Determining the best time to hit audiences with ads – and on which channels – is always a challenge. This process becomes even more complicated during peak seasons, such as in November in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday rush.
Last November, we noticed that the best time for advertisers to reach customers on Facebook happened to be two weeks prior to Thanksgiving. To see if the same trend held true for November 2014, we took a look at impressions, clicks, and conversions on the channel.
This year we happened to see spikes in activity around Thanksgiving week, which contradicts our findings from last year where we saw the spike in user engagement in the few weeks prior to Thanksgiving. But why the change?
We anticipate this may be due to some of the modifications Facebook has made in the last year to their ad offerings. Taking a look at where the major spikes in engagement are seen in impressions, clicks, and conversions at the start of Thanksgiving week, customers were more apt to engage and convert right after the holiday, presumably for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
If you take a look at mobile conversions on Google, we also see a spike on November 28th for Black Friday that is 250% above what we see for the rest of November.
Did this trend hold true for you as well? Share any developments you may have noticed in your own campaigns in the comments section below.
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.
From October through December 2012, when Google first transitioned shopping results in the US, PLAs experienced an almost exponential growth in impressions and clicks. Since then, retailers have continued to embrace the richer and more engaging ad experience, providing online shoppers with highly relevant creative that include product details, images, and price.
To help search marketers prepare for this holiday season, Marin has released a report, “Google Shopping Ads: Product Listing Ads Deliver for Retailers.” This annual report examines the continued surge in PLA adoption and spend, and presents four critical best practices for successfully deploying, managing, and optimizing PLA campaigns in Q4.
Highlights from this report include:
Download the complete 8 page report, “Google Shopping Ads: Product Listing Ads Deliver for Retailers”, here.
Before writing this post, I performed a few web searches to scout out my competition. Based on that research, there appears to be one thing that everyone agrees upon about increasing paid search click-through-rate (CTR), the benefits:
However, given the title of this post, I figured just about everyone has their quick ways for increasing CTR—and I was right. There’s about 20 “quick” ways to increase your CTR, but not all of them are quick. Create granular keyword groupings? Restructuring campaigns and resetting Quality Score is a long term strategy. Give something away for free? Let’s choose to ignore that one. Look for assisted conversions? I personally don’t enjoy swimming in an ocean of data. Include pricing? And if prices change, it’ll be a fun week. Though all of these tactics and more do plenty to increase CTR, my goal today is to present five ways search marketers can increase CTR without breaking a sweat.
1. Implement Ad Sitelinks
This is unanimously the number one way to quickly increase CTR. Sitelinks provides up to six additional deep links to specific and highly relevant content on your site. These links not only expand your search engine results page (SERP) real estate, but they also enable search marketers to point users towards high-value landing pages, such as form fills and store locators. Keep in mind that up to six links can be added per campaign, which was increased from four in 2011. So if you haven’t touched your sitelinks in a while, it’s time to go back and ensure you have six updated links available.
For more information on sitelinks and how to enable them, click here.
2. Pause Poor Performing Creative
Remember that creative test you were running way back when? Well it’s still running, and one or more of those creative is hurting the entire ad group. As you prioritize ad groups for CTR optimization, be sure to evaluate the performance of existing creative. Though some poor performing creative will be easier to spot than others, be sure to reach some level of statistical significance before cutting ties and pausing those creative. It’s important to remember that poor performing creative represent an opportunity cost. By weeding them out of your account, you can drive more traffic through more relevant and engaging creative.
For additional best practices on creative testing and optimization, click here.
3. Leverage Differentiating Text
There are so many elements search marketers can test when it comes to differentiating their creative from their competitors. Let’s use a short list with simple explanations:
4. Mine for Negative Keywords
Most search marketers know how to mine for negative keywords, but the tune changes when discussing how often. Generating a search query report is simple; with some enterprise class solutions generating them automatically. Identify keywords that have received impressions, but very few clicks. But also take note of irrelevant tokens that appear often in queries. For example, tokens like “free”, “reviews”, and “used” often appear alongside relevant keywords. Add these and those irrelevant keywords to eliminate unwanted impressions and clicks.
For more information on developing an effective negative keyword strategy, click here.
5. Use High Volume Tokens
Keyword tokens within creative will appear in bold whenever they match or closely match a user’s search query. To improve the relevancy of your creative to the keywords within an ad group, include tokens with high impression share within creative text. For example, if users are more likely to include “clothing” in their query, rather than “apparel”, generate creative that includes the token “clothing”, even if both tokens appear in multiple keywords within the same ad group. Using the most relevant tokens within your creative will increase the relevance for a larger share of impressions and help increase CTR.
Incrementally increasing CTR takes testing and continuous optimization of keywords and creative. This involves using both short term and long term strategies. Hopefully, with the tactics I’ve imparted, you can begin increasing your CTR today…quickly and sweatband-free.
Marin is proud to announce the release of our 2012 Q1 online advertising report. This report, which identifies significant year-over-year paid search trends, was compiled using data from over 1,500 advertisers and agencies who invest over $3.5 billion annually in online advertising through Marin.
