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Next Steps After Search Ad Conversions Drop

PPC Conversions Down

It happens often with Google Ads and other search engine platforms, performance goes down. Whether it is an account I’ve had from the beginning or I am called in to give CPR to a declining account, performance naturally declines.

When I am talking about performance I am almost always talking about conversions. Specifically, cost per conversion. In other words, return on ad spend. (Although, certainly campaigns can have other targets and KPI’s as well.) Conversions can mean different things to different marketers. It could be a sale, a form fill, or something else, but no matter what your conversion goal is, it’s often the lifeblood of your campaigns. It’s why you spend money.

Below are a few things to keep in mind when conversions seem to be dropping on paid search campaign.

  1. Tracking and Website Issues – Let’s first find out if it really is a campaign issue and not a technical issue. Here we need to make sure all conversion tracking is working properly. That can be done by comparing actual sales or form fills against the data. Do the numbers match up? There is often a disconnect between ad managers and webmasters. It’s important to maintain a good relationship to know if site changes occurred that could have affected performance. Even worse, I’ve seen landing pages disappear because webmasters were not aware they were being used. Starting with site issues is often the first step before any actual campaign work is needed.
  2. Seasonal – It’s hard to admit that sometimes we can’t fix a decline. It may be out of our control. Seasonality is a real thing for many industries. It’s not just a B2C trend, I’ve seen it often in the B2B world as well. There are times when visitors are just not buying. Having prior year data and a knowledge of the industry helps tremendously with this. Knowing the lack of demand is coming, marketers can prepare and adjust budgets accordingly.
  3. Competitors – If we verify lack of technical and seasonal issues, the next step is to see if anything has changed in the marketplace. As with any business, offline or online, a new competitor changes the game. Marketers should search the space to see what shows in results page. Even if your ad positioning has not changed, searchers now have more options. A new competitor can often mean a higher cost-per-click in the auction, better deals for consumers, and fresh new messaging and ads. If a new competitor is in the space, do your due diligence. What is the messaging? What are they offering? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to match them. In fact, many can’t do that. You may not be able to be the cheapest, but there is a reason a someone should pick you. Emphasis that.
  4. Refresh –  Ultimately, it could be that absolutely nothing has changed … and that includes your own content. If everything else seems constant, it could be time to refresh your own creatives. New ads can make all the difference. Your potential customers may have seen your ads way too many times. Change it up. Try something new. That refresh may depend on that data. If ad click numbers are the same, but conversions are down, then it could be the landing page experience. The destination could have lost its appeal.

Those are my initial steps I take when a search ad campaign is losing conversions. It’s a rinse and repeat situation with digital advertising. A/B testing is always a constant. The goal is to make changes before those declines start to happen. Keeping an eye on keyword and ad performance is a lot of work, but if this was easy then everyone would be doing it.

What did I miss? I know I have a lot of paid search friends that deal with this on a daily basis like I do. Where do you look first if conversions begin to drop? Share your insights below.

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Display Placement Exclusions For All Campaigns

According to Google, the Display Network reaches over 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million web sites. However, it’s also said that near 50% of all ad impressions on the GDN are never seen. A marketer can reduce the amount of wasteful spend by monitoring the site placements of the display ads. Excluding placements within the Google Display Network is an on-going necessity for any AdWords marketer. Essentially, placement exclusion is telling Google where you do NOT want ads to show.

Typically, Google AdWords placement exclusion can be done at the campaign level. As you monitor performance from campaigns, you’ll see placements that look, at best “suspicious”.

Display Placement Menu

Display Placement Menu

The exclusions can be easily missed if you are not careful. Underneath, placement performance is “Campaign placement exclusions” and “Site category options”. Marketers can manually add sites to exclude per campaign.

Campaign Placement Exclusions

Campaign Placement Exclusions

That’s the standard way to add placement exclusions. However, once you begin adding exclusions to campaigns, you’ll notice the same sites seem to appear again in other campaigns. This is where the Shared Library becomes very effective.

Shared Library Campaign placement exclusions

Within Shared Library, open Campaign placement exclusions

From there, it’s a few simple steps in creating an account-wide placement exclusion list.

  1. Click +List – To create a new list
  2. List Name – Give the list a name
  3. Placements – Enter multiple domains that you would like to exclude from display placement
  4. Click Save – You now have a list of placement to exclude. However, that list is currently not applied to any campaigns.
  5. Select list and Apply to Campaigns

Apply Exclusions to Campaigns

Apply Exclusions to Campaigns

“Apply to campaigns” will allow you to select the display campaigns that you would like to apply to the list. Keep in mind, when new campaigns are created you’ll probably want to apply this same list again. Making changes within Shared Library is still much easier to manage than at the campaign-level.

