description line, and a customizable URL. Don’t waste the extra space by employing Excel spreadsheets or ad templates to update ads. The traditional methods won’t work for a seminal shift of this scope.

Mashing description lines one and two together will leave you with a confusing and disparate message. Most advertisers write the two lines of text as separate ideas, and when they’re pushed together, they don’t flow as a logical and cohesive message.

Where to go from here

Advertisers need a solution that makes it possible to write and rewrite ads in the new format with speed, quality, and scale. Through an exclusive partnership with Boost Media, Marin Software has an automated tool that can rewrite your ads to be ETA-compatible. If you’d like to get up and running on ETA ads today, you can get started here.

 

About the Author

sarahSarah manages Content Marketing at Boost Media and leads a team of marketing professionals to drive revenue through complex B2B marketing campaigns in the ad tech industry. Prior to joining Boost, Sarah developed marketing and sales strategy at BNY Mellon, a top 10 private wealth management firm. In a former life, Sarah worked in journalism writing for magazines including Boston Magazine, The Improper Bostonian, and Luxury Travel. When she’s not writing engaging content, Sarah enjoys cooking, running, and yoga.

About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale. The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.

Google’s Expanded Text Ads – Things to Know and What to Do Now

By May 24th, 2016

Google has made a historic change to its creative format with the introduction of a mobile optimized format called “Expanded Text Ads” (ETA). In this post, we provide information to help you understand what’s changing, why it’s a positive thing, and how to automatically make your existing ads ETA-compatible. (Pro tip: Skip to the end of this article if that last point is what you’re after.)

What Are Expanded Text Ads?

Expanded Text Ads are a mobile-optimized ad-format designed to maximize an advertiser’s performance in mobile search results. This is accomplished by providing the advertiser significantly more ad copy to highlight their product or service. Expanded Text Ads also apply to desktop search results.

This change is a big deal because it’s a fundamental shift away from the legacy AdWords text ad format that’s existed for well over a decade. As such, this change will require every AdWords advertiser to rewrite their ads to be ETA-compatible. To learn how to automatically do this, skip ahead to the end of this post.

What’s Changing, Exactly?

Advertisers now have two headlines instead of one, and these headlines are joined with a hyphen. The good news – this copy expansion allows ads to occupy 50% more space on the search results page. Early results indicate that this increased presence improves CTR, which makes sense when you compare the old format (left) to the new format (right):

ETAs

Here are the nitty-gritty details:

  • Headline 1 and headline 2 are 30 characters each. This is a 240% increase over legacy text ads, which historically had just one headline and a 25-character maximum.
  • For the description line, the character count is also increasing. Instead of two 35-character description lines, there’s just one that’s 80 characters.
  • The display URL will now be automatically extracted from your destination URL. You can set up to two path fields like “golf” and “shoes” (e.g., www.powpowsports.com/golf/shoes).

As marketers, we’re excited by all of these updates, and think that the addition of a new headline is only going to help performance, especially in a mobile world.

A Positive Change, for Multiple Reasons

Why is this change a net-positive for advertisers?

  • You gain a new, second headline.
  • More characters for longer messaging increase the odds of connecting with your target audience.
  • We’re seeing better overall performance in our early results.

Why is Google Making This Change?

A couple of obvious questions are: Why is Google making this change? And why now?

The short answer: Consumers have shifted to mobile as their primary method of accessing the Internet. And, advertising dollars are following in rapid succession. eMarketer estimates that in 2016, over 60% of all digital advertising spend will go to mobile. It’s also expected that mobile will continue to gobble up market share through 2020.

Google is staying ahead of this trend by shifting to mobile-optimized ads, which is consistent with the elimination of right-hand ads back in February. In the next 12-24 months, we should see more mobile-centric changes from all major publishers, as they train their attention on perfecting mobile monetization.

How Can I Automatically Make My Ads ETA-Compatible?

Through an exclusive partnership with Boost Media, Marin Software has an automated tool that can rewrite your ads to be ETA-compatible. If you’d like to get up and running on ETA ads today, you can get started here.

