This is a contributed post from Todd Mintz, SEM expert at 3Q Digital.
I love Marin’s bidding algorithm, and given the opportunity, I can write geeky, complex blog posts on its power that would confuse most of the folks on the bidding team. Since I do wish to contribute to this blog again in the future, I will refrain from doing so and focus my initial post on something super-basic that even Marin neophytes can implement and benefit from.
When onboarding a new account to the Marin platform, the project manager assigned to the account will stress to you that the system needs 30 days of data before Marin bidding can be safely launched. Since you’re likely a few weeks into the onboarding of the account, it’s tough to stay patient while continuing to rely upon lesser methods for bidding your accounts. Luckily for you, I’ve figured out a bidding technique that can be implemented immediately and doesn’t require 30 days of data.
For a while now, Marin’s system has been capturing Google Quality Score (and has recently begun to capture Bing’s). Smart marketers like Larry Kim have correlated high quality score to low CPAs. So, at a very basic level, we can use Marin to severely bid down low-QS terms while bidding up high-QS terms.
I divided my Google keywords into two folders: The Main Campaign and the Low-QS Campaign. All keywords with QS < 4 were placed into the Low-QS Campaign, and the remainder were placed in the Main Campaign. The Boost percentages here are good starting points but are somewhat arbitrary…different situations might require different percentages, and these numbers should be tweaked through the month based upon account performance
In 100% of the accounts I’ve worked with, this technique has boosted performance for the first 30 days of an account on the Marin platform. You can implement this hack while continuing to do all your other pre-Marin, non-automated bidding tactics. Once the 30-day mark passes, you can then do your full Marin bidding segmentation – though in all my accounts, I’ve kept the low-QS bucket. What’s really cool is that with Marin’s assistance, I’ve turned low-QS keywords into a profit center, which you’re not supposed to be able to do.
Please also note that Quality Score is a dynamic metric; certain keywords will rise out of the Low-QS Folder and others will fall into it. One needs to periodically update the distribution of the keywords in the folders in order to insure optimum bidding performance. Also, I have seen a correlation between this bidding technique for low-QS terms and an increase in Quality Score for many of said terms, though I’m not able to prove causation.
Good luck and feel free to add any questions or comments below!
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.
For many search marketers, identifying opportunities for optimization within paid search campaigns is challenging. Monitoring and maintaining top performing ad groups, keywords, and ads is a standard best practice; but as campaigns grow, keyword lists expand, and creative tests multiply, this approach fails to scale and provide incremental improvements in paid search performance. With so many optimization opportunities hidden in an ocean of data, how can search marketers give the required attention each campaign deserves? Where do you even start?
To help search marketers answer these questions, Marin Software is thrilled to announce our partnership with BoostCTR to offer a free paid search diagnostics tool that not only provides insight into account performance, but also opportunities for optimization. The Account Performance Grader is designed to analyze historical performance across keywords, ads, quality scores, and ad groups for AdWords and Bing Ads campaigns. Simply sign up and enter the required information to receive your customized report.
Among other best practice recommendations, this report will provide actionable insights for pausing poor performing keywords and ads, as well as reveal quality score trends that identify areas where keyword relevance can be improved. With the Account Performance Grader, search marketers can remove the guesswork out of campaign optimization and focus their time on more strategic, high impact tasks.
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Of all the search publisher metrics available, Quality Score seems to always receive the most attention; yet search marketers have the least amount of visibility into how to effectively improve it and its impact on performance. What we do know is that every time a user conducts a search that triggers ads, a Quality Score is calculated based on a number of factors, including:
Notice that the first three factors on Google’s list reference performance history, even though the history of a keyword’s Quality Score is unavailable within the AdWords interface. Instead, rather than showing different Quality Scores across time, Google displays a single Quality Score that provides an estimate of that keyword’s overall quality.