Need a good starting list of placements to exclude?

Recently, the teams at Seer, Hanapin Marketing, Distilled, and Wistia built a list of over 400 placements to exclude on the Google Display Network. These 3 companies combined their historical data of poorly performing sites. You can download the list and learn more about their formula for exclusion.

Keep in mind, this is just a starting point for you. As more impressions are delivered and more data arrives, you will find your own list. The list of placement exclusions is never done. It’s a constant work in progress, but using Shared Library should make the process a lot easier.

Reduce the Creepy with Remarketing Membership Duration

Google’s Remarketing has been a game changer to paid media since it’s launch in 2010. Features are constantly added every year. It’s because of these new features that customization and best practices are needed to keep from becoming that “creepy” ad that visitors fear.

Setting up a remarketing campaign is heavily dependent on business goals and industry behavior. Targeting is the difference between Remarketing and traditional display, but that targeting it also what concerns consumers. Like many tactics within Google AdWords, it’s all about the tweaking and the execution. One of those key tactics is Remarketing Membership Duration.

The key element to any remarketing campaign is the list, AKA the audience. A remarketing list is a essentially a collection of cookies from previous site visitors. The membership duration is the length of time you want to target this audience.

At the end of the duration period, the cookie is removed from the list. That visitor would no longer see ads that are using that audience list. If the user revisits the site the timing is reset.

Remarketing Membership Duration

Remarketing Membership Duration

The mistake many marketers make is extending the duration to the maximum amount of time. The maximum duration allowed for the Google Display Network is 540 days. That would likely mean that an ad could follow visitors around for a year. There is no value in annoying potential customers.

Determining Membership Duration
Unfortunately, like many things with paid media, there is no easy answer for everyone. Remarketing membership duration can vary by industry. A general rule of thumb is, the higher the purchase value the larger the membership duration.

Days to Transaction
A recommended way to determine membership duration length is knowing the average time it takes a visitor to convert. Google Analytics can help with that. The Days to Transaction and Sessions to Transaction fields in Google Analytics indicates the average number of days and sessions from the first website interaction to purchase. This helps a marketer understand how long it takes someone to convert. The Days to Transaction report can also be segmented. That allows the separation by products, categories, pages, or whatever makes sense per industry.

Google Analytics Days To Transaction

Google Analytics Days To Transaction

3 Ad Extensions Every Adwords Campaign Should Have

What is your advantage? How does your ad stand out in the crowd? That’s where ad extensions become essential. They provide a great way to increase click-through-rate. There are multiple types of extensions including review, locations, apps, and more. However, there are 3 that I find mandatory for every campaign that I create. Let’s dive deeper.

Sitelinks Extensions

Sitelinks ad extensions are additional links that can be added beneath the text of ads. Sitelinks can be at the ad group or campaign level. They allow advertisers the the ability to deliver additional options to the searcher.

Sitelinks are probably the most commonly used and known extension, but for good reason: They are awesome! Sitelinks provide enhanced visibility in search results. They also allow the advertisers to present a shortcut to other pages on the site,

I have found there is always an opportunity to use site links.

Call Extensions

In short, call extensions provide the ability to add phone numbers to ads … and who wouldn’t want that?

With AdWords Call extensions, Google forwarding numbers can be used to track performance of received calls. Call extensions can be tweaked to match office hours, weekdays only, or whatever schedule works best.

Now with Call-only campaigns, campaigns have the ability to increase click-to-call directly from ads. Call-only campaigns allow the same cost-per-click bidding that traditional ads utilize

Call Only Campaigns

Call Only Campaigns

Callout Extensions

Callout extensions are another must have extension. They provide additional text options for ads that are not connected to links. Callout extensions provide more business details to the main ad. They can be added to multiple levels of the account structure, allowing the ability for customization and tweaking.

PPC Blog Hop – The Best and Latest in PPC News – March 2015

Here is a list of some of my favorite PPC blog posts over the past few weeks.

  • Need Fast Growth? How To Ramp Up Your PPC Program Quickly – Jeff Baum blogs about the pros and cons of sudden increase in funding to a client’s PPC campaigns. Jeff discuss the common nervousness of spending someone else’s money.

    I was very worried that our sudden spend ramp up would fall flat on its face in terms of performance. The thought of driving spend without increasing business nearly made me break out in a cold sweat. Explaining to the client’s leadership team how a large spend increase failed to grow business terrified me.

