Marketing Insights
Marin Software's Official Blog

Archive for ‘Google’

Marin’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

By January 11th, 2017

As Edgar Allan Poe once said, “There are few cases in which mere popularity should be considered a proper test of merit; but the case of [blog]-writing is, I think, one of the few.”

Okay, so he said “song-writing” instead of “blog-writing.”

It still fits, right?

Well, after tens of thousands of reader visits to Marketing Insights in 2016, the 10 articles below passed the merit test and rose to the top of our “most popular” list. Some are indicators that digital advertising continues to rapidly evolve, others point toward the importance of continual learning, and all of them contributed to a fun, fast-paced year of content creation and curation. Thanks for being part of it.

1.   The Ever-Shifting World of Social

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

3.   Google’s New Ad Layout: Pros, Cons, Ins, and Outs

4.   Similar Audiences + Customer Match: Google Ramps up
       First-Party Data Capabilities

5.   3 Facebook Advertising Trends You Need to Know About

6.   Why PPC Granularity Will Be Your Best Friend

7.   5 Reach and Frequency Tips for the Modern Marketer

8.   Text Versus Product Ads: Shopping Peaks, Valleys, and Plateaus

9.   How to Evaluate Programmatic Buying Transparency – Types
       and Tips

10. How to Optimize Impression Share to Increase Brand Awareness

Product Listing Ads for the Uninitiated

By December 20th, 2016

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

Product listing ads, or PLAs, are an incredibly successful strategy for e-commerce companies to promote available product inventory on Google and Bing. Unlike standard search ads, PLAs incorporate a visual image over a text description to show the user the product they’re searching for.

There are plenty of reasons why you should be adding a PLA strategy into your advertising mix. Cost-per-click (CPC) will generally be below what you’ll see across search ads. As a result of showing the user an image of the product they’re searching for, click-through-rate will usually be pretty strong. Once the user clicks the ad, they’re taken directly to the product page, making the user journey simple and leading to a higher conversion rate.

Additionally, it’s quite easy to set up and manage campaigns. Both Google and Bing provide product level reporting, so you can also see how each product is doing individually.

With the holiday season in full swing, let’s take a look at some tips to drive great results from your PLA campaigns.

Segment

The first and most important step in improving PLA performance is to have the proper product group segmentation. Product group segmentation is vital to drive traffic efficiently. If all of your products are lumped together in a single product group sharing the same bid, you’re not maximizing your PLA campaign potential. In this case, you’re bidding the same amount for your best performing product group as your worst. This will lead to wasted spend and a poor return on ad spend over time.

A well-managed PLA campaign should have a structure that allows for isolation of product groups. Look to each product’s category, type, or brand to figure out what level of segmentation works best. In some cases, it may be best to separate each product entirely.

01-segment

Bidding

After viewing your product category report, you’ll have a good idea of what type of product group segmentation will work best for your campaign. In order to optimize the new structure, look at the average CPC for each product group and the ROAS. If the ROAS is below account target, you should start bidding with a CPC below the average. Likewise, if you have a ROAS that’s well above target, you can start that product group with a bid above the CPC to maximize returns.

Try to make use of your conversion rate, ROAS target, acceptable CPA, and average order value to back your way into a starting bid. Let’s imagine the AOV for an account is $50, conversion rate is 1%, and ROAS target is 200%. For this imaginary product group, a $0.25 bid is suitable.

Device Performance

PLA campaigns are very likely to drive more traffic from mobile devices than desktop or tablet devices. Generally speaking, this increase in traffic comes at a price, meaning lower conversion rates and ROAS. Look at how your campaigns are performing across devices, and be sure to use negative mobile modifiers for mobile devices and tablets if it makes sense.

02-device

If you’re already bidding down on mobile devices, be sure to take a look at your desktop CPCs when placing starting bids on your new product group structure. It may be possible that the cheap mobile clicks are driving down your average CPCs. If that’s the case, then base your new bids on the desktop CPC to avoid a loss in traffic.

Negative Scrubs

An often-overlooked aspect of PLA campaign management is mining for negatives. Just like a search campaign, PLA campaigns need to be scrubbed regularly for negative terms to prevent wasted spend.

03-negativescrubs

There’s still time this holiday season to maximize your PLA performance across Google and Bing! See if you can utilize some of these tips to drive great results.

The AdWords Performance Pizza: 8 Ways To Dominate Your Competition

By December 12th, 2016

This marketing infographic is part of KlientBoosts 25-part series. We’re super excited to partner with them so you can enjoy a new gifographic once a day in your inbox. You should subscribe here.

If you’re already using Google AdWords to your advantage, there’s a good chance you’re using pizza to your advantage, too.

Not when it comes to PPC, but when it comes to being happy.

Pizza is part of a well-balanced marketer. And while you need balance in your diet, you also need balance in your AdWords account.

That’s why we here at KlientBoost, in partnership with Marin, have created the AdWords Performance Pizza—eight parts that’ll help you take your AdWords account to the next level.

Perfectly sliced for easy (and delicious) consumption.


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.

What Marketers Should Do Every Day Through Peak Shopping Season

By November 21st, 2016

We’re headed into another peak retail season, which runs from now through Christmas Day. Considering not-so-recent trends in Shopping and mobile, many marketers are hedging their bets on this being the biggest online retail season yet. Preparation is key, and understanding what went well and what didn’t last year—and when it did and didn’t—will help guide decision-making in the coming weeks.

When the volume is so high, each day could make or break the quarter. Here are three things you should be doing on a day-to-day basis to increase the likelihood of favorable outcomes.

1. Monitor Top SKUs

Your buyers should have a list of products they expect will be major sellers this season. These could be products where inventory is so deep no one can compete, or buyers purchased at a bulk rate and can offer the best pricing.

Work with your buyers to understand what these products are, and optimize them on a per-item basis with SKU-level product groups in a High Priority campaign. Monitor these daily and keep an eye on inventory—when they start to sell out, pull back so that you don’t end up aggressively pushing nearly sold-out products.

2. Segmentation

In addition to the proactive management of products you’re bullish about, the high volume is going to yield insights of its own. Monitor your broader product groups—defined by Category, Brand, Custom Labels, etc.—for segmentation opportunities.

You’ll start the season with a single bid for a Brand product group. But, as volume dictates, some products or sets of products within the group will warrant segmenting and assigning a new bid based on how they’ve performed to date. This is a crucial step to optimizing and hitting performance goals on an ongoing basis.

3. Bidding

As you structured your campaigns, you established the levers and switches you’re going to use to effectively manage your product mix and hit performance goals.

The most important pieces of all this will be to understand how you want to bid these levers and how to stay on top of everything. Be considerate of sales, key dates, top products, and inventory / stock levels. A combination of proactive strategies (e.g., Brand X is 20% off next week) and reactive strategies (e.g., Brand Y is selling amazingly well over the past week) will be necessary to generate the best results.

Be aggressive where you expect the best returns and don’t hesitate to pull back on things that aren’t producing. Good luck!

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.

How to Put Custom Labels to the Best Use in Your Product Feed

By November 3rd, 2016

You’ve got your product feed set and sending to Merchant Center. You’ve created campaigns mapped from the attributes that make the most sense for your style of management. And, you’re pretty familiar with the set attributes you can use to define product groups:

Item ID Brand Category Product Type
       
Condition Channel Channel Exclusivity Custom Labels

 

What about those custom labels, though?

Google allows for up to five custom labels per feed. Here are some effective and creative ways you can use them.

SKU Grouping

One clever way to use a custom label is to group SKUs together under a Parent ID. Think of this as a “Parent” and “Child” relationship where we group the Child SKUs under a Parent label.

For example, suppose you offer a coffee mug in different colors. Each variety has its own unique Item ID. You could assign the same “Parent” identification number to each of the variations, and then set a product group to define the set of the products—as opposed to having to map these individually by Item ID.

01-sku

Product groups:
Custom_Label 0: 1234
Custom_Label 0: 1111
Custom_Label 0: 1213

Average Order Value

Another interesting way to apply a custom label is to group products by their price point, or average order value. For example, you could apply values of “High,” “Medium,” or “Low” to products based on where they belong in the overall product mix. In your campaign, you could then segment out Product Groups based on these values, and utilize these levers to bid more or less aggressively on products based on their anticipated return and volume.

Seasonality

Categorizing products by how (or whether or not) they sell according to time of year can be a wise consideration depending on the nature of your business. Indicating these designations in the product feed allows you to increase or decrease bids across a range of products classified by time of year.

So, in the final days of summer, you could increase bids across all seasonal products and then, right after, immediately bid down on those after the heat breaks.

02-seasonality

Product groups:
Custom_Label 1: Winter
Custom_Label 1: Summer
Custom_Label 1: Fall

These are just a few ways to apply custom labels—and give your campaigns levers to bid and segment on—that are completely specific to your account. The main takeaway is to use them.

Brainstorm what makes sense to be able to dictate volume by (whether or not a product is in peak season, whether or not it brings a high yield per order, etc.), then apply the values in the feed and create the defined product group in AdWords. Custom labels are the most flexible of the attributes available, so test them out and see what helps shift the needle in your overall Shopping performance.

Marin Now Has Full Support for Bing Expanded Text Ads

By October 27th, 2016

We’re proud to announce immediate support for Bing Expanded Text Ads. Bing “Upgraded URLs” is a prerequisite to leveraging Bing’s Expanded Text Ads, and we’re offering full support for that, too.

Last, but not least, we’ve enhanced SmartSync to be compatible with both Bing and Google Expanded Text Ads. All Marin Search customers have access to SmartSync, which provides a 1-click migration to Bing Expanded Text Ads. We think this is the easiest (and fastest) method for savvy marketers to explore this opportunity.

What’s Changing?

“Bigger is better” is the key mantra behind the move to Expanded Text Ads, a move expressly designed to help advertisers succeed in a mobile-first world. Our empirical observations tend to refute the argument that Expanded Text Ads is a smart investment of resources, with well-constructed and thought-out ads yielding better increases in both click-through and conversion rates.

Before and After

bingeta

How Marin Software Customers Can Get Started

With the deadline to migrate comfortably in the future, it may be tempting to put this task off. We encourage our advertisers to resist the temptation and try out Bing Expanded Text Ads now. Our recommendation is based on our observations, as described above.

The following is a brief list of the methods available for Marin customers to quickly get their ads launched:

Activate SmartSync: Execute your migration to Bing Expanded Text Ads with just one click. SmartSync takes care of the heavy lifting by automatically porting your Google Expanded Text Ads to Bing. And, best of all, your Google Expanded Text Ads can remain permanently synced to Bing Expanded Text Ads as long as you like, which means you can make a single ad change within Marin and have it applied to both of your key search engine partners.

Follow the Marin Guide to Expanded Text Ads: Avoid confusion by following our migration guides for Bing Upgraded URLs and Bing Expanded Text Ads. We walk you through the nuanced details of what’s changed, how to take advantage of these changes, and how to get up and running quickly.

Hire Boost Media to rewrite your Bing Expanded Text Ads: Tap into Boost Media’s network of professional copywriters to build brand new text ads from scratch. Marin Software has negotiated preferred pricing on behalf of our customers. To get started just contact your client services team.

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.

5 Tips to Fine-Tune Your Holiday Advertising Strategy

By October 11th, 2016

We recently published our 2016 Cross-Channel Marketing Report, which looked at the current state of shopping ads, and examined advertiser and consumer behavior over the past year. Now, with the shopping season even closer, advertisers are quickly making sure their budgets and ad campaigns are ready and flawless.

Based on the data, what are our top tips for retailers looking to get the most value out of their digital advertising campaigns this holiday season? Read on.

1. Plan and time large increases in budget to account for      holiday spikes.

We predict that 40% of all shopping ad dollars will be on a mobile device. Similarly, around 37% of search clicks will be on a shopping ad on either Bing or Google. Be sure to budget ad campaigns accordingly to match up with consumer attention during critical holiday spikes.

Research shows that spend peaks in November, with overall ad spend reaching almost 90% above what it was in January. Smartphone behavior was the most pronounced—smartphone ad spend spiked to almost 400% above baseline in November when compared to the year’s beginning.

2. Account for mobile-desktop differences for shoppers.

Smartphones now make up the majority of clicks and spend for all shopping ads. With 55% of all shopping ad clicks originating on a smartphone, the importance of properly optimizing ad spend can’t be overstated.

Research shows that shoppers are utilizing mobile devices in-store more than ever, to conduct product research and price-shop. Being able to capture this audience while they’re in the middle of a purchase decision may be crucial this holiday season to ensure an offline conversion.

3. Spread shopping ad budget across publishers.

While Google remains the largest search publisher for shopping campaigns, Bing is no slouch, either. Adoption of Bing Shopping Campaigns (BSC) has been accelerating and Marin has seen over 20% of clients on Google Shopping already using BSC. While Google Shopping has more viewership and use, BSCs are competitive in price and performance, and may be a good option for some retailers.

4. Go beyond shopping ads.

Shopping ad spend has been taking up a larger portion of retailer ad spend every year, reaching almost 30% of all search ad dollars this year. However, this doesn’t mean this is the only ad format retailers should consider.

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are a relatively new ad format that have seen strong early returns for many advertisers. Early data has shown an almost 300% ROAS for ETAs, meaning they’re highly competitive with both conventional search ads and shopping ads.

5. Social shopping is great for mobile retailers.

While social networks have always been a highly mobile device oriented channel, this is especially true for retail. Almost 95% of clicks on retail ads on social are on a mobile device, and mobile also accounts for 90% of all social spend for retail advertisers. Research shows that consumers interact differently with social ads than they do with search. Rather than research, social ads are better used for awareness and to start conversations with target audiences.

Each holiday season has been bigger than the last, and the trend is positioned to continue this year. Retailers have more choices than ever when it comes to ad campaigns. However, with this increased choice comes increased difficulty, as effectively managing spend across multiple devices and channels isn’t easy. A little planning, knowledge, and foresight will go a long way.

Resources