We all know Google is constantly toying with the SERP. Sorting out what new tweaks Google is testing can be difficult at times, but I thought it’d be fun to do a side-by-side comparison of what the SERP looked like a year ago compared to what it looks like now for the same search term, “Razor Scooter.” Here’s what I noticed:
1) More PLAs! Google was toying with adding more PLAs at the end of 2013 and it appears they’ve settled on more. In 2013, a total of four PLAs appeared. The SERP for 2014 delivered twice as many. The location has changed too.
2) More Text in Text Ads. The number of lines appearing with text ads has increased. Last year the largest text ad on the page consisted of four lines. This year, the largest (position 1) features up to seven lines. There isn’t an ad on the 2014 SERP with fewer than four lines. The addition of the review stars as well as the inclusion of physical addresses has created “longer” ads. This essentially means fewer text ads on the side are able to fit above the fold. In 2013, four text ads appeared on the side above the fold. In 2014, two and half appeared. The lost real-estate is compounded on smaller monitors – on a laptop just a single side bar text ad appeared.
3) The “Ad” Icon. Google started testing the “Ad” icon just over a year ago. It’s now the standard. Gone is the ad box with the title “Ad Related To [search query].” Instead, ads are identified by the little yellow “Ad” icon and ad organic search results are delineated by a grey bar or divider.
4) More Text Ads Above Organic Results. Last year, one text ad was served above the organic results. We now have three. With PLAs moving to the right side bar and the company description disappearing (this still appears on some, less retail focused results), room was freed up to serve two additional text ads. Organic results are pushed down. The same “Razor Scooter” search query today on a 13” laptop screen produces just a single organic result.
In short, the SERP is much more ad dominated, with the focus going towards PLAs and positions 1 – 3.
During the last the last two Holiday seasons, Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) captured the attention of performance marketers. Retailers adopted the ad type as though it were the latest fashion trend. And while we don’t see the use of Google Shopping campaigns and PLAs slowing down this season – we expect retailers to devote upwards of 50% of their search budgets to the image-based ads – Google RLSAs (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) are this year’s shiny new toy.
If your retargeting program doesn’t include RLSAs, then frankly, you’re missing out. The point of retargeting is to re-engage with people that have visited your site as they continue perusing the Internet. As the top site on the Internet, it’s almost certain your site visitors will be stopping by www.google.com.
In a recent survey of digital marketers, 88% of respondents indicated retargeting is currently a part of their marketing mix and of those digital marketers running retargeting campaigns, 65% said they leverage RLSAs. It should be 100%.
If we think about a consumer’s online shopping/researching experience, a browsing session often starts at a search engine, which more than likely is Google. A consumer clicks on a search result, browses the site to see if it fulfill what they are looking for, and then likely returns back to the search engine. Being able to then retarget that visitor on search is extremely powerful.
In looking at the performance of Google RLSAs, we found the click-through rate (CTR) of RLSAs to be 234% higher than non-RLSA ads in the second quarter, 2014. The cost-per-click (CPC) of RLSAs was 24% cheaper than non-RLSAs.
Better performance at a cheaper price sounds like a win-win.
Google rocked the search world this August with the announcement that they were changing the definition of Exact Match and Phrase Match to include close variants of their keywords, such as misspellings or plural variants. This caused a huge uproar from search marketers over the potential effect this could have on their search performance. Almost two months later, were their fears founded? I took a look at our Marin Global Online Advertising Index to see how performance has, or has not, changed over the last month and a half for Google Exact and Phrase Match search.
To start, I looked at click-through rates between August and October for both 2013 and 2014 for Google Exact and Phrase Search. While these searches make up only about 3% of all Google searches, this still means billions of impressions daily. Surprisingly, I found no real change in CTR trends between 2013 and 2014. While there is a small drop the week of the change, this is also mirrored in CTR behavior in 2013 on the same dates.
On the cost-per-click side, we also see very similar trends to 2013. While there is a jump in CPC during mid-September, we see a similar jump in 2013. This coincides with both the beginning of the holiday season sales and back-to-school sales so this is not unexpected. While the jumps were less pronounced this year than last, overall, trends show that this change to Google Exact and Phrase Match search have not affected CTR and CPC significantly, at least not yet.
Google recently released some early holiday goodies for retailers across a number of verticals. While dynamic remarketing (a.k.a. dynamic retargeting) on the Google Display Network (GDN) has been available since June, it had been mainly limited to retailers with a Google Merchant Center Account, notwithstanding some beta tests within the travel and education verticals. However, last week, Google rolled out further vertical support, enabling dynamic retargeting across the hotel, flight, real estate, classified, job, auto, finance, and education verticals.
Retargeting is proven to be a very effective conversion driver. However dynamic retargeting (or as Google refers to it, dynamic “remarketing”) is tailor made for retailers. Dynamic retargeting dynamically serves product-specific ads to potential customers based on the products they’ve previously viewed. This gives retailers a powerful tool to tailor creative to customers in ways that are more likely to grab their interest and drive conversions and purchases.
While many retailers have already been including dynamic retargeting as part of their marketing mix, Google’s support for some non-traditional verticals including jobs and educations, gives companies in those verticals an opportunity to dip their toes into the retargeting waters.
Although Google’s dynamic retargeting product may be a good first step for retailers wading into retargeting, sophisticated marketers are likely to find some Google’s new offering lacking in a number of ways.
Google’s remarketing product is limited to only displaying ads on sites that the Google Display Network reaches. The display world is much more fragmented than the search world, and GDN is just one of the many ad exchanges that serve display ads across the Web. GDN only accounts for a plurality of the display inventory available on the web which means advertisers advertising on GDN alone would be missing out on a majority of display impressions across the Web. The missed opportunity is significant. Essentially, retargeting on GDN alone is akin to only running search ads on Bing.
Equally important to note is AdWords lack of reach on Facebook. Study after study has shown the incremental value of marketing across multiple channels. In fact, Marin recently released a white paper on retargeting, which found that advertisers using the Perfect Audience retargeting platform to retarget on both Display and Facebook enjoyed better returns than advertisers who were only retargeting within a single channel. Dynamic retargeting through AdWords means missing out on retargeting on Facebook, the most popular social network in the world. With over 1 billion regular users, dynamic ads via the Facebook Newsfeed and Sidebar should be a cornerstone of any retargeting strategy.
Finally, going beyond the Google walled garden is essential for savvy marketers looking to leverage tactics such as look-alike modeling to try to build new business. Currently, Google lacks a smart prospecting product rivaling Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences. Additionally, tactics such as partner retargeting with second-party data, or audience targeting using third-party data can further help marketers increase their potential customer base.
Google’s dynamic remarketing product is a good starter offering for retailers who want to test how dynamic retargeting can help their business. However, its basic capabilities combined with its lack of access to channels like Facebook and non-GDN display ad exchanges limits its usefulness as businesses grow and become more sophisticated with their marketing efforts. Even for marketers new to retargeting, using a cross-channel retargeting platform like Perfect Audience can help you get started with dynamic retargeting, but still reap the benefits that come with retargeting across channels.
Last Thursday, Google announced that exact keyword match will now include close variant keywords as well. Many of you may be wondering what this means for your campaigns and what action is required on your part. We’re here to assure that there is no reason to panic!
For some background, advertisers currently have two options when it comes to matching ads to search queries: 1.) Only show the ad when the query exactly matched the keywords they set up in AdWords, or 2.) Allow Google to also match the ad to keywords and phrases that are very similar to the original one, including variations like plurals or misspellings. Starting in late September, the first option is going away and Google will always automatically include all of these close variants when it tries to match an ad to a search query. Today’s announcement only applies to what Google calls the “phrase match” and “exact match” options. As the name implies, exact match only shows the ad when the query exactly matched the keyword (e.g. “women’s hats”), while phrase match also shows it when the query includes other words (e.g. “buy women’s hats”).
While this change may initially be perceived as burdensome to Google advertisers who prefer tight control over their exact and phrase matched keywords, it does offer some benefit to advertisers. Namely, following the September update, Google advertisers will no longer have to build long lists of misspelled, abbreviated, and other close variations of keywords to get the coverage they want. Therefore, this update can help Google advertisers better manage keyword complexity across large Search programs.
Although Google is marketing this change as a benefit to advertisers, Marin recommends that our advertisers closely monitor their campaigns to determine how the September changes will impact their overall performance.
One of the most overlooked settings in search marketing that produces wasted spend is geographic targeting. There’s a good chance that your paid search ads are not relevant worldwide, so why spend to show ads in irrelevant locations that do not apply to your business?
If you’re getting started with AdWords, geo-targeting will become your best friend. So, let’s get to know it a little better, understand the capabilities, and discuss some tips on how you can use it for your marketing needs.