    As a PPC expert, it is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

  • 5 Ways to Take Advantage of Location Targeting in AdWords – Katie Grossenbacher lays out the the options for using locations in Google AdWords. She provides a nice straight-forward approach to share with clients or novices. There are many articles on this topic, but I found Katie’s post one of the best on the topics.
  • 3 AdWords Ad Extensions Every Account Needs (And 4 Business-Specific Extensions Too!) – Michael Bartholow with LunaMetrics writes about the must have ad extensions in your campaigns. What to use? When do they show? How will you know?

    Michael sums it up as follows: Ad Extensions help your ads perform better & can raise your Quality Score, so use them! Because Ad Extensions are served algorithmically, you should use more than one and let Google choose which ones will show. You shouldn’t worry about overlap as they each serve a unique purpose, which we’ll discuss below.

  • 8 Retargeting List Uses For Campaign Success – Michelle Morgan lists some great ideas for remarketing lists. It’s a good post to bookmark and refer back to as your audience begins to grow.

    Extra tip: Remarket visitors that read posts about remarketing. Stay tuned to see future banner ads. You’re welcome. 🙂

AdWords Video Remarketing

Video’s role in marketing is dramatically increasing every day. Recently, Twitter added promoted videos as an option. Last year, Facebook enhanced video metrics.

Video remarketing is another great option within Google Remarketing by opening up your audience to a much larger list. Expanding the audience provides great value when you have a list of people that have expressed interest in your services by watching a video. In fact, it’s not just video viewing. YouTube remarketing provides multiple actions that can be targets.

Available Remarking Actions

  1. Video view or interaction (likes, comments, shares)
  2. YouTube channel visit and subscription
  3. In-stream ad views

Linking AdWords and YouTube
The first step before starting any video remarketing is to make sure YouTube is connected to AdWords.

  • Choose Video Manager -> Channel Settings -> Advanced
  • Open your Google AdWords account in a new tab, sign in, and copy your Customer ID
  • Assign a name to the AdWords account. It’s often best to use the same name you are currently using for you for your existing AdWords account. This will prevent confusion when alerts our sent to all users that a name has been changed.
  • Set permissions for the account. I tend to allow all permissions. It provides more options down the road when looking for more targeting areas.

Creating a Video Remarketing Campaign
Once all the connectivity is working then the real fun begins. Now, you can setup AdWords campaigns that utilize your YouTube audience. This process becomes as easy as another remarketing campaign that you have setup in the past. Video viewers just becomes another audience option.

Video Remarketing Is More Than Video Ads
If you Google video remarketing all articles are quick to point out creating video ads for remarketing. It’s important to distinguish that video remarketing does not have to mean video ads. That’s certainly an aspect that can be used, but not a limitation. After the video marketing audience is built and grown to a significant number, the options are much wider than video ads. You can still create banner ads like you would any other remarketing campaign.

Dive into video remarketing. There is a wealth of data that can expand any audience.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads – Best Practices

If you have attended any of my presentations of have read any of my blog posts over the past 3 years, you’ll know that I am big fan of Remarketing. One recent new addition to Google is Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). This allows you to create unique search ads for previous site visitors.

Of course, I say “new”, RLSA was first introduced in 2013, allowing you to create unique messaging to previous site visitors. Being able to dive deeper into the search traffic, will allow you to create unique messaging and bidding strategies to previous site visitors. This opens the doors to multiple strategies:

You can bid on keywords that you don’t normally bid on just for people who have recently visited your site, or have converted on your site in the past. This can help you increase your sales. For example, you could bid on more generic keywords only for people who have previously purchased from your site.

You can optimize bids for your existing keywords for visitors on your remarketing lists. For example, you can increase your bid by 25% for those who previously viewed your website in the last 30 days. Or, you could show a different ad to site visitors who have placed items in a shopping cart but have not purchased them. – Source: https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2701222?hl=en

If you are using Remarketing, then you are practically already there. If not, then you should be. Stop here and implement Google Remarketing on your site. Below are several great posts on getting started with Remarketing

More on RLSA

Diving deeper into those AdWords Remarketing audiences, you will see a column called “List Size (Google search)”. It’s been there for a while and now may be the time to stop ignoring that column.

To use Remarketing with a search campaign, the audience needs to be associated with the campaign or AdGroup. Although, like most things with PPC, separation is key. I recommend creating a separate RLSA campaign. Measurement and comparative data is much easier measurable with separation and segmentation.