For the most part this is adequate—search marketers analyze Quality Score at individual moments in time to understand keyword relevance and performance issues. However, this one-off-style approach to analyzing Quality Score fails to provide insight into how search marketers’ continuous efforts to optimize campaigns impact Quality Score, either positively or negatively.
Whether it’s testing brand new creative or introducing additional negative keywords, improving a keyword’s Quality Score can lead to a lower cost-per-click (CPC) and a higher ad position. Changes in these two metrics can subsequently impact, among other things: CTR, costs, and return on investment (ROI). Unfortunately, the influence each of those best practices has on keyword Quality Score is frequently lost with time, especially within larger accounts. Imagine having to record the daily Quality Score for two million keywords affected by new creative messaging.
To understand the impact of optimization efforts on Quality Score, search marketers need the ability to trend historical Quality Score, against other performance metrics, over time.
For example, by trending Quality Score and average CPC over a 3 month period, search marketers can understand the exact impact on cost that comes from an increase in Quality Score from 6 to 8. Trends that include other metrics like ROI and conversion rate highlight the indirect impact that Quality Score has on conversion and revenue goals. Though the concept of trending Quality Score over time appears basic, many search marketers are unable to do so.
To see a demo of historical Quality Score and other advance metrics in action, please contact Marin.
If you’ve ever browsed through your AdWords account, you’ve most likely encountered Google’s pesky keyword status, “Below first page bid”. This estimate is based on your keyword’s Quality Score and competition, and is the bid you’ll likely need to set in order for your creative to show on the first page of search results. Though these keywords are active, they’re most likely missing out on a large chunk of impressions, and potential clicks and conversions. Since this first page bid is directly linked to Quality Score, marketers that regularly experience high first page bid estimates will likely benefit from improvements to their keyword’s Quality Score. Today we’ll review two strategies for decreasing your first page minimum bid.
When adding a new keyword, you’ll notice that Google automatically assigns an initial Quality Score. Whether that score is high or low, it’s determined by the keyword’s historical performance for other advertisers who have targeted that same keyword. As a result of this assigned Quality Score, your initial keyword bid might be below the first page bid estimate. As a best practice, be sure to check the status of all your newly added keywords and ensure that you’ve set appropriate bids that are above the first page minimum. It’s critical that marketers do this, since a keyword’s initial performance will dictate whether or not its Quality Scores move above or below the assigned score. Give your keyword bids an initial boost to help facilitate a higher ad position. A higher ad position promotes a higher click-through-rate (CTR), which remains one of the most significant factors in improving Quality Score. Once your keywords have established their own Quality Score, hopefully better than what was inherited, reassess your bids. With higher Quality Scores, your first page bid estimates will have dropped, allowing you to bid less for the same ad position.
For keywords that have an established Quality Score, decreasing the first page minimum bid can be a long and difficult task. In addition to setting an appropriate bid above the first page minimum, marketers must take the necessary steps to increase keyword relevance to promote higher CTRs. Create an organized campaign structure that promotes granular groups containing a highly focused set of keywords. In addition, generate relevant and engaging creative to support your keyword set. Finally, assign appropriate landing pages that focus on providing the best customer experience. These tried and true best practices not only ensure that relevancy is maintained from impression to conversion, but will result in Quality Score improvements and decreases to first page minimum bids.
For additional best practices on improving Quality Score, click here.
Whether you’re just starting out in paid search or have fully built out search campaigns, in order to be successful, you’ll want to know how to implement negative-keywords within your campaigns. Why? Actively managing negatives is possibly the single most impactful tool marketers have to increase revenues and lower costs. The virtuous circle of lowering costs while simultaneously increasing quality and position results in a win-win for the advertiser: increased revenue and ROI. Given the benefits, negative keywords should always be a top consideration for advertisers looking to optimize paid search.
In a recent white paper, Marin Software reviews the benefits of successful negatives strategies and presents a variety of best practices for deploying and managing negatives. Some of these best practices include:
Gain a complete understanding of how to leverage negatives to maximize revenue and performance for online advertising programs. More importantly, become equipped with the techniques necessary to make a strategic implementation of negatives a reality.