WHO: Businesses that have location specific needs such as shipping, physical stores, or services. Or even worldwide businesses with poor campaign performances in specific geo locations. Example: If I’m a food truck that only provides service around the Financial District of San Francisco, I’d want to target ads to customers located walking distance or 2 mi away from my location during certain times of the day.
WHY: By using proper geo-targeting settings that go hand in hand with your advertising goals, you will have better control over your spend and campaigns to serve ads to relevant customers. Geo-targeting helps you reel in the right customers to your business. When you target ads in areas where your customers are, it will likely increase your ROI.
HOW: You can easily target your ads to appear in select locations such as countries, cities, or by radius. Start by logging into your AdWords account and navigating over to the campaigns tab. Then choose the campaign you want to edit and go into the settings tab. Scroll to the locations section and click on edit.
The magic begins here. Let’s dive into a quick breakdown of geo-targeting capabilities.
The most basic level is to type in the locations (country, city, state, zip, DMA) you want and then select “Add.” You can repeat this process for multiple locations.
For advanced needs such as location radius, places of interest or bulk locations, click on “Advanced search” on the settings tab.
It will open up a map with targeting options to choose from at the very top: search, radius targeting, location groups, and bulk locations.
For radius targeting, you can hone into locations within a target by mi or km:
In the location groups targeting section, there are three sections to take into consideration.
1) You can target all airports, commercial areas, and universities:
3) Lastly, you can target using your location extensions that are enabled in your campaigns by radius:
LOCATION EXCLUSION: Be sure to exclude the areas that are irrelevant within your targeting. You can do this by clicking on “Exclude” in the steps above instead of “Add.” For example, if you decide to target your ads in United States but do not service in California, be sure to exclude that location so that California searchers do not see your ads.
But wait – there’s more! Finally, you may want to click and expand the location options (advanced) box within the campaign settings tab to prevent your ads from displaying for people searching about your target location:
Edit the options below to make sure it fits your business needs.
In short, location matters – a lot! Your ad could be award-winning, but if you’re not serving it to the right audience then it may not perform successfully. This is a great tool that can help target and exclude locations, as well as help optimize campaigns.
This morning, Google announced several new AdWords updates which will become available in the coming months. Vice President of Product Management Jerry Dischler made the reveal during the AdWords Performance Forum, where he reiterated Google’s mission to help advertisers “turn signals into stories,” and emphasized that “it’s no longer about the device; it’s about the consumer.”
Let’s take a look at their feature announcements in more detail:
1) Mobile App Promotion – Google will focus on improving the ways in which advertisers drive mobile app installs, engagement, and conversions through AdWords.
Changes will include suggested keywords based on popular searches in Google Play, improved targeting options on the GDN, and deep linking in mobile app ads for users who have already downloaded an advertiser’s app.
Renewed emphasis on the mobile app space should come as no surprise. From a mobile usage perspective, the statistics are too glaring to ignore. While there have been more than 50 billion app downloads in Google Play across 190 countries, many advertisers still struggle to promote their apps and drive engagement post-download. In fact, some 60% of the available mobile apps on Google Play are never installed and over 80% of apps only get used once. According to eMarketer, more than 86% of mobile usage occurs via apps while only 14% occurs on the mobile web.
While Google was the first major advertising publisher to offer a mobile app install advertising solution (mobile app ad extensions), they’ve recently taken a backseat to Facebook. Approximately 18% of mobile app downloads now come from Facebook and Twitter, and many believe that social beats out search when it comes to app discovery and download. With these new mobile app promotion features, Google hopes to change that perception.
2) Intelligent Measurement Tools – Google will focus on more intelligent measurement tools to help advertisers make the online-offline connection.
Last year, Google released Estimated Total Conversions. Marketed as a way to illustrate how Google search campaigns affect offline conversions, it also provides an estimated impact of advertising spend in one central location (AdWords). Today, Dischler announced additional tracking for offline conversions as part of this calculation. While his description of “offline conversions” was not specific, it will likely include in-store purchases.
This renewed focus on offline conversion tracking fits with Google’s aim to be a one-stop-shop for online advertising. However, advertiser concerns about sharing first-party data necessary for improved tracking still remain. Most advertisers prefer to keep most (if not all) of their first-party data out of Google’s reach due to privacy concerns. It will be interesting to see the adoption rate of this updated Estimated Total Conversions feature given the reluctance of advertisers to share offline data with Google.
3) Intelligent Tools for Power Users – Google will focus on helping AdWords power users manage campaign complexities by adding a few sophisticated tools.
Dischler recognized some current frustrations advertisers experience with AdWords, including the difficulty of completing large-scale bulk actions across campaigns. He called them “far too complicated” and acknowledged that many users currently go outside the interface and create complex spreadsheets to get the insight they need.
To address this pain point, Google will add functionality to help advertisers more easily upload, create and edit “hundreds” of Google advertising campaigns. In addition, AdWords users can expect new reporting, visualization and testing features in the AdWords interface. For example, advertisers will soon be able to drag and drop metrics into the UI to create pivot tables and easily manipulate reports “across multiple dimensions,” similar to what many do today within Excel. Through these “Intelligent Tools,” Google hopes to provide a way to handle reporting, analytics and optimization “all within AdWords.”
This is an exciting step for Google, but it’s important to note the data is Google-specific only, so advertisers will still need to go “offline” or to a third-party platform for comprehensive, cross-channel reporting. Furthermore, Google has historically struggled when it comes to reporting on actual revenue from purchase transactions. At best, Google will provide advertisers with revenue proxies and estimates which can be used for analytics and optimization.
A Note to Our Customers
At Marin, we see these newly announced Google features as a step in the right direction to help address gaps in the AdWords interface. The new features will initially be released in closed-beta, but we look forward to working closely with Google to integrate themas they become available in the AdWords API.
As the leading digital marketing platform and largest spender through the Google API, our mission to provide the industry’s best cross-channel marketing capabilities for advertisers remains the same. As always, we value your product feedback and look forward to receiving your comments.
Over the past couple days, you likely heard some alarming reports speculating on changes in how Google passes data to analytics software and advertisers. This understandably created lots of buzz, but today we have the facts as reported in Google’s official Ads Developer Blog:
“Today, we are extending our efforts to keep search secure by removing the query from the referrer on ad clicks originating from SSL searches on Google.com.
Advertisers will continue to have access to useful data to optimize and improve their campaigns and landing pages. For example, you can access detailed information in the AdWords search terms report and the Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries report.”
Marin Software will continue to receive keyword data from Google. Conversion and revenue tracking, reporting, and analytics will not be disrupted. Our CMO Matt Ackley explained, “As an AdWords API partner, Marin Software leverages keyword data – separate from search query data – in providing its market-leading analytics, campaign management and optimization capabilities.”
For customers leveraging Marin Tracker, Tracker will no longer be used as a source for keyword expansion. However, Marin’s Keyword Expansion tool will continue to bring in keyword suggestions via the publisher search query reports for both Google and Bing, which provide the majority of keyword suggestions today. If you’re using Tracker and have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your customer success team.
We look forward to business as usual, helping our customers to be the best marketers in the industry.
Despite increasing complexity and competition, paid search advertising budgets are expected to work harder and drive more revenue than ever before. Unfortunately, marketers continue to struggle with driving relevancy and increasing engagement. For the most part, the challenge is that keywords, creative, and bid strategy remain the same for every search and every searcher. Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) address this challenge by enabling advertisers to optimize campaigns based on user demographics and behavioral attributes. Though the list of use cases for RLSAs is likely endless, here are three strategies used by Marin customers today that underscore the power and flexibility that RLSAs bring to any paid search program.
I Know Where You Clicked Last Session
A user who’s been to your website is more likely to convert in a subsequent visit. With RLSAs, you can increase ad visibility and continue driving customers down the purchase funnel by adjusting ad creative and bids for users who previously visited your website.
By adding visitors who navigated to deeper parts of your website, such as category and product pages, to remarketing lists, you can build highly targeted campaigns that rely on more relevant ads. Creative that include buying signals like “act now” or “buy today,” along with promotional offers, engage repeat visitors. Coupled with optimal bid adjustments, these strategies drive downstream conversions and revenue from visitors who are closer to the bottom of the purchase funnel.
Navigational Searches Cost $$$
Though there are benefits to bidding on brand terms—controlling brand messaging, combating aggressive competitors, increasing SERP real estate, and providing deep links via sitelinks—these tactics tend to address engagement with new customers, as opposed to existing ones.
With RLSAs, you can effectively eliminate navigational searches by building lists for existing customers who are logged into their profile or account. These users are already paying customers or have converted into active profiles yet continue to click on paid ads to navigate to your website. This behavior ultimately results in wasted ad spend. By integrating first-party, customer-oriented data into RLSAs, you can reallocate budget away from navigational searches in favor of targeting and engaging new users. This strategy is highly effective for subscription-based products and services.
Driving Repeat Customers
Soft goods and services are often repurchased and renewed. For instance, pet food might be purchased every month or an insurance policy renewed every six months. Understanding when customers are likely to become repeat customers enables you to leverage RLSAs to increase the lifetime value of your customers.
For example, take a financial services company that requires customers to renew their subscription every quarter. With visibility into their first-party data, which includes subscription start and ends dates, this advertiser could generate two remarketing lists, one for recent subscriptions and another for upcoming renewals. Generating an RLSA for customers with recent subscriptions, the advertiser can decrease bids on expensive, generic keywords for these new customers. On the other hand, creating an RLSA for customers who are coming up for renewal, allows the advertiser to increase bids on those same keywords to increase ad visibility and drive renewals. This strategy enables advertisers to pay more for clicks that are more likely to convert and eliminate those that are less likely to convert.
A Few Things to Remember
As you start to think about how these strategies will benefit your paid search program, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Are there other RLSA strategies that you’ve executed on with impressive results?
As a search marketer, my ultimate goal is to generate the most relevant clicks to my website and to trim the costs of my campaigns so I’m spending efficiently and optimally. Given this, my biggest enemy is irrelevant clicks because it can suck the life out of my piggy bank. While I think Google AdWords is a great channel, it can definitely run up your costs in a wasteful manner if you don’ t know what you’re doing. But when paid search is done right, it can really help drive visitors that are highly interested in your product or services.
In this quick 15 minute read, you’ll learn a few targeting option basics and how to identify where you might be wasting costs. I’ll also cover how understanding data performances will help you optimize to boost your conversions. If you’re able to pay less for clicks, your cost per conversion will also be less – and that’s a big win. For each of my suggestions below, I strongly advise you to add in the Google Conversion Pixel so that you can see the performances against your marketing goals.
Here are 3 questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Is your campaign on the Display Network?
When you’re setting up your campaign for the first time, Google Adwords will default to traffic your ads on both the “Search & Display Network.” In most cases, this isn’t the option you’re looking for. Here’s a quick breakdown of what the difference is:
There are two ways to find out if you are active on the Display Network. First is the small text above the “Settings” tab, or you can find it by clicking on the “Settings” tab and navigating over to “Type.” Here you will be able to see and change what network you are running on.
To see how your network placements are performing, click into the “Campaigns” tab, then select “Segment” and navigate to “Network”. Here you will see the breakdown per network and make strategic decisions from there.
Tip: If you are going to try out Display Network, it’s best to break it into a separate campaign so you can monitor the campaigns and bid separately. Be sure to also check the placements to see where your ads are appearing.
2. Should you be bidding on mobile devices?
The first question you should ask yourself is if your website has an optimal mobile experience. If it doesn’t then you could be wasting clicks away. You can view this data through your analytics platform to see what the engagement metrics are between mobile traffic versus computer traffic – or better, import the data from Google Analytics into Adwords to get one full view. While mobile searches are growing and it sounds great to reach new customers from any device, marketers need to realize that mobile users have different intent and behaviors than someone on a computer. For example, mobile users may encounter your ads at 7:00pm while waiting for dinner and are simply just browsing to pass the time, whereas those who are in front of a computer may be more engaged and looking for something specific with intent in mind.
Due to the way Google Adwords is setup, it’s likely that you are trafficking ads to mobile devices. To see how your mobile ads are performing, click into the “Campaigns” tab then select “Segment” and navigate to “Device.”
With the presented data, you can decide to reduce or increase the bid adjustments across your different device targeting options anywhere from 90% and +300%, or at -100% to opt out of traffic from mobile devices completely.
3. Do you know what geographic locations are high-performing or low-performing?
Let’s role-play and say that you’re a company that specializes in selling custom teddy bears and you operate in the entire United States. For some reason, the conversion rates are lower in the Midwestern states compared to all the other states you’re targeting. This is your opportunity to optimize your bids and reduce the bid adjustments.
When you set yourself up for bidding in locations with a large audience size, such as all of the United States, your reach is broadened and it’s best to put some controls so that you’re reaching locations that resonate best with your product, services, or goals. Geographic bid modifiers is a fantastic way to boost bids on high-performing locations and lower bids on poor-performing locations.
To drill in and see how geography locations are performing, click into the “Dimensions” tab then select to view “Geographic.”
With these three things in mind, don’t let irrelevant clicks drain your piggy bank. Be sure to keep tabs on your campaign, at the very least, once per week. The more informed you are about who you’re targeting, the better you can optimize to efficiency and profitability.
@boostctr Thanks to Sarah Burns for contributing!