Best Practices for RLSA

Knowing how to implement RLSA is only the starting point, the real value is in the practical uses. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Use Unique Ads – Remember, these searchers have already been to your site. For whatever, reason they probably did not convert. Now, they are searching again. Give them something different. Show them a new message, new deal, new value, etc.
  2. Product Interest / Higher Bidding – If it’s clear that the audience has visited a product or service page, then you are more than half way there. Knowing there is interest helps tremendously. From there, it makes sense to increase bidding for product-specific ads.
  3. No Frequency Capping – One of my favorite features of Remarketing display ads is Frequency Capping. That allows you to reduce and maybe eliminate the “creepy” factor. If done well, users don’t feel like ads are following them around. Although, may not needed in search ad much, it’s still not available. To prevent searcher fatigue, use multiple messages.
  4. Go Broad – Normally within search campaigns, having too many broad keywords would result in higher spend and often lower conversions. It’s not the best spend of the dollar. However, going broad with RLSA is recommended. The audience is already narrowed down because of Remarketing. Opening up that search audience larger should result in even higher conversion rate.

Episode #05: Press Releases and SEO

In this episode of the Small Business SEO podcast, I talk with Joe Beaulaurier about the role of press releases in online marketing.
Online Press Releases

Online Press Releases


Joe recently wrote about the continued death of press releases on his personal blog: http://www.joebeaulaurier.com/press-release-dead/

Joe owns Whatcom Marketing and is a consistent expert in the online marketing industry.

We discussed the Google Panda update. Here is a good resource to learn more about Panda: http://searchengineland.com/library/google/google-panda-update

Listen: iTunes and Stitcher.

Play

Facebook Atlas – No cookies, better targeting, still creepy?

I’ve been known to discuss creepy marketing for years. Of course, I use the word creepy often tongue and cheek. I don’t find remarketing that creepy at all. It’s a well targeted approach to advertising that actually benefits the potential customer much more than traditional advertising.

Facebook Ads

In 2012, I provided tips on being less “creepy” with remarketing at PubCon. Most recently, I discussed some creative ways to use Google Remarketing in conjunction with Facebook Interest. At the time, Google was great at remarketing, but not great enough on user interest and demographics. Facebook had the user details and demographics, but not the reach that Google had. Maybe that’s changed now.

Facebook relaunched Atlas and that may be the missing piece of that puzzle. In February, 2013 Facebook confirmed the purchase of Atlas from Microsoft. Atlas is an ad-serving platform that will allow Facebook ads to show on sites, outside of Facebook. This is not a new platform, but it is newly built:

“We’ve rebuilt Atlas from the ground up to tackle today’s marketing challenges, like reaching people across devices and bridging the gap between online impressions and offline purchases.” – http://atlassolutions.com/2014/09/29/meet-the-new-atlas/

Facebook calls this People Based Marketing. This is essentially what Google Remarketing is. It targets people, not sites. But Google Remarketing could have cornered this market if Google+ would have taken off like they hoped. Facebook and Atlas now have the advantage of a much larger group of users to pull from. Great for advertisers … and maybe consumers too.

One of the highlights of the Facebook Atlas announcement was the lack of cookies the platform will use. For the longest time the solution to tracking of any sort online has been through cookies. In short, this is why those “creepy” ads know what you want and when you want it. However, cookies are a problem with mobile browsers and becoming more irrelevant outside of the US. It was only a matter of time before all cookie tracking is removed.

Facebook Atlas

Image credit http://atlassolutions.com/

Atlas will use demographic details, interest, and all of that other information that we have been providing Facebook for years to target us, without cookies. Atlas will also be able to track users across multiple devices. Something that Google cannot do.

Plus, Atlas will connect offline behavior to online behavior. For example, if you use your email address at retail shop. That can be connected back to your Facebook account. That same store will be able to show you online ads. Don’t think you use your email address? How about all of those loyalty cards in your wallet?

Of course, this always leads to more privacy concerns. That’s a discussion that’s nothing new for Facebook, but yet here we are again. There is no doubt that Facebook wants to compete with Google and its DoubleClick ad network. Google is the big leader in this space, but without cookies and better audience tracking, Facebook is now in the discussion.

Episode #04: Creating a Simple Social Media Plan with Laura Click

In this episode, Laura Click and I discuss her most recent e-book: 5 Steps to Creating a Simple Social Media Plan

Laura’s background in journalism and communication provides her with the right expertise to know how to ask the right questions when preparing a social media plan.

5 Steps to Creating a Simple Social Media Plan (See presentation below to learn more from Laura Click and the Blue Kite team)

  1. Why do you want to use social media for your business?
  2. Who are you trying to reach?
  3. What does your audience want?
  4. Where does your audience hang out online?
  5. When do they want to hear from you?

Learn more about Laura at FlyBlueKite.com

Listen: iTunes and Stitcher.

Play

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