Download the free white paper here.
And, join our free webcast on Thursday, March 15 at 10am PST (1pm EST).
About a month ago, Google announced the global roll-out of an update to the AdWords algorithm that increases the value of landing page relevancy and quality when determining Quality Score. Google predicted with these changes, some campaigns would see variations in keyword Quality Scores and ad positions, but most would not see a significant change in overall performance. At Marin, we decided to investigate.
We sampled a population of 240 accounts across our Marin Enterprise client base that had limited average bid movements, consistent keyword counts, and consistently received greater than 1,000 impressions per day. For these 240 accounts, we examined the daily impression-weighted Quality Score at the publisher account level.
From the sample accounts, we observed 12 accounts with an increase in Quality Score greater than 0.25.
When taking a closer look at two of these accounts, we see the spike in Quality Score occurred on 10/2/2011 – 10/4/2011. Furthermore, there was little change to Click-Through Rates during this time, which suggests that the increase in Quality Score was related to the quality of their landing page.
We also identified 15 accounts that had a week-over-week drop in Quality Score of 0.25 or more.
After further investigation into four of these accounts, we see the drop in Quality Score took place between 10/2/2011 – 10/4/2011, with minimal change in Click-Through Rates, indicating these accounts had landing pages that Google deemed to be less relevant, adversely impacting quality.
What our investigation and findings suggest:
Just last week, Google released their third quarter earnings. With almost $10 Billion in revenue for the quarter, the search giant continues to show strong and consistent top line growth. In their earnings report, Google noted a 5% increase in the average cost per click (CPC) on a year over year (YOY) basis.
In contrast, the typical Marin user running a Google paid search campaign during this time saw an 18% decline in CPC, coupled with higher click through rates (CTR). This combination of decreasing CPCs and increasing CTR resulted in a higher return on ad spend (ROAS) for Marin users. Assuming no changes in other factors, the following chart shows how reducing the CPC leads to a direct increase in the ROAS.
As ROAS is also affected by ad position and Quality Score, we normalized for the influence of these two factors by looking at CTR trends. The chart below shows how CTR actually increased across our user base during this time, implying that Quality Score and ad position did not have an adverse impact on ROAS.
While this trend doesn’t apply to every client, our data suggests that the average Marin user may have outperformed the average AdWords user. So, how did this happen?
We think that these performance gains can be attributed to the following three factors:
1) Improved Keyword Matching – Marin users leveraged match types more effectively. More clicks were observed coming from exact and phrase match terms, which led to higher CTRs and lower average CPCs.
2) Bidding Efficiencies – Marin’s bidding algorithm automates keyword bids based on user defined business goals (such as ROAS), leading to more efficient capital allocation across the keyword portfolio.
3) Cross-Channel Visibility – Many conversions happen offline or in a call center. Because Marin incorporates conversion data from online and offline channels, users have complete visibility into their paid search performance and can make smarter, informed decisions about where and how they spend precious ad dollars.
Download the complete quarterly report behind this blog post and learn about the latest trends across verticals, devices and search engines.
(Note: You will be asked to fill out a short registration form to gain access to the full report)
Do we need to choose a target position for our Google keyword set? Hal Varian, Chief Economist at Google doesn’t think so.
Recently Google decided to retire the Position Preference in Adwords. The reasons cited were:
Low adoption? Really? Well, only Google would know and can decide that. There were a lot of advertisers who liked it and were using it. However, as Mr. Varian mentions, there are alternatives.
The key question is: How important is an ad’s position?
Maintaining a high Quality Score is important if you want to increase quality traffic and reduce costs. Publishers do not give detailed insights on how Quality Score is calculated. However, the publishers do provide some insight on how an online marketer can achieve and maintain Quality Score in their search campaign. There are four simple steps you need to take to bring your search campaign into “Quality Score Success”: