This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
Advertisers who move fast and adapt to the new format stand to benefit in two ways:
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.
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.
Sarah 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.
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 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.)
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.
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):
Here are the nitty-gritty details:
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.
Why is this change a net-positive for advertisers?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With spring rapidly approaching, this is a great time for search marketers to start preparing for an annual account audit. What are some of the top areas of focus for spring cleaning your account? Marin’s Center of Excellence has created a process for identifying key ways accounts can be improved through structural and performance-based changes.
Before you dive into cleaning up your account, identify the main areas where you’d like to focus your time. Chances are you don’t have a lot of bandwidth to dedicate to anything but day to day management tasks — so to save time, start by asking yourself some questions to help narrow the focus of your audit and cleanup.
Some of these questions might include:
The second step is to perform an audit of your account. You should focus your time on two major areas of opportunity: account structure and performance.
Tip: When performing the account audit, pull data in a format that allows you to make bulk changes. This way, once you’ve identified issues, you can easily take action and save time.
First, take a look at your account structure to make sure it follows search marketing best practices. This’ll make your account easier to navigate and ease day to day management. Second, analyze your account for performance issues that require action. The Center of Excellence recommends looking for the following:
The third step is to take corrective action based on insights you discover during the audit.
Be sure to keep track of any changes you make and a record of the audit — this is essential, since it’ll allow you to effectively measure future performance.
Use your record of changes to measure the impact of your spring cleaning efforts. Compile this information into a visual representation of the improvements to share with your colleagues or clients.
If you’re a Marin customer interested in partnering with the Center of Excellence on an account audit, contact your account representative, who’ll connect you with a Center of Excellence consultant today! Or, if you’re new to Marin, request a demo.
When homebuyers bemoan the high prices commanded by desirable locations, real estate agents often reply, “location, location, location!” With Google’s recent confirmation that they’ll be serving fewer ads per desktop search result, we expect search marketers to become more acutely aware of “location, location, location.”
Less inventory and constant demand could create an uptick in average CPCs for high demand queries (if you’re curious about locking in top ad spots, check out PositionLock).
While this update (and our prediction) may be distressing for some advertisers, we anticipate this change will be net-positive for the industry.
From a user perspective, “less is more.” As we’ve observed with Google mobile ads, which this update emulates, a clean user experience free of distraction creates high click-through rates for top position ads.
Furthermore, if higher CPCs do come to pass, it could stomp out competitors bidding in auctions where they’ve historically had weak product-market fit. With fewer distractions, we expect advertisers will have an easier time connecting with current and future customers. We’ll be keeping a watchful eye on the performance and user experience.
We anticipate this update to be the most meaningful for ecommerce advertisers. Since Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are exempt from the right-rail exclusion, retail advertisers will be the only tenants on this coveted real estate which moves PLAs into Park Place territory.
If you’re an ecommerce advertiser, it’s paramount that your feed be optimized and that your bids are on target (if you need help, check out Marin Shopping). As both users and marketers on Google, we’re excited for this change – we’re happy to speak with any marketers seeking bidding, PLA, or general best practice advice.
Impression share (IS) is one of the most misunderstood data points used in search. Metrics used to maximize revenue or conversion volume are pretty straightforward to understand, since the numbers speak for themselves.
You should periodically revisit the question, “What metrics should I maximize to increase brand awareness on my search campaigns?”
You can be forgiven for thinking that the most important metric to increase brand awareness is IS. In theory, the higher the IS, the more times your ads are served, potentially providing greater exposure.
In fact, IS is simply a measurement of how frequently your keywords appear in auctions for which they’re eligible. It’s easier to achieve a high IS when you target smaller audiences with little competition. The larger your target audience, the greater the competition, making it harder to achieve the desired 100% IS.
IS is calculated by dividing served impressions by the estimated number of impressions that you’re eligible to receive. Google uses several factors to calculate which keywords should win an auction:
Increasing IS doesn’t always mean you’ll increase the amount of people who’ll see and interact with your brand. It should be used to monitor the frequency of your keywords appearing in auctions for which they’re eligible. It’s a brilliant metric for identifying keywords that aren’t performing as well as they could.
If your keywords are eligible to receive the maximum impressions targeting your specified audience, a 100% IS means you’ve reached this limit. However, this can come at a cost, overinflating daily budgets. Achieving a 100% IS means your keywords will be entered into all eligible auctions regardless of the cost.
Optimizing a campaign for clicks disregarding IS can improve both the click and impression volumes while maintaining or reducing spend. This method involves bidding down on keywords with low-click volume that have high CPCs while increasing bids for keywords with high-click volume and low CPCs.
It’s important to understand the relationship between aggregate IS and impression volume. Aggregate IS is weighted impressions, so there could be a scenario where there’s lower aggregate IS but higher impression volume. However, click volume, impression volume, and aggregate IS tend to be positively correlated, so maximizing clicks should be a sound strategy in most cases.
How are you using IS? Are you using it to monitor brand awareness, share of voice, or impression frequency? Whatever your optimization objective, it’s important to use the correct KPIs to monitor performance.
This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
At some point, an SEM account manager will have to restructure part of or all of a search account. There are several reasons why this sometimes frustrating and exhausting exercise must be completed. Most commonly, it’s related to subpar account performance and the metrics that suffer as a result. Other times, it has to do with poor account organization.
A great example is when the same keywords are being housed in multiple campaigns, which target the same geographic locations. It’s also not unheard of for an account manager to restructure an inherited account because the current structure is a poor fit for his or her managerial style. No matter what the reason, there are steps you can take to make the restructuring process simple.
Before jumping in, make sure you’ve exhausted all other options for improvement. There’s no need to put a ton of extra work on your plate if you don’t have to!
First, take a step back and examine the issue. Why do you need to restructure the account? Chances are, if you’re thinking of a restructure, you’ve already identified the issue. But if you haven’t, really take some extra time to examine the current setup. Ask yourself a few questions:
Again, don’t create a ton of work if you can avoid it. If you choose to continue down this road, make note of why this current structure didn’t work and do not repeat the mistake!
Not everything can be bad! Even in the most bloated of accounts, there are successful components that can be salvaged and used another day. Dig in and find those highly relevant, high volume keywords and use them as your foundation. Continue to use the same landing pages if that’s worked well for you.
Make note of the best performing geographic targets and include those targets in your new campaigns. Use anything and everything to your advantage to make the new campaigns successful.
If your old campaigns are already paused, then congratulations! You can skip over this step. If your old campaigns are still active, you’ll need to slowly phase out those legacy campaigns.
An abrupt switch will be a traffic killer and cause a massive conversion volume loss in the process. Instead, launch the new campaigns, slowly drop legacy bids, and increase the new bids. This allows for those new terms to gain some traction while the legacy terms still bring in some volume. Once you’re satisfied with the volume the new campaigns are getting, pause out the old ones.
Restructures can be daunting, but if you realize where the key issues are in the current structure and strategically plan out how to correct those issues, the process becomes much less complicated.
Finally, be confident. Have faith that you’re going to get things turned around in no time.