At a glance, our study revealed an increase in click-through-rate (CTR), with cost-per-click (CPC) remained relatively steady. More specifically, we found a significant increase in CTR and a drop in CPC on Google. Some of our key findings include:
So what does all this mean? The increase in CTR coupled with a 12% lower CPC points to Marin users increasing their efficiency on Google. This finding is further validated by the increased usage of exact and phrase match type keywords, as users continue to identify and fill gaps using Marin’s keyword expansion tools.
Device targeting, specifically smart phones and tablets, continues to soar in popularity. Increases in click volume give evidence of the growth in consumer adoption. With smart phones and tablets showing higher CTRs and lower CPCs compared to desktops, mobile search should continue to be top of mind for advertisers.
Want to see other Q1 industry trends from 2012 with our recommendations? Download the full report here.
Yesterday, Google released its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011. On the whole, it was a strong quarter for the digital advertising giant. But Wall Street reacted in a way that seems counterintuitive. Since the earnings’ call, $18 billion has evaporated from Google’s market cap as share prices fell ~8%. So, what’s happening here? Is there really cause for concern? Or are Wall Street’s concerns overblown?
To get a more complete picture, let’s look at the relevant pieces of Google’s business and performance.
Google’s revenue for the fourth quarter was $10.6 billion, representing a year-over-year (y/y) top line growth of 25%, and marking their first $10 billion plus quarter. Though I usually don’t wax poetic over corporate financials, there is something strongly significant and symbolic about having hit the rarefied $10 billion quarter club. Way to go, Googlers!
Click Volume – Paid clicks were up 34% annually (y/y), implying more users are more engaged with Google.
CPC – Cost per Click declined 8% on a y/y basis, implying customers are getting more volume (clicks) for their advertising spend. This dynamic is important to keep in mind as cheaper clicks are better for advertisers, and assuming click quality doesn’t decline, will lead to increased investment in Google.
There’s probably more to dissect in these earnings, but this is probably a good place to pause and examine Wall Street’s reaction.
To put it plainly, Wall Street didn’t like any of the above. Shares plummeted ~8%. The big issue for Wall Street (based on the nature and frequency of analyst questions) was around the decline in Google’s average cost per click.
But this shouldn’t really be a factor because the marginal cost of a click (for Google) is zero. And assuming that click volumes are rising faster than changes in the cost per click, which they are in this case, Google’s top line revenue shouldn’t really see an impact.Net net, if cheaper clicks brings more advertisers on-board, than Google will more than make up on volume.
To be fair, I’m not looking at the slowdown in Europe or issues around currency (F/X) hedging in this blog post. (I’m also not looking at the positive impacts of mobile, social and display) But, those issues are a) extrinsic and b) volatile, and in retrospect, Wall Street may have over-reacted to Google’s numbers.
In the wake of another historical early holiday shopping weekend, we thought it interesting to take a look at how search marketers faired from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Here’s what we found compared to 2010:
So what’s it all mean? The dramatic increase in clicks and click-through rate compared to the more moderate increases in impressions suggest a significant change in consumer behavior. Either advertisers have managed to make their ads more relevant and appealing, or the search engines have come a long way in improving their matching algorithms. Most likely, it’s a little bit of both.
In our Q3 benchmarking report, we detailed a trend of rising click-through rates for large-scale advertisers over the past couple of quarters. This shift has occurred in large part as advertisers expand their use of phrase and exact match keywords – improving relevance and click-through. This shift in match types would also explain why click volumes rose faster than spend, resulting in lower costs-per-click for search marketers. If that trend continues throughout the remainder of the season, it will be a happy holiday indeed for advertisers and shoppers alike!
Today, Marin Software released the latest Paid Search Quarterly Benchmarking Report. The report analyzes data from more than 800 large-scale advertisers and agencies that collectively spend in excess of $2 billion annually on paid-search. From the report, we not only see year-over-year paid search spend is higher but advertisers also appear to be operating more efficiently.
Spend for our average advertiser in Q2 2011 is up 20% compared to Q2 2010. Click-through rates also increased by 12% while costs remained relatively flat. Things get interesting, though, when taking a closer look at what went on with Google. On a year-over-year basis the average advertiser on Google experienced a 15% drop in impressions, which by itself could be cause for panic. However, during the same period we saw an 8% increase in clicks. Essentially, consumers saw fewer ads but clicked on ads more.
So, either Google changed its algorithm for matching ads to queries (wouldn’t be the first time) or search marketers enacted measures to improve efficiency. During the last year, the share of paid clicks on Exact and Phrase match keywords increased 10%. Exact and Phrase keywords have higher click-through rates and lower costs compared to Broad match terms, leading us to suspect the drop in impressions accompanied by an increase in CTR and a flat CPC could be a result of traffic shaping and quality improvement initiatives. Would you agree? Have you noticed an increase in CTR over the last year by focusing more on Exact and Phrase keyword match types?