Stay tuned for more details, insights, and data as we continue to report on Expanded Text Ads.

Google’s New Ad Layout: Where Are We Now?

By May 16th, 2016

A few months ago, Google veered course from how it’s historically served desktop ads. Right-hand ads were removed, while a fourth ad slot was added above the organic search results. This change aligned mobile and desktop search results, and is regarded as Google’s acknowledgement that mobile search — not desktop — is key to the company’s continued growth and success.

Google’s Initial Response

Last month, Google’s new CEO, Sundar Pichai, penned Google’s annual Founders Letter. His opening two paragraphs reinforce the importance of mobile to Google’s mission:

“When Larry and Sergey founded Google in 1998, there were about 300 million people online. By and large, they were sitting in a chair, logging on to a desktop machine, typing searches on a big keyboard connected to a big, bulky monitor. Today, that number is around 3 billion people, many of them searching for information on tiny devices they carry with them wherever they go.

In many ways, the founding mission of Google back in ’98 — ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ — is even truer and more important to tackle today, in a world where people look to their devices to help organize their day, get them from one place to another, and keep in touch. The mobile phone really has become the remote control for our daily lives, and we’re communicating, consuming, educating, and entertaining ourselves, on our phones, in ways unimaginable just a few years ago.”

For a visual representation of this shift, Andressen Horowitz put together this great chart:

Horowitz Chart

Our Initial Reactions

When news of Google’s ad format change broke in mid-February, we offered our first reactions in a post titled, “Google’s New Ad Layout: Pros, Cons, Ins, Outs.” Our hypothesis used basic economic principles to argue that with tightened supply and constant demand, the average CPC could increase for some advertisers.

Secondly, we predicted that with fewer distractions (e.g., right-hand rail ads), advertisers with a strong product-market fit —typically in positions 1 through 3 —would have an easier time connecting with current and future customers.

What Does the Data Say About Google’s Ad Layout?

Now that some time has passed, we decided to take a look at our dataset — the Marin Global Online Advertising Index — to confirm or reject our early predictions. For this blog post, we compared performance immediately before, and immediately after, the changes went into effect.

The results were interesting. We’ll start by laying out the findings and then provide some closing thoughts.

Positions 1-3 saw little change in competition, as CPCs on these top positions declined marginally for the period. The slight dip in CPCs may be attributable to the increase in consumer propensity to click on these top positions without the distraction of ads on the right rail. This is consistent with our prediction that fewer distractions would yield better brand engagement.

Meanwhile, click-through rates (CTR) for positions 1 and 2 were largely flat, while CTR for 3 and 4 increased by +10% and +13%, respectively. Movements in positions 5 and 6 were particularly noteworthy. Position 5 had significant increases in CTR +10% and CPC +6%, while position 6 had material declines in CTR -20%, yet CPC increased marginally.

An Analysis of Our Predictions

So, how did our predictions stack up?

We were delighted to see economic theory in action (and our hypothesis confirmed) with observed CPCs increasing on tightened supply, and the revised layout of prime real estate favoring established brands.

In this new frontier, positions 4 to 5 appear to be the proving ground for new market entrants. Our secondary hypothesis — that less distraction would increase advertisers’ ability to connect with their (potential) customers — played out by the significantly higher engagement rate on top ad slots.

Other useful takeaways from this analysis pertain to advertisers fighting for position in the lower ad slots. In particular, position 6 appears to be a questionable strategy given the significantly lower engagement rate, while position 4 and position 5 are clearly the most competitive positions for advertisers who don’t have the quality score or brand recognition to lock in the top positions.

The Bottom Line

These results provide a teaser of things to come. As mentioned, we’re looking at two small datasets to give you a quick pulse on the immediate before and after results. Check back for future follow-up posts, as we dig deeper into the Marin Software Online Advertising Index to understand the more nuanced effects of Google’s ad format change on particular industries and geographies.

5 Ways to Optimize Your Dynamic Search

By March 8th, 2016

This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
3Q Digital.

When you sign up to be a search account manager, you’re making the decision to test yourself to find new strategies for account growth. Whenever identifying growth opportunities becomes challenging, a strategy I rely on is launching Dynamic Search campaigns.

If you’re unfamiliar – Dynamic Search Ads match your ads to search queries based on the content of your website. This removes the need to manage lists of keywords or landing pages. AdWords automatically generates a headline most appropriate to the search query and sends traffic to relevant landing pages.

The benefits can be huge. Dynamic Search helps managers of mature and new accounts find new, profitable long tail keywords or new high volume terms.

The setup for this campaign type is simple, but it can really take some time to set up your dynamic targets to give you the optimum performance you’re looking for. To speed up the process, here are five optimization strategies to cut down on the trial and error and start things off on a high note.

1. Segmentation

Proper segmentation is critical to getting the best possible performance from Dynamic Search. When creating a new ad group in a Dynamic Search campaign, you have three options for how to define targets. The least appealing option is to target the entire website. This is less than ideal because of the lack of control you have over where traffic is sent and what search queries the campaign picks up.

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For example, if you run a luxury jewelry website, it makes sense for visitors to go to a page where they can view products and start the sales process. Sending them to a part of the website where traffic can’t start a sale, like the website’s blog, isn’t as ideal. Poor targeting can result in a high bounce rate and wasted ad spend.

I recommend targeting specific topics or webpages instead. By doing this, you narrow the type of search queries that can be matched to your website targets, resulting in more qualified traffic and less wasted spend.

2. Website Coverage

When starting a campaign from scratch or adding in a new Dynamic Search target, pay attention to the target’s estimated website coverage. Simply put, website coverage is the percentage of a website covered by an individual target.

If you’re having a problem with your Dynamic Search campaign not generating high traffic volume, the problem could be that you have too small of a target. Try expanding and see if that opens things up. Or if the opposite is true, switch to a target with a smaller website coverage to cut down on the junk clicks.

3. Exclusion Targets

Dynamic targets can be excluded from your campaign to prevent traffic from reaching pages you don’t want to be used for ads. Much like the different targeting options available, dynamic exclusions gives you control over when Dynamic Search ads appear and where they send traffic.

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Exclusions can be made at the campaign or the ad group level. When creating dynamic targets, try applying existing targets as exclusions for other dynamic targets. Sticking with the luxury jewelry website, let’s say you have a target set up for watches, but you want to create another target for Rolex watches in particular.

After creating the new Rolex target, exclude that from the larger, general watch target. Proper segmenting and exclusions should work to create a structured Dynamic Search campaign where there is little, if any, overlap between targets.

4. Negative Keywords

If you aren’t using negative keywords in either a shared list or attached to your Dynamic Search campaign, you need to take action immediately. Negative keywords should be applied just like any other search campaign.

Depending on the dynamic targets, you could make the argument that negative keywords are more crucial for Dynamic Search campaigns because queries are matched to website content and not keywords. When first launching, check your search queries report frequently to make sure you’re not burning budget on irrelevant queries.

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5. Remarketing Lists

Like any other search campaign, remarketing lists can be attached to your dynamic search campaign with the option to just bid on these audiences or to target and bid. This is useful if you have a remarketing audience specifically interested in a dynamic target.

Let’s go back to our luxury jewelry example from earlier and imagine we have an audience of people that have previously purchased a Rolex watch. We can attach that Rolex audience to our Rolex dynamic target with a positive bid modifier to raise bids when members of this audience search Google for products we have in our inventory. This modifier will allow us to bid up, obtain better ad position, and ultimately put us in a better place to make a sale.

When applying remarketing lists, it’s important to remember the difference between settings. Bid Only allows you to apply a bid modifier only when members of our audience enter a query. It has no effect on bids for people not in the audience. Target and Bid finds members of that audience only. Non-audience member search queries will not be matched to your targets.

Dynamic Search campaigns have the ability to really blow the doors off performance by finding new, profitable search queries that you otherwise may have missed. But it’s important to regularly update and tweak targets and exclusions to get the most out of performance.

Also, don’t be afraid to step outside the box with your segmentation and test new things out. No matter the size or maturity of the account, Dynamic Search is an effective strategy that should bring success to whoever uses it.

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